Hiking is one of the many ways to indulge in the great outdoors year-round. Packing a few safety essentials allows the eyes to see the beauty of Mother Nature by simply starting with your own two feet. While hiking can be a great way to exercise the body and mind, it is also important to plan ahead and be cautious of the seasonal hiking safety risks involved while adventuring. Some trails are found in very remote spots that do not have phone reception for miles, so it is important to let someone know where you will be hiking in case you become lost or injured and are unable to make it back to safety.
PRE-HIKING SAFETY TIPS
Be sure to check the weather forecast. As many Coloradans know, the weather is very unpredictable here. Each season brings safety hazards that are important to consider before starting a hike, especially lightning. Lightning is one of the more energetic and dangerous forms of weather. By using the 30/30 rule, you can determine the threat of lightning in the surrounding area. The 30/30 rule: count to 30 seconds after seeing lightning. If you hear thunder before reaching 30 seconds, stay indoors or turn back around and seek shelter.
Pack plenty of water or drinks with electrolytes (camel packs are a great way to evenly carry your water). Pack healthy non-perishable snacks that have protein and carbohydrates such as nuts, granola bars, apples/bananas or peanut butter.
Based off your location, research the trail before hiking as it will help you navigate the route and have a better idea of the surroundings in the area. Having a GPS navigation application handy on your phone, will help prep you for the hike ahead and track your location in case of an emergency. It can also let you know if you are on private property and in a non-hiking area. A compass and map can be helpful as well. Consider seasonal natural plants/wildlife that live in the area.
Packing basic essentials such as a first aid kit, compass/map, a lighter/matches, flashlight, a knife, and sunscreen can help keep you and others safe while hiking.
While hiking in higher altitudes (increased height above sea level) there are many factors to consider. Pace yourself. Be sure to take it slow and easy and to reduce fatigue, injury, and acute altitude sickness. Acute altitude sickness includes nausea, headaches, vomiting or dizziness. While hiking at higher altitudes, you are at a higher risk to get dehydrated, so make sure you hydrate often.
WINTER HIKING SAFETY TIPS
As the colder and shorter days approach, hiking is still a year-round activity. However, it does come with different obstacles such as colder temperatures, wind chill factors, altitude sickness, and fatigue to name a few. Hiking in the winter can still be as rewarding as the other seasons through the year. Here are a few tips to help prepare for your winter adventures.
Checking the weather is the first step to winter hiking. It can help prepare you for your hike and what to expect if Mother Nature decides to change directions. This will guide you on how to dress for those cold winds and possible snowflakes. Consider the time of the day you hike, due to the fact that winter days are a lot shorter than summer.
When dressing for winter hiking, layers are important. Layering can help maintain a consistent body temperature and keep you from getting frostbite. Wearing warm clothes or water resistant clothing such as a long-sleeved shirt or sweatshirt, a water-resistant jacket and pants, a hat, gloves, wool socks and high-top waterproof boots are just some examples of winter clothing that can keep snow or moisture away from your body. Avoid wearing cotton shirts. Cotton absorbs sweat and water which dries very slowly and can weigh you down.
In colder temperatures, you may not feel the need to drink as much water but, it is still important to hydrate while hiking. Bringing an insulated water bottle or a thermos can help keep your drink from freezing. If you use a camel pack, fill it with warm water and keep as much of the mouthpiece inside your pack as possible to ensure the hose from icing up. Consuming extra calories is important as well, because as your body works to keep warm, you burn more calories. Foods with high fat content such as peanut butter will help nourish your body and produce more heat.
During the winter months, it is important to have the proper gear. Get out your larger backpack so you can utilize the extra space for another set of warm clothes and extra food and water. Mesh pockets on the outside of the backpack are useful for extra storage and can prevent snow collecting in the pockets. Proper water-resistant boots or snowshoes can provide flotation in deep snow. Ice cleats/crampons are also great at gripping steep slopes and icy trails.
When it is cold, technology has a better chance at draining faster and moving slower. It is important to keep electronics close to your body and away from colder temperatures. Worst case scenario, your electronics or mapping devices can shut off if it gets cold enough. Be sure to pack extra batteries and limit the use of your smart devices. Solar, rechargeable battery packs are great to bring on day hikes just in case your phone runs out of juice.
Not every day in the winter is dark and cold. Especially if there’s snow on the ground, apply sunscreen. The white snow will reflect the sunlight, adding to those sunburns. If it’s exceptionally sunny outside with the white fluffy stuff on the ground, bring your sunglasses. Snow blindness is very real, and the beautiful sunshine can make it difficult to see.
SPRING HIKING SAFETY TIPS:
Springtime hiking is the perfect way to enjoy the fresh, crisp air, watch the budding plants and trees grow another season and see those running rivers flowing at their fullest. With the beauty that comes surrounding these trails in the springtime, you can beat those winter blues! However, there are some safety tips you need to consider before adventuring into the wilderness.
