Hiking through the great outdoors is a great way to have fun while staying fit, but it can also be hazardous to your health if you’re not properly prepared. Unpredictable elements, dangerous wildlife, dehydration, and exercise fatigue are all serious threats when you’re outdoors, but with a bit of planning you can have a safe and enjoyable time on your next hiking excursion.
- Plan ahead before you go: learn the area, study maps and guidebooks, know what actions to take in an emergency, make sure your smartphone battery is charged, check weather reports and don’t go alone. Also bring plenty of water and snacks, and pack a first aid kit and compass.
- Consider the weather when choosing your clothes: dress in layers for cold weather and double up on the socks to prevent blisters. If the weather is hot it’s best to wear short sleeves and shorts that let your skin breathe. Look for fabrics that keep dampness away from your skin, such as “wick-away” synthetics and avoid wearing cotton as it soaks up moisture.
- Take trekking poles or walking sticks with you: they can be invaluable if you twist an ankle or need to ward off an animal attack.
- If at any time you feel you might be dehydrated, move to a shady area, eat foods that contain water (such as fruits and vegetables), and apply wet cloths to your neck, face and wrists. If it becomes severe, seek medical attention immediately.
- If you become lost, stay where you are and keep calm. Make yourself visible by staying near an open space, wearing bright clothing and putting out something like a mirror that will attract attention. If you do have to spend the night in the woods, build a campfire to prove light, heat and comfort.