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Guide to Hiking Insurance

by Advice0 comments

When planning for a hiking trip the focus of our attention tends to be on the anticipated fun of it. How great it will be, what will the route look like, what’s the weather is going to be like and so on. Hiking insurance may not be on the top of your mind.

Insurance for hiking, trekking and any mountain activities is essential. However, insurance in general tends to be an unhappy topic to think about. You have to spend money on something you hope you’ll never need. Regardless of what we like to think about, the reality is that bad things can happen anywhere. Hiking in the Alps, a bad situation can potentially turn to dangerous.

Even without the potential danger, luggage gets lost all the time and sometimes things are stolen. Replacing things comes at a cost as you can read from my experience.

This article is about insurance for hiking. I hope you will find it useful.

My Ciara Experience

I want to start off by saying that the Ciara storm that hit Europe in February 2020 was a serious affair. People died and the damage to property around Europe was considerable. In the big picture me whining about lost luggage is nothing more than an inconvenience!

Anyway, I was skiing in Kitzbühel, Austria. I flew to Munich Airport and we shared a ride from there.  My friends and I enjoyed 4 days of sunshine and plentiful snow while there. The weather could not have been better!

Coming back was not as pleasant. We were scheduled to fly back home on Monday evening. Getting to Munich airport early in the afternoon we could not help but notice that the airport was a real mess. It was practically closed due to the Ciara-storm that hit Europe at that time.

Lost Luggage…

I was told about 340 flights were cancelled in Munich that day, including ours. The airline lost my luggage and it took almost a week for it to be eventually found.

This was problematic for me since, since I had another trip coming up in a week with my family. Without gear, I obviously would not be able to ski. You can’t rent clothes and because my feet give me trouble, I can’t rent boots either. I need to have my ski boots custom fitted.

Figuring out what to do, I learned that since I had lost my things flying home and not to my destination, my insurance would not pay anything until after 30 days after. And the airline would need to certify they had, in fact, lost my stuff. The airline won’t accept a claim to that effect until 21 days have passed from check-in.

… Valuable Lost Luggage!

As with hiking, for skiing I buy high quality items that tend to be expensive. I did the math and found that if I had needed to replace all the gear in transit, the cost would be around 5000 € (or about 5500 USD with current rates). Not happy and bye bye budget!

I stressed out over this for days. It was a big relief that my stuff was found before I needed to leave for my next trip. In the worst case I would’ve spent a considerable amount of money on new gear, and then the luggage would have been found before the 30 days. I would then have had extra gear I didn’t really need, and no insurance compensation.

Thinking About Insurance

This type of thing with bad weather and lost luggage happens every so often if you travel at all frequently. It’s been a couple of years without incident for me before Ciara. This time the pressure of going on another trip so soon with no gear was unusual.

It made me think about the importance of insurance on trips like this.

My Ciara experience involved skiing gear but the train of thought immediately extended to my hiking trips, too. Quality hiking gear is also expensive! And more than that: gear can be replaced but what if something bad happens to you? Are you covered?

Check out this article about Gohikealps advice on hiking gear.

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Insurance for Hiking

When you’re going hiking, especially in high mountains or any wild places of the world, you are knowingly engaging in a risky activity. At least insurance companies seem to think so.

These are the things you need to think about looking for hiking insurance:

  • Insurance for your person and anyone you’re hiking with. This includes insurance cover for getting off the mountain, medical treatment, possible repatriation and even death.
  • Insurance for your gear, which can be delayed, lost or stolen.
  • Other types of insurance details, such as: Personal Liability insurance, rental car excess insurance, possible trip cancellation, etc etc. There’s a long list.

In any case, regardless of what you do, you’ll certainly want to have some travel insurance. If you’re a frequent traveler, it might make sense to have a policy that’s always in place 24/7/365 without having to buy insurance separately for every trip.

That’s what I have had for as long as I can remember, and I get mine as a part of my insurance “package” which also covers my house, car etc. It’s affordable and convenient but it is not enough.

