No matter what time of year you are going to hike, it’s important to hike smart. Following Nomad Colorado’s hiking safety tips could save you some serious discomfort (or worse)!
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A GREAT HIKE OR A TRIP TO THE HOSPITAL IS UP TO YOU!
Hiking and backpacking are all about planning and preparation – self-reliance and good choices are crucial. Don’t hike alone is probably one of the best hiking tips. Know what your destination will be and how to get there. Know where water is available. Get the weather forecast. Don’t overestimate your capabilities. Hike intelligently. You are responsible for your own safety as well as that of everyone in your party. Stay on the trail and never shortcut switchbacks.
Be Kind to Yourself:
KNOW YOUR ABILITIES; CHOOSE AN APPROPRIATE HIKE.
Be conservative in planning your hike! If you have asthma, diabetes, a heart condition, knee or back problems, or any other health or medical issue, limit your exertion and exposure. Stay within your training, physical limitations, and abilities.
Carry Less (But Always Bring the Essentials):
THE LESS YOU CARRY, THE MORE ENJOYABLE THE HIKE.
Travel as light as possible. The heaviest items in your pack should be food and water. Use hiking sticks to take stress off your legs. Wear well-fitting and broken-in hiking boots. Bring a small lightweight flashlight and a change of batteries and bulb. Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. Bring a map, compass, signal mirror or whistle, first aid kit, and water purification tablets. Keep in mind that all trash (including biodegradable) needs to be carried out.
TAKE A TEN MINUTE BREAK AT LEAST ONCE EVERY HOUR.
A break of ten minutes helps remove the metabolic waste products that build up in your legs while hiking. Take a break at least every hour. Sit down and prop your legs up. Eat some food, drink some fluids, and take this time to enjoy and appreciate the view. These efficient breaks can recharge your batteries. In the long run, breaks will not slow you down.
DRINK FREQUENTLY AND EAT OFTEN.
Eat and drink more than you normally do. Eat before, during, and after your hike. Eat before you are hungry. Drink before you are thirsty. No matter what the temperature, you need water and energy to keep going. For every hour hiking in the canyon, you should drink ½ to 1 quart (liter) of water or sports drink.
Your best defense against illness and exhaustion is to eat a healthy breakfast, a full lunch, a snack every time you take a drink, and a rewarding full dinner at the end of the day. This is not a time to diet.
Here are some additional hiking safety tips for your next Colorado hiking adventure:
- Warm-up before starting the hike. We cannot emphasize just how important stretching out before a hike truly is. Stretching increases the heart rate, temperature, and blood circulation to your muscles. Moreover, stretching increases the body’s flexibility and decreases chance of injury.
- Start the hike off slowly. Once again, it is important to warm up your muscles and body before trekking full steam ahead. Gradually increase your pace as your body begins to heat up.
- Allow the slowest person in the group to establish the pace. Let the slowest person lead the group. Injuries and exhaustion can frequently be avoided by letting young children and folks who are out of shape head down the trail first.
- Figure out who enjoys leading and who doesn’t. Once you figure out who enjoys making decisions and leading various aspects of the hike, make efforts to divide decision-making responsibilities evenly amongst those people. However, it is important to stick to the trip itinerary unless an emergency dictates otherwise.
- Stick to the trail. Don’t stray from the trail unless you possess excellent navigation skills and the area will not be negatively impacted by off-trail travel.
- Travel in a group. This principle holds especially true during the winter and in hazardous terrain. Never leave a member behind.
- Give your trip itinerary to a third party. Leave your trip information with someone who you can trust (friend or family), and contact them when you get back home from the hike.
- Learn first-aid and basic gear repair methods. Always bring duct tape with you wherever you go. Duct tape can mend just about any piece of gear that you might happen to break while out on the trail. Don’t forget to bring a first aid kit! Finally, know what to do in case you and your group runs into an emergency situation. It is best to discuss your “emergency plan” before beginning a hike.
- Layer up. Avoid wearing cotton because it loses its insulation properties when it get wet. It is best to wear polypropylene next to the skin because the material wicks moisture away from the skin and retains heat when wet.
- Protect your body from the sun. Wear sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen anytime you go hiking.
- Hydrate. Drink sufficient amounts of water. Make sure you carry enough water to make it between destinations without running out of a safe supply. Also, be sure to treat your water in order to avoid getting sick on the trail.
- Pack plenty of food. Energy and candy bars are some of the best foods to bring on the trail because they are packed with carbohydrates, which will give you the boost you’ll need on the trail.
- Adhere to relative rules and regulations. Take some time to read over the rules and regs of the area that you’ll be traveling through. Some areas might be off-limits to pets, camping, or open-pit fires.