I spend so much time (on here, through my photography and in person) advocating for the great outdoors that I thought that describing a few safety tips would be the responsible thing to do. My audience covers a wide range of abilities, and I'll do my best to keep it interesting for everyone.
Getting lost is probably the most common reason that people get into trouble, whether they are hiking or driving along forest roads. One of the best pieces of advice I can give anyone is to bring a map and know know to use it. A compass is almost as important. GPS units are fun gadgets but I still wouldn't leave home without a map as a back-up. Check your position from time to time and you'll have a last known position to return to if you do take the wrong trail.
Injuries are probably the second most common reason for rescue situations. Sometimes they can't be avoided, but some simple preparations can stop you from being a statistic. Wear appropriate footwear for the terrain. Don't be afraid to explore, but know your limitations. Don't try a class 3 mountain trail if you're new to hiking. Be aware of your surroundings and the weather. Lightning can and does kill on exposed peaks.
Extremes of heat and cold can be dangerous if you don't have the right clothing and protection. Heatstroke is just as debilitating as hypothermia. Conditions in many wilderness areas can change rapidly, so bring spare clothing.
Sightings of elusive or beautiful creatures are often a highlight of a long hike in the wilderness. Many can be dangerous, but none should scare you away from enjoying the outdoors. I've spent time in snake and scorpion country, and the best advice is to be alert. Know where they can be found and be very cautious in those areas. This is true for most other dangerous animals. Learn about them and respect them, but don't fear them. Don't antagonize an animal and be surprised when it defends itself.
Food and Water
Hiking at high altitudes requires more food and water than usual. Bring more water than you think you'll need until you're used to your body's needs. Don't drink untreated water.
A cellphone might just save your life if you're in real trouble, but don't assume that you will be able to get a signal. It isn't an alternative to carrying the essentials and being prepared. A good quality whistle is a cheap signalling device that will always work.
Whenever I hike I have all I need in my pack to be able to survive overnight. That doesn't mean enough to be comfortable. I carry a back country first aid kit, survival blanket and homemade survival kit (no bigger than an Altoids tin) in addition to the things I've mentioned. They don't weigh much and I often forget I have them, but they may allow me to self-rescue one day.
Knowledge is the most useful thing you can bring with you, whatever your chosen activity. Take a first aid course, spend a day with a experienced friend, and don't forget to check the weather forecast before you go!
I hope this has been helpful. There is only so much that I can cover in one post. If you've especially enjoyed this, or any of the previous topics, let me know.
If you enjoyed the images, you can find more here.