There’s a video flying around the internet of a suspension bridge snapping with 4 French hikers walking across it. The bridge is located down in New Zealand and is a scary reminder of the unexpected dangers in the outdoors.
Bridge safety is an often overlooked precaution when hiking. We take preemptive actions when crossing streams, and roads, and cliffs, but bridges aren’t often considered. When I was starting out as a young boy scout, I remember learning about what to do when crossing a bridge and not really taking it seriously. I’ll admit I’ve scurried across my fair share of bridges without thinking twice about it, but I can tell you after watching that video it’s going to be a whole lot more prevalent in my mind next time. Let’s take a quick review of how to safely hike across a bridge.
Unbuckle Your Backpack
This is probably the easiest thing to do, the biggest P.I.T.A., and maybe the best thing to do. People often forget that when crossing a bridge you should unbuckle all of your straps. The idea here is that if your backpack pins you down, you can easily squirm your way out of it. Note that this is important whether you land on your face, or on your back. The flow of rushing water and slippery rocks can make it incredibly hard to right yourself.
Go One at a Time
This is easy, just go one at a time. Remember, you’re carrying an extra load, their carrying extra loads, there’s a lot of weight on the bridge all at once. If there’s 5 people carrying 40 pound packs, that’s an extra 200lbs in gear which is essentially another person.
Hold Onto the Rails
If you’re fortunate enough to have handrails on your bridge, just keep a hold of them. Obviously, in the video these guys might not have stood a chance, but in a simple, small fall you might be able to catch yourself and prevent and unnecessary injury.
Use proper risk management. Stay off the slippery but cool looking log that would make an awesome bridge if you’ve got the balls for it. Don’t step on that old rotten bridge that looks like it could collapse at any minute. Water is a wild thing. If you fall on a bridge and crack your head at least you still have a chance of breathing. If you fall in the river and crack your head that chance is significantly diminished.