Hiking is a wonderful form of exercise and outdoor activity. Safe hiking requires some planning. Whether you are a beginner or a regular mountain topper, you should consider these tips.
PICK THE TRAIL THAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU!
Trails have difficulty levels associated with them. Planning a trail is based on your hiking experience, what you can comfortably fit in a backpack based on what you might need for specific equipment, food, water, and your physical ability to carry that pack. Terrain is an important consideration. Be sure you can handle steep hills, and the environment in terms of temperature, humidity, special equipment needed. And don’t forget to check the altitude you will be going into. Generally, if you are living in the Tucson valley, a climb over 8,000 feet can put you at risk of altitude sickness. And it’s always a good idea to hike with a friend. Not only to be safe, but to share the experience with. Talking with one another along the way is a very easy way of monitoring your breathing and setting a comfortable pace for the hike.
SAFELY PLAN YOUR HIKE:
Resources for planning your trail are available from many websites and the local USFS offices can offer many planning ideas. They can guide you appropriately based on the trail conditions, area restrictions, water sources, and much more. Also check with your healthcare provider if you’re just getting started to make sure you can safely handle the hike based on your individual health condition and concerns. And don’t forget your medications that you would normally take during the day.
SHARE YOUR TRIP PLAN:
A trip plan guides you, and also allows a trusted friend or family member to know your plans. The plan should include the location of your hike, your contact plan if something were to happen. Also let them know when you plan to start your hike and when you will return. In an emergency, this information is very helpful. This will allow the contact person you are leaving your plan with to take the appropriate action if you contact them with an emergency or if you are overdue in your return. If you do become injured or ill, it’s nice to know you have a plan to get help coming your way. No one expects to have an emergency, but you can have a plan if it does.
MORE ON AN EMERGENCY PLAN:
- Emergency plans are important should you become sick or lost. Basic CPR and basic wilderness first aid are important to learn particularly if you are in remote locations. This is true even for everyday life at home, but it is critical to know out on the trail.
- It is recommended to have a fully charged cell phone with you. However, do not rely on your cell phone for communication as cell coverage is not guaranteed. Again, a benefit of hiking with a group or with another person.
- Protect your cell phone battery life by using airplane mode or turning phone off. Consider having a personal locator beacon. As you hike, take the time to get your bearings, know where you are in relation to your planned hike .
- You will need a flashlight as your cell phone light is not adequate and will drain your battery. You will need a first aid kit recommended for hiking, and you will need a map not just of the trail, but one that covers the surrounding area.
- Acclimate yourself with how to deal with severe weather conditions such as flash flooding and lightning. Critical weather can also be low humidity, a cloudless sky, and extreme temperatures. Check the weather forecast before you start the hike and delay your hike if conditions are not ideal. We have enough beautiful weather days here in the southwest, you don’t need to take unnecessary risks.
- And one other tip. Check for park alerts, trail closures and wildfire risk before you set out on your hike.
- Allow time for acclimating to altitude. Take it slow, you may find you’ll enjoy your adventures hiking when you can catch your breath. It may take a couple of hikes to reach the prized summit.
WHAT TO TAKE WITH YOU:
- Make sure you have recommended amount of water to remain fully hydrated. (This is the one item; rescuers have determined to be the leading cause of emergency situations. Water is heavy to carry, and folks feel they can skimp on the amount they take. This is an error in judgement!)
- Take food that does not require cooking and supplies good nutritional content. Leave the sugars and caffeine behind. Bring an extra day supply of food in case needed.
- Choose the right footwear: Sturdy rubber soled hiking boots with ankle support are recommended especially for dirt or gravel trails. Good sweat wicking socks are a must. Treat your feet well, they are the ones that will get you safely home.
- For park trails that are paved tennis shoes are adequate but again a good pair of socks will keep you comfortable.
- Avoid open toed shoes, heels and flip flops.
- For Blisters, moleskin is advised.
- Consider insect repellant
- Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a head covering
- Personal Locator Devise
- Appropriate clothing for where you will be and prepare for it to either warm up or cool down. The temperatures rarely remain the same. Think a layered approach.
- Let the slowest hiker set the pace. This also prevents that hiker of always being the last to the rest stop and being rested before the group sets off again. It can also prevent them from becoming separated and possibly lost.
- Keep track of time and distance so that you are not caught in the dark. Uphill takes twice as long as downhill when calculating time for a round trip.
- Yield to uphill hikers
- Be prepared to encounter wildlife. It’s best to leave them alone!
- Take breaks, drink water, and eat snacks often. Take some pictures, talk to one another, and enjoy the hike.
- Watch your step, no one plans on twisting an ankle or worse. Be mindful of lose gravel and sand, slick rocks, and other trip hazards.
- If you can hike and talk comfortably you are hiking at the perfect speed for you!