Safe Backcountry HikingRetired Park Rangers Give Advice

The professionals who have worked most of their lives outdoors share advice and experience to help you be safe and avoid becoming another statistic.

Every year, hundreds of Americans get lost, injured and even die while hiking through remote sections of national parks and other wild spots in the United States. Now, the members of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR) are sharing their five survival tips for safer hiking.

These outdoors experts know what they are talking about. The group's nearly 600 members-most of whom spent their entire careers working outdoors-account for a total of more than 17,000 years worth of National Park Service (NPS) experience.

In recent weeks, lost hikers have been in the news in national parks and other remote sites across the United States in Colorado, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Oregon, and California.

Coalition Spokesperson Roger Rudolph, the former chief ranger of Yosemite National Park, said, "A summer or fall hiking adventure does not have to result in injury, death or a costly search-and-recovery mission. Most incidents like this are preventable with just a little planning."

Here are the five tips from the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees to assist with planning your summer or fall hiking adventures:

Have a Plan and Share It

Whether hiking solo or in a group, you need to become familiar with the area you will be hiking, the hazards, and the expected weather. The process of getting ready will include obtaining maps to review the area you will hike, briefing all members of the group on route selection, having a turn-around time, and developing alternate route selections.

Let someone know where you are going, when, your departure point, your planned route, and expected time of return. A tip for when you are underway: It is always a good idea to pay attention to landmarks from all angles, as these "markers" can sometimes change dramatically in appearance depending on light, elevation and your angle of observation.

Make Sure Your Equipment, Clothing and Food are up for the Trip

Test your equipment before leaving. Having a little extra clothing, especially for inclement weather, may weigh a bit more, but it is worth it when things go sour. The same rule of "a little extra can't hurt" applies to food and drink. During the hotter summer months, extra water is especially important, even on shorter hikes and even in areas of high humidity. Dehydration comes on quickly and leads to other more serious problems. It is better to lug around more than to be stranded with less than you need to survive.

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