Cape Town - Summer time for active South Africans is the season for hiking!
South Africa is blessed with beautiful trails through forests, mountains and alongside the coast, but good hikers also keep in mind of the dangers that come with this outdoor activity. When things go wrong, you could have limited access to help and could turn into a life-or-death situation.
SEE: Hikers 101 - Stay cool and play it safe this summer
You can add an extra precaution by using the Hikers Network's Safety Tracking tool for the Western Cape, where volunteers can keep track of you and your squad throughout your hike in the Cape mountains. In 2017, from January to August, they tracked over 7 300 hikes, peaking in April and dying down in June.
You let them know where you are at all times through Whatsapp, and by checking in on a regular basis they'll be able to mobilise support if things go wrong. They also have a paramedic volunteer on the network, who can give emergency advice while the Metro-Wildnerness Search and Rescue mobilise for serious incidents.
To use the tool, you can sign up for free on their website, after which you will be added to a Whatsapp group.
On the day of your hike, you message the group with the following details before you start the trek, which one of the volunteers will acknowledge:
- Current time
- Number of people in your group
- Your start and finish points
- Name of the route you will take
- Another cell phone number of someone else in your group
- Your estimated time of arrival
ALSO SEE: Long hikes 101: Tips and trails to try in SA
Once on the hike, you have to regularly update the Whatsapp group on your progress, and let them know if there are any problems, and they will contact the relevant authority if needed.
It's important to know how to use the 'Share location' function on Whatsapp, as this can be used to not just let the volunteers know where you are, but can also be used to report suspicious activity and to mark obstacles in the road or where the road becomes dangerous.
You should also monitor the messages in the group in case of warnings, like fire, or if another hiking group is in trouble and you may be close enough to assist.
After you're done with your hike, you message the group Safely Off the Mountain (SOM). You can also follow the network on Twitter for more updates.
Remember, always let someone else also know about your hiking plans, including family and friends as well as trail management.
Hiking Safety 101
Stay cool and safe this summer with the following pre-hike prep tips:
Before embarking on your hike, make sure you are familiar with the route, terrain, difficulty and expected time required to complete the trail.
Never hike alone.
When packing your bag, remember, you will eat your way through the heavy snacks. Aim for a 12kg load.
For a five-day hike, ladies can get away with 50-60l bags and the gents with 60-70l.
Remember flip flops, warm clothes, a headlamp, a rain jacket, swimsuit, toiletries, sunblock, easy-dry towels and a dry-bag if your route requires river crossings.
Water purification tablets or drops are required for most routes – the dodgy river water will become your best friend. And yes, hiking boots work better then sneakers for those loose rocks - unless you want a ranger to fetch you with his bakkie half way through the hike.
SEE: Is the Otter Trail really worth the year-long waiting list?
To avoid sunstroke and becoming ill on your journey:
Hike in the cool of morning and evening.
Rest in the shade during midday.
Wear a sun hat with a wide brim.
Drink at least 250 ml (one cup) of water every hour.
Wear cool, cotton-type clothing.
WATCH: Trail runners caught in scary Cape Town lightning storm
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