Factors affecting the preparedness of overnight hikers in national parks: Insights from Tasmania, Australia
Nemeth, N and Adams, VM and Byrne, JA, Factors affecting the preparedness of overnight hikers in national parks: Insights from Tasmania, Australia, Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, 35 Article 100388. ISSN 2213-0780 (2021) [Refereed Article]
Visiting and experiencing national parks, especially hiking in backcountry areas, has become a global phenomenon. Park managers are often challenged by how to ensure that hikers are not harmed due to lack of preparedness. Rescuing injured visitors and recovering deceased can be expensive, dangerous and emotionally difficult. Prevention of harm rests primarily on visitors’ preparation (e.g., packing essential gear, conducting pre-planning, trail familiarisation). This paper reports findings from research using a combination of a systematic quantitative literature review and a cross-sectional survey to examine preparedness of overnight hikers to national parks in Tasmania, Australia – an internationally popular wilderness travel destination. Data was collected on the gear carried, socio-demographics, experience, information sources, and self-reported ratings of fitness, risk, and preparedness. Results show 13% of hikers had never previously completed an overnight hike. Safety items were less frequently carried; female hikers often missed items. We found a weak positive correlation in males between self-reported preparedness and fitness, and risk and preparedness. Better prepared hikers were more open to improved safety solutions compared with under-prepared hikers. Findings suggest interventions need to be tailored to visitor type, and may include education, advertisements, EPIRB check in/check out and fines for noncompliance. Management implications suggest using diverse intervention methods and targeting hiking behaviour to reduce future problems. Further research is necessary to validate findings in other countries.