Hiking can be fun, taxing, and relaxing all at the same time. Hiking can also be extremely dangerous, especially if you don’t adhere to the basic safety guidelines and aren’t prepared for the trip.
A hike is just like any other trip – day or long term – you must plan. While planning, you should create an explicit itinerary that tells exactly where you will be, when you will be there, who will be with you, and when you will return. If you are taking a long hike, your itinerary should include every scheduled stop, such as those for sleeping, camping, visiting, etc. You should use a map of your planned hike to reference scheduled stops. It is also a good idea to consult with the local park rangers on the availability and conditions of trails you plan to travel.
Make a copy of your itinerary and your map. Give these copies to your lookout person who is NOT going on the hike with you, but is responsible and educated in what to do with the items if needed. By doing this, SAR (Search And Rescue), Rangers, and skilled others will know where to begin looking for you if there is an emergency or you don’t show as planned.
Your lookout person also needs to take a picture of you (and your hiking partner or group – NEVER hike alone) on the day you leave for your hike. Make sure you do this even if your hike is supposed to be just a few hours long. This becomes “the most recent picture” in the event there needs to be a SAR operation.
Wear comfortable clothing in layers and comfortable hiking boots or shoes. Your clothing should be easily removable and replaceable if necessary. Make sure your feet don’t slide around in your boots; otherwise you will end up with blisters on your feet.
Always stay on the trail. Do not deviate from the path. Big drop – offs and small ledges may be just on the other side of that bush, not to mention the wildlife that may live in the bushes. Some hiking trails are blazed (marked with paint or other markers). These blazes identify the trail and help you stay on track with your plan, but don’t count on a blaze always being available. If blazes go missing or your trail becomes unreadable for some reason, DO NOT attempt to push on. Turn and go back form whence you came.
Be aware of your surroundings at all times, including obstacles, dangers, wildlife, and other hikers. Do not jump on or over downed trees, rocks, or other obstacles without looking before you leap. If you happen upon wildlife leave it alone. Do not attempt to approach any wildlife for any reason. If wildlife is blocking the trail, turn around, DO NOT leave the trail to go around the wildlife.
Never leave food out. Never discard food or scraps anywhere near the trail. Doing so will only invite problems with wildlife. Keep your food, scraps, and trash as sealed and contained as possible. Follow the “Carry In – Carry Out” rule – if you carry it in, then you need to carry it out.
Water found along a trail is never clean; therefore, DON’T DRINK IT unless you purify it first. There are several ways to purify water, and you need to use the one that best fits the needs and recommendations of the authorities (health department) in the hiking area.
Keep the trail clean – free of trash, clutter, and natural buildup. You should always leave the trail better than you found it.
The following list contains only the most basic information on needed equipment for hiking. This would be a decent list for an easy day hike.
Jacket or an extra layer of clothing
Toilet Paper and Trowel
Water Filtration or Purification System
Flashlight and Batteries
First Aid Kit
Pocket Knife or Multi-Tool
Snicker’s Bar or Energy Bars
If you’re really adventurous, consider bringing along a GPS unit and doing a little Geocaching along the way! This is a fantastic way to see unique vistas that you would otherwise never even know existed!