Hiking Do’s and Don’ts (Part Two): Emergency Scenarios

Moyan Brenn via Flickr

Last week, we looked at what every hiker needs in their backpack and useful sites for pre-hike planning. In this article, we’ll explore possible emergency scenarios you’d want to be prepared for, so hold on tight.

The basics

  1. Do not eat wild fruit or drink water from the countryside.

2. Do not stand on the edge of a cliff or climb rocks just to get the perfect scenic photo, and pay special attention to warning signs — or they may be the last thing you see.

Derek Bruff via Flickr

3. Do not attempt to lure or feed feral cats, dogs, monkeys, insects or snakes or risk getting attacked.

Frank Chan via Flickr

4. Tread with caution — or avoid completely — slippery rocks and dirt roads, or sandy paths. Hikers should always wear sturdy hiking shoes that protect the ankle and feature grooves for optimum traction, and bring a hiking staff along just in case.

In case of emergency…

1. Sprains
Apply light pressure to the affected area by wrapping a bandage around it. This would help limit and reduce swelling and prevent the buildup of fluid in the area. Lie down and elevate the affected area until it is at a higher position than chest-level to reduce swelling. Proceed only after you’ve gotten enough rest.

2. Cramps
Relieve muscle tension by massaging and stretching the affected area. For instance, if you’re experiencing cramping in your calf, straighten your knee and lightly pull the sole of your foot towards your body. If you’re experiencing cramping in your thighs, grab your ankle, straighten your knee and raise your leg. Press down into your ankle to relieve the cramp. If your foot is cramping up, tug on your toes or press your big toe into the ground. Massage the affected area.

3. Heat stroke/low blood pressure
The excessive loss of water and electrolytes will result in low blood pressure and dizziness. If that happens to you, lie flat on your back in a cool and breezy shaded area and consume electrolyte drinks or saline solution to make up for the loss.

Whittlz via Flickr

4. Getting lost
Stop — head back to where you started. When necessary, seek immediate assistance. If you don’t remember where you came from, stay where you are and await rescue. Don’t proceed further to avoid wasting energy.

If you do decide to proceed, leave a mark at every intersection. If you still don’t know where you are, head uphill for a better view of possible ways out and to make yourself more visible to rescuers.

With the TrailWatch app’s “Group Tracking” function, you won’t have to worry about straying from your group of hiking buddies.

Don’t venture into a valley — it’ll just confuse you further. It may be easier when making your way downhill, but it’s also more dangerous and demanding when returning to higher ground.

With a whistle or a flashlight, send International Mountain Distress Signals. Here’s how:
a. Make six long blasts within one minute;
b. Pause for one minute;
c. Repeat a and b.

Alternatively, send a distress signal using the Morse code: send three short blasts, followed by three long blasts and finish with three short blasts.

If necessary and when possible, form a 6x6m “SOS” using stones or branches.

4. Fog
Before heading into a fog zone, know your location and take note of identifiable features in your surroundings. When visibility is down to a few feet, keep calm and carry on looking for a way out. If your company’s stamina is failing or if you’re not sure where you’re going, stop and stay put, or find a safe area to await rescue. Stay in a group and use food supplies sparingly. Wait for the fog to dissipate and think of ways to get help.

Charles Lam via Flickr

5. Bee stings
Walk around nests that are in your way. If you’re chased by a swarm of bees, sit still and cover your head and neck for protection. Lay curled up on the ground and wait for the swarm to disperse before leaving the scene quietly. Remove any stingers with tweezers, but be careful not to release venom from the sac. Wet a towel with cold water and apply to the affected area to relieve redness and swelling. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

6. Snake bites
If you encounter a snake, keep calm and don’t move. The snake would probably more afraid of you than you are of it, so just let it run off on its own. Snakes have sharp vision and will likely attack when they spot fast-moving objects, so if you or your buddies are bitten, bear the following in mind:

  • Do not cut open the wound, wash or suck on it. Have the victim lie on the ground and keep the injured area still, but not elevated. Do not consume alcohol or perform unnecessary movements.
  • If possible, wrap the area above the wound tightly with a bandage, especially if the bite is on the limbs.
  • Comfort the victim and take him/her to hospital as soon as possible. Try identifying the type of snake responsible for the injury by taking photos and noting its colours and patterns. If the snake has been captured, it should be taken to hospital for reference.
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