Going out for a hike is the perfect way to be active, get fit, spend time with family or friends and explore what Mother Nature has to offer in your area. However, hitting the trails can open you up to everything from sprained ankles to dehydration and tangling with poison ivy. We put together a list of 5 ingredients you need to bring together to make sure you reduce your risk of injury and stay away from potential hazards on your next hike.
Eat and Drink Properly
The first step is to eat a good breakfast. The first meal of the day fuels your body and gets it ready for the rigours ahead. A morning meal that includes foods like oatmeal, fruit and eggs will provide carbohydrates and protein for energy on the trail. Pack snacks that will replenish this energy throughout the day, such as nuts, seeds, muffins, apples, carrots or jerky. It’s also important to hydrate before and during your hike. Make sure you drink sufficient water in the morning before you set out and bring lots of water to sip throughout your adventure. It’s also a good idea to bring a sports drink to replenish your electrolytes while hiking.
Make a Plan
A Saturday afternoon hike in the local park might seem simple enough, but even the most straightforward-sounding exploration can turn bad in a second. Before you hit the trails, it’s important to plan out your day and prepare for the worst case scenarios. Tell family or friends where you’re going and when you expect to return so rescuers will know where to look for you if you get hurt or become lost. Pay attention to weather reports. Weather is always a wild card and can turn ugly in a hurry. Bring clothing that will keep you warm and dry, even if the skies are clear. If the weather becomes threatening, turn around and head back.
Packing for a long hike means making sure the most important items find their way into your bag. Compasses, guidebook and maps are invaluable navigational tools. Make sure you review maps and guides and understand how to use a compass. Bring a light source such as a flashlights or headlamp. Even if you don’t plan on being out after dark, an injury or a wrong turn can make you later than you originally planned for. Be sure to bring an extra set of fresh batteries to be truly prepared. Pack as light as you can as well. Select the lightest sleeping bag, backpack and shelter according to your budget. Replace heavier items with lighter alternatives so you don’t injure yourself or fall victim to fatigue.
Bring a first aid kit.
First aid kits can save you from aches and pains and can even save a life, so don’t skip this step when preparing for a long hike. When assembling a first aid kit, make sure to include pack gauze, a squeeze bottle to irrigate wounds, antibiotic ointment, pain relievers, a bandanna and/or a sling, bandages, band-aids and bug spray. Much of other items you include should fit your route and region. For example, hikers in northern Ontario would be wise to carry bear spray. Outfitting your first-aid kit to address non-medical emergencies is also a smart move. Include a Swiss army knife, matches, a lighter and duct tape (to fix shoes and clothing), for example, as well a means to summon assistance, like a whistle. Bringing a cell phone or a radio for true emergencies is also recommended.
Wear Proper Clothing
Wearing the right gear can make or break a long hike. Clothing and equipment can protect you from the elements and reduce your chance to injury. Proper footwear is important. Don’t go out on a long hike with new shoes, it’s a recipe for blisters and misery. Wear shoes that fit best on your feet. Proper socks are an oft-overlooked part of your attire as well. It’s also wise to stay away from clothing made from cotton. Cotton retains moisture and can lower your body temperature, causing hypothermia. Dress in layers and be ready for cold or heat and rain. Protect yourself against the sun with UPF-protective clothing has UP, sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. Trekking poles are good to have as well, especially in rocky or slippery areas, in order to prevent falls. Besides being an extra arm or leg when you need to keep your balance, trekking poles have other uses on a long expedition. They can be used with a tarp as part of a shelter.