Preparations for a Safe and Successful Hike

I used to go hiking often as a kid and especially as a teenager, but as an adult my hikes in general have been for shorter durations. I'm not the most experienced hiking as an adult when I need to take all the responsibilities for myself. When I hiked last, a 16 kilometer hike, on Monday, I injured myself which wasn't great. But I also learned some valuable lessons about things to do to prepare for a hike. Here's what I learned both this last hike and from previous ones, that I wanted to share with you to help you have as effective of a hike as possible.

Take twice as much water as 'they' say to. Best to have more water and need to carry that extra weight than run out of water in the middle of a hike. Especially if you are hiking during the summer or a place without running water, dehydration is probably one of the most dangerous thing likely to happen to you. The amount of water recommended is for the amount of time they think it'll take you to go, but if any emergency comes up or something that causes it to take longer, the amount of water you need will increase. Don't skimp on the water. It's not worth it. (Speaking from personal experience.)

Bring salty foods. We think about dehydration when hiking but not about the salt we're losing via our sweat. If you just drink lots of water to prevent dehydration but don't consume adequate salt you can get water intoxication which can make you nauseous (thinking you're dehydrated, so then you drink more water, making it worse) and then throwing up etc... Or it can make you have a headache which you can also assume is from dehydration leading you to drink more. But then the symptoms progress  and it can even be fatal. Suggestion? Bring along salty snacks while you hike and eat them as well as drinking water. And if you feel dizzy or nauseous especially then make sure to have salt and don't just drink.

Give yourself extra time. Especially if you're racing against the clock (sunset, last bus or ferry for the day), give yourself ideally twice as long to complete the trek as 'they' say. Rushing can lead to getting injured. And if an emergency happens or you're delayed for whatever reason, you don't want to be stuck. Quite a few times I did a hike thinking that we'd definitely be able to get somewhere in a certain amount of time, but I wasn't factoring in children complaining and wanting multiple breaks, nor injuries other times.

Wear good shoes. This is a given, I know, but you wouldn't believe how many people try hiking without good supportive shoes. Especially if you're hiking somewhere that is rocky, you need something that will support your feet and prevent twisting that can happen more easily with non supportive shoes. But don't wear brand new shoes, and they'll probably give you blisters.

Trekking sticks are great. While you might think that you're perfectly capable of hiking without trekking sticks, I highly recommend bringing along a pair, especially if you have weak ankles. These provide extra balance and stability and make you less likely to injure yourself. And in the event that you do hurt yourself, these are great to help you reach the end of the trail.

Bring a first aid kit. Most important in my opinion is ace bandages (bring more than one), strong pain relievers, and band-aids. I would not have been able to get through my hike Monday if not for the ace bandage and pain relievers that guides provided for me. Next time I bring along my own, because there aren't usually guides where I hike.

Bring toilet paper. Even if there are bathrooms along the hike (and many don't have) there's no guarantee that there will be toilet paper there. And even more so, there may not be any bathroom at all and you'll need to go out in the wild. Don't rely on using leaves. There may be none. Don't get stuck.

Bring enough food. Hiking uses up a lot of energy, and you need to have enough fuel for your hike, and since you're exerting a lot of energy, you probably need even more food than usual.

Cut your toe nails. I feel like people will probably think this is a weird comment, but it's actually the very thing that inspired me to post this. If your toe nails are a little long, you probably won't notice anything if its a short hike, but if you're hiking a longer hike, especially one up and down hills, your socks and shoes will press on your longer nails, causing pain. I literally had never heard this instruction before but definitely noticed the issues it caused me during my hike, and googling shows me it is a thing.

Bring proper sun protection. Sunscreen and hats and clothes that cover you up. Don't burn. Burns are not only extremely painful and unhealthy, but it'll make your hike more difficult.

Hike with a buddy. Even if you're traveling alone when hiking, it's best to find yourself a partner to hike with, even if it is someone you meet on the trail. This is especially important for safety, so that you can get help if one of you gets hurt. Additionally, moral support can be wonderful if one of you is exhausted, not to mention physical support if someone ends up needing help walking.

Have a map. Don't get lost on the trail, follow the markers, but also carry a map with you. A compass is a great addition just in case you do get lost. And don't only have a map on your phone, as phones can die or break.

With the right preparations, your hike can be a wonderful adventure. Better safe than sorry, and better do these preparations and not need them than not do them and regret it.

For those of you that are hikers, do you agree with my list? Would you add or change anything on the list?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Always let someone know where you are hiking, starting and ending time. Also call them when you are back. This way if an emergency happens they will alert the authorities.

  2. First aid kit: don't just buy one off the shelf. The contents are mostly useless. Get a pencil bag/makeup bag and fill it with stuff you'll actually need in an actual emergency. Ace bandages, NSAID painkillers (probably not a good idea to pack opiates, in case you get picked up by a drug dog), superglue, gauze pads, blister strips, etc.

    My other comment is about the compass: a great idea, yes, in most places. But when we went to the Polar Circle we decided against bringing it because up there, magnetic north is actually due east, and it would have gotten us lost and confused if we had used it.

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