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By Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna

May 29, 2017 (San Diego’s East County) -- Hiker in distress!  Firefighters are responding to these calls more often now that our hillsides are dried out and weather has permitted. But before you hit the trail, follow some of these safety tips first, reminds Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna.

Don’t travel alone

Like any rule, there are exceptions. If you’re just going for a stroll in a nearby, well-traveled area you’re as safe there as anywhere. But if you travel through isolated areas, with steep canyons and winding trails, you can easily get lost. Traveling with a hiking partner will help you in many ways, especially if he or she is an experienced hiker.

People in pairs are much less likely to panic. They can assist one another up steep grades and apply first-aid when needed.

He or she can travel back to the trail head if you’re injured. Also, if needed, body heat can be much better conserved when there are two traveling together. Hypothermia has killed more than one lost hiker before they could be rescued.

Know where you’re going

Stay on clearly marked or well-traveled trails until or unless you are experienced enough to take the uncommon route. Yes, they’re sometimes not as interesting. But getting lost is interesting in a very unpleasant kind of way.

Take some basic gear

You can go overboard on gear. But for anything more than a simple, two-hour hike over easy terrain, a large chunk of peace of mind can be bought very cheaply. Take a lighter or matches. No plan is perfect. A knife, especially one with lots of genuinely useful (as opposed to merely impressive) gadgets can be a literal lifesaver.

A simple first aid kit can also be a lifesaver. Gauze and bandages, anti-bacterial cream and other standard items are essential. Anti-itch and sunburn pain reliever can be greatly appreciated sometimes. Of course, you have to have some first-aid knowledge. Gauze and bandages don’t do you any good if you don’t know the difference between venous and arterial bleeding.

Take basic provisions

Water or other fluids like sports drinks are an obvious essential. You can lose a lot of fluid even over a two-hour period on a hot day. Heat stroke can kill, but is easily preventable. Even dehydration can radically reduce physical performance. Just remember water weighs about eight pounds per gallon. Take what you need, and a little extra.

Except in emergencies, avoid drinking out of streams. Natural water sources, not always but often, are loaded with bacteria.

Take enough food to last you the anticipated hike time. About one pound per day (depending on what you bring) is average for a medium-sized male. You can last longer without food than water, so trade off when you have to.


It is always good practice to let a loved one or a friend know where you are going. Let them know exactly what time you hit the trail and how long you plan on being gone. If something happens and you get lost, this will expedite and search and rescue operations.

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*Note: The information in this article was compiled from various sources. These suggestions are not a complete list of every preventative or loss control measure. The information is not intended to replace additional safety manuals or the advice of another qualified professional(s). We make no guarantee of results from use of this information. We assume no liability in connection with the information nor the suggestions made.

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