Travel insurance

The problem with “generic” travel insurance often is that it is far too limited for an activity like hiking or many other interesting activities, especially ones that happen in the mountains. There are often all kinds of limitations that you really need to be aware of in the mountain activities context.

I have no way of comparing difference insurance policies in different countries, so I need to be on a general level here. Whatever insurance you already have in place, I urge you to double check what it covers.

You will want to especially look at what it does not cover. There most likely is a list of exclusions hidden somewhere in the fine print of the policy. Make sure you check it out before you head to the mountains.

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The Photo above is from Via Ferrata Alfredo Benini, near Madonna di Campiglio in the Dolomites of Italy. If you look closely, you’ll see that some of the colorful little specks are people. Does your insurance cover this?

Typical Travel Insurance Exclusions

Some of the typical exclusions of “generic” travel insurance as related to hiking are, for example:

  • Altitude limits. General travel insurance may not cover anything if you’re over a certain altitude level. The limits can be very low, such as 2000 meters. (6,562 ft.) All hikes covered on this site go over 2000 meters and many top 3000 meters (9,843 ft.). In Chamonix, France, you can take a cable car to Aiguille du Midi, which is at 3,482 meters or 12,605 feet!
  • Going outside marked paths and trails is often excluded. You’re normally on marked paths in the Alps but what if you get lost or stray off the path in bad weather? This has happened to me lots of times, for example on the Dolomites Alta Via 2 on the Sella Massif.
  • Sometimes specific activities are excluded. For example: hiking might be ok but climbing is not. What about Via Ferrata if not mentioned separately? They fall kind of in between.

Another very important thing to consider is if something bad happens on the mountain and you need to be brought down by helicopter. The cost of that can be upwards of 10,000€. Does your insurance cover that?

Even worse, if you get hurt bad and need repatriation on an ambulance flight? Then we could be talking 100,000€ just to start with. Are you covered for that?

This list is not exhaustive but I’m sure you get the idea.

Insurance for you Gear

It was a real eye opener for me to do the math for my skiing gear. Since everything has been accumulated over the years, quality item by item, I haven’t really thought about the total replacement cost until now. 5,000€ easily. For most of us, that’s a lot of money.

Inspired by this, I decided to do the math for my typical hiking setup, too. I listed what I carried on my latest hiking trip to the Alps and looked at what it would cost to replace. The total came to about 2,000€. Not as expensive as the skiing gear but still a lot of money. (Here’s, again, a link to Gohikealps Gear Advice)

 

Above another Via Ferrata in the French Alps near Meribel. It was scary as hell but very cool!

Example: My Insurance

Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time going through my insurance for several reasons and I feel like I’m fairly well covered for my mountain activities as well as whatever happens at home.

I’ve tried to optimize what works for me and my activities, as well as my family. I’m putting this out here just as an example. Here’s my hiking related insurance coverage:

  • In addition to insurance for my house and car, along with the package comes a generic “always on” travel insurance policy which covers the basics: gear up to 1630€, typical medical, personal liability, etc. coverage. However, it specifically excludes things like mountain climbing and off-piste skiing.
  • I have an additional travel insurance policy through a credit card, which covers 5,000€ worth of gear and overlaps with all the rest of the items. Combining the two is enough for replacing all the gear if needed and the cover for everything except actual mountain activities is adequate.
  • I am a member of the Austrian Alpine Club UK Section. With that membership I get insurance to cover any mountain accidents and helicopter retrievals. This additional insurance covers all the activities I may do in the Alps or the rest of the world (Antartica is excluded!). The altitude limit of 6000 meters is more than enough for the Alps. By being a member, I also get hut discounts. (Here’s a link to the AACUK site for more details)

For me this has been the setup for several years and while I’ve never had to test the combination to the extreme, I feel fairly confident this combo covers me well enough. It also comes at a reasonable cost.

Clearly there’s overlap so if something serious happened, I would probably have to spend time figuring out which policy covers what. That’s a bridge I’ll cross if ever needed.

