by Lee Flynn
Do you need a break from work? Better yet, a break from the stress of everyday life? Are you looking to get a little wilderness therapy? Hiking outdoors is the perfect stress reliever! However, before you get outside, make sure you follow some essential tips to have a safe and fun time in the Great Outdoors.
What to Know
First, never hit the trails alone. It is best to travel with a buddy at all times. However, if you only plan to be gone a short time, be sure to tell someone where you are going and what time you plan to return. While it is likely you will have an uneventful hike, it never hurts to take a buddy or let someone know your whereabouts.
Thirdly, it is always a good idea to stretch before going on a hike. Furthermore, stretching properly is key to avoiding injury. If you take time to do so, your muscles are less likely to cramp while on the trail.
What to Check
One of the most important preparation steps regarding hiking is stopping to check the conditions in the proposed area you wish to hike. Unfortunately, landslides, flash floods, and even nearby logging can restrict your access to your preferred trails. The best place to check conditions is land management agency websites.
While we all want to climb the highest mountain, the safe bet is to know your limitations and don’t push yourself to exceed them. Set a goal to climb that high peak and slowly work toward that goal. Don’t take the chance of getting hurt.
Always use caution around cliffs and other possible slippery surfaces. Cliffs have a tendency to crumble, and there are often no visible signs that a cliff isn’t solid. If your area has had a good bit of rain, be especially vigilant.
In addition to checking for conditions on your proposed hiking trail, it is also smart to check your weather app to make sure the weather is not going to change abruptly on you as you hike.
What to Take
Just as important is preparing and carrying along with you a basic first aid kit. First, your kit should include: one bag of latex gloves, plastic splints, triangular bandage, alcohol pads, a gauze roll, saline flush, Bandaids, Space blanket, aerial flares, Whistle,Compass, Candle,Lighter, Flagging tape and six heat packs. Also, knowing the basics of first aid will be helpful should you encounter any problems while out on the trail. The Red Cross often offers great basic first aid classes.
Next, plan appropriately and take proper clothing. Wear layers, especially in the spring and fall of the year. Remember that the weather can change in a heartbeat during those times of the year. A light windbreaker is great for a hike during the spring or fall. It may also be wise to take along a lightweight rain jacket; in fact, if your rain jacket can double as a windbreaker, then that is even better! Proper shoes are always in order when hiking.
Although you might think this is a terrible idea during the summer, it is always better to wear wool socks (rather than cotton socks). Wool provides a cushion for your feet; cotton does not. Your feet may ache after hiking in cotton socks. Wool also keeps your feet from getting cold should you get your feet wet while outdoors. Lightweight wool socks are available for any time of the year at local outdoor retailer.
Be sure to take at least a liter of water with you as you hike and drink generously. Depending on how long you plan to be out, bring some handy snacks along as well. Trail mix, granola bars, or dried fruit are all great ideas for snacks while out on the hike.
Above all, prepare well for your hike and be safe! Happy (hiking) trails!