1. Try not to hike alone. If you must go on a day hike by yourself then make sure you leave detailed information for others like: where you’re going, when you should return and what route you’re taking if multiple ones are in the area you’re heading to. If I’m going to a large trail area I try not to deviate from the route I’ve told others I’m taking. Even if I’m tempted to head in a different direction, I won’t. If I veer from my described route and something happens it will take rescuers much longer to figure out where I am.
2. If you’re heading to an area you aren’t familiar with, take a map. Sure, you can take your GPS too, but take a map. A GPS may show you where you are, but a map will help you figure out where you need to go.
3. Always take warm clothing and/or rain gear. This is especially important if you’re heading to an area of higher altitude. In the mountains the weather can change quickly and what started as a mild 75 degree day can quickly become a cold, rainy 40 degree day. Just throw an extra layer and your rain gear in your pack and you won’t have to worry as much.
4. Take water and snacks. Even if you only plan to be out for an hour or so, you never know what might happen. Be prepared with at least 32 oz of water and one or two high energy snacks like beef jerkey, GORP, or energy bars.
5. If you’re in bear country, be “bear aware.” Make noise when hiking through densely wooded areas and keep an eye out for bear tracks or scat. I like to sing or whistle and I’m sure that scares away more than just bears.
6. Use common sense. If you’re hiking alone make sure to stay in populated places. Hike at a reasonable pace and watch where you’re going. Stop to take photos so that you don’t trip over something while trying to walk and snap pictures at the same time.