Hiking and Train Running Safety and Experiences
Hiking, camping, and trail running provide exercise and interest for people of any age. Just getting out and walking around is a wonderful way to see nature. Since unexpected things happen, however, the best way to help guarantee a good time for all is to plan ahead carefully and follow commonsense safety precautions.
If you have any medical conditions, discuss your plans with your health care provider and get approval before departing. Review the equipment, supplies and skills that you’ll need. Consider what emergencies could arise and how you would deal with those situations. What if you got lost, or were unexpectedly confronted by an animal? What if someone became ill or injured? What kind of weather might you encounter? Add to your hiking checklist the supplies you would need to deal with these situations.
If your trip will be strenuous, get into good physical condition before setting out. If you plan to climb or travel to high altitudes, make plans for proper acclimatization to the altitude. It’s safest to hike or camp with at least one companion. If you’ll be entering a remote area, your group should have a minimum of four people; this way, if one is hurt, another can stay with the victim while two go for help. If you’ll be going into an area that is unfamiliar to you, take along someone who knows the area or at least speak with those who do before you set out.
Some areas require you to have reservations or certain permits. If an area is closed, do not go there. Find out in advance about any regulations–there may be rules about campfires or guidelines about wildlife.
Pack emergency signaling devices, and know ahead of time the location of the nearest telephone or ranger station in case an emergency does occur on your trip.
Leave a copy of your itinerary with a responsible person. Include such details as the make, year, and license plate of your car, the equipment you’re bringing, the weather you’ve anticipated and when you plan to return.
Day Hiking Tips and Safety
Proper planning is important. Obtain trail maps, guidebooks, trail distance, estimated time required and any other information before you leave on a hike.
Keep trail maps and guidebooks in a waterproof ziplock bag.
Check weather conditions and forecast.
Consider the ability level of everyone in your group, when choosing a hike.
It’s very important to tell someone about your plans and when you expect to return. In an emergency, this could help with the rescue. Check-in with them when you get back.
Never hike alone. Always go with a friend.
Don’t pack too heavy. Keep your pack weight as light as possible.
Take plenty of water–2 or 3 quarts per person. Staying hydrated will help maintain your energy level.
The temperature is always cooler in the mountains. Plan and dress accordingly. Dress in layers.
Start early so that you have plenty of time to enjoy your hike and the destination. Plan to head back so you finish your hike well before dark.
Hike only as fast as the slowest member of your group.
Pace yourself. Don’t hike too quickly. Save your energy.
Stay on trails unless you have excellent navigational skills.
Never approach wild animals. They may look cute and harmless but they are very unpredictable and can be very territorial and protective. Always be alert and aware of your surroundings. In most cases, the animals are more afraid of us and will run away. Do not attempt to feed wild animals. Most injuries occur when people try to feed them.
Look out for snakes, spiders and other critters. Watch where you are walking, be careful when picking up sticks or rocks and look around before taking a seat. Again, snakes are usually more afraid of us, but if they feel threatened or if you make sudden movements they may strike. Stay calm and slowly move away from them.
Be careful where you are walking. Watch out for low branches and loose rocks. Take it slow through mud and water and be careful of loose leaves on the trail. Stay away from steep cliffs and other drop-off areas. Look out for brush with thorns and learn to identify poisonous plants.
Keep track of your progress on the map so that you know where you are at all times.
Take turns leading and following trail markers. Share decisions.
Pack high-energy snacks like granola, energy or fruit bars, gorp trail mixes, fruit, candy, beef jerky, bagels, or pita bread, etc.
Don’t drink soda or alcohol when hiking. They will dehydrate you.
Use a purification system for water from a natural resource.
For blisters or hot spots use moleskin or bandages immediately to stop further damage and to relieve pain. Keep your feet dry–change socks often.
Hiking sticks or poles may help make your trip a little easier by giving you some stability on wet trails, and reducing strain on your legs when going up or down slopes.
Be aware of your increased exposure to ticks when hiking in the outdoors.
Protect yourself against other insects such as bees, ants, mosquitoes, flies, etc. Not only can they be annoying, but they can cause quite a bit of pain and discomfort. Many people have severe allergic reactions to their bites and need to carry necessary medical supplies or seek medical attention. Again be aware of your surroundings.
Bring a whistle on hikes. Three short whistles mean you are in trouble and need assistance.
What to Bring: A Checklist for Extended Hikes
What you take will depend on where you are going and how long you plan
to be away, but any backpack should include the following:
- Candle and matches
- Cell phone
- Clothing (always bring something warm, extra socks and rain gear)
- First aid kit
- Food (bring extra)
- Foil (to use as a cup or signaling device)
- Insect repellent
- Nylon filament
- Pocket knife
- Pocket mirror (to use as a signaling device)
- Prescription glasses (an extra pair)
- Prescription medications for ongoing medical conditions
- Radio with batteries
- Space blanket or a piece of plastic (to use for warmth or shelter)
- Trash bag (makes an adequate poncho)
- Waterproof matches or matches in a waterproof tin
- Water purification tablets
- Whistle (to scare off animals or to use as a signaling device)
Always allow for bad weather and for the possibility that you may be forced to spend a night outdoors unexpectedly.
