Safety, Equipment & Hiking Gear
When you talk about hiking, it does not mean you have to go for something as outlandish or extreme as the Appalachian Trail. It can be as simple as taking a walk through a forest or up a hill in your neighborhood’s vicinity. For the most part, hiking will cost you nothing to very little and is a great stress reliever. Indeed, the mental and physical benefits you can get from hiking ensure you can live a more fruitful and fulfilled life.
But even though hiking can be fun, there are also a number of precautions and survival tips one must take into consideration to avoid danger and stay safe. Among the more important tips is for one to hike in a group. It is much safer for one to hike in a group especially if it is on a nature trail you are unaccustomed to.
Hiking with Friends
The support and motivation obtained from the group will help you in those times when you might think of packing up leaving. Actually, even when you are hiking on trail you are used to, it does not hurt to bring at least one person along as this is a natural deterrent to anyone along the trail that may be lurking with ill intent.
You also must take precautions when hiking up and down a hill. On the ascent, you should loosely lace your boots around your ankles to provide ample room for movement. When going downhill, you need to avoid jamming your toes by placing your heels in the back of the boots and tightly tying your laces around the ankles while leaving them loose at the toes.
Use a hiking stick or trekking pole. These sticks help with balance and stability when going up or down an incline. They also provide an additional support to your legs, reduce the knee pressure and help you support the upper body especially when you embark on a long trek.
Always carry your own water. If you are sure there will be water at your destination, carry just slightly more than sufficient water to last until you arrive. Water is of greater importance than food to your survival. Always filter any water you find along the trail and that you are in need of using – unless the water is from a natural spring. If you can fix a long drinking straw to the water bottle so you can drink as you move, the better.
Dress in layers in order to ensure you maintain the proper body temperature with changes in weather. The weather can change drastically when you are out on a long hike and you need to be prepared for all type of weather conditions. Avoid cotton clothing because it holds moisture for long periods. Use polypropylene and other synthetic materials. Make sure you wear dark clothing because they dry faster. Wear light colored clothing if you’re hiking in areas known for their tick infestation.
It’s also important that one watch out for sunstroke when hiking in the hot sun. If you plan on hiking in the summer then you must be aware that the exposure to high temperature can cause excessive fluid loss which may lead to heat exhaustion, or in serious cases even to a heat stroke. Wear a hat that is broad rimmed and that has a strap. It gives better protection from hot wind and direct sunlight.
Hiking Boots and Equipment
Of all the hiking gear and equipment you need, your hiking boots are probably the most important. Good boots give you traction and support throughout the hike. A good pair of boots need not be overly expensive even though you should not compromise on quality in the name of lower overall cost. It is advisable that you purchase your boots from a dealer who is conversant with the standards required of outdoor wear. Boots vary from lightweight for light hiking to heavy boots that are more durable and support the feet and ankles. The features you need to look out for when buying your hiking boots include water resistance, weight of the boot, the price, the toe groove for crampons, the width of toe box and the gusseted tongue.
Apart from your hiking boots, there are other forms of equipment needed for you hike. If you plan on embarking on a day hike, you will need hiking socks, water purifying tablets (if you are not carrying your own water), a back pack, walking stick, traction devices, rescue beacons, signaling gear, Avalanche probes (if you will be on snow covered hilly terrain), jackets, binoculars, first aid kit, a compass, sunscreen and food. For an overnight hike, you will require a tent, sleeping bag, camp stoves, rain gear, matches, a Swiss army knife, and a flashlight.
Get a map of the route you plan on taking. If you plan to hike alone or with one another person, notify your family (or a ranger if you are hiking through a park) on the place where you will be and the time you expect to return. That way, someone can come looking for you if you are in trouble or just simply lost.
Bob Fisher is an author for American Equipage an online retailer of American hiking gear including the well known Belleville boots popular among Americans for hiking, hunting and outdoor activities and used by the US military since World War I.
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