These lines from Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken brings to mind the long walks we have taken, whether on a mountain trail or a path through deep, dark woods. Memories of the sun on our shoulders, the fresh breeze blowing through our hair, or the discovery of a place we have never been before, is enough to get us thinking about the next time we can take a hike. So, by all means, make your plans and chase your dreams, but follow these common-sense hiking safety tips.
• Apparel: What to wear is almost as important as where to go! Ask any runner, dancer, mail carrier, or nurse, the right shoes with the right fit is essential! A sporting goods store will be able to point you in the right direction, but a shoe store with a fit specialist will help you choose the right shoe for your foot; just remember to wear them around the house or on your errands long before you take a hike to break them in. Then, how to dress; layers are important if you leave in the morning while it is chilly, and will need to shed a sweatshirt. Carry a small backpack for essentials, and discarded layers will go in it nicely. The conditions and environment in which you will be walking dictates leg wear: wide, open spaces, well-worn trails, or pavement are great for shorts, but high weeds or deep woods call for pants or jeans with the cuffs tucked into your socks, and a long sleeve shirt. Spiders, ticks and thistles can be a painful experience to the unprepared. So the first of all hiking safety tips is “dress for success”!
• Equipment: In the backpack previously mentioned, be sure to carry some water: a map and compass or a GPS; a fully charged cell phone; identification; a little money; pepper spray; a loud whistle; energy bars and any essential medication you will need before you get home. See, that light backpack does come in handy!
• The Buddy System: Before you go and take a hike, consider bringing a friend or loved one with you. It is a great chance to talk and reconnect. But if you are bent on going it alone, the most important hiking safety tip is this…. let someone you trust know where you are going, when you are leaving, and when you expect to return. It is a sad fact of the world we live in that we must be vigilant at all times, even out in nature on a stroll.
Now that you are properly armed with the best of hiking safety tips, and you have chosen that place you have been waiting to see, wait no more….go take a hike!