Hiker Safety


The following is a reprint from the Appalachian Trail Conference, an umbrella organization tasked with ovesight of volunteer activities along the Appalachian Trail.

In 1984, a Hiker Security Task Force appointed by the ATC Board of Managers prepared a set of guidelines for hikers concerned about their safety in the woods. At the time, as it is today, the major crime problem along the Trail involved vandalism of short-term hikers' cars. Another problem-becoming less of one as the A.T. is shifted to better locations-was harassment at road crossings. Hiking the A.T. is still vastly safer than driving to it, but the guidelines are being reprinted here in response to members' requests for advice.

1. Do not hike alone. Hiking with at least one partner reduces the potential for harassment.

2. Inform others. Always leave your trip itinerary with family and friends.

3. Dress conservatively. Chose your attire to avoid unwelcome attention.

4. Avoid all provocation. Do not respond to taunts or attempts at intimidation.

5. Be cautious with strangers. Be friendly but cautious in your conversations with strangers. Pay attention to the details of their location, appearance, and behavior. Avoid people who act strangely, provocatively, hostile, or drunk.

6. Don't broadcast your itinerary. Don't give your trip plans to suspicious strangers, and avoid describing the whereabouts of your fellow hikers. If alone, claim to be part-and ahead-of a larger group.

7. Camp away from roads and motor vehicles. Harassment is most likely in areas accessible to motor vehicles, including four-wheel-drive trucks. Camp in locations that are remote from vehicular access. If concerned because of an encounter earlier in the day, hide your camp.

8. Do not carry firearms. Carrying firearms is strongly discouraged. They are illegal if carried without a license or if concealed, and the odds are an innocent person will be hurt.

9. Eliminate opportunities for theft. Do not leave your pack unattended. If you must leave your pack, check it with a local business or hide it very carefully. Do not leave cash, cameras, or expensive equipment in cars parked at remote Trailheads.

If you are the witness to or victim of harassment, promptly report the crime to local law-enforcement authorities [ask the operator when you get to a phone to connect you to the closest state-police office] and also to ATC, so that steps can be taken to enforce laws and prevent recurrence.

A guideline that has come into use more recently is: Never underestimate the importance of Trail registers (if available). Sign entries with your real name as well as any Trail name you may be using, and report any suspicious activity there, too. Along the Appalachian Trail, if ATC volunteers need to locate you or if a serious crime has been committed and authorities need more information, the first places they turn to are the registers. The "Trail grapevine" is a powerful tool and can be essential to safety.

- Appalachian Trail Conference -