Study shows women are more likely to survive wilderness disasters than men

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Two women hike along a trail. According to data collected from the search-and-rescue database, women are less at risk than men when hiking. (Made in Canva by Tenley Hale)

According to data collected from a search-and-rescue database, women are more likely to survive wilderness disasters than men.

The data, collected by Robert Koester in the book, “Lost Person Behavior,” said 80% of searches were initiated by males. Of the search-and-rescue cases that are initiated, 12% of men who initiate cases end up dead versus only 9% of women.

“Culturally, females tend not to do as many of the idiotic things that solo males do,” Koester said. “Males are more likely to try to pick up a rattlesnake.”

A study published in the Journal of Leisure Research found that many women forego the health and fitness benefits of hiking because they fear being attacked by a man. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported the murder rate for the United States as a whole in 2016 was 5.35 per 100,000 population per year. In comparison, the murder rate for the Appalachian Trail was .0072 murders per 100,000 population per year.

BYU student Madie Westerlind smiles on a hike. Research shows that women are more cautious when hiking. (Photo courtesy of Madie Westerlind)

“A big tip for hiking safely is knowing where you’re going because if you don’t prepare beforehand you can easily get lost,” BYU student and avid hiker Madie Westerlind said.

Westerlind shared that she uses apps like AllTrails to help navigate while on unknown hikes.

Katrina Ricks and Brooke Alius created the website Good Grades in order to help hikers be more informed about hikes before leaving.

“Hiking can be a divisive activity, especially for individuals who haven’t had the exposure or support,” Ricks said. “We wanted to help narrow the knowledge gap by building a resource for everyone.”

Alius and Ricks shared that researching the trail, elevation gain and other factors before leaving on a hike will help hikers be more prepared for potential obstacles and dangers.

“You’ll definitely be safer hiking with someone else, especially in the case of animal attacks,” Westerlind said.

Alius and Ricks explained that surrounding oneself with a network of fellow hikers can help to keep new hikers safe.

“Hike with a friend and make sure to let someone off-trail know where you’re hiking and around when you should be done,” Ricks said.

Alius shared how all of these components that go into hiking help to make it a more mindful experience.

“It grounds me physically and mentally and has helped me learn that my mind and body are more powerful than I knew before,” Alius said.

Helpful tips for staying safe while hiking. Being prepared before hiking is important for safety. (Made in Canva by Tenley Hale)
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