Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Important Safety Reminders For First-Time Trekkers

Unlike hiking which is more organized and generally safer because of well-marked trails, trekking takes longer (often more than two days) and is a lot more challenging since you need to walk on uncharted paths in hilly or mountainous areas.

Based on data collected during the spring of 2017, around 47.2 million Americans went backpacking in the last 12 months. With travel goals and destinations posted all over social media, this number is bound to increase in the years to come. Becoming one with nature has many health benefits but for the ill-informed and unprepared, it can also prove dangerous.

Common trekking injuries
  • Blisters. Walking on uneven terrain for extended periods of time can lead to skin irritation like blisters. Blisters do not only occur in your feet; you can also get blisters from gripping your trekking pole too tightly.
  • Body pain. Muscle soreness may accompany trekking like it does most other physical activities that include physical exertion. The most common sites for injury include the knee, shoulder, lower back, and foot arch. Even seasoned trekkers experience body aches. It’s all a matter of preparation before the trek that can make a huge difference.
  • Dehydration. Depending on your chosen location, it can get very hot when you’re walking in the middle of the day or early afternoon. Drinking water or sports drinks to replenish the liquids and electrolytes you lose through sweating can help prevent dehydration.
  • Ankle sprain. Traversing uneven terrain and climbing over landmarks like fallen trees and boulders can make you more susceptible to losing your footing and twisting or spraining your ankle.

Safety reminders to keep in mind

1. Check the weather so you can better prepare especially if there are thunderstorms, strong winds, or heavy rain. In extreme conditions, it’s often not advisable to continue with the trek even more so if you’re a first-timer.

2. Have some basic knowledge of what to do in case of emergencies such as animal attacks, cuts and bruises, insect bites, and ankle sprains.

3.    Choose a high-quality pair of boots for trekking. Remember, when there’s discomfort in your foot, it will affect your gait and the way you walk, which will have a domino effect on your whole body. Go on short hikes with your new shoes to try to see if these will potentially give you problems during the trek.

4. Ensure feet comfort and protection by using gel insoles that provide adequate support and have a washable lining to avoid bacterial buildup. You can also wear thick and comfortable socks to prevent blisters. For problem areas, you can put blister tapes and antiperspirant powder for further protection.

5. Warm up for larger treks. If you have been largely sedentary and suddenly plunge into a grueling activity without preparing your body first, you could increase your risk of injury.

6. Pack a first aid kit. Include bug spray, alcohol wipes, sterile gauze, medical tape, antibacterial ointment, over-the-counter pain relievers, antihistamine and anti-diarrheal medications, elastic bandages, and aloe vera gel to name a few. You can add more to this list depending on where you’re going.

7. Stay hydrated and use a pouch or any container that’s easily accessible like a hydration pack or a water bag. When you’re trekking on an ascending trail, it can be inconvenient to constantly open your backpack to take out your water bottle.

8. Protect your skin against sun damage from UV rays with sun block SPF 50+. To soothe your sunburnt skin, you can apply aloe vera gel.

9. Don’t trek by yourself. If you’re with a group, try to keep up with them and have a buddy so you can look out for each other. And it’s also a good idea to do a headcount every now and then just to make sure you didn’t leave anyone behind.

10. Don’t leave the trail and start exploring by yourself. It may be tempting but you can get lost and separated from the group.

11. Bring important items only because you need to save your energy for the walk and carrying a heavy backpack will only put additional stress and tension on your joints. It’s best to make a list in advance and double check if you have everything packed.

Trekking is a fun and exciting way of exploring new places. Since it is physically challenging, however, there are several risks that can potentially lead to an injury. If you are not sure what to expect, you can always ask seasoned trekkers.

This is a guest blog entry.

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