Hiking in the woods is a great pastime for almost everyone. It provides quality exercise, and it also helps reduce stress levels and helps learn to appreciate nature.
However, unlike taking a stroll around the block, hiking carries with it some more possible safety concerns.
In order to stay safe while hiking, you should always follow these 7 safety tips:
1. Plan For Everything
The most important thing you can do to stay safe on the hiking trail is to plan for any possible problem.
It would be best if you took everything with you that you are likely to need in any situation.
Even if you’re just going on a 2-mile hike, you’ll definitely want to bring water with you. You might also want to bring along sunscreen.
However, if you’re planning on a much longer hike that requires days of walking, you will want to bring food, water, and shelter. You’ll also want to bring a change of clothes.
Some things that you should always consider are:
- Snacks and food
- Safe, bottled drinking water
- Wear proper clothing
- First-aid supplies
- Backup jacket or raincoat
The water will prevent dehydration; the snacks are good for quick energy in case your blood sugar drops, and the first aid kit will help with scrapes and cuts.
You should also carry a small rain poncho and a sweatshirt or jacket if the weather turns cold.
For longer hikes, you should bring more items. Some fire starters and waterproof matches are always a good idea.
Also, you should always bring a cell phone or some other way of calling for help if you need it.
2. Never Go Alone
If you go hiking alone, you increase your chances of getting into some trouble.
What will happen if you do fall and break an ankle? You should always bring a buddy with you who you can lean on or who can go for help.
If you do not have a friend to go hiking with, you should stay in contact in other ways. Using a cell phone, radio, or other methods of communication will ensure that you are never really alone if something happens.
Always let someone know where you are hiking, where you will end up, and how long you will be gone.
It’s very important to make sure someone at least knows the general vicinity of where you are. Should you get lost or hurt, they can find you much easier that way.
Going off on your own without telling anyone is very dangerous.
3. Know Your Limitations
Perhaps the biggest cause of hiking problems is people not recognizing their limitations.
Hiking is not only a fun hobby but also great exercise, but if you have never hiked before, you should not start out with a very long journey.
Staying safe while hiking is the most important thing.
Just because you’ve gone and several hikes in the past don’t mean you’re ready for anything. Make sure you know your limitations will stick to them.
Hiking, especially in a rustic or wild setting, is not the time to show off your skills. Be responsible and stay smart.
With good planning, the buddy system, and respect for nature, you will be able to have a good time.
4. Don’t Eat Anything
Unless you are a very skilled hiker and an outdoorsy person, you should not eat anything on the trail that you aren’t familiar with.
There are so many plants out there that can make you sick or even kill you. It’s very important that you stay away from tasting plants and that you only eat the food you brought with you.
Furthermore, make sure that you’re taking good care of your food supplies. Don’t eat anything that might be rotten or outdated.
Also, don’t eat anything that might have gotten ruined by pests, animals, or the elements.
5. Beware of Allergies
Just like not eating anything you find on the forest floor, you want to be sure that you’re aware of your own allergies.
For example, if you are allergic to bees or pests of any kind, you should bring bug spray. You should also dress accordingly to keep pests off of you.
Dressing accordingly can also keep poison ivy and poison oak off of your skin. Most people are allergic to poisonous plants like that, and while some might be immune to their oils, it is much safer to wear long pants and tall boots than to chance it.
If you aren’t sure what kind of allergies you have, you’ll want to speak to a doctor before going anywhere unfamiliar. Especially in tropical locations and jungles, animals and certain bugs can be very dangerous.
6. Bring a Map
In particularly rustic settings, a map is the best way to keep you on a course. If you don’t know how to read a traditional map, it’s very important that you start learning now.
Your phone signal won’t always work wherever you’re hiking, so you can’t rely on it to keep you on track.
Instead, bring a map or a trail guide pamphlet or person with you so that you know where you’re going at all times. You never want to stray from the trail.
Going off-trail can be very hazardous. It also prevents people from finding you if something goes wrong.
7. Wear the Right Clothes
We talked about bringing an extra jacket in case of rain, but what about your boots?
What about your pants? What about your sleeves?
Dressing for the right climate, bugs, plants, and terrain is one of the most important ways to have a safe and comfortable hike.
If you wear the wrong shoes or boots, you could hurt your ankle or freeze your toes. If you have ill-fitting shoes, you could stifle your blood circulation or create blisters.
If you wear short sleeves or shorts in a very buggy area, you could get stung, bit, or even bring a tick home with you. If you over-dress in hot weather, you could get too warm or even suffer heatstroke.
Knowing the weather, terrain, and pest population – and preparing for it – is always a good move when you hike.