Hiking Insurance if Travel Insurance is not Enough

If whatever insurance you already have in place doesn’t cover hiking or has limits which don’t work for you, you can try asking your insurance company to sell additional coverage. In my experience, traditional insurance companies might sell you insurance for “one dangerous sport” at a time and charge by the day.

I’ve bought this type of insurance before joining the Austrian Alpine Club (UK) and it was expensive, and I needed to go into the trouble of always remembering to buy it separately. I also found that it was inflexible since it had to be bought for specific days and if plans were to change, the insured days would not.

Maybe things are easier with the traditional companies nowadays, I’m not sure.

For the purposes of this article I looked at insurance sold online which would provide adequate cover for hiking in the Alps. I’m not going to make a list of insurance companies in the world.

This type of insurance seems to sell under Travel Insurance, Hiking insurance, Trekking Insurance, Adventure Insurance or something similar.

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Weird things happen in the mountains. In the above picture the guys were trying to take off paragliding. A cow came along and literally attacked them. They had a hard time shooing it off before they could take off. It was a hilarious situation but I wonder what documentation an insurance company would require as evidence of a cow attack!

Insurance Companies Offering Hiking Insurance

I quickly found that there’s several providers for this type of insurance. This is what I expected. However, surprisingly many companies only offered insurance locally, or to residents of a specific country.

Since the audience of Gohikealps is global with visitors from all over, I wanted to find providers that would be able to offer insurance to at least most of you. Based on my research, I found that World Nomads seems to be a good fit. More about them below.

Most of the others are limited to residents of a certain or only a few countries. Since I felt good about World Nomads, I’ve even added some of their advertising on my site since I think this is an important topic.

If you choose them and buy through any of their ads or links on my site, Gohikealps may make a small commission at no cost to you. This is the way I try to cover at least a portion of the costs of maintaining this site.

Just to be clear, and as an exception to anything else I might recommend on this site: I don’t personally use World Nomads or any of the other companies listed since I’m covered otherwise. Would love to hear from you if you have experience using them!

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If you’re thinking about going on glaciers, check your insurance. Glacier skiing is dangerous and typically excluded from regular travel insurance. If you go, get a guide.

World Nomads

Out of the insurance providers I looked through, World Nomads stood out. They’re available to residents of almost everywhere, they cover just about any activity and they cover almost any country you might go to. Everything seems to happen online which makes things easy.

Since I’m already covered by all kinds of insurance, I’m not a customer of World Nomads. However, because I thought they stood out, I partnered with them, so if you buy insurance from them, Gohikealps may get a small commission.

Get a Quote

You can get a quote from World Nomads online using the form in the side bar (or way below if you’re on a mobile device.

If I was not covered by my existing and quite extensive insurance policies, World Nomads would be my choice since it can (based on your choices) cover everything I ever do in the Alps.

What the Reviews Say

That said, no insurance company is perfect. Looking at the World Nomads reviews on Trustpilot, they seem to be very polarized: People either have a great experience and love them, or they are really angry about something related to claims.

I can understand this. I’ve been denied claims and its infuriating – especially when you honestly feel that you’re being screwed. The reality, unfortunately, is that insurance companies couldn’t care less about your sense of what’s right and what’s not. They care about the fine print of their policy.

Read the Fine Print!

My advice with any insurance company is read the fine print. Understand the exclusions. Make sure you’re comfortable with what you buy.

It’s painful to read through insurance policies but in my opinion it just needs to be done.

Get Your Paperwork in Order

It’s also very important to document your things so you’ll know what you lost and how much it cost. Or, if you incur expenses that you need to claim (such as medical expenses), make sure you have proof.

If you have to make a claim, any insurance company will ask for documentation.

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Above the ultimate mountain rescuer is taking a break.

Other Hiking Insurance Providers

There’s a lot of providers which are easy to find on Google – just search for “Hiking Insurance” and you’ll get a long list. Doing my research, I noticed that Google lists providers based on where you’re searching from and the list varies based on that. That makes sense but took a while for me to realize.

