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Presented below are some general security considerations that could apply to either long or short distance hiking along a given trail. As far as security considerations go, generally speaking, most long distance trails are very safe to hike on. However, you should be aware of certain aspects that will ensure a positive and pleasant hike.
One of the first things to be aware of is your vehicle. If you plan to day hike or do a long distance hike lock your vehicle and do not leave anything tempting in plain view such as money, camping gear, electronics or clothing. Conceal or hide these items so that nothing of value is visible. Better yet, leave them at home. So lock your vehicle and leave nothing in sight. If your vehicle is broken into, please file a police report so that patrols will be stepped up in the area where the crime occured. And contact the trail organization that oversees that trail to let them know what happened.
Another security consideration is hiking alone. You should always try to hike with a buddy in case of injury or an unfavorable encounter with an animal or another person. It isn't always possible to hike with a buddy. But if you can, hike with a buddy.
Take a cell phone. Cell service along long distance trails is good in some places, not so good in others. But having a cell phone is preferable to not having one. Call 911 if you have an emergency. If long distance hiking there are a number of solar backpacks as well as quick chargers for cell phones.
Have a paper map. Yes, there are various georeferenced map apps out there. And most of them work very well. But you never know if there are GPS issues or cell phone battery issues. I personally had an issue with a GPS based map app in that it did not work when under a thick forest canopy. So, for a backup, have a paper map. It is worth the money.
If you will be hiking in National Forests, state forests, certain state parks, game lands, wildlife management areas or private land holdings where hunting is allowed, wear blaze orange. Hunting of various types of game is legal 11 months of the year in in certain states. Some items to wear in these areas include hats, vests and backpack covers. And if you have a dog, make sure that the canine is outfitted with a blaze orange vest. Hunters use hiking trails to get to where the game is. If you meet a hunter while hiking a trail in one of the above mentioned areas, you will find that they are very friendly and, in most cases, will thank you for wearing blaze orange. So please check the state web sites for hunting regulations for the areas that you will be hiking through. And please wear blaze orange so you can be seen, and be safe.
As far as carrying a firearm while hiking any long distance trail, laws do vary from county to county and state to state. It is best to check with law enforcement agencies in the areas that you want to carry a firearm. It may or may not be legal depending on where you are hiking.
Do not camp on private property with 'Posted' signs. You may be subject to fines, arrest or being confronted by angry land owners if you camp illegally along any long distance trail.
If day hiking carry a day pack with water, some snacks, a tin foil blanket (just in case you have to spend the night in the woods), a flashlight, a knife and a compass. Bushnell used to make a neat product called a BackTrack, which was an inexpensive GPS device that made a record of where you walked and then showed you how to get back to your start point. I believe that that product has been discontinued. However, there are numerous hand held GPS devices starting at about $130 on up that will help you get to your destination as well as help you from getting lost.
There are a number of apps for your smart phone that offer georeferenced maps to hike with. These maps have a blue dot that shows you where you are on a map.
is a free web site/app that utilizes .gpx files uploaded by other users that are overlaid onto regional maps.
offers a free app and both pay and free maps of various hiking trails.
If long distance hiking consider a SPOT 3 Satellite GPS Messenger. It allows you to send a signal to your loved ones to tell them where you are on the trail. It also allows you to send an emergency signal if you get lost or injured on the trail. It could save your life.
If you are hiking on a trail that requires a permit, please obtain that permit. If there is a sign in register either at a trailhead or at a shelter, please sign the register. If anything should happen to you while you are hiking the authorities will have some information about who you are if you are lost, stranded, hurt or witness a crime. This information could save your life.
As far as personal safety goes I believe that getting lost on a long distance trail is more of a concern than someone doing you harm. That said, according to
there have been 11 reported murders along the Appalachian Trail. And they did not start occuring until after 1975. Considering that some major cities in the United States have this many murders in a weekend, this tells me that the
Another article by Steven (last name not listed)
states that illness and natural deaths are reasons that some do not finish long distance hikes. I read a book awhile back called Not Without Peril: 150 Years Of Misadventure On The Presidential Range Of New Hampshire. It talks about the 150 plus people that have died in the White Mountains over the last 150 years. Very sobering reading that will make you think harder about planning your long distance hike.
As I said in the previous paragraph, I believe that getting lost is the biggest thing to fear when doing a long distance hike. I've gotten lost. Many of times. Just stay calm, backtrack until you see a blaze and that usually solves that problem. The
thru hiker that died after getting lost in Maine in 2013
did so after she crossed a road. She thought she was on the trail but wasn't. I ran into this a few times in New England. The trail comes out to a road. But it does not always continue right across the road. You may have to walk up and down the road, sometimes as much as a half mile, to see where the trail continues. Look for the blazes.
If you know of any additional security considerations that one should employ when hiking a long distance trail,
I will list it here and give you credit for the info.
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