Before heading out on a hike, take some care in preparing your backpack or hiking kit. To be on the safe side, it should include everything you may need in case of an emergency. This includes a flash light, matches, pocket-knife, first aid kit, compass, and extra clothing, a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses. Don’t forget to add in some snacks, such as trail mix, sandwiches, fruit, or energy bars, along with enough water for the duration of the hike.
When hiking, always make sure to go with other people, and inform someone at home or base camp about your intended route and when you should return. It is good to keep a cell phone handy, but do bear in mind that some remote areas may not have a signal. Stick to the trail to avoid injuries or running into wild animals. Always keep a first aid kit with you and know how to use it. If an emergency arises, it could be quite some time before help arrives.
When we set out on a hike, it is important to realize that we are entering foreign turf. It is the home of plenty of wildlife and we must be careful to enjoy the area without being harmed or harming other creatures. Keep an eye out especially for bears, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes. If you do encounter a possibly dangerous wild animal, stay well away from it, do not block its path, and make plenty of noise. Most wild creatures are afraid of humans and will flee away from loud sounds. Certain plants, such as poison ivy, are also potential hazards to stay away from.
- Encountering a Mountain Lion
- How to Deal with Poison Ivy
- Common Hiking Hazards
- Wildlife Hazards While Hiking
Conditioning and Stretching
Especially for people who are not used to hiking, it can be a surprisingly strenuous activity. As with most other sports, it certainly helps to stretch and flex properly before setting out. In the weeks leading up to the hike, staying fit by regularly going for long walks or swims can help to condition your muscles. Be careful not to overexert yourself. During the hike if you feel that you need a rest, take some time to stop and catch your breath.
- Learn to Flex Before Hiking
- Conditioning for Hikers (PDF)
- Limit the Stress on Your Knees (PDF)
- Conditioning Advice for Novice Hikers
Hiking Gear & Clothing
Choosing the right clothing and equipment can make all the difference between an enjoyable hike and a disaster. Make sure to dress according to the weather. In all cases, keep an extra set of clothing in the backpack. Pay special attention to your hiking boots or shoes, and treat them with a waterproof spray in advance. Fill your hiking backpack a few days before the hike and try walking around with it for a while. If it is too heavy or uncomfortable, adjust it and remove unnecessary items. A hiking stick is also a very useful tool, especially on trails with inclines.
- How to Prepare for a Hike (PDF)
- Hiking Boots and Sticks
- Hiking Clothing Requirements for Winter (PPT)
Popular Trails-State Parks
People in the U.S. are lucky to have such a vast array of parks and trails throughout the country. In particular, certain national parks have made a name for themselves due to their stunning beauty. The Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Parks are two that are internationally renowned for their unique and magnificent landscapes. All national parks have certain rules and regulations. At the park office, take a copy of their maps and other handouts. This information will inform you about potential hiking hazards in the area and other useful tidbits.
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Yosemite National Park
- Olympic National Park
- Yellowstone National Park