Hiking/ trekking might possibly make you feel anxious especially while hiking solo.

Music can soothe your mind and motivate you a lot.

I would like to know the possible dangers/loss due to listening to music while on trail could lead to. ( I am not talking about playing music loudly. Just plugging in headphones/ earphones and listening.)

  • 15
    Hiking makes you feel anxious??? It's the most relaxing activity I do. I just find it alienating to pass people on the trail who have their earbuds plugged in, are tuned out of their environment, and won't return a friendly greeting.
    – user2169
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 3:53
  • It is relaxing. Yes of course it is, but since being new to the sport, I always have questions like am I on the right track? Is everything perfect. Why is it taking so much time? And all these questions which are being answered or faded away with time. I think listening to music would help if it's not dangerous.
    – Captain
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 4:01
  • 12
    I love music, but I would never wear headphones when out hiking - the noise of no cars, no industry and just general wildlife is, to me, so much more valuable than any music I have.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 12:36
  • 1
    I like to be aware of my surroundings, and wearing earphones (even one) makes it much more difficult to be aware. Maybe you could just hang them around your neck and raise the volume, or bring a small speaker at low volume? You might want to see what makes you anxious and why the music makes that better?
    – copper.hat
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 1:41
  • "I always have questions like am I on the right track?" shouldn't you be paying more attention, not less? If these feelings go away in several hikes then reassess the earphones question.
    – djechlin
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 3:44

5 Answers 5


If hiking makes you feel anxious, then don't go hiking.

If you do go hiking, as with most activities, you should pay attention to what your are doing. That includes listening to what is around you. Part of the enjoyment for most hikers is experiencing the outdoors. You can't do that as fully when you disable one of your senses. Leave the music player and headphones home, and instead listen to the birds, the insects, the water running nearby, the sound of your feet on different surfaces, or that unexpected rustle off to the side. If these are really not as interesting, fun, soothing, and stimulating to you as music, then I don't understand why you go hiking in the first place.

There is also a safety issue. To be fair, the things I'm about to describe are unlikely occurances, so most of the time you can be oblivious to them and get away with it. However, these things do occasionally happen, so having your ears open can be the difference between having a hike and being a statistic. For example, hearing a hissing sound 10 feet in front of you by the side of the trail can prevent a rattlesnake bite. Hearing little rattling sounds or even rumbling on the slope above you can alert you to falling rocks. Unstable snow sometimes makes a sound, which can warn of avalanche risk. A swooshing sound can help you prepare to not get sand blown in your eyes from a dust devil. Bears sometimes make huffing sounds as a last warning. A gurgling sound under the ice signals obvious danger, as does a cracking sound. Keeping track of the direction of gunshot sounds is a really good idea. Hearing the whistling of a bullet means you almost got hit, and it's time to do something about it.

If you think that last one is far fetched, it has actually happened to me. I got down on the ground and yelled as loud as I could. The yahoos around the hill a bit packed up their rifles and beer coolers and skedaddled out of there. They may have thought they hit me, and didn't want to be identified. At least it was a peaceful night after that.

  • 11
    In response to "If X makes you feel anxious, don't do X." I think you need to think this statement through. This does directly against the idea of pushing oneself to meet new challenges. It's common for people to be anxious if they are taking part in a new outdoor activity.
    – mb7744
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 19:30
  • 1
    I do agree with the safety aspects that come with going deaf to the outdoors, that is exactly what I wanted to know. I also like the ways you mentioned to experience the outdoors. I will exactly do that, both for safety and that experience. But I don't agree with, "If hiking makes you feel anxious, then don't go hiking". Instead of not hiking I would rather look out for ways to deal with my anxiety. What I get from hiking outweighs my anxiety.
    – Captain
    Commented Nov 23, 2015 at 6:57
  • 2
    Rattlesnakes don't hiss. They rattle. :) Commented Nov 23, 2015 at 6:59
  • 6
    I don't understand why you go hiking in the first place. nor does the OP asks you to. The question is not does listening to music matches your personal opinion of what is right to enjoy when hiking. The question is is it safe. (to which you also answer, but I don't think the lecture in the first paragraph is of any use)
    – njzk2
    Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 19:32
  • 2
    I almost stepped on a rattlesnake once when I took a step off the path and I assure you they definitely sound like a hiss and not a rattle!
    – AM_Hawk
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 19:34

Safety is not absolute and there is no such thing as "safe", there is only safer or less safe. There is no doubt wearing head phones is less safe than not wearing them. The question you are really asking is "Is wearing headphone safe enough"

Its a long time since humans had to worry about saber tooth tigers jumping out of the bush, so some of the primal instincts that we have inherited can lead to unwarranted anxiety in a modern society. As such, people often resort to things like head phones or back ground music as a way to create a "calm" feeling.

