Hikers Safety Guide

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Hikers Safety Guide

Hikers Safety Guide

The Cape Town area is without a doubt one of the most scenic areas of South Africa for hiking and natural outdoor activities.  It boasts majestic mountains, two oceans, and local fauna and flora. You will likely see local wildlife while hiking in Cape Town including incredible varieties of bird-life and indigenous plants like proteas and fynbos.  You may come across small animals like duiker, baboon, "dassies" (rock badgers), lizards and insects. Safety is an important factor when hiking around the Cape Town area, so good hiking gear is essential.  We hope this information will be helpful allowing you to experience the best our Mother City has to offer in all its natural beauty. 

Firstly, before you start hiking around Cape Town you should have these numbers in your cellphone:

  • Weather Forecasts    082 062
  • Cellphone Emergency Numbers    112
  • Wilderness Search & Rescue    021 937 0300
  • Mountain Rescue    021 948 9900

We are avid outdoor lovers and have enjoyed most of Cape Town’s nature and hiking trails. Mother Nature is unpredictable; accidents may happen and help will take a while to get to you, so always be prepared for the unforeseen circumstances you may find yourself in. Here is a list of things to help you prepare for a joyful and safe journey in our mountains and surroundings.

Plan before hiking Cape Town

The key points to take in is the weather.  Using appropriate safety gear is vital.  Firstly lets have a look at the general things you should do before heading out on your trek.  Some areas of Cape Town have restrictions and requirements for you to take into account.  Always check what permits you might need especially if you plan on taking dogs.  Also be aware of what time the gates open and close. Here are more points to consider:

  • Don’t go out alone.  Always hike in a group or at the very least two friends; someone might have to go for help and you don’t want to be left by yourself.
  • Know what time you plan to start and finish, make sure you let someone know that you are going out on a hike in case of an emergency.
  • Find out the times of sunset and tides if you are walking along the coast.
  • One person should be capable of leading the group; ideally one person to ensure planning and to stick to the route.
  • Ensure you have enough drinking water with you.
  • Assess the fitness levels of yourself and the hiking group you are joining.  The slowest hiker sets the pace for the group as we never leave anyone behind.
  • Be upfront about your medical conditions.  Ensure that you have any necessary medicines with you in your backpack/rucksack and notify others in your hiking group.
  • Leave a message with your name, group size, route, return time and contact person clearly visible in your car.
  • Keep an emergency contact card in your purse/wallet along with some form of personal identification.

Weather in Cape Town

The weather can change quickly in the Cape.  What looks like a great day to take a hike can change in a matter of hours and even quicker in the mountains. Hiking trails may be closed in the event of dangerous weather.  Never attempt to hike trails in these circumstances, should you slip and fall, help may take quite a little longer to reach you. If you are already hiking and the weather takes a turn for the worst, turn back or find shelter in nearby facilities where possible. Stay tuned to weather forecasts before you head out if you are unsure what the weather might do later in the day.

Hiking Gear

Taking appropriate clothing is essential.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a nice sunny day, always pack a windproof and waterproof jacket just in case. Wear thick socks and non-slip boots or shoes to prevent you from slipping or twisting an ankle. Slops (flip-flops/thongs) and normal sports shoes are not recommended. Always pack a hat or cap and apply sunblock to keep your skin safe. Long trousers are really great for thicker vegetation, saving your legs from cuts and scratches. For winter, have a beanie and gloves ready, it’s a lot colder in the mountains than you may realise.

Nutrition and hydration are keys to enjoying any hike and keeping up your strength.  Light snacks like nuts and seeds, bananas and protein bars are smart choices. If you are doing an all-day hike, pack a decent lunch; carbohydrates like pasta, potatoes, oatcakes or rice with some protein are filled with energy and will keep you going longer. Tinned foods may seem easy but will be heavy and uncomfortable to carry.  Avoid glass completely! Always carry water with you, if you like to use hydrating products, carry a separate 500ml container to use in case of emergencies. As a general rule, have a 500ml of water to sustain you per hour when out and about.  Your water consumption will largely depend on your fitness level and how vigorously you are hiking. Keep this in mind when prepping for your hike.

The right equipment makes a hike a lot easier.  We have spoken about what to wear and the right fuels to keep you going, but where are you going? A GPS is handy for keeping you on track.  Most smartphones have built-in GPS and apps are easy to come by if you don’t have a GPS unit.  Carry a spare battery in case of an emergency. Alternatively print out a map of the area before you go. Take along a small travel sized first aid kit if you have one (dirty rags or handkerchiefs used to cover a wound can only make matters worse).  A camera and torch are also handy to add to your pack.

If you are an avid hiker or looking to take it seriously, emergency equipment would be a good idea to add to your pack list.  Here are some additional ideas:

  • Headlamp/torch with extra batteries
  • Pocket knife
  • First aid kit
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Waterproof gear
  • Compass and or GPS
  • Cell phone
  • Space blanket
  • Whistle
  • At least a 1.5l water bottle

If you encounter an emergency, keep your group together and if possible keep moving. If you are unable due to one of your companions being injured or if the weather becomes too severe, seek shelter and wait for help. Contact Wilderness Search and Rescue or dial 112 for Cellular Emergency Services.

What to do if you get lost:

  • Never descend via unknown "kloofs" (wooded ravines) or slopes, you might find yourself in a worse position.
  • Keep the group together.
  • If the light and weather permits, retrace your steps until you reach a known route. Otherwise, camp where you are and wait for help.
  • Use bright items of clothing or flares to reveal your position and use a whistle to create noise.

What to do in an accident:

  • Stay calm, think clearly and act decisively.
  • Apply first aid.
  • Use the buddy system; send the two most experienced hikers to call for help.
  • Be sure to get the full name of the person, age, type of injury and the severity of it and a grid reference or location of the group for rescue purposes.

Lastly, care for Mother Nature. We all enjoy hiking in our mountains, so don’t interfere with the plants or animals or deface trees and rocks. Take your litter home, and don’t use any carcinogenic shampoos or soaps that can contaminate waters and harm the environment.  Stick to the paths and walk in single file to avoid soil erosion; leave nothing behind but your footprints.



Cape Town
Cape Town
South Africa
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