Everything You Need To Hike In South Africa
South Africa is popular for many things, such as its diverse cultures, flora, and fauna – so let’s take you through everything you need to hike in South Africa! To get to know the country even better, international and local travellers enjoy the many hiking trails and natural parks that come with breath-taking views.
As easy as simply ‘going on a hike’ sounds, there are essentials you need to take along with you to ensure that you are safe and nourished on the journey.
Your hiking bag size and the material will vary according to the hike you decide to go on.
The aim is to keep your backpack light – according to South Africa Explorer, your bag should never exceed more than one-third of your body weight! Your main essentials include a good water bottle and hiking shoes.
Walking through nature is the perfect way to clear your mind and get your blood pumping. Sometimes the route of a hike looks daunting, but with the right essentials, every hike can turn out to be a smooth one.
Climate, Season, and Weather
Different seasons and temperatures require different hiking attire. The general conditions to consider are climate, season and weather.
The climate is different on the coast compared to the mountains. Your primary focus is to protect yourself from cold heat, rain or the sun.
Once you know your climate, you can decide on the best season for hiking. Each season comes with different weather, so check the forecast of the day you hike or the period around the time you want to hike. It is probably best to take along extra clothes in case bad weather occurs – such as a waterproof jacket, windbreaker, rain pants or an overall change of clothes.
Some people enjoy hiking alone, but hiking with a club is the best way to meet other hikers on your level. It is also an opportunity to learn from experienced hikers.
Hiking with a group allows you to familiarise yourself with routes and trails and have safety in numbers. Eventually, you will have a favourite hiking spot.
Additionally, hiking in a group is much safer.
What are the Risks and Hazards of the Hiking Trail?
Arrive Alive often receives requests from emergency services for evacuation from hiking trails. But why would an evacuation be required, and what are the most common emergencies?
- Hikers are getting lost.
- Medical incidents such as strokes, heart attacks and illnesses.
- Fatigue, hypothermia, dehydration and heat exhaustion.
- Injuries from slips and falls on the trail.
- Injuries are caused by animals, snakes and insects on the trail.
- Hikers get trapped or injured by forces of nature such as flooding, veld fires and lightning.
- Injuries are brought about by criminal attacks, assaults and robberies.
This is why being in a group is safest, so that if anything happens, someone can report it. But for those still adamant about hiking alone, the iER app can find your location at the press of a button and send help your way!
Nutrition and Hydration
Hikers have a hydration system, which is usually one litre of water for the hike. Your backpack needs a compartment for your water. The compartment can be inside your bag or on your straps. If the weather looks to be a scorcher or there are long stretches of the hike without water access, take more water with you.
Another nutritious beverage in your insulated drinks bottle or thermos is tea – it is always appreciated during a break and if it is cold. You can also bring water purification tablets or a filter for remote hikes.
Make sure you have packed enough food, energy bars and dried fruits for the entire hike. You can prevent hypoglycaemia and other conditions that slow you down by eating regularly.
A freeze-dried meal or breakfast rations for autonomous hikes can bring joy to your hikes because the more energy you can get, the better the hike becomes. You can even hide an extra energy bar at the bottom of your bag or in your first aid kit.
Finding new hikes to take on is great, but it is essential to have proper navigation in unfamiliar terrains. Charge your phone because it may be a lifesaver if an emergency occurs. An option is to drop a location pin where your car is parked so that if you get lost, you can at least find a way back to your vehicle.
If your hike runs late, you can use the pin to get back to your car and then get stranded.
First Aid Kit and Security
A first aid kit is vital to keep in your backpack. It is essential for all your hikes. Ensure you have plasters, gloves, antiseptic cream, and bandages in the first aid kit.
Additional essential items include sunglasses, sunscreen, an emergency blanket, a knife or multi-tool. Make sure you have the identity documents of everyone on the hike with you in case an accident occurs.
You can also add matches, a lighter or candles to your essentials pack. Carry an extra battery for your cell phone and GPS and a two-way radio/satellite telephone/GPS track if you are remote hiking.
Take Your Time
At the beginning of every hike, don’t power ahead. Reserve your energy instead, or you will have zero energy by the time you make it to the halfway mark. Choose a pace you can maintain for the day and stick to it.
Having Fun Comes With Precautions
Going hiking is fun and exciting, whether you are alone or in a group. Either way, you can share your itinerary with one person as it could be very significant in unexpected situations.
Please respect the environment you are exploring and keep it clean by keeping a small bag on you for litter.