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These safety tips could get you out of a bad spot on your next hike

A hiking trails app has made its maps free to download, for use when your phone has no service.
These safety tips could get you out of a bad spot on your next hike
Posted at 3:11 PM, Jun 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-05 17:11:33-04

As hiking grows in popularity and more people opt to hit the trails, what are some ways you can make sure you stay safe?

The popularity of hiking exploded in 2020, according to a report by RunRepeat.com and the app AllTrails. 

The number of hikes logged was 171% higher than in 2019.

Search and rescue teams have seen increased calls at national parks over the years, too.

So, if you head out on a hike, do you know what safety tools to take with you?

One tool used for safety is maps. But they aren’t always available, especially if you don’t have internet service and rely on your phone.

"If you don't have what's referred to as offline maps, you can't contact that server anymore. You can't go over the internet so you just have no map in front of you anymore," Paul Finlay, the CEO of HiiKER app, said. He originally built the app for himself a few years ago in college, because hiking was his escape. But when he put the app in the app store to download on his own phone, other people downloaded it, too.

"It is the industry standard now to immediately pull up that paywall and say, 'Hey we want 35, or 40 or 50 dollars from you in order for this to work'," he explained about other apps in the market.

Trail app HiiKER wanted to change that. Earlier this year, they made all of their offline maps available for free. This way, hikers can download trail maps on their smartphone before they start a hike.

SEE MORE: These national parks require reservations in 2023

"If this just helps get more people outside and gets more people into nature … then honestly nothing makes me happier," he said.

Finlay said he wants the industry to change.

"When a person downloads offline maps, it actually ends up cheaper for the app company because they’re not using the server as much," he said. "I can't be comfortable with the idea of encouraging people to hike, but then ultimately charging them for the one thing that will really keep them safe out there."

What once started as an app for himself, now is used by people across the world.

"I think now we have close to 30,000 trails on HiiKER, which is kind of crazy for me to think about," Finlay said.

The American Hiking Society recommends carrying a paper map and compass as a backup to your phone as well.

The other essentials they recommend for a hike are appropriate shoes, water, food, rain gear, safety items, a first aid kit, a knife, and sun protection.

The California Department of Parks and Recreation also recommends making a plan, hiking with a partner, and not walking off the trail.

SEE MORE: Boy survived on snow while lost in the Michigan wilderness for 2 days