Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Summer Hiking Safety Guidelines Everyone Should Follow

For the last ten years, the number of Americans who head out hiking each spring and summer has been steadily increasing, with the most recent surveys showing 47.2 million people hitting the trails.

If you’re planning a big hike sometime this summer, there are some safety guidelines you should stick to. These ten guidelines will help you and your hiking partners feel confident and avoid injuries and illnesses that often afflict unprepared hikers. 

1. Bring the Right Provisions

Even during a short hike, you’re at risk of losing a significant amount of fluid if the weather is hot enough. Be sure to pack plenty of water to help you avoid dehydration.

Bring enough food to last your anticipated hike time, too. Lightweight snacks like protein bars, trail mix, dried fruit, and beef jerky are all good options.
2. Don’t Overestimate Your Skill Level

Before heading out on a hike, it’s important to have a good grasp on what you can and cannot handle.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew just to keep up with your friends -- this will just set you up for an injury later on. There’s no shame in starting small and working your way up to more difficult trails.

3. Know How to Treat Sprains and Strains

Ankle sprains and strains are common hiking injuries that can easily ruin a perfectly nice nature walk. You can avoid them, to an extent, by wearing supportive hiking boots and taking care to watch where you step. But, it’s also important to know how to wrap and treat them.

When wrapping an ankle, you should start by wrapping the ball of the foot. Then, work your way around the arch and up over the ankle in a figure-8 pattern. Continue with this pattern, then secure the bandage around the ankle when you reach the end. When you get to your destination, rest and alternate between heat and cold to minimize pain and swelling.

4. Check the Weather Before Packing

Check the forecast regularly as you prepare for your trip so you know what gear to bring and what to leave behind. You can check the weather online, or you can call your local Parks and Recreation Department for real-time updates.

5. Let Someone Know Where You’re Going

Never head out on a hike without first letting someone know where you’ll be. Whether you’re hiking alone or with a friend, it’s always good to have someone back home who’s expecting you.

6. Know How to Prevent Hypothermia

Even during the summer, hikers can end up with hypothermia if they’re hiking at high elevations. To avoid this, don’t spend extended periods of time in wet clothes and be sure to dress in layers to minimize sweating in cooler weather. Wind-resistant jackets and rain gear are also helpful to have on hand.

7. Pack a Well-Stocked First Aid Kit

The following are some basic items everyone should include:
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Antibacterial ointment
  • Assorted bandages (especially fabric bandages for sprains and strains)
  • Medical tape
  • Gauze pads
  • Blister treatment
  • Ibuprofen/other painkillers
  • Insect repellent
  • Tweezers
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Allergy medication
  • First aid cards or a manual to provide basic instruction
8. Know How to Spot Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is one of the most common issues hikers face in the summer. Being able to spot the signs will help you get yourself or your hiking partners the help they need to avoid getting seriously sick. Some signs to be on the lookout for include:
  • Cool, moist skin
  • Goosebumps
  • Heavy sweating
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid or weak pulse
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
9. Use Hiking Poles

If you struggle with knee pain or ankle instability, hiking poles can be a good investment. They’ll help stabilize you, especially when you’re walking on wet trails. They also minimize strain on your joints when you’re walking up and down hills.

10. Know How to Purify Your Water

Finally, make sure you know how to purify water -- and have the supplies to do so. In most cases, boiling water is sufficient for getting rid of parasites and bacteria. You can also use water purification tablets to get clean water faster.

This is a guest blog entry.

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