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Wilderness Environ Med. 2013 Sep;24(3):221-7. doi: 10.1016/j.wem.2013.02.002. Epub 2013 May 16.

An analysis of hiker preparedness: a survey of hiker habits in New Hampshire.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Rhode Island Hospital, Coro Center West, Providence, RI. Electronic address:



Describe hiking habits in a heavily used wilderness area to better target injury prevention and reduce search-and-rescue events.


A cross-sectional, convenience survey was conducted at 3 trailheads in the White Mountain National Forest of New Hampshire during summer 2011. The study group consisted of hikers who consented to a questionnaire before their trip that assessed demographics, experience, hiking gear, pretrip planning, and communication devices.


A total of 199 hikers were surveyed. The most common age group was 20 to 29 years at 29.2% (n = 195). The most common hike was less than 12 hours at 78.5% (n = 191). All 10 items deemed essential were carried by 17.8% (n = 197) of hikers. The most common omission reason was "short trip" at 32.2% (n = 162). Defined as greater than 7 items, the 50- to 59-year-old age group was the most prepared at 56.9% (n = 51). Hiker preparedness increased with experience and fitness levels. Hikers planning trips of less than 12 hours were less prepared compared with hikers planning longer trips, at 39.3% (n = 150) and 48.8% (n = 41), respectively. GPS devices were carried by 122 of 193 hikers. Phone GPS users were less prepared than GPS-only device users at 35.8% (34 of 95) and 55.6% (15 of 27), respectively.


One factor that may help reduce rescues is better-prepared individuals able to avoid emergency medical services activation. Most neglect of preparation results from hikers perceiving short trips as less risky. The groups most often underprepared tend to be younger, less fit, and inexperienced. Therefore, education should target younger groups and stress that all hikes, regardless of duration, carry an inherent risk.


New Hampshire; hiking; preparedness; wilderness safety

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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