Now that the summer days are starting to give way to beginning of fall in only a short few weeks, we wanted to bring you the first segment in our “Hiking Safety” series. We want each of you to be just as passionate about hiking and the great outdoors as we are, but we also want to make sure you are safe doing it. So many people do not realize the risks involved with hiking, even if it’s just for a quick nature walk.
Here we are going to cover 10 basic items for any hiker on any trail. These 10 basics are designed to keep you safe and keep you hiking!
1. Appropriate footwear.
Most people don’t really think about what to wear on their feet when they go hiking. They just put on what is most convenient or even stylish and take off. This isn’t good for your feet if you want to be comfortable and not have blisters on them. For a short-day hike that doesn’t involve a heavy pack or technical terrain, trail shoes are great. For longer hikes, carrying heavier loads, or more technical terrain, hiking boots offer more support. Leave the style for when you go out to eat or see a movie, and wear comfortable and supportive shoes when hiking!
2. Map and compass/GPS.
Something else that is very important, is knowing the area you are hiking in and finding ways to not get lost. A map and compass not only tell you where you are and how far you have to go, it can help you find campsites, water, and an emergency exit route in case of an accident. While GPS units are very useful, always carry a map and compass as a backup. As another safety measure in this area, you should always tell someone where you are hiking so that if something goes wrong, someone knows where you are.
3. Extra water and a way to purify it.
Make sure you pack plenty of water when you head out to the trails. Summer heat can catch up to you very quickly! Without enough water, your body’s muscles and organs simply can’t perform as well. Consuming too little water will not only make you thirsty, but susceptible to hypothermia and altitude sickness. Pack plenty and drink plenty.
4. Extra food.
Pack lots of protein bars, dry fruits, nuts and berries. Any number of things could keep you out longer than expected: getting lost, enjoying time by a stream, an injury, or difficult terrain. Extra food will help keep up energy and morale. If you run out of food, you could face more danger so pack wisely.
5. Rain gear and extra clothing.
Dress for more and remove layers if needed, because the weatherman is not always right. Dressing in layers allows you to adjust to changing weather and activity levels. Two rules: avoid cotton (it keeps moisture close to your skin) and always carry a hat.
6. Safety items: matches, light, and a whistle.
These three basic items can be vital to survival if you become lost or darkness falls before you get out of the woods. The warmth of a fire and a hot drink can help prevent hypothermia. Fires are also a great way to signal for help if you get lost. If lost, you’ll also want the whistle as it is more effective than using your voice to call for help (use 3 short bursts). Whistles are also good noise makers if ever faced by a bear and you need to make noise to scare it away. Just in case you’re out later than planned, a flashlight/headlamp is a must-have item to see your map and where you’re walking.
7. First aid kit.
Never hike without some type of first aid kit. Prepackaged first-aid kits for hikers are available at any outfitter. Double your effectiveness with knowledge: take a first-aid class with the American Red Cross or a Wilderness First Aid class. Do an internet search and find several homemade first aid kits. They are not hard or expensive to put together for hiking.
8. Knife or multi-purpose tool
Don’t be left in the woods with nothing to cut with. You never know when you may need a knife. These enable you to cut strips of cloth into bandages, remove splinters, fix broken eyeglasses, and perform a whole host of repairs on malfunctioning gear.
9. Sun screen and sun glasses.
YES, you can get a sunburn hiking. Yes it hurts. Especially above tree line when there is a skin-scorching combination of sun and snow, you’ll need sunglasses to prevent snow blindness and sunscreen to prevent sunburn.
You can get a very nice hiking bag for around $50 at most outfitters or hiking stores. Don’t take a drawstring bag or something that will hurt your back or shoulders. Invest and stay comfortable. You’ll want something you can carry comfortably and has the features designed to keep you hiking smartly. Don’t forget the rain cover; some packs come with one built-in. Keep the other Essentials in the pack and you’ll always be ready to hit the trail safely.
We hope you will find these safety tips helpful and that you will enjoy hiking more by using them. Watch for the next segment of our hiking basics where we will cover NETN/SWVA animals, insects, reptiles and other critters to stay away from while hiking.
So go out and enjoy the trails and maybe we will see you out there!