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FYI Magazine

How to hike safely

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National parks are great places for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy some of their favorite activities. Many such parks allow visitors to camp out after a day spent rafting or kayaking on the water, making these locales the ideal vacation spots for families or groups of friends who share a love of the great outdoors.
Hiking is among the more popular activities enjoyed at parks across the globe. Hikers of all ages and skill levels can enjoy trails of varying degrees of difficulty, all the while taking in picturesque landscapes that often cannot be found in developed urban and suburban areas.
But as much as hiking can be enjoyed even by novice outdoor enthusiasts, this rewarding activity also can be dangerous. Hikers often find themselves in remote locations where cellular phone signals tend to be weak, which can be troublesome, even when hiking in relatively crowded parks. That's why it's important to take the following precautionary measures when hiking.
  • Never hike alone. Many outdoor enthusiasts enjoy escaping from the daily grind and getting some alone time with Mother Nature. While some outdoor activities can be safely enjoyed alone, others, including hiking, should never be done without a friend in tow. There are numerous benefits to hiking in pairs or groups, not the least of which is having someone there to go for help should anyone suffer an injury on the trails. When hiking with a group or even with only a friend, make sure no one hikes faster than the slowest hiker. This ensures that no one will get lost and that each hiker has someone there to seek help should an accident or injury occur.
  • Share your itinerary with someone staying behind. Even if you are hiking with others, it's best to share your itinerary with someone who is not joining you on your trip. This way someone can alert authorities to you, and your fellow hikers' direction if you get lost on a trail and cannot find your way out. When sharing your itinerary, share your schedule as well, telling friends who are staying behind to alert the authorities if you do not return or make direct contact with them by a given time.
  • Start early. Embarking on a hike early is beneficial in a variety of ways. Nature is beautiful at all times of the day, but part of the joy of hiking is taking in all of the beautiful landscapes, which are easier to see during daylight hours than at night. Hiking during the day is also safer, as it's easier for hikers to make their way on trails when they can see where they're going than at night, when many hiking trails are cloaked in darkness. Scavenging animals also may be more prevalent after sundown. Finally, hiking also is legal during daylight hours, whereas many parks ban hiking once the sun goes down.
  • Know the weather forecast. When planning a hiking trip, know the weather forecast for the day or days you plan to hike. Expect cooler temperatures, even if the forecast is calling for a beautiful warm day. Hiking trails are often surrounded by tall trees, which makes it difficult for warm sunlight to illuminate trails and warm up hikers. So pack an extra jacket or coat, ideally a rain coat that can serve double duty should it start to rain.
  • Carry water and snacks. Staying hydrated can make a long or challenging hike easier on your muscles, so be sure to bring plenty of water, which also can quench your thirst throughout your hike. Bring some snacks along as well. Snacks should provide you with energy to continue your hike, so leave behind snacks like potato chips or pretzels and pack your bags with fresh fruit, granola, protein bars, or trail mix.
Hiking is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors. But even veteran hikers must take safety precautions to ensure their trips are as safe as they are enjoyable.