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Hiking Safety - 10 Threats on Outdoor Adventures

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The warm weather and gorgeous scenery in Asia present lots of opportunities for great outdoor adventures. From day hikes to multi-day treks and volcano scrambles, you'll never run out of jungles and rainforests to explore -- particularly in Southeast Asia.

Unfortunately, hiking safety isn't always a priority for people focused on having a good time; things can and do sometimes go wrong. While usually safe, hiking in Asia isn't like hiking in the parks at home. Unexpected weather or getting lost could turn a simple day hike into a survival situation.

Learn proper hiking safety and know how to counter these 10 threats that you could encounter!

1. Not Getting Rescued

Manali Trekking
Photo by Greg Rodgers

In the event that the unthinkable happens, would anyone even know if you needed rescue?

Even when hiking in pairs, let someone in town know where you are going and approximately when you plan to return. Visit the parks office or tourism authority for a map; tell a ranger or someone in charge what time you expect to return. At the very least, tell the staff at your hotel or guest house about your adventure plans so that they can alert authorities if you fail to return.

Never bank your well-being on technology or the ability to make a phone call for help.

2. Being Unable to Walk Out

The first rule for hiking safety in Asia is to take a partner with you. Not only does sharing the adventure with someone make it more enjoyable, doing so greatly improves your odds of getting out in case something unexpected happens. A simple sprained ankle could make matters very complicated if you are hiking alone.

Meeting other solo travelers who want to team up for adventures is easy. A hiking partner is available to go for help in case you are injured, and may remember the right way back to civilization when you forget which trail to take!

3. Mosquitoes

Although Southeast Asia boasts far more poisonous snakes than you would care to know about, they are usually the least of your worries. More realistically, you could become a virtual feast for the local mosquito population during your hike.

Dengue fever, a mosquito-borne illness, is epidemic in Southeast Asia. Mosquitoes that carry malaria typically bite at night, but dengue-infected mosquitoes bite during the day when you are likely to be on the trail. A single bite could ruin your entire trip.

Fortunately, you can take measures to protect yourself from bites, or at least make yourself a less attractive target.

4. Running Out of Daylight

Many survival situations begin with simple day hikes by ill-prepared hikers that were complicated by unforeseen circumstances. The threat could be as innocuous as taking a wrong turn. Be prepared for more time in the field than you were expecting, even an overnight stay, if you happen to get lost and run out of daylight.

Even if you expect to be back before dark, carry a flashlight. Trails are harder to see in the dim light of the rainforest canopy. If the sun sets behind a nearby mountain, you could be in the dark an hour earlier than expected.

5. Dehydration

You sweat exponentially more in Asia's humid jungles and forests. Even being mildly dehydrated makes concentration more difficult and could cause you to make mistakes. Although cumbersome, carry more water than you think you need, and stay in the shade as much as possible.

6. Sunburn

Severe sunburn will not exactly enhance the remainder of your trip. The sun is far stronger nearer to the Equator; carry a higher SPF than you use at home and reapply frequently. Apply your sunscreen after mosquito repellent, as DEET will weaken your protection.

Quality sunscreen is frequently more expensive in Asia; read about some simple items to bring with you from home.

7. Poisonous Plants

Unless necessary, don't touch anything while hiking in the jungle! This basic rule will keep you out of trouble more times than not. Many plants in Asia will give you an unpleasant rash. Unless you're a botanist, touching plants is unnecessary anyway.

Benadryl should be a part of your first aid kit for Asia in case you have an allergic reaction to some unfriendly flora.

8. Bad Footing

Many dangerous situations that occur while hiking in Asia are due to unexpected slips and falls. Although flip-flops are the footwear of choice in Asia, they are not suitable for hiking and scrambling. Volcanic shale can be brittle and loose; tourists die every year while trekking on volcanoes in Indonesia.

9. Monkeys

You are likely to encounter many species of monkeys while trekking in Asia. Macaques in particular are curious and can sometimes turn aggressive. Even one bite or scratch from a monkey can result in a fever and require rabies shots.

Monkeys have an uncanny sense of smell; any food you are carrying -- even unopened -- can bring you a lot of attention! Immediately drop anything that a monkey grabs -- this even applies to the strap of your expensive camera; otherwise, the tug-of-war could result in a bite.

10. Bad Weather

Forget about poisonous snakes and menacing insects, unexpected weather is the number one killer of adventure travelers in Asia. Even during the dry season, weather can be unpredictable -- particularly around mountains and volcanoes.

Heavy rain can come in unbelievable volume, turning trails into rivers and hiding the safe path under mud. Early-morning starts are the best bet for any hike, both for avoiding the afternoon sun and to allow extra time in case you are forced to take shelter from the weather.

The secret to real hiking safety is to know roughly what to expect, and to be a little prepared for the events that you did not expect.

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