Hiking is a great way to get exercise outdoors; socialize with friends, family, or coworkers; and celebrate Canada’s parks this summer. In every case, it’s always a great idea to hike smart.
Here are some quick tips to add to your checklist for a hike that is safe, smart, and fun!
1. Know the trail, and stick to it
Get to know your trail before you set out. Review the map. Get to know the entrances and exits to the trail. You should also take the time to figure out where water is available along the trail and mark it on your map. Let someone know where you’ll be hiking and when you plan to be back. Don’t venture off the plotted route.
2. Choose an appropriate hike
Know your fitness level, and choose a hike that’s suited to your abilities, and the abilities of those in your group. Stay within your limitations and abilities, and be considerate of the group’s needs as well.
3. Dress appropriately
This includes checking the weather and dressing appropriately or bringing along any necessary gear to accommodate an expected shift in sun, rain, or other weather patterns. Don’t set out on an overcast sky with a 50% chance of rain without a raincoat or a poncho.
4. Pack wisely
Pack light and strategically. The heaviest items should be food and water (and you MUST bring water) and they should be easily accessible. Try to pack the heavier items close to the centre of the pack and higher up to help maintain your centre of gravity. Other essential packing items include a flashlight, extra batteries, a map, compass, whistle, and a first aid kit. Remember to consider a waterproof cover for your backpack in rainy conditions.
5. Wear it right
This is important for your back. If you have a pack with hip and chest straps, put on the backpack, loosen all the straps, and tighten the hip belt at the hips (not above) before tightening the shoulder straps. Tighten the strap across your chest for shoulder support last.
6. Walk and talk
When you hike, make sure you have enough energy to chat with your hiking partner. If you’re out of breath or breathing deeply, you might be pushing too hard. You know you have a good pace going if you can carry on a conversation with the person you’re hiking with.
7. Take breaks
Don’t let your initial excitement get the better of you. Take a break for ten minutes every hour. Take that time to have a snack and drink some water. Make sure to keep your body fueled before, during, and after your hike.
If you have any concerns about carrying your pack, or about what physical activities are right for you, visit Dr. Jerry Wright or Dr. Tyler Hunsberger.