Tips for a Safe Day Hike
What to pack in your safety kit – keep it small and light:
- Antibacterial cream
- Anti-itch cream
- Waterproof matches or lighter
- Pocket knife
- Small flashlight
- Cell phone (beware: don't rely on your cell phone as your only emergency backup – it may not have coverage in certain areas and batteries can fail)
- Map, compass, and/or GPS unit – a must if you're unfamiliar with your route
Food: The best things to feed your body during your aerobic workout are sports bars and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich – they travel well and hit the spot; if you're going on an overnight hike, usually one pound of food per person per day is recommended.
Water: This is one of the most important items for your pack; you can expect to drink more than you think – plan on at least one liter per person, per hour of your hike; do not drink from natural water sources, they are loaded with bacteria.
Sun protection: Wear a hat with a big brim to keep you cool and protect your skin; slather on the sunscreen before you leave and mid-way through your trip.
Shoes: Keep the weight of your shoe in mind, every pound of shoe is like 7-9 pounds on your back; select a cross-trainer with ankle support, a trail running shoe or one of the lighter hiking shoes that are widely available.
Socks: Beware of only wearing hiking socks as the fibers can dig into your skin; instead, wear a thin nylon sock as a liner and bring an extra pair for replacement half way through your hike.
Poles: This is the secret to success – trekking poles can add up to 20% efficiency to the body by transferring some of the load to your arms; of course, the stability from the poles reduces the need for leg muscles to continually provide balance; using poles can also lessen your chance of a sprained or broken ankle and can be a extremely helpful in tough crossings or steep areas; two poles are best.
Inform others: Whether you are going by yourself or in a group, it is important to let someone else know where you are hiking, when you are leaving, and when you plan to return in case things don't go according to plan.
Planning: When planning your route, try to do the most strenuous part of the hike first when your energy level is highest and save the easiest part for last when your energy is depleted.
Setting the pace: When in a group, put the slowest hiker in front and pace the group to that person so no one ends up getting exhausted; encourage kids to walk at the beginning rather than run so you don't end up having to carry them.
Timing: If you're going on a long hike, consider starting out earlier in the morning, 3-4 am; it is cooler plus you're also more likely to get home in the daylight hours rather than in the dark; in most cases, you should be on your way back by noon at the latest.
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