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Hiker safety on Cape Town’s top trails: 12 life-saving tips

By Danielle van Wyk

With the recent wave of hiker attacks in Cape Town this year, as seen in January where a hiker was stabbed to death near Boyes drive or March where 11 hikers were held at gunpoint on Duiker island, the focus has been placed on hiker safety.

While security has been increased on some of the trails across the city, the ownership still lies with you.

ER24 offers 12 tips to staying safe:

1.Start with a smaller hike and the correct trail for your fitness level. You don’t want to exhaust yourself by attempting a trail that may be too difficult.


2. Know your trail. Have your route mapped out and know how to get back to your starting point.


3. Check the weather on the day. The last thing you would want to happen is to get caught in dangerous or extreme weather whilst on your hike. Ensuring you keep your finger on the pulse by regularly checking sites like Accuweather or Weather SA in the lead up to your hike is advisable.


4. Tell a friend or family where you will be hiking and let them know which route you are taking.


5. Pack essentials that you can use should you encounter an emergency. This includes First Aid Kit basics like a map and compass, extra clothing, torch and spare batteries, waterproof matches, extra food and water, sunscreen, insect repellent, bandages, antiseptic wipes, paracetamol and rehydration sachets.


6. Make sure that you wear the correct hiking shoes or boots with good grip and ankle support. The socks you wear also matter. Crew-length socks are typically advised if you’re wearing higher boots as they keep from rubbing against your ankle. But if you’re planning to wear hiking shoes, consider socks that stop just above the cuff to keep your feet cooler. By wearing the incorrect gear, you can cause yourself serious harm and ruin your hike.


7. Make sure that your dress appropriately and pack extra clothing where needed. While the way you dress for a hike is largely dependent on the conditions you plan on hiking in, these are a few basics to remember:

1. You need significantly less coverage for a quick hike in the summer heat than you need for an extended hike in the middle of winter.

2.You should wear clothes that wick away moisture from your skin but preventing possible precipitation from getting you wet.


3.You should also dress in a base, insulating, and shell layer dependent on the hiking conditions ie. Your underwear, your t-shirt or long-sleeved track top and your water-resistant jacket (where needed).


8. Don’t overpack! The worst thing you can do is carry unnecessary weight as this will only tire you.


9. Keep a comfortable pace. Don’t push yourself to your limit. This can lead to fatigue and leave you stranded.


10. Speak to experienced hikers and trail runners. Their advice can mean the difference between an enjoyable day or an emergency in the wild.
While these tips are valuable, staying safe is also dependent on which trails you choose to hike and when.

The general rule of thumb here is that the busier trails are safer as it boasts more foot-traffic and should something occur you’re more likely to be found and assisted. But this logic isn’t fool-proof.

The following have been identified as hotspot routes – Table Mountain – Platteklip Gorge, Simonstown- Kleinplaas Dam, St James – Peers Cave, Lions Head, Noordhoek beach and Chapmans Peak trail.

Safety tech and the costs

Apart from the do’s and don’ts there are other things you can do to ensure your safety. Like making using of an app.

The following are a few for you to try:

1.The Shake2Alert app: The ultimate personal safety tech. This app allows you to simply shake your phone when danger occurs. Within three seconds, an alert is then sent out to programmed emergency contacts.

Simultaneously the phone’s video and audio functions are prompted, and footage is saved to the app’s Cloud storage. This comes in handy in the case of an attack as the audio and video footage can be used to identify the suspect.

Service fee: The service costs R30 for a monthly subscription, and R240 for the year.

2.The Safety Mountain Tracking WhatsApp Group: This app is turned on before setting off on a hike, alerting the group of the hike and starting time. It then monitors your hiking time and if you do not return by a projected time, emergency services are deployed to the area.

Service fee: Free; only makes use of data.

3. MiBlackBox: Like the Shake2Alert app this tech records audio, video and imagery taking place around you and alerts your contacts. Even if your phone is stolen the files the app’s secure server safeguards the recorded files. 

It can also identify the nearest police station, fire station or hospital and alert the closest armed response company.

Service fee: R1.00 per day or R9.99 per month

Hiking is one of the best and cheapest ways to experience the City but let it not be at the cost of your safety.

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