21 Essential Hiking Tips for the Drakensberg Mountains
Ensure a successful hiking trip each and every time be it a day hike or overnight hike by adopting these tried and tested tips and remember to always be prepared. It’s the Boy Scout motto, and it should be yours if you’re heading into the Drakensberg Mountains for a hike.
Forgetting items like rain gear, sunscreen or a fresh pair of socks can ruin a hike and even worse, being caught unprepared on top of the escarpment can be fatal. Follow these tips and stay safe.
1. Hike with at least two other people.
2. Your group should carry a map and a compass and know how to use them! Learn how to read a topographic map so you can identify the landforms you see outdoors in order to find your position on a map.
3. Study the map and hiking route beforehand so you know where you are going. Take note of any intersecting paths where you could potentially make a wrong turn. Identify a potential spot for lunch.
4. Choose a hike that works for all the members of your group. You don’t want to have to stop halfway because one person is not able to continue.
5. Check and watch the weather. Temperatures can easily drop by as much as 20 degrees celsius.
6. Pack a minimum of two liters of water per person per day.
7. Pack a headlamp and extra batteries.
8. Always be prepared to have to spend the night out.
9. Sunscreen. High altitude and sun are brutal to the skin.
10. Pack a First Aid kit.
11. Pack a whistle or signal mirror in case you need help.
12. Wear the right shoes and make sure you break in your shoes with several short hikes before attempting something challenging.
13. Wear the right clothing. Do not wear cotton, as it retains moisture. Wear synthetic materials that wick water away from your skin and keep you warm.
14. Always pack an extra warm layer beyond what you think you’ll need, preferably something that will block the wind also.
15. Set an estimated safe turnaround time at which you will stop and go back to civilization, no matter what.
16. Take plenty of food and have at least one day's additional supplies.
17. Pace yourself. When you start your hike, you may feel like powering forward like a hero, not a great idea, you’ll be a zero by the end of the day if you don’t pace yourself. Pick a pace you can maintain all day. It might feel a little awkward at first, but after a while, especially uphill, you’ll be glad you saved your energy.
18. Tell someone where you will be. It’s important that someone not on the hike knows the itinerary and when to expect your return. Remind whoever is awaiting your return to allow for slow hiking, time spent taking in amazing views, or a minor injury.
19.Safety first. Emergencies can happen on the trail. Your cellphone should have all the emergency numbers saved and ensure you charge the battery before setting off and keep your phone off to preserve battery life for when you need it.
20. Take a 10-minute break every hour. Resting gives your body the time to get rid of the lactic acids built up in your muscles and to recover from the strains and possible pressure sores.
21. Pack the 10 essentials. The 10 essentials are not a list of items but of systems. These are the systems you should pack to stay safe in the Drakensberg Mountains.
- Navigation (map & compass)
- Sun protection (sunglasses & sunscreen)
- Insulation (extra clothing)
- Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
- First-aid supplies
- Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candle)
- Repair kit and tools
- Nutrition (extra food)
- Hydration (extra water)
- Emergency shelter (tent/plastic tube tent/garbage bag)