Hiking Resource Guide
Whether the goal is to get fit or reconnect with nature, hiking is one of the most popular pastimes of those who love the outdoors. Hiking trails are available year round to outdoor enthusiasts. By hitting these trails, hikers can see nature up close, often spotting local wildlife and the flora that does not readily grow in developed areas. This sport is not without its risks, which is why new hikers need to learn all they can about the activity before they hit the trails. Careful preparation and a mind for safety are essential when planning a hike.
Safety is paramount when hiking. Hikers must consider their gear, first aid supplies, location, weather, and even the impact of wild animals when hiking. Each area of the country has its own unique hazards to avoid, so hikers need to research their location before heading out. Hiking in a group and staying on marked trails are two of the best safety precautions to take.
Food taken on a hiking trip needs to be calorie dense, because hikers have limited packing space. Hikers will need to consumer more calories during the day than they would in their normal routine, because hiking is a strenuous activity. It also needs to store well without the need for refrigeration. Dehydrated foods are an excellent idea for long hikes.
First Aid Kit for Hiking
A first aid kit ensures that hikers can care for injuries when they occur on the trail. These kits should include bandages, basic medications, wound care products, and water testing and purification products. Those hiking in areas where poisonous snakes live may want to pack emergency snake bite medication. A basic understanding of emergency first aid is also valuable on the trail.
Conditioning and Stretching Before the Hike
True hiking is more than just taking a stroll through the woods. It puts the body through a tremendous amount of work, and because of this, hikers need to be properly conditioned prior to hiking. Strengthening the body in the weeks prior to a long hike is valuable. Stretching right before the hike is also important to ensure the limbs and ligaments are ready for the strain they are about to endure.
Appropriate Hiking Gear, Clothing, and Footwear
Gear and clothing for hiking should be lightweight yet durable. Proper footwear with tread that can handle the rugged terrain and protect the foot is also an important part of a hiking outfit. Hikers do best if they dress in layers, as the weather can change quickly on a long hike. Water resistant clothing is ideal to protect from both sweat and the elements. A sturdy backpack to hold all of the gear is also a vital part of a hiker’s equipment checklist.
Hiking with a group is one of the safest ways to enjoy this sport, as having other people around lessens the chances of getting lost and provides support in the event of an emergency. Group hikes often include a trail leader, which can add insight and protection for the hikers. Hiking with children and families brings a new set of considerations, because children do not have the stamina or strength of adult hikers. Families hiking with small children need to consider choosing family-friendly trails that are not too challenging for the younger hikers.
Each season brings its own beauty to the hiking trails, as well as potential hazards. Weather plays a role in the hiking experience no matter when the trip takes place. Summer and winter are particularly dangerous with extremes of hot and cold temperatures. Spring and fall are popular hiking seasons as the flowers and foliage make the trails beautiful, but excessive rains can add the danger of mud during these seasons.
Hikers often come in contact with wild animals during their trips. When facing a wild animal on the trail, hikers should avoid contact. They should never feed wild animals. Before heading out on a hike, hikers should learn what dangerous animals are in the region and the best ways to ward off an attack should they come in contact with one.
Responsible hikers do what they can to keep the hiking trails beautiful. This involves managing waste, staying on the trail, avoiding damage to nature, and minimizing impact on the local wildlife and vegetation. National and state parks often have specific guidelines they ask hikers to abide by in order to protect the wildlife and vegetation of the region. By paying attention to these guidelines, hikers can ensure that the trail remains beautiful and wild for future generations.
Popular National Trails/Parks
Most of the national and state parks in the United States have hiking trails, and they are rated according to difficulty level. Knowing where these trails are and how dangerous they could be before heading out is invaluable information for hikers. Some of the more popular parks in the United States for hiking include Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Grant Teton National Park. Popular state parks include Bear Mountain in New York, Porcupine Mountains State Park in Michigan, and Big Basin Redwoods State Park in California.
Hiking not only provides a way to stay fit, but also a way to reconnect with nature. While it poses its dangers, when done responsibly with a mind on safety, hiking can be an excellent way to reach fitness goals. The United States is filled with excellent trails just waiting for hiking enthusiasts. All they need is the proper gear to hit these trails and experience the beauty of nature and the thrill of the hike.
By: Jennifer Frost