Be sure to wear warm enough clothing that can withstand rainy conditions. Depending on where you live, the weather can change at any minute and having the proper rain gear such water-proof boots can help with those muddy trails.
It is essential to check the weather for snow and ice conditions. By doing this, you can prevent natural obstacles such as high running rivers, icy trails, and the heavy snow that covers bushes and trees from a clean path. Don’t forget the sun still goes down a lot faster during the spring than summer, it is a good idea to time those hikes for earlier in the day. Lightening can also play a factor in the spring weather. If you notice a storm rolling in, head back down and seek shelter immediately.
Winter might be over, and the temperatures can still feel cool. But, even in cloudy, spring conditions, it is important to apply sunscreen. In higher altitudes this is a key factor due to the UV index.
SUMMER SAFETY HIKING TIPS
The summertime is a popular season to see some of the natural wonders that Mother Nature provides. Unfortunately, many of these places are in locations that experience extreme heat. Hiking safety during these longer days and shorter nights, isn’t one of the first things that people think of when choosing their next adventure, but it should be. Follow these hiking tips – they could save your life.
It is especially important to pack enough water or sport-drinks that can replace electrolytes after sweating through a long hike. Using equipment like a camel pack can ensure you have enough water to last throughout a hike, and it can free your hands for other essential hiking gear such as trekking poles or walking your adventure pup along for the journey.
Dressing to impress is not needed while hitting the trails. Always avoid wearing colors that blend in with nature, like browns and greens. With the forests in full bloom, having a bright colored shirt can help others spot you on the trails. Wearing darker clothing can absorb UV heat rays and draw in heat. Also, if you are hiking with a pet, it is a good idea to have a bright collar, leash and vest so they can be easily seen.
Wearing sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses can help prevent sunburn, exhaustion and dehydration. While hiking in higher temperatures the body loses a lot of sodium from sweating. It is important to hydrate regularly, take breaks on longer trails, and re-fuel those lost calories and carbohydrates.
Check the forecast before going on a hike as it will help you wear the proper clothing and gear. During the summer, the weather can change quickly into thunderstorms which are fairly violent and dangerous to hikers. If you plan on hiking in higher altitudes keep in mind that temperatures drop the higher you hike. Getting an early start means lower temperatures and that can lessen the strain on your body. It also gives an advantage to less crowded trails which lets you set your own pace.
FALL HIKING SAFETY TIPS
As the summer days get shorter and the weather turns crisp, hiking can still be very enjoyable. Along with the seasons changing, so does the beauty of the land. Be aware of weather changes, the terrain and wildlife is prepping itself for the winter season. You can make your hike even more enjoyable with some safe hiking tips.
Expect the unexpected. Being the season of change, there are quite a few precautions to take before stepping foot on the trail. The weather can go from clouds, to sunshine, to rain, all within the span of a few hours. By checking the weather before your hike, you can guarantee your hike will be a lot more memorable and enjoyable. Dress in layers. Wear clothing that will keep you warm but removable if you do get hot. Bring a windbreaker or water-resistant jacket because staying dry and warm is key.
Make sure to pack an extra set of clothing and wear water-resistant materials. Damp and wet clothing can cause discomfort or even become life-threatening in extreme circumstances. Also, wear bright clothing because fall is considered one of the biggest seasons for hunting. If you happen to cross a hunter, make sure they are aware of your presence. Be cautious of muddy trails and wear the proper hiking shoes or boots.
Just like seasons change, the weather can change quickly too. Starting a hike in the morning may be warm and sunny but when the cloud cover takes over and the temperatures drop, it is important to drink water about every half hour.
MAP OUT YOUR HIKE:
Consider the location of your trails and the terrain you may face. Seeing that fall is hunting season, be sure to choose trails away from hunting grounds. Consider back up trails and hikes to take. The terrain during this season can change abruptly, so before starting a hike, it’s important to be aware of any trail changes.
POST HIKING TIPS:
Taking the time to ‘cool down’ after a hike allows your body temperature, heart rate and muscles a chance to adjust to their natural resting rate.
Stretching is commonly reported as one of the most helpful ways to reduce muscle tension and pain after exercising. This can also help improve flexibility and help improve your performance for that next hike.
Having a post-hike meal within 45 minutes can help increase sugar levels, decrease muscle soreness and can even help boost your mood.
Taking all these precautions into mind well help you to become safer and more aware of what you need to have to make your hike an enjoyable experience. Hiking is a great way to escape our everyday issues. Planning ahead and preparing for your hike, mapping your routes, bringing essential supplies and dressing with seasonal hiking safety in mind are just a few things that can increase the experience of your adventure. Pace yourself, it is not a race. Bringing a bag to put trash in while on your hike can have a positive impact on the environment and your next hiking experience. Always dispose of waste properly. Plus, it’s only right to pack out what you pack in.