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Hiking Safety Steps to Keep On Trail


WRITTEN BY: Sports Medicine
Monday, September 1st, 2014

Hiking is a fun way to exercise and explore the outdoors, particularly in the warmer months. Fitness and outdoor enthusiasts enjoy hiking because it offers a chance to see new places while getting a great cardio workout. Although it is typically a safe activity, hiking can be dangerous due to falls, unsafe trail conditions, and the challenges of physical exertion. Hiking can still be an enjoyable – and safe – activity, if you take the proper precautions and do a little planning beforehand. To stay safe before, during, and after your hike, consider the following safety tips.

Leading Up to the Trail

Before beginning your hike, make sure you’ve prepared your backpack and your body.

  • Go on regular walks, slowly increasing the intensity of your pace and resistance conditions.
  • Introduce energy-rich foods into your diet. Focus on adding lean meats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
  • To help prevent muscle strains or injuries stretch and warm up prior to your walk.
  • Familiarize yourself with the conditions of the trail and make a hiking plan.
  • Learn what time it gets dark and bring sleeping gear and other appropriate equipment if necessary.
  • Break in new shoes and clothing prior to your hike.
  • Always inform a friend or family member of your travel plans.

On the Path

While on your hike, wear proper equipment for the season.

  • Avoid cotton materials to help prevent overheating.
  • Choose bright colored long-sleeve shirts and pants to protect against ticks.
  • Dress in layers, and bring extra pairs of socks to stay dry in case of rain or unexpected weather.
  • A pair of supportive shoes can round out your outfit and keep your feet ready for all weather conditions.
  • Have a whistle available in case you are in danger and need assistance.
  • If the terrain is rugged trekking poles may be helpful to assist with balance and stability.

Remember the adage of “safety in numbers,” and hike with a group when possible. Make sure someone on the hike carries a backpack with safety and emergency supplies. This pack should include:

  • Knife or multi-tool
  • Snacks high in protein for energy (trail mix, granola bars, nuts, etc.)
  • Water
  • Flashlight or headlamp and batteries
  • Rain supplies
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Matches
  • Whistle (three short sounds signal distress)
  • Basic first aid kit
  • Trash bag
  • Aluminum foil
  • Compass and trail map

Don’t depend on your cell phone to work on the trail. It’s also important to develop a plan to communicate with your fellow hikers in case your cell phone has poor reception or runs out of battery.

After the Summit

At the end of your hike, take time to hydrate yourself with water or a sports drink and a nutritious snack. For post-hike safety and well-being, remember these additional tips:

  • After longer hikes, rest and don’t overwhelm your body.
  • In the case of injury or accident, seek proper medical evaluation and treatment.
  • Follow recovery instructions provided by your medical professional.

Always dispose of trash in the appropriate containers to help keep the trail clean for future hikes.

Trail Notes

If you’re new to hiking, consider speaking with a park ranger or local park employee to learn about trail conditions and get some helpful tips. Each trail poses different risks for hikers, so becoming familiar with its demands and nuances could help avoid injury.

With a little preparation and a modicum of caution, hiking can be a healthy, lifelong passion, and can allow you to enjoy new environments while interacting with nature. By following these tips and preparing yourself for the journey, you can avoid potentially dangerous situations.

For more sports-specific information from our experts, please visit the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine online call 1-855-93-SPORT(77678).

Are you a fan of hiking? If so, please share some of your hiking safety tips with us in the comments below.

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Sports Medicine

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