From our experience what we have seen in the many years of picking up lost, injured (or dead) people in the wild we would like to give the following advice for you to avoid such things happening to you:
Do your home work before you set foot on a new path: Check a map (how long is the hike, incline, water points, shade, …), check your gear, assess your own and your partners fitness level, and be realistic if you are able to do it. Have a close eye on the weather forecast.
Always tell someone where you are going and when you intend to return
and stick to what you’ve told that person!
Use a backpack
If the gear that you intent to carry with you does not require a backpack you are fooling yourself.
Always carry a jacket, hat and sunscreen
No matter how warm it is and how clear the sky, around the next bend can blow a harsh wind that you will have to hike in for the next hours, so ALWAYS carry a jacket with you. Meanwhile the sun is still burning down on you, giving you a nice crisp finish if you are not prepared. So at the same time, put on sunscreen before setting foot on your path.
Wear the right shoes
At least wear tekkies (trainers), best are hiking boots with a sturdy sole and ankle support. Leave the flip flops at home.
Carry enough water and food
For a day out in the mountains you will need about 2l of water. 3l if you are a great sweater. Luckily the water from our mountain streams is drinkable in most cases, so restock whenever you come across one. Carry enough food to sustain you for 12 hours.
Carry a fully charged cellphone with the number for Metro Control (021 937 0300)
There are a lot of places in our mountains that don’t have cellphone reception, but still, have it with you because if you have reception it will potentially save your life and make ours a lot easier. If you are an overseas visitor, ensure that your roaming is working properly.
Put your phone into flight mode
When the reception gets sketchy your phone will use a lot of battery load to keep a connection up. Switch to flight mode, and only come out of it if you are in trouble (or after your hike), and enjoy an almost fully charged phone to get help. Your GPS positioning will still work in flight mode, as this doesn’t require your phone to send anything, just receive.
Learn to use the GPS and map functions on your phone
Almost everyone nowadays has one of those fancy smart phones with built-in GPS and at least a standard mapping app. Learn (as in: train long before you go out) how to transmit your position to somebody else, via SMS (best chances to get out in sketchy reception areas) or WhatsApp (most used messenger app here in SA). This can save us hours.
Google Maps shows most of the hiking paths on Table Mountain and other reserves, so in case you get disoriented, refer to it to find your way. Download the map to that area beforehand so you have it on your device when there is no reception. Yes, this is possible, learn how to do it.
One level up: install an outdoor specific mapping app (learn how to use it, as it is a bit of a learning curve) and record your track, so in case you get lost you can retrace your steps.
Carry a head lamp with you
If you happen to miscalculate your timing and end up still being on the trail while the sun is gone, a head lamp can change your situation from dire distress to a pleasant night hike. So each person having one of those in the bottom of their packs at all times is a very good idea. And always have a set of spare batteries with it.
Appoint a leader. Before the hike.
That might be the most crucial thing. If there is someone officially put in charge, that person will have to call the shots and hence be pushed into a bit of a parenting role that is opposed to the rest of the group, and tend to behave more responsible when his head is on the chopping block. Often groups get into trouble because there was no such person and everyone just drudged on into the unknown.
Do not derive from the plans that were made
In many cases people ‘slide’ into an emergency situation by a series of minor improvisations to the initial plan. Someone pitches delayed at the meeting point, so you are leaving later then anticipated. You have to hurry now and miss the one crucial fork in the path. To make up time you start bundu bashing to ‘take a shortcut’. After a while you turn around and see that you can’t make out were you came from … you get the picture. Be alert about what is happening and about consequences of decisions made. Rather ‘abort the mission’ and walk the same way back instead of pressing forward into unknown territory.
Never hike alone
A party of four is the minimal size we recommend. If one gets injured, one can stay with her/him while the other two can get help.