So you decided to take the chance on “dog party” without knowing just what the trail had in store. Or maybe you committed to a hike with that one friend — the one with “into the wild” tattoos who only hikes barefoot. Relax, all is not lost. You can enjoy an “extreme” hike and still stay safe.
The same common sense that will serve you well when you’re hiking anywhere is critical if you’re attempting difficult terrain — even more so if you’re doing it alone. So let’s review a few critical points that will keep you in one piece while you’re tackling challenging trails.
Plan Ahead and Share Your Plans
You should have a good working knowledge of the trail you’re going to hike, the climate in the area and how heavily trafficked it is. If you’re going somewhere where you’ll see lots of other hikers, it will help you be safer. More challenging trails that don’t receive traffic can become overgrown and might make it harder to find you if you become lost, so be sure to tell a friend about where you’re going and when you expect to be back to civilization.
Bring more than enough water and food. Bring sunscreen. Other basic essentials include a paper map in case your technology doesn’t work, layers of clothing and basic first-aid supplies and any important medicines you need, even if you don’t think you’ll require them during the hike. Always bring extra food in case of an emergency. Even if you don’t need it, someone else might.
Depending on the climate where you’re hiking, you might need more breathable, airy fabric or more insulation. Layers are always a good idea, and if there’s sun exposure, slop on the SPF before you hit the trail. A hat is an important part of your kit, and never forget extra socks — wool if there’s any chance at all of getting your feet wet.
Speaking of footwear, your choice of shoes can make all the difference on a technical hike. This is not the time to show off your favorite pair of vintage Nikes. Wear comfortable shoes of an appropriate weight for the climate. Make sure they have adequate grip for the terrain you’ll be hiking. In areas that are particularly slick or loose, stickier climbing-derived shoes can help you avoid a scraped knee or worse.
Know the Signs That Something’s Wrong
Hiking can be hypnotizing, but you have to be able to recognize if you’ve gone off path, are moving too slow or too fast or are exhibiting signs of dehydration or heat stroke. Remember that if you think something isn’t right, the best course of action is to remain calm and begin working on a plan to get back safely. People often panic and end up further off the trail when they think they’re lost.
Respect Your Surroundings
What you encounter on a trail might surprise you. In certain parts of the country, you might run into people you’re unsure about. Make sure you don’t overreact, but report any suspicious activity to the local authorities. In other places, it might be critters like ticks that are more unsettling. Know how to check for and remove ticks after a hike if they live in your area.
Wild animals need space, and you should always give them a safe distance. It’s safest for you and the animal if you keep well to yourself and don’t pursue them.
If you put these simple pointers to use, you should be able to get out and enjoy the world’s more technical hikes without much trouble. Have you got a good story from one of the more extreme hikes you’ve done? Tell us all about it using the comments section below!
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