Depending where you are hiking will depend if those saber tooth tigers still exist and are a threat. Do you really want to be ignorant of foot steps approaching you if its a hungry bear or man with a knife? The barking of stray dogs in the distance may be important information for you in the near future. The sound of a water fall may indicate you are not where you thought you were.

Blocking out, or otherwise ignoring information about whats going on around you is less safe, as you are less aware of your environment. In some palces, on some trails, it would not be considered a problem, in other cases, it would be considered significantly less safe.

Few people these days know the 'sound of silence' and the sound of nature, and it makes them uneasy when they hear it. Out lives are dominated by noise - traffic, airplanes, music. We can rarely get away from it. Music is putting you back into your comfort zone, like a warm duvet on a cold night. But like the warm duvet, you are missing out when you drown out the silence

  • + for safety is not obsolete. I will try to push my limits and try to experience the outdoors.
    – Captain
    Commented Nov 23, 2015 at 6:59
  • Correction : Safety is not -absolute-
    – Captain
    Commented Nov 23, 2015 at 9:02

The answer to your question is "in some situations, Yes".

Many PCT hikers in SoCal learn this the hard way. They are out there wearing their headphones and fail to hear the sound of that rattlesnake on or near the trail. Thankfully very few get nailed, I think there was only one guy that got nailed by a snake on the 2015 seasons (he was transported to hospital and was given several vials of antivenom, saw the photos he posted, it was not pretty).

Elsewhere, it can be bears and moose.

Typically the solution to this is going with a single earbud.

  • Yes, same applies to Romanian/Balkan sites. Big herds of sheep are dangerous because of the herding dogs, and hearing them in time + avoiding them 300-400 meters is really helpful!
    – Akabelle
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 12:16

Besides the already given answers there is another pretty simple solution to your problem.

Sometimes when I'm 3D shooting in the forest I - of course - want to hear the sound of nature. Also, I want to be able to hear other archers for safety reasons. That, however, doesn't prevent me from listening to silent background music! How, you ask?

Bone conduction headphones!

Bone conduction is the conduction of sound to the inner ear through the bones of the skull. Bone conduction transmission can be used with individuals with normal or impaired hearing.

enter image description here

Just a random product description example:

Tune in without tuning out, it's time to think outside the ear with AfterShokz Sportz 3 Bone Conductor Headphones. Safe, comfortable and convenient, these are the only sports stereo headphones which allow you to tune into mobile devices but without switching off from the world around you. Safe your ears are never blocked, providing maximum situational awareness through music play and calls. Running, cycling, gym training, you can safely focus on your performance while motivating yourself with inspiring music or taking that important call.

So, to address your question. I don't think that it's safe enough to listen music through common headphones cause you might just miss something important (like somebody is screaming for help, ice cracking noise etc.). However, you can still listen to music (on low volume) through bone conduction earphones (like described above).

Just make sure that you see them as a "background music" device. You can even get a more intensive experience than without any music. Just imagine someone hiking in a movie. You still here the birds, wind and so on but there is also some silent background music. This adds a little bit extra epicness imho.


Would you recommend that deaf people never venture into the outdoors without an escort who can hear? I hope not. Listening to music while hiking isn't inherently dangerous.

Generally speaking listening to music while hiking is no more dangerous in my opinion than listening to music while walking down a city street. In both environments there are warning noises that the music might mask. Also in both environments if you maintain decent general awareness while listening to music you should be fine in all but extraordinary situations.

Inattention is a bigger risk factor than reduced hearing whether you are in the wilderness or the city.

  • I wouldn't recommend deaf people or anyone else impair themselves.
    – djechlin
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 3:43
  • Paying attention while hiking is fantastic training for paying attention when walking down the far more busy city street. It's not like people practice safe pedestrian habits and yes accidents do happen.
    – djechlin
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 3:43
  • @djechlin I agree that people shouldn't needlessly expose themselves to risky situations without proper precautions. Beyond that I'm not sure what you're trying to say.
    – Erik
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 5:07

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