Hiking is an activity that is growing in popularity across the world with individuals of all ages and backgrounds enjoying the sense of freedom and achievement gained from exploring nature. Whether taking a short-day long hike in your local Nature Reserve or considering an adventure to a distant destination, preparation is the key.
Hiking can be dangerous especially when faced with a situation that was not planned for. From not so urgent sprained ankles to falls that may be life-threatening, anything could happen whilst far away from hospitals and emergency clinics.
Therefore, it is essential that all eventualities are at least considered during the planning process.
Hiking can provide huge amounts of fun, excitement, rewards and there is of course the connection to nature and the chance to gain some amazing health benefits.
Immersing yourself in nature whilst embarking on a high intensity cardio workout will allow you to reap both physical and mental benefits. Hiking has been shown to reduce mental health issues like stress and depression, taking time out to disconnect from the hectic everyday lives we all live. Stress can be a big contributor to further health issues and reducing this is important for over all health, not matter what your age.
The last thing you need whilst hiking is stress. Which leads us back to preparation being the key. Taking only essential equipment, wearing proper clothing depending on weather expected, carrying a well packed First Aid Kit and planning your route thoroughly are all perfect factors to consider during the preparation process. Follow these simple hiking tips to ensure that everyone on your exciting adventure remains safe and happy.
Plan the Hike & Hike the Plan
Thousands of people are injured whilst embarking on hikingtrails each year.
Knowing which your route routes you will take will help immensely when it comes to knowing what to expect and therefore what to pack. Not only will it allow hikers to pack suitably, it will also massively reduce the chances of getting lost.
Learn your route thoroughly, speak to other people that have walked the route before and see what they would have done differently. When planning the hike, set a clear idea of how long it should take.
By following a formula known as Naismith’s rule, you should allow yourself one hour for every 5km or 3.1 miles and an additional 10 minutes for every 100 metres of ascent.
Many people find that writing the plan in good time before departure helps them understand it more. To summarise, make sure your plan covers the following:
- Hike route
- Total time
- Expected weather (check forecast regularly before departing)
- Equipment checklist
- Emergency contact details for local area
- Information of overnight locations (accommodation)
Do not rely on online maps to provide you with full details of your route. It is worth seeking out an Ordnance Survey map with a waterproof cover and use a compass to ensure you are heading in your desired direction. Last but certainly not least, it is one thing planning your hike, but it is the most important thing to stick with to it and let someone at home know your full plan.
Pack the Essentials
When it comes to packing your bag, over packing can often be more detrimental than good but it is important to include all necessary items of clothing and equipment for the chosen terrain and duration of hike. Using a checklist is an extremely helpful option to ensure that you don’t miss any of the important pieces that may make or break your adventure.
- Tops – both lightweight and thermal.
- Hiking trousers/shorts – zip off trousers areperfect for a range of temperatures and weather conditions
- Waterproof backpack
- Hiking shoes – well fitting and already brokenin
- Socks – invest in a pair that are specificallydesigned for hiking
- Waterproof coat
- Head torch
- Hat – type depends on weather expected
- Insect repellent
- First Aid Kit (see below)
- Food & Water (see below)
This is by no means an exhaustive packing list, just the essentials that must be taken on any hiking trip. The type and number of essentials will vary depending on the duration and environmental conditions of the trip – one more reason why thoroughly planning your hike and hiking your plan is extremely important.
Take Plenty of Food & Water
Ensuring proper hydration and maintaining energy levels can make the difference between a great camping trip and an uncomfortable, andpossibly dangerous, one.
Again, the amount taken will vary depending on your expected hike time, for example, on longer planned hikes it may be sensible to factor in a stop off to replenish food and water items along the way and possibly so that the full amount does not have to be carried the whole way.
Make sure to include foods that can be had as snacks along the way, as well as ingredients for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Pack snacks that are high in healthy energy, sugars and salts such as:
- Energy bars
- Granola bars
- Trail Mixes
Do not fall victim to unhealthy junk food snacks – they may taste good at the time, but they will not provide you with the fuel needed to keep your body and mind active.
How much drinking water needed is a bit more difficult to estimate. Most people should be drinking at least 2litres of water a day but embarking on a ten-mile hike will mean that a lot more water should be taken, and enough in case of emergency. The weather will also influence how much water is drunk as well as the intensity of the terrain and hike route.
If you are unsure what food to take on a hike, check out this handy guide to what food to take when hiking.
Dealing with Accidents and Emergencies
A well-packed first aid kit should be one of the first priorities to consider to ensure a safe hiking experience.
Many pre-packed emergency kits can be bought online that should contain all necessary items for cuts, grazes, to falls or stomach bugs. They are also a great place to start for people who do not have the time to assemble their own.
However, most hikers prefer to put their own kits together, especially when packing for specific environments or individual health concerns. Three useful questions to ask yourself are
- Do I really need this?
- What could happen if I don’t have it?
- Is there something missing?
Some hikers often make the mistake of packing to many items that only remain redundant yet add an unnecessary weight to their bags. Making a comprehensive first aid checklist helps and be sure to check the kit thoroughly before departing just in case something has been used and needs to be replaced. Items to consider are:
- Antiseptic wipes
- Antibacterial wipes/cream
- Bandages of different sizes
- Gauze pads
- Medical tape
- Pain relief medication
- Insect sting treatment
- Document showing basic first aid instructions
As with the essentials list in the previous section, this is not an exhaustive list, and additions should be included depending on the individual hiking and the specific location. Every hiker hopes to not have to use their first aid kit, and most do not.
Make sure that you use prevention rather than treatment, knowing your limits and hiking a trail that suits you and your fellow hikers!
We don’t want to put you off hiking in winter – the opposite in fact, its amazing how much the hills change during the seasons and should be explored in all different conditions.
We just want you to do it safely.