Some people prefer lazy, relaxing vacations, sipping margaritas on a beach or getting pampered at a spa. Others, however, prefer something a little more adventurous. Hiking and mountaineering are popular choices for travelers looking for a change of scene and a little bit of exercise. If your idea of a getaway involves the clothes on your back, a backpack full of rations and supplies, and the tallest mountain you can find, you might consider purchasing hazardous sports travel insurance as you're planning your trip. You may not think you need it—but when a single misstep or a loose rock is the only thing between you and tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills, insurance coverage is something that's better to have and not need than to need and not have.
Hiking vs. Mountaineering
Insurance companies differentiate between hiking and mountaineering. The difference lies in the use of equipment. If your activity requires ropes, guides, belays, or any other climbing equipment, then it is generally considered mountaineering or mountain climbing. Altitude is another risk factor: The higher the elevation, the riskier the activity. If you are hiking above a certain altitude, then some insurances will classify it as mountaineering.
Most standard travel insurance policies cover hiking but exclude mountaineering. Between the remote locations, unpredictable weather, the increased chance of exposure to venomous wildlife or tropical diseases, and the danger of mountain climbing itself, there's too much risk associated with mountaineering for it to be included in base coverage. To protect yourself against potential mishaps, it's recommended that you purchase an optional hazardous sports travel insurance package.
Consider the danger level of your planned activities when determining whether or not to purchase additional coverage. If you're taking a simple day hike, you probably won't need the add-on. But if the activity requires technical equipment like crampons or ice-axes, then extended coverage is a must.
Another factor to consider is how high you're climbing. Many mountaineering insurance policies restrict coverage to a certain height. Most limit coverage to 15,000 feet or below, while some only offer it up to 11,500 feet. Any injuries that occur or claims you make above the listed height won't be considered a covered expense. Make sure you compare your climbing itinerary to your insurance policy to make sure you're within range.
Finally, consider how you plan to get down. Adventure activities like mountain biking, skiing, ziplining, and so on would definitely require the additional coverage offered by a hazardous sports plan.
Hiking and Mountaineering Travel Destinations
In the United States, Colorado is a great destination for scenic views and fresh air. The state is known for its collection of "fourteeners," mountain peaks with an elevation of at least 14,000 feet. Out of its 58 fourteeners, the highest is Mount Elbert at 14,440 feet, and other popular peaks to tackle include Mount Massive, Pikes Peak, Longs Peak, Mount Evans, Mount Lincoln, and Mount Bross. Another destination within the U.S. is the volcanic hikes of Hawaii.
Internationally, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa, is a good choice for seasoned veterans up for a challenge. It doesn't require any climbing equipment, but the trek can take six to nine days, and the high altitudes, cold temperatures, and high winds make it a very physically demanding experience. Other options abroad include the rainforest hiking trails of New Zealand, Mount Toubkal in Morocco, and the winding Alpine trails of Liechtenstein.
If you're interested in a guide for your hike or climb, make sure to put in the necessary research. Because many peaks don't require guides to have any kind of certification, one of the biggest dangers to inexperienced hikers or climbers is an unqualified guide. It would be wise to check your guide's qualifications and experience before hiring them—or, at the very least, before starting up the mountain.
Whether you're planning a leisurely hike or an expert-level climb, it's important to match your travel plans to your travel insurance. The only thing worse than spending your vacation in the hospital is paying the bill for that stay out of your own pocket. Fortunately, Insubuy offers a wide variety of travel insurance and hazardous sports plans to ensure peace of mind. Our licensed and experienced representatives will help you pick the plan that's best for you.
Stay safe, and enjoy the great outdoors!