Hiking is a fun and popular pastime for many outdoor enthusiasts. Not only is it a way of enjoying nature's beauty, but it is also a natural form of exercise. Despite the many positive advantages associated with it, it is a form of recreation that is not without risk. Anytime people venture into the wild, they face numerous threats to their physical health and even their life. Before going camping, a person should recognize and respect these risks so that he or she can avoid falling victim to them. In order to do this, it's important to understand what precautions must be taken, both before and during the hike.
Plan Out Your Hiking Trip
Hiking safety begins even before a person leaves his or her home. This involves thoroughly planning out the trip. First, consider hiking with another person or a group. Not only will this provide companionship, but there is also safety in groups. It is a good idea to also consider one's level of physical fitness and health limitations. When a person does this, he or she is ensuring that they do not hike in an area that they are not physically able to manage. Once a hiking area has been determined based of the limitations of the hiking party, it is also important to familiarize oneself with the area. This can be done using guidebooks, maps, or by going online and searching for information on the park or area. The state of the weather should also be taken into consideration when planning a hiking excursion. If rain, strong winds, or snow are in the forecast, it is best that the hiker is aware of it in advance rather than being taken by surprise. Whether a person is hiking alone or with another person, one of the most important safety precautions that he or she can make is to tell someone about the trip. This should be a person who is not a part of the hiking party. He or she should be told where the trip will be and when the hiker will return home.
Dress Appropriately and Bring the Right Supplies
Safety also involves having the right equipment, supplies, and clothing while hiking. The hiker should dress in clothing that is appropriate for weather conditions. This means bringing a sweater and a pair of long pants, even in the summer months. A rain jacket and pants, or a rain resistant parka should be worn in the winter or if rain is in the forecast. The right shoes will also prevent injury from the hike and from the elements. Hiking or terrain boots will suffice in the summer, spring, and fall, but insulated boots may be necessary in winter months and snowshoes when hiking in the snow. Additional socks, a pair of gloves, and sunglasses are also important. An extra pair of socks may be necessary if the pair being worn becomes wet, which can increase the risk of hypothermia. Sunglasses will help to protect the eyes from sun glare.
Know What to do While Hiking
Once a hiker is on the trail, it is important that he or she stays diligent in terms of safety. One common sense way to do that is to hike only on the trail itself. Straying from the trail increases the chance of injury; it can cause the hiker to get lost, or come into contact with potentially dangerous wildlife, including plants. Hikers should be able to identify and avoid poison ivy, poison oak, and other poisonous plants. If the hiker touches, or otherwise comes into contact with a poisonous plant, it is important that he or she understands what to do. For example, if a hiker comes into contact with poison oak, the area should be cleaned with soap as soon as possible, and rinsed completely with cold water.
Know What to do if Confronted by Wild Animals
Wild animals are a very real and serious threat to hikers. Before the hiking trip, a person should learn what animals are found in the area and how to avoid them. For example, in an area with mountain lions, it is best to hike later in the morning or during the daylight hours. This is because mountain lions are more active in the early morning when the sun is first rising, dusk, and at night. Bears are another common animal that hikers may come into contact with in certain areas. To avoid confrontation with them, and other predatory animals, it is best to make loud noises while hiking so that the animals are not startled. Other precautions include hiking with a group, hiking during the day, and not straying away from the group. Special care should be taken if hiking with children, who are typically viewed as easy prey by many wild animals. People should also avoid animals that are with their young, as they may attack in efforts to protect them.
Unfortunately, it isn't always possible to avoid contact with wildlife. If a person is confronted by a wild animal, it is important not to panic. When faced with a predatory animal, a person should never turn their back or run. Running from a predatory animal, such as a bear, can trigger its natural hunting instinct. Instead, a person should back away slowly. If attacked by a bear, such as a black bear for example, a person should lie down. Placing his or her fingers over the head and neck will protect this area from injury. It is also recommended that the person spread his or her legs to prevent the bear from rolling them over. If confronted by a mountain lion, however, a person must not lie down. Instead, he or she should try to stand as tall as possible, face the animal, make noise, and even throw rocks. If it attacks, the person should never run, but instead the best option is to fight back.
By Adam Watson