For example, when I do a search in Europe, I get a long list of European providers but if I do a search in the U.S., I get more U.S. ones. I used a VPN connection to virtually change my location to figure this out.

The list below is not meant to be exhaustive nor do I recommend any of these companies. I haven’t used them, so can’t recommend. This is just to help you get started.

Make sure you do your own research!

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Hiking Insurance Globally

VisitorsCoverage Mountaineering and Hiking Insurance.

  • Coverage seems to be similar to World Nomads and different policies are available to residents all over the world.
  • Link to VisitorsCoverage

Hiking Insurance for Europeans

True Traveller

  • Based in U.K., offers cover for UK & EEA residents
  • Offers Single & Multitrip policies, covers all kinds of activities with different levels of cover called Activity Packs: Traveller, Adventure, Extreme and Ultimate packs
  • Online Quote
  • Link to True Traveller

Big Cat Travel Insurance

Hiking Insurance for U.K. residents

Sportscover Direct

  • Based in UK, Only for UK residents
  • Offers Single & Multitrip policies, different levels of coverage.
  • Online Quote
  • Link to Sportscover Direct

Insureandgo

  • Based in UK, Only for UK residents
  • Offers Single & Multitrip policies
  • Online Quote
  • Link to Insureandgo

Hiking Insurance for U.S. Residents

Trip Assure (REI Adventures)

Insuremytrip.com

  • This seems to be a search engine/quote generator for adventure travel primarily for residents of U.S. and Canada, although they do seem to generate quotes for “Neither U.S. or Canada” residents, too.
  • Link to Insuremytrip.com Sports & Adventure Travel

Austrian Alpine Club (UK)

I already mentioned the Austrian Alpine Club UK Section, which I’m a member of. Obviously, it is an Alpine Club and not an insurance company but like said, membership comes with insurance.

In my combination of insurance policies, the membership fills the gap.

If you have a similar gap, AAC(UK) is worthy of consideration since in addition to the insurance cover you also get hut discounts and other member benefits. Membership is open to people from all around the world. Of course, you’ll get the most value if the Alps is a frequent destination. Here’s their website.

I’m sure there are other mountain clubs all over the world that have similar benefits, but they go beyond the scope of this post.

Hiking Insurance Summed Up

When I did my research for this article, I wasn’t really surprised that there would be a lot of providers for this type of insurance. It rather seems complicated to choose, there’s so many to choose from.

When looking into this, remember to check that whatever plan you choose:

  • The plan covers you for the activity you’re pursuing – hiking, trekking, skiing whatever.
  • The plan covers your destination countries
  • Check the exclusions. Read the fine print. Make sure you understand what is and what isn’t covered. Check for any altitude limitations.
  • When you go, document things. If you need to make a claim, it helps to know what you lost and/or what happened and how much it cost. And insurance companies being insurance companies, they will require paperwork, receipts etc.

Did I already mention? Check the exclusions, understand what you are buying and don’t buy if you’re not comfortable.

Final Words

No matter what you think about insurance and insurance companies, I’ve learned that adequate cover just simply needs to be there.

Some years have gone by when I’ve made no claims. This year, though, I’ve already had to make several. The airline paid for most of the additional costs I incurred because of Ciara and insurance paid the rest. Within one month of my Ciara experience, I’ve already had to make additional two claims:

  • My tablet fell on the floor in a hotel room and the screen was smashed. Cost of repair without insurance: 359€. Insurance paid.
  • Somebody scratched my car presumably in some parking lot. Cost of repair without insurance apparently close to 1,000€. Insurance pays, I pay a reasonable deductible.

These are minor, material things. Hopefully nothing major comes along but if it does, I won’t mind paying the premiums again for a while.

I hope you found this article useful. It would be great to hear of your hiking insurance experiences – feel free to comment below!

 

Cheers,

Pekka

About The Author

Pekka

Pekka is an Alpine Enthusiast both in summer and winter, hiking and skiing as much as possible. He established gohikealps.com to help hikers from around the world discover the Alps - through Inspiration and Advice.

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