New to hikiing? You may think that all you need is a map and some good hiking boots. That's fine, but you can avoid most of the pitfalls experienced by hiking beginners by simply planning ahead for comfort and safety.
Needless to say, absolute necessities include trail maps, compass, and a cell phone in case you get lost or experience a medical emergency. Basic essentials on your hiking gear checklist should also include a sturdy backpack, plenty of water, nutritious snacks, and proper clothing such as hiking boots, hiking socks and rain gear.
It may not be absolutely necessary, but you might also want to record or get up-close views of your first (or even your latest) hiking adventure - so don't forget the camera and/or binoculars!
Hiking safety fast facts:
When hiking alone, always leave word with someone about when and where you will be going.
Wear proper clothing, walking shoes, or hiking boots according to the terrain and season
In summer, avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day (10AM - 2PM). In winter, dress in layers to accommodate for rise and fall of temperatures.
Bring along plenty of water, snacks, a small flashlight or pen light, maps, and a GPS unit.
Hiking safety tips
Start small: For maximum benefit, never think of hiking as a timed race or an endurance test. A good rule of thumb when you're first starting out is to pick an easy-to-moderate trail of only 2-4 miles to avoid exhaustion.
Remember, hiking is supposed to be fun.
As any experienced hiker will tell you, it's always best to check the information at the beginning of a posted hiking trail. SIgns at the trailhead will generally tell you how many miles you will cover, how steep the trail can get, and the average time it will take.
Know where you're going: If there's a brochure you can take with you at the trailhead, by all means grab it, but don't trust that there will always be one available.
Always bring a map from home, as well as a compass and GPS unit. (Don't count your cell phone's GPS application working every time, especially in the remote backwoods or wilderness areas.)
In the event you get lost after sundown, also pack a small flashlight or pen light to help you clear a path home. Lastly, always avoid hiking alone. If you do, tell at least one friend or relative and let them know your itinerary before you go off trekking into the wilderness.
Stay hydrated: Bring bottled water, an old-fashioned canteen - or for extra-long treks opt for a hydration pack, available at most sporting goods stores. Hydration packs usually include a small backpack tote to sling over your shoulder to carry with you. Just pull on the extendable straw which usually comes attached to your hydration pack, and sip as you go.
Bring a first aid kit: It should contain at the very least some band-aids and antibacterial cream. For a complete list of items that might be necessary on a camping or backpacking adventure, also check out the camping first aid kit checklist.
Get the bugs out: Avoid spider bites, the itch from mosquitoes and other threats from creepy crawlies by spraying arms, legs, face and neck with a strong bug repellent before you start out. Also wear long pants and sleeved shirts whenever possible in areas where warnings of West Nile virus or Lyme disease are concerns.
Watch the weather: Stay informed and avoid hiking whenever thunder or lightning storms are predicted. Especially during the summer months or In traditionally hot climates, be sure to limit your hiking hours between 10AM-2PM or later in the day to avoid heat exhaustion.
Winter weather and mountain hiking usually call for dressing in layers to keep appropriately dressed as temperatures rise and fall due to time of day or elevation. Oh, and remember to gear up with a pair of UV protective sunglasses and extra-strength sunscreen to keep you comfortable on sunny days in any season.