Hiking and Running Safety Tips
Updated: Jan 23, 2022
This post is dedicated to my dad, who went above and beyond to get me a ton of safety gear when he first learned that I sometimes run alone. This post contains affiliate links for products I love, and I may receive a commission if you make purchases from them.
“A father’s tears and fears are unseen, his love is unexpressed, but his care and protection remain as a pillar of strength throughout our lives.” - Ama H. Vanniarachchy
I talked Zac into taking me to REI this weekend. Let me tell you, I have a love-hate relationship with the store because I love all of the stuff there but hate how much I want to buy - and hate the fact that I really shouldn’t buy all of the things there that I want.
Even though we already decided that neither one of us needs a new pair of hiking shoes for our upcoming trip, we still both perused through their shoe selection, their clearance shoes, and their garage sale area. Even if neither one of us needs a new pair, if the right deal were to present itself, we would almost have to buy them.
Somehow, despite everything we both saw that we wanted, we actually were able to explore at REI and not buy anything. The times that we have been able to leave an REI without any purchases are few and far between.
Although it may seem a bit out of context for a travel blog, safety tips and tricks for running have been on my mind lately. Every time we visit REI, I always make sure to check out the running gear. They have all kinds of lighted vests, alarms, reflective gear, headlamps, and other running safety items. They are mostly geared toward runners, but can also be beneficial for hikers (especially hikers like Zac and me who start our treks hours before the sun comes up).
I think a big reason running safety has been on my mind lately is because I have been hearing a lot recently about the importance of switching up running routes. This, along with a few other helpful tips, is important for runners (especially if running alone), but can translate almost perfectly to the hiking world - especially for solo hikers.
From left to right: Nathan Personal Alarm Ripcord, Go Guarded rings, and pepper gel.
That being said, there is never a bad time to talk about things that can help avoid danger - for running or hiking. Remember that these tips, tricks, and products can be used interchangeably for either.
Headlamps are an absolute must for early morning running or hiking in the dark. Zac and I both have headlamps similar to this one. I also have a lighted beanie for colder weather (find it here).
We wear them every time we hike our fourteeners in Colorado, but I also use mine for running in the dark.
One of my favorite running routes doesn’t have a lot of outdoor / natural lighting, and my headlamp gives me the ability to see everything within around 15 feet of me.
I absolutely cannot get the headlamp to stay on my head - no matter how hard I try - if I do not have a hat as a buffer. The hat keeps it from sliding, but also helps keep it from pinching or feeling too tight.
Lighted vests are something I recently grew to love. I ran Relay Iowa this past summer and didn’t have one before then, but knew I needed one (running on main roads alone at night without any light is not a smart idea). I purchased this one specifically for that occasion. I have gotten so much use out of it since! They have so many options for lighted vests, so a few things I thought about to narrow my search down were:
Price (since I didn’t know at the time how much use I would get out of it)
Battery powered versus rechargeable
Whether the vest was reflective or not
Brightness (will it help me see, or just help others see me?)
A personal alarm is something I never thought about until I actually won a Nathan Personal Alarm Ripcord at a running event last year. This thing is so easy to use, and makes me feel much more comfortable when running alone.
It is also advertised for hiking - but I will admit that I think it would be hard to hear if someone were out hiking on a remote trail.
This would be beneficial on more well-traveled trails, shorter trails, etc., where more people would be able to hear a loud whistling in order to come to assist.
Go Guarded is an incredible tool to help with safety while running or hiking alone. Although specifically designed for women, their items can be used by men as well.
They have the rings that made them famous, but also sell personal alarms, pepper sprays, and other self defense products.
I personally love the idea of these rings. If someone is attacked, their first instinct is to use their hands for self defense. These rings are already in the perfect place to help them defend themselves - without having to think about what they are doing.
The woman who started this business spent years in the criminal justice field. Between her background and a scary experience during a run, the business and Go Guarded rings were born.
Pepper spray or gel is another good idea for safety purposes. I have a mini SABRE Runner Pepper Gel my dad got me that slips right onto my hand for easy use / access while running. I will admit that I do not run with this often (sorry, Dad - I do use almost all of my other safety items when running alone!).
