After being part of the boy scouts for years and having been a hunter my entire life, I can certainly provide some advice on staying safe and avoiding accidents in the woods.
The first tip is to watch the weather. If the weather is terrible, don’t be a hero. Wait for it to improve before you trudge out into the wilderness. Heavy rain, blizzards, and high winds are all a recipe for disaster because they lead to wet clothes, falling branches and trees, and an inability to clearly see where you are. So, in essence, we’re avoiding getting lost, getting hypothermia, and dying.
The second piece of advice is to dress appropriately. Sure, you might want to go with shorts because it’s easier to move and it’s hot out, but it’s also an easy way to get sunburned. And what about boots? Don’t wear cotton socks and sneakers. If those get damaged or wet (which they will), you’re out of luck. Get some hiking boots. If you’re looking for the crucial items to bring, it’s this: a knife, compass, matches, and a whistle. If you have the money for it, buy a SAT phone or rent one; they may be a little pricey, but I’d say that your life is worth it. No only is the technology something that can help you find your way out, but if you get hurt, people can find their way to you while you wait for help.
The third piece of advice is to take your time. Accidents happen when people are rushing to get somewhere. Go slow and take your time as you progress through your hike. If it starts getting into the late afternoon, don’t keep pushing until dusk – setup camp instead (if you’re staying there).
The fourth piece of advice is to know your level. If you’ve never been to the area or haven’t done anything as challenging as what you’re about to face, do your research and/or find more experienced people to go with you.