Hiking is a healthy aerobic adventure. It not only benefits your physical well being with improved cardio-respiratory fitness, but it is also a great mental exercise to experience nature away from the fast-paced environment of work and family.
However, hiking is very different from other forms of exercise in that it involves rough terrain, unknown obstacles, and typically requires longer endurance. From the brisk walk to the deep inhalations of the fresh nature air, hiking can be a great mix of relaxation and productivity, but in order to enjoy it you will need the right plan and protection. Here are the three most important ways you can protect yourself while hiking.
Bring the Right Equipment
Having the right gear is essential. Most of us are not regularly exposed to the terrain typical of hiking trails. Thus, we need specific gear to protect ourselves from injury. The equipment you will need for a hike depends largely on the setting and duration. For example, if you are hiking near any rivers, ponds, or lakes, wearing polarized sunglasses will help reduce glare, protect your eyes from sun damage and make the terrain easier to see.
Two key tips that will apply to ever hike include 1) wear layers and 2) invest in a pair of hiking boots. This will not only protect you from rolled ankles, but it can protect you from stones, bugs, and rain, too. A few other items to have handy in a backpack include:
• A portable first aid kit in case of any accidents
• Dry foods, plenty of water, and snacks for energy throughout the hike
• Trail map and compass in case you get lost
• Technology – cell phone just in case and camera for fun
• Insect repellent – some areas have a lot of bugs
• A knife and water-proof matches in case you need to start a fire
• A couple of flashlights in case you are camping over night or dusk sneaks up on you
• Sunscreen and a hat to protect your skin from sun damage
Hike in a Group
Hiking with other people is important to keeping safe. If you do not have anyone to hike with, consider bringing your dog along for the ride. Dogs are a great way to deter animals from approaching. However, if you frequently bring your dog along, consider purchasing dog insurance in case of an accident or wild animal confrontation. If you are considering bringing along other types of pets like horses or cats, make sure to look into other pet insurance options as well as the rules and regulations for the specific trail.
Don’t forget – even if you are hiking with friends – be sure to let friends and family know of your whereabouts.
Knowing What to Do In Case of an Animal Encounter
First, know that it is always best to hike in groups, both for safety reasons in case of injury and to ward off animals. Humans traveling in packs inevitably make nose, which alerts animals of their presence. Most animal attacks occur when an animal is surprised by the sudden appearance of an unknown creature. So be sure to make a low, consistent amount of noise and be vigilant.
Running into a bear in the wild is a possibility, particularly in certain areas. Luckily, bear aggression towards humans is pretty rare. If you find yourself in a confrontation with a bear, the first thing you need to do is stay calm. Sudden movements may make the bear feel threatened and prompt it into a chase.
If the bear becomes aggravated and starts approaching you, calmly back away and avoid eye contact. Make sure to widen your stance and keep your arms as wide as you can, holding out your jacket if applicable to appear large. If the bear charges, play dead in the fetus position while covering your head and neck with your arms, as this may make the bear back off. If the bear does begin to attack, fight back with anything that you can. They are more timid and are likely to back off if they are hit, so aim for one hard blow in the head face or head. Use a nearby stone or large branch if possible.
Mountain lions and cougars are a bit different than bears. While they also don’t look to attack humans for sport, they tend to be more aggressive. If you are approached by one of these felines, and they look scared, territorial, or ready to attack, never, ever turn your back or run. Instead look them directly in the eye with a stern look and slowly walk backwards with confident steps. Like with a bear, make yourself appear as big as possible by widening your stance and holding out your arms. If the cat looks agitated and as if it will charge, grimace your teeth, shout, and flap your arms around. Never bend over or turn your back to pick something up, as appearing four-legged could trigger a natural instinct to chase in the animal. If he does charge, be ready to fight and deliver very hard and quick blows to the face. The cat will go for your face and neck, so be sure to protect those areas and never turn your back.
Adria Saracino is a blogger, marketer, and avid hiker. When not hitting trails near her hometown of Seattle, you can find her writing about style through her fashion blog, The Emerald Closet.
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