Hiking is a wonderful activity offering countless benefits for its participants, and above all else, is free! According to the American Hiking Society
, Those who engage in aerobic exercises, such as hiking, enjoy increased cardiorespiratory fitness, improved muscle strength, better sleep quality, lower risk of depression and most importantly, the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature. However, there are inherent safety risks for those that hike, so heed the following precautions to have a safe, and fun experience on the trails.
Follow the rules of the trail
In many state and national parks, hiking trails will be marked with signs to brief you on any potential dangers in the area, including wildlife, sharp declines or inclines, and hazardous rock formations to look out for. heed any warnings and follow the rules posted on these signs to ensure your safety on the trails. Also, you should follow the unwritten rules of trail etiquette
as a courtesy to fellow hikers on the trial.
Select proper footwear
Your shoes are the single most important piece of equipment to consider when going for a hike. Proper hiking shoes or boots will help you get the most out of your hiking experience because they provide traction to keep you safe while ascending or descending mountains, offer waterproofing to keep your feet dry while crossing rivers or creeks, and provide necessary support to avoid injuries. On the same token, improper footwear can wreak havoc on your hike and cause injuries, blisters, and discomfort.
Listen to your body
When hiking, it is extremely important you pay attention to how your body feels. At the first sign of discomfort, you should stop and address it because when you are out on a trail, there are no medical care providers to help you. If your legs are aching, take a break and rest. If you have a headache, stop for a sip of water and a snack. If you have foot pain, stop and check to see if you have a blister. It is crucial that you address any injuries as early as possible, because this can help stop them in their tracks before they get worse.
Carry a first aid kit
On a hiking trail in the backcountry, a first aid kit can be the difference between a minor cut that can cause a small set back and a serious infection that can derail your entire trip. A first aid kit is your only line of defense against injuries in the wild, so make sure that you have one packed in case you face any medical emergencies, major or minor. A proper first aid kit should include moleskin to treat blisters, bandages for cuts and wounds, antiseptic towelettes and antibiotic ointment, at the very least.
Bring ample food and water
Having adequate food and water is essential for a successful hike. Your body burns more calories than normal when traversing uphill trails, and hiking at an incline can dehydrate the body. To maintain high bodily function, bring more than enough food and water, as well as a way to purify water if you run out. A wrong turn on the hiking trail or a simple injury can extend the length of your trip, and having extra food and water can prove to be a lifesaver.
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