Is trekking or long-distance hiking dangerous?

by Stefan

This question is asked quite often when telling about a past trekking tour. But when exactly is something dangerous and do you really put yourself in serious danger on a tour? I would like to clarify these questions in this blog article. In addition, I would also like to discuss which dangers lurk in detail and how you can avoid them or prepare for them.

Table of Contents of Horror:

  1. Injuries
  2. Animal attacks
  3. Undersupply
  4. Loss of orientation
  5. Hypothermia / Overheating
  6. Disease
  7. Fatigue / overexertion
  8. Conclusion

  1. Injuries are by far the greatest danger a hike poses. You quickly slip on a wet root or trip over a stone and sprain your foot. But not every injury means the discontinuation of the hike! With a little first aid knowledge and one painkiller or another is often already helped a lot and you can continue with the adventure. It becomes difficult with more serious injuries, such as a fracture or a torn tendon. Here often only the rescue by the emergency service helps.

    Prevention against injuries: Unfortunately difficult! Even the best athletes are not immune to this. However, exercise and training can prevent injuries by improving surefootedness and strengthening muscles. Regular breaks also increase concentration on a long-distance hike!
  1. Animal attacks are a much rarer problem on trekking trips. How great the danger of an attack is depends very fundamentally on the area and the behavior of the hiker. In Europe, injuries caused by animals are much rarer than, for example, in North America, South America or Australia. Bears, mountain lions, snakes and spiders are just a few of the animal hazards a long-distance hiker can encounter on these continents.

    Prevention against animal attacks: Even though there is no 100% possibility to prevent animal attacks, you can avoid them very well or ward them off completely with the right behavior. It is therefore always helpful to be aware of the presence of aggressive animal species and to be prepared for contact! This significantly reduces the risk of attack by animals during your hike!
  1. Undersupply primarily means the lack of food or water. There are several reasons how this situation can occur. Incorrect planning, dried up or polluted springs, closed supermarkets or one of the other hazards (loss of orientation or injury) can lead to the unfortunate situation of running out of either food or drinking water on the trek.

    Prevention against undersupply: It is always advisable to carry a safety buffer of food and drinking water. This can buffer imponderables and you don’t get into an emergency situation immediately. Furthermore, it is advisable to inform yourself in advance about the situation on the trail: Are important supply stations (e.g. supermarket or huts) open and are drinking water sources not dried up or polluted. A water filter can be of good help here.

  2. Loss of orientation on a trekking tour can also lead to very dicey situations. Not only do you lose time and take long detours. You also risk injury (e.g., in rough terrain), exhaustion, or being undersupplied. Especially in unknown and difficult to see terrain, it is enormously important to keep your bearings.

    Prevention against loss of orientation: Sufficient preparation regarding the planned route. Never rely solely on the smartphone! Additional use of a paper map and compass. Learning how to use them correctly is a must for any long-distance hiker! [Youtube Link zu How-To]
  1. Hypothermia or overheating do not occur – as you might think – only at extreme temperatures during trekking. Even at temperatures below 15°C in combination with some weather conditions can threaten hypothermia. Especially with wet clothes / a wet sleeping bag it is a real danger. Wind potentiates this even more and reduces the perceived temperature dramatically!

    Prevention against hypothermia/overheating: It is enormously important to always have dry and sufficiently warm clothing to hand. Ideally, both clothing and sleeping bag is packed in a waterproof pack sack for added protection. Wet clothes should be dried at the next opportunity, so you have a reserve again! In hot, dry areas, avoid hiking in the midday heat. Here it is better to plan a longer break and continue only in the afternoon.

  2. Long-distance hiking does not usually expose you to a higher risk of disease than normal. Probably even less, because you have less contact with other people. Nevertheless, diseases should not be underestimated, as they can have worse consequences on a trekking tour than in civilization. This has primarily to do with poorer or slower medical care.

    Prevention against diseases: In case of existing chronic diseases, the doctor should be consulted before a longer trekking tour and appropriate medication should be taken along in sufficient quantity! Painkillers or remedies for stomach problems often help against conventional, acute illnesses. We will publish another blog post about this soon and link it.

  3. Fatigue / overexertion is usually the result of poor preparation, poor planning, and in the dumbest case, a combination with one of the hazards listed above.

    Prevention against fatigue / overexertion: Training, training, training! The better you are physically prepared, the better you can avoid a situation like this in advance. Mental preparation should not be underestimated either. Especially for tours that you manage alone in the wilderness, it is absolutely necessary!

    Conclusion: Don’t be intimidated! Of course, trekking or long-distance hiking is not entirely without danger. But neither is driving a car or climbing stairs! With good planning and preparation, however, you are well prepared for almost everything and don’t let yourself be thrown off balance by minor imponderables.

    In general, it’s never a bad idea to hit the trail with at least one hiking partner. This way, if the worst comes to the worst, you always have quick help or at least someone who can organize quick help if you can’t do it yourself.

    Otherwise, as everywhere, practice makes perfect! You will gain experience with each tour and become more and more confident. A good physical preparation (e.g. in the form of sports) is also quite useful and not only avoids dangers, but also increases the pleasure of trekking.

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