In today’s age of electronics and keeping our eyes glued to one screen or another, hiking is a great way to reintegrate yourself with nature and enjoy the beauty of the world. However, before you lace up your shoes and head out onto your local – or a distant – trail, look over this list of 8 common hiking blunders to ensure that you do not find yourself in these embarrassing – and sometimes dangerous – predicaments.
What a Great Way to Try Out These New Shoes! (Um …)
No, going on long hikes, including day hikes, is not the best way to break in some new shoes. As excited as you may be about them, they need to be broken in gradually, and using them for several hours at a time is definitely not gradually. Either use shoes that are well worn or delay your hike until another day when your new shoes are not quite so shiny and stiff. Your feet will thank you.
Leave the Cotton at Home
This applies to tops (e.g. t-shirts) and bottoms (e.g. blue jeans). Unfortunately, cotton absorbs moisture, meaning that if you tend to sweat, which is increasingly likely as you make your way on a perhaps warm day possibly weighed down by your pack, your clothes will become heavier, causing you to sweat even more. Additionally, if it is at all nippy, wearing wet clothes will make you even colder. And even if you sweat less often than the average person, you still have to be concerned about rainy weather, which leads to our next point.
Check the Weather Forecast
Of course, if you are hiking the Appalachian Trail or otherwise embarking on a long hike, this will not always be possible. However, if you will simply be doing a day hike, make sure to check the forecast, including the hour-by-hour forecast to see if any abrupt temperature or other changes are expected during the day.
Of course, perhaps you love being in the rain, which is fine, but then make sure that the forecast does not include those pesky – and dangerous – lightning strikes with the rain. Looking at the forecast will also help you dress appropriately.
Where’d That Lightning Come From?
However, despite your very careful analyzation of the weather forecast – or you are in the midst of a multi-day hike – you find yourself in a lightning storm. In that case, make sure to scurry down from that peak that you just conquered with a great deal of pride and get somewhere low as quickly as possible. If there is a forest nearby, run into it.
Simply put, you want to make sure that you are not the highest object around. Also get more than 50 feet from anybody you are with, and drop anything metal that you are carrying. If you hear thunder, you are within the range of the storm and could be hit at any time. It is also important to note that people do get hit as a storm exits the area. Wait 30 minutes before feeling safe.
Many beginners do not bring enough or the appropriate combination of things to eat and drink while on their hike. For day hikes, take a water bottle or even a hydration pack to ensure that you are hydrated, which is especially important if going out in warmer weather. Even though it can add weight, it’s never a bad idea to pack more water than you need, or pack a water filter if you think you’ll be near natural water sources. For food, bring things like trail mix and energy bars to ensure that you continue to have energy throughout the day.
Which Map Should I Take?
Not Rand McNally! As useful as that is for trips that involve a vehicle, it is next to useless for where you want to go unless your sole purpose for using it is to get to the trailhead. You will want to pick up a trail map that includes topographical features such as ridges, peaks, rivers and mileage markers.
I’m Running Late
If you are running late, either alter your route and go on the hike another day. The last things you want to be doing is rushing through a hike or getting stuck somewhere in the wilderness as the sun sets.
As excited as you are to get started, make sure to let at least one loved one know where you are going and when you are expected to return so that they know when to start being concerned if the unexpected happens and where to direct any rescue attempts. Of course, the odds of you being in that situation are low, especially if you’re careful, but you do want to prepared if the worst happens.
When you go on that first – or 100th – hike, have fun! But first re-read this list to make sure that your hike is as safe and comfortable as it can be so that you can then simply focus on immersing yourself in nature.