Fallis a great time to get out and explore the backcountry. The air is crisp, there are fewer bugs and crowds, and the scenery is beautiful–but with all these advantages come some extra challenges.
How do you stay safe on a fall hike? We have eight tips to help you enjoy pumpkin spice season safely:
1. Check the weather forecast and be prepared for all possible conditions.
You’ve got yourself all geared up for an epic hiking trip, but have you checked the weather conditions? You should always be dialling in your trip planning, but it’s even more important in the fall because things can really go sideways. Check the weather for the day you’re hiking, but also the next day in case you’re stuck in the backcountry longer than expected.
Pay close attention to the freeze levels–while it may be raining in the valley, it might be snowing up on the mountain you’re hoping to hike. Where will the precipitation be turning to snow in the atmosphere? Where’s the freeze level happening? Will you be hiking above or below it? These are all highly important questions to consider.
Our blog post, Safe hiking: Four weather forecasts to plan outdoor trips in Alberta, shares common and handy weather forecast tools you can use before a trek.
2. Dress to impress (the weather).
It’s always a good idea to dress in layers, especially in the fall and winter, when the temperature difference between mornings/evenings and daytime can be drastically different. Layering your clothing will help keep you warm when the temperature drops but also allow you to shed layers if it gets too hot.
“I like to do layering in three parts,” advises Uplift Adventures Founder Heather Davis.
“My first layer is a wick-away layer, and not just for my shirts and pants. I noticed a huge difference when I also changed my undergarments to a wick-away fabric. My second layer is my insulative layer. In the fall, I have on a light insulative layer and a bigger insulative layer in my backpack. The third layer is my shell, whether it’s a soft shell or hard shell. And if you know there’s rain, always bring rain gear.”
It may seem like a lot to pack, but you’ll thank yourself when those warm layers come in handy!
3. Educate yourself on backcountry safety and risk mitigation.
Taking courses and certifications on backcountry safety will help you explore with confidence. The more prepared you are for every possible scenario, the less likely you are to get lost or injured—and if something does go wrong, the better your odds of survival.
At Uplift Adventures, we offer wilderness first aid courses for every type of outdoor recreationist, from beginners in backcountry adventuring to professionals working in remote settings. Learn valuable skills like treating a sprained ankle, performing CPR, bandaging a wound, dealing with allergies, and many more life-saving skills.
Curious to see what Uplift Adventures Founder Heather Davis packs in her wilderness first aid kit? See what’s inside.
4. Start early and plan your trip with extra time.
One of the best things about summer hiking is the long days. But once fall rolls around, it’s easy to lose track of time and not realize sunset–and darkness–are approaching.
As you plan your trip in the fall, consider whether you have enough time to accomplish your hiking objective and make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew. You’ll need to start early and allow enough time for your hike. If you’re hoping to do a bigger hike that’s a loop, start by doing the more technical route in the beginning and leave the easier trek for the end, in case you have to do it in the dark.
Always pack a headlamp or flashlight in case you’re out past dark.
5. Be bear-aware and know how to handle a wildlife encounter.
Wildlife, especially bears, are very active in the fall as they prepare for the wintertime. Bears are often spotted lower down in the valley doing important bear tasks like looking for food and fattening up for hibernation, so they really don’t want to be interrupted.
Be aware of your surroundings and know how to handle a wildlife encounter.
6. Avoid looking like Bambi.
Fall is hunting season. While hunting typically isn’t permitted in national parks, it may be allowed in provincial recreation areas, provincial parks, Crown land, and conservation areas, depending on the month and local regulations.
Do you know the season dates for the area you’re hiking in? You might be going into a hunting zone.
Making noise and wearing obnoxiously bright colours will help you stand out to hunters as human and not Bambi (and don’t forget brightly coloured vests or flagging for Fido). Another piece of etiquette for hiking in hunting areas is to avoid exploring when hunters are most active. Hunters don’t appreciate a group of hikers strolling noisily near their stand, scaring off wildlife, so building your adventure around peak hunting times is a win-win–it keeps you safe and allows hunters to game in peace.
7. Hire a certified hiking guide.
There are many things to consider when hiking: the terrain, the weather, the type of land… But sometimes, it’s best to leave all the planning and strategizing to a professional—and that’s where a certified hiking guide comes in. When you book a tour with a guide, you’re tapping into their years of experience and knowledge about nature as well as their skills in putting together an unforgettable day out. Most importantly, they have the skills and specialized equipment to help you avoid (or overcome) dangerous conditions.
Not to mention that they know the best off-the-beaten-path hikes and trails, making your trip all the more interesting.
8. Remember to hydrate.
Hikers often think about the dangers of dehydration in hotter weather, but it’s just as important to stay hydrated in cooler temperatures. And we get it–it’s not necessarily a pleasant experience to drink cold water in cold weather. That’s why we like to bring something warm and caffeine-free, like a thermos of herbal tea or hot water.
Remember that a little preparation will go a long way. Now that we’ve listed some backpacking safety tips, the next step is to get out there and enjoy yourself! Keep safety in mind, plan your trip accordingly, and be ready for some of the best hiking this season. Happy hiking!