Unfortunately only experience in backpacking on a hiking trip can keep you safe. The more you know the better you can take care of yourself and the people you are traveling with. The unfortunate part of this is that this knowledge only comes from experience and so anyone first beginning backpacking is more at risk than the person who has been backpacking for a number of seasons. Nonetheless safety is a big issue on these wilderness trips and its important for the beginner to learn backpacking basics on how to be safe.
Keeping safe comes down to two main considerations, common sense and the right equipment. The right equipment begins with a good tent, a good sleeping bag and the right supplies. But once you have the essentials there is supplies that need to be added to make sure any problems that arise will be handled successfully.
The best way to do this is to be certain that the equipment that they are carrying covers off the important things that every wilderness backpacker needs. Most backpackers will tell you that there are ten items that must be taken with on every backpacking wilderness adventure. The list should include a map, compass (if you know how to use one), flashlight, extra food, extra clothes, sunglasses, a first-aid kit, a good knife, waterproof matches and a fire starter.
Why take extra clothes and extra food if you are simply going hiking for the weekend? Many people have asked this same question. The answer is that these are recommended in case there are unexpected circumstances that you need to deal with. For example, what if the nights are colder than expected? The extra clothing, while bulky, will not be heavy and could make the difference between a comfortable night and a cold one. Or what if the backpacker slipped and fell into water or into mud? Being able to change into clean dry clothing will add a lot of comfort to being able to continue on their adventure.
Extra food may also be a deciding factor on whether a trip can continue. Sometimes animals can get into your supplies if they have not been properly stored. The ability to divide food stores and place them out of reach of wild animals may be a big advantage. If one stash of food is pilfered the backpacker will have the second stash somewhere safely away and so still be able to eat while enjoying their adventure.
The waterproof matches are common sense. If the backpacker's matches get damp that may mean no fire at night for cooking. This doesn't mean not eating; it just means that food would not necessarily taste as good. A bigger issue would be no fire to warm oneself at night. Therefore waterproof matches are essential. So is a first aid kit. No one plans to get hurt when they are out backpacking but anything can happen. The kit need not be huge, but should have the essentials for cleaning wounds and covering them.