Hiking can be a fun and exciting activity, whether it be with friends or by yourself, no matter where you decide to hike. But hiking is also a strenuous outdoor activity, and one that requires a good knowledge of one’s own limits. Not being prepared for an especially long or physically demanding hiking trip could lead to mortal danger in the worst scenarios, which could end up happening if one is not prepared for the worst of scenarios.
Hikers should always keep their wits with them whenever hiking, and that goes for both casual strolls around a park or into more mountainous or forested areas. A good way of keeping yourself cognizant of what may befall you or your friends on a hiking trip is to assume a few mindsets whenever you go out. Keeping these 8 philosophies in mind will help.
Only Bring What You Need
This one should be common sense, but it is still a point worth repeating: do not ever bring valuables or other things that you would not mind being broken or lost if you do not need them. This can include jewelry, electronic devices, and keys. You may find it necessary to bring a phone on your hiking trip, so as to be able to contact people in the event of anything happening to you, but in that case phones would be necessary, and therefore good to bring. You want to minimize your load as much as possible, so that you can minimize the risk of losing something as much as possible.
Don’t Overburden Yourself
This can be considered an extension of the previous point in some ways. Bringing unnecessary things can also put unnecessary physical strain on your body, which can in turn significantly reduce how far you’ll be able to hike. You absolutely do not want to bring yourself to the point where you cannot reach your destination, or make it to a place of safety, because of a lack of energy. Again, pack only what you need, and pack efficiently to reduce strain on yourself. If you are hiking with a friend or in a group, do not be afraid to let those stronger or more fit than you to shoulder more of the burden, so long as it is comfortable with them.
Know Your Limitations
You may be a home body that is trying to maintain a more active lifestyle, or you may be a lifelong outdoors person who is fit and seemingly ready for anything. In either case, you still have physical limits to your endurance, and you need to be familiar with these limits. Know how long you can maintain continuous physical strain on your body. If you do not know how long you can go for, then start low and slow. Don’t take extra long hikes for hours if you are not well adjusted for lengthy outdoor activities.
Check Your List
One danger that can threaten even the most experienced hiker is leaving behind an essential piece of equipment, and this can be unbelievably dangerous depending on the situation. On most trips, leaving behind a first aid kit will not affect much, but when one is left behind whenever a hiker gets injured or hurt, their situation suddenly becomes more dire.
Never allow a dangerous contingency like that happen. Always plan out what you need to bring through a checklist, and run through that checklist right before you head on out. No matter how long your hiking trip is planned to be, if you forget something essential when it is needed most, you are putting yourself in danger.
Expect the Unexpected
You never know when your hour-long hike might suddenly become a multi-day hike, despite how unlikely the scenario may seem. Emergencies can happen to us during the best hiking trips, under the most ideal of hiking circumstances, and it is vital that you are prepared for them to happen. Keeping a checklist and only bringing what you need are important, but it also helps to bring emergency equipment for things you don’t think will happen.
Have a compass, or something other than your phone to help you navigate back to safety whenever you do get lost. Bring a flashlight to light your way when it gets dark. If possible, bring a tarp or something to protect you from a sudden storm, should you ever find yourself in such a situation. Also bring a handy way to start a fire, such as a lighter or a handheld butane tank. You never know what will happen to you, so prepare for the worst.
Let People Know What You Are Doing
While hiking can be a nice way to get away from civilization and the hassles of everyday, that does not mean you should use it as an excuse to completely vanish off of the grid. Let someone know where you are going, such as a friend or family member who is not going with you. Because, should anything happen to you, you will want someone to check up on you and send help when necessary.
Most hikers will swear by a certain type of backpack, and that is because backpacks are an efficient and helpful way of holding onto essentials without putting much strain on your body. If you plan on hiking, you will need a backpack that fits your body shape well, with the capacity to hold what you need without weighing you down. In other words, invest in a quality, durable backpack that feels good to you. A good backpack can be a vital companion on longer hikes.
You Can Never Have Too Many Shoes
This follows the same through line as the last bit of advice, but it is no less important. Hiking is primarily a sport done on your feet, and so you will need to have your feet cared for as much as possible. Consider how long you plan on hiking, and where you plan to hike. Wear waterproof shoes when you plan on hiking at or near somewhere with streams, other bodies of water, or places where there’s a lot of moisture or dew. Take durable shoes when hiking in very mountainous or rocky places. Flat hiking paths will benefit from lighter, more comfortable shoes. If you have the capacity, bring an extra pair of shoes should your hiking environment suddenly change. It never hurts to over-prepare.
These are 8 things any hiker of any age should keep in mind, and most of these boil down to being prepared for when the going gets rough. Just remember to never let your guard down, even when you find yourself in the midst of comfort, as something bad can always happen at any time. You need to be prepared for these times, so that you can make the best of your hiking trips and take many more afterwards.