It’s a good idea to assemble a separate “survival pack” for each hiker to have at all times. In a small waterproof container, place a pocket knife, compass, whistle, space blanket, nylon filament, water purification tablets, matches, and candle. With these items, the chances of being able to survive in the wild are greatly improved.
Tips for the Lost Hiker
Stay in one place! This will make you easier to find and you will be able to conserve your energy
Put on additional clothing to keep warm as needed.
Light a fire; this can keep your spirits up, keep you warm, help rescuers to find you, and in some cases, keep animals away.
Pile grass, tree limbs, and brush around you to break the wind.
Sit on your hiking pack to keep yourself off of the ground; this will keep you clean and dry.
Remember one thing… relax. There are many cases where people have survived for several nights with only a few items that they had with them.
If a member of your party is overdue or you suspect that they are lost, notify the local sheriff’s office or the ranger station.
Stop and treat all injuries immediately.
If you must leave a member of your party behind, leave them shelter, food, and a message describing their injuries and where you have gone.
Choosing Trails for Trail Running
Not all trails are ideal for running. Pick your paths carefully to ensure a great workout.
Tips for Finding a Good Trail
Buy a trail guide: Trail guides will give you detailed information on the types of trails available, length of trails and elevation profiles. You can also get guides for hiking, mountain biking or cross-country skiing trails.
Ask Around: Ask the staff at a running shoe store or outdoor outfitter for their opinion on the area’s best trails. They will likely have experience and have heard many stories of success and not-so-successful hikes.
Join a Running Club: Running clubs are great for people who need extra motivation. Running club members might also know the location of good running trails.
Decide what kind of run you want to do: Would you prefer to run a loop, or would you rather run out and back? Once you decide the type of trail you would like to run, you will have an easier time finding it. Decide whether you want to run on a trail that is open to mountain bikers, and horseback riders. Consider who you’re likely to run into on any particular trail. Some trails permit only foot travel. Study a topographical map of your area and decide which trails are most appropriate for you. When picking a trail, make sure the ease of access, terrain, elevation, mileage, exposure to sun and wind, and the presence of water meet your needs. Before you try a new trail, call the land-management agencies to ensure that the trail is currently safe and open to the public.
This is the best-kept secret for success on the extreme day hike. Common in Europe, and mandatory equipment for mountain climbers, trekking poles give an advantage, which most people don’t understand until they try them. The uninformed usually comment or think, “Where’s the snow?” “Aren’t they heavy?” “Do they help?
It is estimated the use of trekking poles can add up to 20% efficiency to the body by transferring some of the load to your arms. Even more significant is the stability the poles provide, greatly reducing the need for leg muscles to continually provide balance. The chances of a sprained or broken ankle, the bane of a hiker a long way from help, is greatly reduced by the use of poles. Stream crossings, wet rocks or logs, ice, loose rocks, and steep areas are made safer. Using a very light shoe that does not have much ankle support is made possible with poles.
A single walking stick is better than nothing but is more awkward than two lightweight trekking poles. Additionally, telescoping poles can be stowed in your daypack at times when they are not needed. Some models have shock absorbers built-in which allows less stress on the wrists when stroking hard with the poles. Another feature is a slight taper on the hand grips which makes for a more ergonomic grasp.
Trail Running Tips
Most runs have facilities only at the park entrance or trailhead. It is a good idea to take a drinking system to stay hydrated. For a long run, fill your drinking system halfway and freeze overnight, top it off with the cold liquid before you leave. Put a small cooler in your car with two large bottles of water, one of them frozen. The frozen one will keep your other bottle and perishable food items cool, and also provide an ice-cold refreshing drink after your run. In the winter, nothing beats having a thermos of coffee or your favorite hot beverage waiting for you when you return.
Always carry several energy gels and bars. Many trails have uphill finishes, and you may need to refuel for a strong return back.
Sunglasses, a visor and sunscreen are a must, even on overcast days, you can burn. The weather can change abruptly, so layer your clothing or take a light wrap. After heavy rainfalls, trails with poor drainage have large mud patches that can cut your run short. Inquire about the trail conditions before starting. Some wooded areas have pesky insects, or the dreaded deer tick that can carry Lyme disease.
If you have a small cellular phone with a slim battery, take it.
Make sure you have the skills you need for your camping or hiking adventure. You may need to know how to read a compass, erect a temporary shelter or give first aid. Practice your skills in advance.
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