Hiking can be a wonderful opportunity to explore nature and get away from the speed and stress of a fast-paced life. Hiking can be fun, but it isn’t without risks. This is why organizations like the National Park Service encourage hikers to be prepared, be aware and assume that danger is always possible.
Planning the trip. Read guidebooks, check websites and consult with friends before heading out on a trail. Consider the length of the trail, terrain, weather, animals and other risk factors.
Proper gear. Some hikes can be accomplished with standard clothing such as jeans and athletic shoes. Other times, special clothing and gear may be called for: sturdy boots, several layers of clothing, hats, sunglasses, trekking poles and backpacks, for example. Just because the activity has elements of adventure doesn’t mean that it’s OK to head out unprepared.
Water and other supplies. Even on a short hike, it is important to have the proper supplies. Water is perhaps the most important; be aware that you can become dehydrated while hiking and ascending to higher elevations. Food, a first aid kit, bug spray, sunblock, climbing gear and maps are also key supplies. On overnight or longer hikes, you’ll need even more gear, such as tents, sleeping bags, flashlights, cooking equipment and additional clothing.
Check the weather. Weather can be unpredictable, and getting caught in rain, snow, wind and extreme temperatures can turn a hike into a miserable experience. Be sure to differentiate between the weather where you begin and the weather where you are going. Don’t assume you can simply brave the elements. Be prepared.
Friends and communication. Hiking is an activity that can be done alone or with others. Some enjoy the solitude, while others enjoy hiking more when it is a social activity. Regardless of the group size, it is important that someone who is not on the trip knows the planned destination of the hikers.