Trekkers insurance, sometimes called hiking insurance, offers protection for people with a special taste for adventure. It can whisk you out of harm’s way and deserves a spot in your pack next to your first-aid kit and sunscreen.
Compare travel insurance brands for trekking
Plenty of insurers offer the specs you need, with helicopter evacuations and altitude limits from 3,500 metres to infinity.
What does trekking insurance cover?
Trekking insurance covers many of the same situations as normal travel insurance, but it’s beefed up to offer stronger protection for adventure-related activities. Here are some examples of situations commonly covered by trekkers insurance:
You’re injured on the trail. You’ll be covered for any medical and/or hospital treatment you need.
You need to be evacuated via helicopter from an inaccessible location. If you desperately need to get to a hospital and there’s no other way to get you there, your helicopter rescue will be covered.
Your gear is lost or stolen. The policies will usually offer added protection for expensive gear that gets stolen or is lost by your airline or other service provider.
Your trip gets cancelled. If you’re forced to cancel your trek for unpredictable reasons like bad weather, these policies will cover the amount you’ve already spent.
Are there any limits to what trekking and hiking insurance will cover?
Adventurous doesn’t mean reckless, so each insurer will have a different set of conditions you must follow if you want your claims to succeed. Here are some of the most common conditions you’ll find:
You may only be covered to a specific altitude limit. Many trekking policies have no altitude limits, but some will limit you to a specific altitude like 4,000m or 6,000m.
You may only be covered if you go through a licensed operator. Some brands will only insure your trek if it’s organised by a licensed commercial operator.
You may not be covered if your trek requires specialised equipment. Most policies only cover basic trekking or hiking holidays, not mountaineering. If you need support ropes or abseiling gear, you probably won’t be covered.
You may have to disclose your plans. Some policies will require you to describe your plans before they’ll sell you a policy.
You may have to take reasonable care. Almost every policy will contain language saying you won’t be covered if you act recklessly, but some trekking policies (especially ones with no altitude limits) will make this abundantly clear.
You may have to buy an insurance add-on. Some insurers offer trekking cover as an add-on to their normal travel insurance policies. If you go through one of these, you’ll need to buy the travel insurance policy and add trekking cover on top of that.
Hypothetical case study: Claim denied for Nepal helicopter evacuation
Craig was about to depart for his Everest Base Camp trek. Since the highest he’d be hiking would be to 5,364m he bought the first policy he found that covered up to 6,000m. Little did he know that this specific policy excluded treks in Nepal, Antarctica and Kokoda.
On the third day of the hike, Craig sprained his ACL going down a steep set of slippery steps and the only method of evacuation was by helicopter.
He was evacuated to the nearest hospital and treated for his injury. After being cleared from hospital, Craig was confident that his travel insurance policy would cover all his expenses. It was only when he was denied that Craig realised Nepal was excluded from his policy. He was left with a massive hospital bill on top of the cost of the helicopter.
Not all policies exclude Nepal from cover, so with a little more digging around, Craig could have avoided this issue altogether.
Cost of helicopter evacuation
How does hiking insurance cover helicopter rescue?
As a trekker, you’ll often find yourself in inaccessible locations under often treacherous conditions. This makes helicopter rescue cover one of the most important features of trekkers and hikers insurance, and it’s why every insurer offers it.
Your insurer will likely place some conditions around helicopter evacuation, so it pays to understand these before you go so you’re not caught off-guard by a denied claim.
Here are the two conditions most insurers apply to helicopter rescue:
It must be medically necessary. This means a licensed medical professional or licensed tour guide must determine that the rescue is the only way you can get the treatment you need.
You must alert your insurer about your need for rescue. They will have medical assistance teams that can help organise the evacuation and guarantee payment with the hospital and medics.
Are you covered if you get lost?
Most insurers consider search and rescue to be a different beast from medical evacuation, where your location is known. This means that you will pay out of your own pocket for any search and rescue operation that’s launched on your behalf.
The best way to avoid this situation is to organise your trek through an licensed tour operator. They may be liable for damages if it’s their fault you get lost. Plus, they will have the means and expertise to conduct a search and rescue operation if it’s needed.
Will you pay more for trekking cover?
On average, trekking insurance will be slightly more expensive than normal travel insurance but not all insurers work out their prices in the same way. For example, if you have a policy with Travel Insurance Direct you are automatically covered for trekking with the cost of specialised cover factored in.
On the other hand, if you take out a policy with World Nomads then you’re only covered for treks up to 2,000m in altitude. For treks over this height, you will need to upgrade your plan and pay an additional premium on top of what you’re paying for the normal policy.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to find or build a few policies that cover you for what you need them to and then compare whatever the final costs turn out to be.
Tips for staying safe when trekking overseas
Get familiar with your equipment. Learn how to use your equipment before setting off on your trip, especially maps and GPS units.
Plot your course. Selecting a trekking course starts with being realistic about your fitness levels, safety and accessibility in case of an emergency. If you’re considering a course overseas, it might be a good idea to join a group tour. Group operators always insist that your policy makes provision for medical emergencies and evacuation.
Check the weather. Be sure to check the weather forecast for the dates and location you’re planning to visit.
Find a guide. A guide will accommodate your pace and most likely will know the ins and outs of the trail.
Know your limits. Go at your own pace, and don’t be afraid to take a rest. Fatigue on tricky walking surfaces can easily result in injuries.
Pack light. Take only the essentials and you’ll thank yourself over a five-day hike.
What to do if you injure yourself on your hike
Here’s what to do if you find yourself in a medical emergency overseas.
Contact your insurer. You must let your insurer know as soon as possible. A good policy will provide for immediate assistance in a medical emergency and arrange for hospital expenses to be covered. You’ll also have to download, complete and send a claims form to the insurer, along with all the required documentation.
Provide supporting information to make the claim. You’ll be asked to provide information to help the insurer better process your claim. This can include medical and police reports, statements from travel providers, original receipts and proof of ownership. Foreign-language documents must be translated into English.
Cooperate. Be as honest and forthcoming as possible when providing information and evidence.
Frequently asked questions
Some insurers will ask you to give them specific details about your trekking plans, but not all will. It’s a good idea to double check with your policy before planning a trek overseas. You will be required to be honest with your insurer about activities that led to a claim.
The Everest Base Camp trek is one of the most popular in the world but at more than 5,000m, it also pushes some insurers’ altitude limits. There are plenty of insurers that will cover you up to 6,000m but even some of these exclude Nepal altogether – even at heights within the altitude limits. So if you’re headed to Nepal, you’ll need to go through your choices very carefully.
If your policy only covers you to 4,000m and you hike higher than that, you may be denied even if you fall ill below that altitude when you hike back down. That’s because your insurer can claim that the lack of oxygen at those higher levels contributed to the illness you developed later.
Brad Buzzard is an insurance writer at Finder and is an expert in almost any type of insurance you can think of: health, car, travel, life, home, business... even drone insurance. He has more than a decade of experience in research and analytics, which means he can dig deep into policy documents to untangle the confusing jargon. Brad’s favourite activities are keeping fit and aiming to be the best role model he can be for his daughter.
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