Any time you plan a trip outdoors to a remote area, safety is the first and foremost issue to consider. A safe, well-planned and fun trip with the right equipment, clothing and supplies should always be your goal. Please read the safety tips below and consider printing the emergency services contacts lists to take with you when you head out on the trail.
No matter how long your trip or what the season, ALWAYS take along:
|Rain jacket||Extra Clothing|
|First Aid Kit||Matches & Other Fire Starter|
|Flashlight & Fresh Batteries||Tent or Shelter|
|Emergency Blanket||Emergency Whistle|
The Ozark Trail traverses rugged, adventurous lands that are subject to sudden changes in weather and flash flooding. Use caution when crossing streams and other natural trail obstacles. DO NOT attempt to cross streams in high water.
Missouri is home to 51 different species of snakes. Most are harmless and all are protected by the Wildlife Code of Missouri. Please do not harm snakes or other wildlife you encounter on the trail. The best precaution is to avoid snake habitats such as brush, rock piles and sunny rock ledges.
Learn to identify irritating plants such as poison ivy and avoid any contact with your skin and clothing.
Chiggers, ticks and other biting insects are abundant in the Ozarks. Wear appropriate protective clothing and don't forget to use DEET-based insect repellent on your skin. Spray your clothing, bedding and shelter with permethrin for additional protection. For any insect repellents, follow manufacturer's application instructions.
Ticks can carry a variety of diseases including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease and Erhlichiosis. Using repellent will help avoid tick bites, but always check your skin after a trip on the trail and remove ticks within 24 hours to avoid the chance of illness. Even if you don't find ticks or see swelling or redness at the site of a tick bite, see your doctor right away if you have any symptoms after you've been outdoors. For information on ticks and tickborne diseases, see information from the Centers for Disease Control. For additional information and the latest research on ticks and current conditions across the country, see the TickEncounter Resource Center.
Plan Ahead: Your outing actually begins before you ever lace up your boots or hop on the saddle. Tell someone where you will be going and when you expect to be back. For longer trips, consider leaving an itinerary that shows when you will be in each area. When you return from your trip, check in with that person so they know you are back safely. If you don't return on time, your contact will know to seek help. Online resources such as Trail Note are a great help in ensuring your safety on the trail and can be set to send an automatic reminder to your designated contacts if you're late in returning.
Information: Gather information on the area you where you will be traveling. Know the name of the county and the municipalities nearby as well as the U.S. Forest Service district name if applicable for your trip. With this information, in case of an emergency, you can contact the nearest source of help.
For maps and more information about the OT, check out the resources on this web site and other internet sources such as the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Forest Service. Knowing where you are going and a bit of history of the area you will be traveling in makes for a more enjoyable trip. Be sure to check the weather forecast ahead of time and keep in mind that there are numerous river and creek crossings on the trail that are impassible during high water. Call ahead to the local land management group for trail conditions.
Food and Water: No matter how short a trip you are planning, always take water and a snack. For longer outings, plan your menu before hitting the trail. Treat any water you collect to use for drinking or cooking. A good water purifier is an excellent addition for all hikers planning a long day hike or a multi-day hike.
Comfort: It's always beneficial to dress in layers. There are many technical fabrics designed to keep the active outdoors person dry and comfortable. A wicking base layer to wear next to the skin is a good place to start. Then add appropriate layers for the season. Long pants are also recommended for protection from insects. It is always wise to take a rain jacket along since Missouri is known for its quickly changing weather.
Keep your feet happy, since an unwanted blister can make for a miserable day of hiking. Wear a pair of hiking shoes or boots you know are comfortable. Don't make the common mistake of wearing a new pair of shoes for the first time out on the trail: this can help you avoid painful blisters. It's always a good idea to carry moleskin and a blister care kit - these items are available from the local drug store.