What to Do When a Hiking Trip Goes Wrong | Andrew Elsoffer | Outdoors

Andrew Elsoffer
3 min readJun 23, 2023


As avid hikers and adventure enthusiasts, we embark on outdoor expeditions to connect with nature, challenge our limits, and rejuvenate our souls. Hiking is an incredible experience, but it’s essential to remember that even the best-planned trips can take unexpected turns. Preparing for potential challenges is crucial, whether it’s an unforeseen weather event, a sudden injury, or getting lost.

Prioritize Pre-Trip Planning:

The foundation for a successful hiking adventure lies in comprehensive pre-trip planning. Before setting foot on the trail, research the route thoroughly, including the terrain, weather conditions, and difficulty level. Acquire accurate maps, familiarize yourself with the area, and assess your physical fitness level to ensure a suitable match with the trail’s demands. Consider consulting experienced hikers or local experts for valuable insights and advice.

Pack Essential Safety Gear:

It’s always better to be over-prepared than caught off guard when hiking. Packing the proper safety gear can make a significant difference in emergencies. Some essential items to include are:

  1. Navigation tools: Carry a map, compass, or GPS device to navigate your way confidently.
  2. Communication devices: Have a fully charged mobile phone, but remember that coverage might be limited in remote areas. Consider investing in personal locator beacons or satellite messengers for reliable emergency communication.
  3. First aid kit: Pack a well-stocked kit with essential supplies for treating injuries and joint ailments.
  4. Emergency shelter: Carry a lightweight, waterproof tent, tarp, or emergency blanket to protect in case of unexpected overnight stays.
  5. Illumination: Always have a headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries to help you navigate low-light situations.
  6. Signaling devices: Carry a whistle or a mirror to attract attention and aid rescuers in locating you.

Hike with a Buddy or Let Others Know Your Plans:

Safety in numbers cannot be emphasized enough. Whenever possible, hike with a companion or in a group. Having someone to share the experience with enhances the enjoyment and provides additional support during challenging situations. If you decide to hike alone, inform a reliable person about your intended route, expected return time, and emergency contacts. Precaution ensures that someone will be aware of your absence and can initiate appropriate action if something goes wrong.

Stay Aware of Changing Weather Conditions:

Weather can be unpredictable, especially in mountainous or remote areas. Check weather forecasts before venturing out, and stay vigilant during your trek. Be prepared for sudden shifts in temperature, wind patterns, and precipitation. Carry adequate clothing layers, including a waterproof jacket, to protect yourself from the elements. If weather conditions deteriorate rapidly, seek shelter and wait until conditions improve before continuing or consider turning back if necessary.

Trust Your Instincts and Practice Risk Management:

While it’s crucial to challenge ourselves and step outside our comfort zones, it’s equally important to trust our instincts when faced with potential dangers. If you encounter hazardous trail conditions, such as unstable terrain or rising waters, reassess the situation and consider alternative routes or turning back if necessary. Remember, your safety should always take precedence over reaching the summit or completing the hike.

Originally published at https://andrewelsoffer.net on June 23, 2023.



Andrew Elsoffer

Located in Cleveland, Ohio, Andrew Elsoffer is a soccer coach, community leader, and outdoorsman. Learn more @ AndrewElsoffer.org.