Hikers are dying on the trail in record numbers because they don\’t know the basics of hiker safety, says Trailmaster John McKinney

Because of way too many hiker deaths, hiker injuries and hiker rescues recently, the issue of “Hiker Safety” has caught the media’s attention. My mission is to encourage people to “Hike smart,” so I’m always pleased to hit the trail with a TV news crew and share some safety tips.

Santa Barbara KEYT TV News Reporter Scott Hurst is a hiker himself and earlier this week we wandered into Rattlesnake Canyon and talked about hiker safety. “Nature is not a theme park,” I told viewers.

And read this excerpt of the station’s online account, too:

Hiker Safety in Santa Barbara County

Hiking can be dangerous if you are not prepared, but if you plan properly, it can be fun and safe.

“Nature is not a theme park, you have to enter it on its own terms and that means taking along with you a backpack full of good gear, but also some common sense, to hike smart,” said John McKinney, a.k.a. “The Trail Master.”

McKinney has been writing about hiking for three decades and says more and more people are not prepared to hit the trails. He says it’s important to always have a backpack with the proper gear and good shoes. That backpack should include lots of water, extra clothes, food and a first-aid kit.

Unfortunately, McKinney says he has seen a troubling trend on the trails in recent years.

“Nature hasn’t changed, we have. That’s why we find, tragically, so many hikers are getting into trouble these days,” he said.

The Trailmaster says smart phones have replaced smart planning. Too often he has noticed people depending on cell phones to get them out of trouble.

“(They say)… I have my cell phone I can just call 911 and be rescued from whatever predicament… and that’s not true,” McKinney said.

So even as technology gets better, McKinney says the key to a good and safe hike is still good planning. That means telling someone where you are going and having a plan.

It’s also important to note that many hiking trails in Santa Barbara County have drastically changed because of recent wildfires.