Pepper spray or gel is fairly similar to bear spray, which is very beneficial to have in certain areas of the country while hiking as well. There are some differences between the two, though, with one being that pepper spray is not legal to carry in Canada if traveling north.
Road iD, much like Go Guarded, is a company centered around safety. The entire idea of the company is to have an easy form of identification available at all times.
Their products are completely customizable - including options to note medical history or needs.
They have products that will attach to shoes, watches, etc., but also even have things like dog tags and bracelets.
GPS tracking apps - like Glympse, Strava (some phones and providers allow the Beacon to be used for free, while others require payment), and more - allow runners or hikers to share their location with others for a certain amount of time (or indefinitely, until they choose to stop sharing).
These apps are seriously so awesome!
If I am running by myself and do not have a planned route I can share, I typically share my location with Zac through Glympse.
Although I cannot speak to the other apps, I know that with Glympse, the person who is monitoring the location does not need to have the app installed on their phone.
It allows for me to share a message with him, and share my location for however long I need. I can also end the sharing sooner if I get back home safely before the time runs out.
We have tested the accuracy of this by having me go out for a run with a few-mile head start. He then got in the car, and checked to see how easily he could find me. Spoiler alert: it did exactly as it was intended and led him right to me with no issues.
Even better - Glympse will share travel speed. If I am out for a run, and he sees that I’m going 30+ miles per hour, I am probably in a car. These little extra features can help easily show that something is wrong.
Smartwatches like my Garmin Vivoactive can also help set off alarms if something is wrong, literally.
My watch has an option to input multiple emergency contacts. If I am running, biking, etc., then stop abruptly, an alarm will show up on my screen - Emergency Detected.
I have an option to press a button repeatedly to cancel the emergency if needed, but the first time it happened, I didn’t know what to do to shut it off.
The watch then texted my three emergency contacts - my husband, my dad, and my brother - that an emergency had been detected on my Garmin and shared my exact coordinates.
Within seconds, each of them called me to make sure that I was okay. I assured them all that I was fine, but was happy to know how well the emergency feature worked in case something were to ever happen to trigger it for real.
Headphones can be tricky for runners or hikers. I love listening to music while walking, hiking, or running, but also know that it can be dangerous if I cannot hear what is going on around me.
Luckily, there are so many headphones out there now that do not even go in or on the ears.
Aftershokz like the ones I used to have are a great option. I recently had to find a new pair (since I somehow lost my old pair after a race ...), and am a HUGE fan of my new pair.
All Aftershokz are bone conducting headphones - they go around each ear, leaving both ears completely open to hear both the music and everything going on outside.
These are safer for so many reasons - being able to hear someone coming up behind you, listening for traffic, listening for large animals, and so on.
I don’t think it matters whether you are a runner, a hiker, a biker, or a solo easy walker. No matter the case, safety should always be a top priority. I get a bit more lax with my safety gear when I am with Zac hiking or running with a group, but still try to be aware of my surroundings.
If you must (or choose to) go out for a run or hike alone, along with the safety items listed above, there are a few tips that may help:
Change up your route. Do not always take the same route. If you do not have the ability to change up the places you go, at least try to take the route backwards sometimes to ensure that you are in different places at different times.
Similarly, change the times. Please do not run or hike the same route at the same time day in and day out.
Let someone know where you are going. I always make sure to tell Zac my running plans or send him my location via Glympse if I’m going to “wing it” with my route.
Tell someone when you expect to return home. If you have someone that knows when they should hear from you again, and they do not hear anything - it will make them start reaching out or head out to go find you.
Run in groups whenever possible. It is not always an option, but running with others is always a great choice for additional safety if it can be done.
Wear reflective wear at night. Wearing anything reflective can help you be seen - by cars, by animals, and by other hikers or runners. There are so many different options for reflective leggings, shorts, shirts, hats, etc. that it makes it super easy to find whatever works for you. One of my favorite pairs of reflective leggings can be found here.
We should be able to experience solo running and hiking if we so choose, but do need to play it safe. There are too many stories about solo hikers or runners that do not have happy endings. Besides, all the cool kids these days are wearing headlamps. They’re just so stylish.