Hiking Safety: Having Fun While Being Prepared

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Although summer is quickly coming to a close, there’s still plenty of time to take advantage of nice weather and what better way than to go hiking?!  Hiking can be a fun, healthy way to get outdoors and get moving, but it can also come with its own set of hazards.  Make sure you’re prepared for everything with these great hiking safety tips!

1.       Pack lots of water and snacks that contain sodium.  Always pack more water than you think you’ll need!  You don’t want to run out in the middle of your hike.  Salty foods will keep your electrolyte levels up and keep you better hydrated. 

2.       Be prepared to spend the night, even if you’re not planning on it.  If you happen to get lost prior to dark, the safest course of action is to set up camp and wait for morning.  Knowing how to make a shelter or bringing a tarp to make a simple tent can make a big difference when temperatures drop at night.

3.       Hike in the morning or the evening, when temperatures are cooler.  This will lessen the amount of water you may need to bring with you, and it will lessen the chances of getting overheated, heat stroke or sunburn.

4.       Make a trip plan.  Leave something behind for your family members that say where you’re going, who you’re with when you’re leaving and coming back, and emergency instructions.  If something happens and they don’t hear from you when you’re expected back, they have a course of action and a place to start looking for you.

5.       Check the weather forecast and dress accordingly. Layers are always a good option, as they give you options to deal with changing weather conditions.

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6.       Pay attention to your surroundings.  Be aware of loose footing on the trail, cliffs or overhangs that you could fall off of, or other hazards that you could encounter.  Make a note of what’s around you, so that if you get lost you have good landmarks to refer to.

7.       Retrace your steps if you get lost.  While it may be tempting to just keep going, the best thing to do is try to get back to an area that is familiar.

8.       Know your local hazards, including plants and animals.  Be on the lookout for toxic plants such as poison oak or ivy, and give them the appropriate wide berth they deserve.  Likewise, it’s always good to know what kind of animals live where you’ll be hiking.  Bears, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes can all be potentially deadly, and knowing how to avoid them is very important, particularly if you’re going to be hiking in more remote locations.

9.       Know basic first aid.  Knowing how to stop bleeding and dress wounds can save your life if you’re unable to get medical attention right away.

10.   Bring a GPS along.  Even though it may not help you navigate the trails, it can point you in the right direction to head back to your car if you get lost.