For many people, hiking or camping is the perfect summer weather activity to get exercise in nature with good company. But, did you know there were multiple thousands of reported hiking injuries just last year? A hiking injury can include potential sprains and strains, sunburns, encounters with dangerous plant or animal life, and more. Before lacing up your hiking boots, remember these safety tips, so you can enjoy your hiking trip, free of injuries.
Preparedness is key for a safe hiking trip. One of the best things every hiker can have is a first aid kit. This kit should have essentials like sterile bandages, antiseptic cream, and pain relievers. Check out the Washington Trails Association website for more information and items to include.
You should also have plenty of water and nutrient-dense snacks, such as trail mix and protein bars, in your backpack. Finally, never rely solely on a GPS or your phone, and bring a map.
Wear the right clothing
Hiking calls for something sturdier than your basic running shoes. The rugged terrain and unexpected obstacles can create plenty of opportunities to sprain your ankle. A pair of good hiking boots can also prevent you from developing blisters as you hike. While completely avoiding blisters and twisted ankles may be impossible, an effective tip is to break in your boots before you take them on the trails for the first time. You can also wear quality hiking socks for an extra layer of protection.
Weather is unpredictable, so you should ensure you have clothes and accessories appropriate for any type of weather. Multiple layers and a rain jacket are essentials to protect yourself from the cold or overheating, as well as change of clothes in case you get wet.
Protect your skin
You can get a sunburn during any type of weather, even on an overcast day. Make sure you apply sunscreen to any exposed parts of your skin. Don’t forget your neck, ears and face! If you're wearing layers and expecting to shed them at some point, be sure that you slather sunscreen on the parts of your arms and legs that you may eventually expose.
While you're hiking, proper skin coverage is also important in protecting you from poisonous plants. Even having a small area of your ankle exposed can leave you vulnerable to brushing against poison ivy, oak or sumac. These plants all cause an itchy, contagious rash, so wear long pants and sleeves to cover your skin when necessary.
Many common hiking injuries result from dehydration. Be sure to drink plenty of water and properly stretch before you start your hike. Dehydration can lead to muscle cramps, fatigue, constipation or diarrhea, all of which can turn a nice hiking trip into a problematic afternoon. In severe cases, dehydration will call for immediate medical help and can even lead to hospitalization.
Have a hiking buddy
While it may seem obvious, abiding by the buddy system is one of the best ways to stay safe while you're hiking. Serious injuries like breaks and sprains can render you immobile, so having someone who can go get medical help is essential. Hiking in pairs or even a group can also help distribute the weight of the gear more evenly and ward off wild animals.
If you're someone who prefers to hike alone, you should still let someone know where and when you're going on your hike.
Know where to go in case of emergency
To “summit” all up, hiking injuries can still happen, even if you follow the steps above, so it is essential to know where to go if you are hiking and experience an emergency. Our urgent care clinics are conveniently located near many trailheads in the PNW. Find one of our locations when planning your next hiking trip.