The great outdoors is a wonderful place to spend time. Hiking is a terrific way to enjoy nature’s beauty, plus it’s healthy and fun. Following these hiking tips will make your next outdoor excursion safe and fun.
Safety in Numbers
The more the merrier is certainly true of hiking. Going it alone can be risky if you fall and injure yourself or run into an unfriendly critter. Going with a group and staying together is safer and a lot more fun.
With kids along the adults in the group should share the duty of making sure they are all accounted for at all times so no one gets left behind or wanders off.
Before you set off make sure to inform someone not on the hike where you are going and how long you think you will be gone. That way if you don’t return as planned, that contact can call for help. Leave a note in your parked vehicle indicating how many are in your group, time of departure, expected time of return, and the general area you plan to be enjoying.
Make sure everyone has some form of identification on them, and a name and contact number in case of emergency. Make it easier for helpers or rescuers to assist you as best as possible.
Hiking can be a strenuous, thirsty good time. Always start your hike well hydrated and bring plenty of water with you. Avoid alcoholic drinks or those high in sugar because they are actually dehydrating. If you are hiking at higher elevations, your body has to work harder to compensate for the thinner air, causing dehydration to happen more quickly than under normal circumstances.
Bring extra water in case the day turns out to be longer than planned due to weather delays or other reasons. Two to three quarts per person is a good rule for hikes lasting more than 90 minutes.
If you are hiking in extremely hot weather be sure to bring drinks with electrolytes like sodium and potassium to replace minerals lost during heavy sweating. Sports drinks, or electrolyte infused water are smart choices.
Be a Foodie
Like water, have plenty of food along for your hike. Make sure everyone eats a healthy, protein-rich meal prior to departure. Pack snacks like jerky, trail mix, granola bars, cookies, and other snacks that are a mix of carbohydrates, protein, and sugar to give you energy. Bring along some apples and peanut butter.
Plan to eat a small amount every hour you will be hiking, and bring extra in case the day runs long. Another trick of experienced hikers is to enjoy honey sticks on your hike. Honey is nature’s power source, and it tastes great. As a carbohydrate, honey is a natural energy booster.
Related: The Benefits of Honey
Mother Nature is unpredictable, so being organized with these things in your daypack besides food and water will make for a better and safer hiking experience.
- Small first aid kit, including snake bite kit
- Rain gear (coat and pants), or rain poncho
- Extra layers (long sleeve shirt)
- Flashlight or headlight in case darkness sneaks up
- Small mirror for flashing in case of emergency
- Paper trail map of the area and compass
- Extra sunscreen
- Bug repellent (mosquitoes live near water and are more active at dusk)
- Matches and lighter for emergency fire only
- Tissues and toilet paper
- Plastic bags for trash carry-out (don’t litter!)
Make sure every member of the party is wearing a safety whistle, or has one in their pocket or jacket (in case they get separated from their backpack.) Teach younger hikers not to ‘call wolf’—in other works, it’s not a toy, and it’s used only in emergencies, not for play.
Use hiking as an opportunity to teach younger hikers (and many adult hikers) how to be aware of landmarks. Teach them about directions. Many people don’t know north from south or east from west. The sun always rises in the east; it always sets in the west. Looking at a rising sun, your left arm is north, your right is south. Looking at a setting sun, your right arm is north, your left is south.
One item often left off hiking tips lists is sunscreen. That’s too bad because a bad burn can turn the hike into a painful experience. Even in the winter or under cloudy skies, you can get can get a sunburn. In fact, burns occur more quickly at higher elevations.
Lather a sunblock of at least 30 SPF over all exposed skin including inside the ears and your hands. Wear a hat and sunglasses for extra protection.
Avoid Hairy Situations
Another hiking tip not commonly offered is to secure long hair under a hat or with a headband. Long hair can blow across your face obscuring your vision and cause a nasty fall. It is also easily snagged in low hanging tree branches and bushes and can yank you up short and even cause a neck injury. Keeping your locks locked down is a good hiking tip that can help avoid a hike up a mountain turning into a fall off a cliff.
Remember, take only pictures; and leave only footprints. Be respectful of nature. Bring along a trash bag and please don’t litter. Stay only on the trail. If you take these hiking tips to heart, your next hike should be good safe fun.