Don’t Forget! 2 Safety Pointers for Fall Hikes

September 19, 2018
safety-fall-hikes
Michael Vinson/AMC Photo ContestOn New Hampshire’s Belknap Mountain (above), as elsewhere, being prepared will help keep you safe on fall hikes.

We’ve finally moved past the swelter of summer and into the glorious days of autumn. That means crisp days, cool nights, and brain-popping foliage all around. It also means darkness comes earlier with each passing day. As you head outdoors on your next autumnal adventure, keep these two tips for safe fall hikes top of mind. Now get out there and find some foliage!

1. Carry a Headlamp

As the sun sets earlier and the amount of hiking daylight dwindles, it becomes more likely that you will accidentally get stuck out after dark on a hike. All it takes is one wrong turn on the trails, an injury that slows your pace, or a hike that just takes longer than you anticipated.

And if you’re stuck out after dark, it’s crucial that you have a headlamp, or a flashlight, to light your way home. (It’s one of the 10 essentials, after all.) Without a light, it can be difficult to impossible to find your way home. One of the most common causes of search-and-rescues are hikers without headlamp stranded after dark.

To learn more, check out my recent column on choosing the best headlamp for you. You can also consider purchasing an ultralight emergency headlamp that  lives in your daypack anytime you head out. My favorite is the 1-ounce Petzl e+LITE.

2. Prepare for Dangerous Conditions

Few combinations pose greater risk for hypothermia than cold rain, cold temperatures, and biting wind—conditions that become increasingly likely in the fall, especially at higher elevations. If you and your clothing get soaked in such conditions, you can rapidly lose body head and become dangerously chilled.

To avoid this shivering, core-temperature-dropping danger, carefully check the forecast before you go. For higher elevations in the White Mountains, check out the high-summits forecast from the Mount Washington Observatory. And always carry the gear you need to stay dry and warm. Depending on conditions, this includes waterproof rain gear (top and bottom), warm base layers, a mid-layer (such as a fleece), and hat and gloves.


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Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.