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Camping/hiking is fun and I love it. Like any other person who has got the zeal and passion for the paths to amazing views and high alpine trails, I sometimes forget that the activity is strenuous and has several potential dangers. I have been hiking for quite some time and I won’t sugar coat things by assuming and declaring that it is a safe haven since I have had a taste of what it is to get an injury from hiking. An injury from hiking can be severe and I am sure most people have had all sorts of stories about fatal hiking accidents. In this post, we discuss ways to prevent injury while hiking.
First, I am going to mention common injuries that occur during hiking. They include;
- Bug bites
- Poison ivy
- Twisted ankle
- Scrapes and abrasions
- Muscle cramps
- Swollen feet
So, how can such injuries be prevented from causing havoc during hiking?
Dressing properly for hiking is quite important. I remember one time I went hiking on a hill adjacent to my place with my normal rubber shoes putting no much attention to other dressing factors. I had to deal with blisters on my feet for a whole week. Thank God they never got infected otherwise; I could be in for greater problems leading to endless hospital visits. Injuries such as blisters, sunburns and twisted ankles are often caused by inappropriate dressing while hiking. Don’t go hiking with yoga suits or tennis shoes and workout tops. I usually go for synthetic clothes that keep me dry as I start to sweat during the hike. I also avoid short-sleeved shirt since they expose my skin to the poison ivy. I pick shoes that are durable and make my feet comfortable to avoid spraining my ankles. When I am in a mountainous and rocky terrain, I prefer boots that come slightly higher on the ankle to improve support
Checking the Weather Patterns
This is among the most important element in one of my hiking principles “Know Before You Go”. I usually play it safe by checking on the internet or consulting with weathermen about the weather pattern that day. Poor weather such as rain leads to slippery leaves and rocks which make it very easy to slip and fall. Lighting is a common phenomenon in mountainous places hence I pay close attention to weather forecasts to avoid getting trapped in the ridges during electrical storms. If I find the weather unfavourable that day, I calmly return my hiking boots to the house and patiently wait for another favorable day. I hate getting injuries due to ignorance or defiance.
Taking a Break to Rest
Taking time to rest during hiking is a basic way that makes the trip safer, enjoyable and refreshing. As long distance runners pace themselves to avoid getting tired, a good hiker needs to take it slow and take some time to rejuvenate. I usually rest after 2 kilometres of hiking to reduce stressful exertion on my body which usually lead to muscle cramps. I normally find a slump and sit on it in solitude while I take some time to enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature before I resume.
Using Hiking Sticks
When I was still a novice, hiking sticks came in handy to help me complete the activity safely as possible. For instance, I really enjoyed using trekking pole which assisted me on the trail. The trekking pole helped me a lot in offloading work on my legs and arms making them work significantly less. An overstrained leg or arm can snap up or suffer muscle cramps. The poles also help in ensuring better balance while climbing a steep hill. However, you need to use the poles with appropriate technique to achieve the safety benefits mentioned above.
Good Knowledge of the terrain
A thorough research on the prospective place for hiking is quite essential for a good hiking experience free of injuries. As an experienced hiker, the first thing I do before hiking in a new place is carrying out an extensive research that includes reading guidebooks, using online resources, Topo maps, Google and satellite images. This makes me have a good insight of the terrain and helps me avoid obstacles such as cliffs and deep holes that can cause injury.
Staying Alert Always
When I talk about staying alert during hiking, I am simply referring to the importance of watching every step. A single wrong step can mean spending days in the hospital. A slippery rock or a clay soil can cause a serious accident while leading to injuries. To stay safe, I normally avoid slamming my foot and varying my steps to mitigate the chances of getting an injury from falling.
It is important to start off the day on the right foot. Even though many people think it is simple, hiking is like a workout and thus needs certain body tweaks. Before embarking on hiking, I make sure my muscles are adequately prepared for the activity by doing some warm ups. This prevents incidences involving muscle cramps.
A good overall diet is essential to overall health. It is also an important factor that plays an integral role when it comes to preventing injuries while hiking. When hiking, our body and bones are usually under a lot of workloads. As a result, we need certain nutrients such as calcium for strong bones that cannot break due to work overload. The absolute worst thing that I will never do to my body while hiking is to deprive it of essential nutrients that enable it to optimize its functions. While hiking, one can lose between 3000 to 6000 calories which need to be replaced immediately.
I also need to get properly hydrated when I am hiking. That is why I never part ways with my pack of water bottles. Like any other person, if I am not properly hydrated, I will start experiencing incidence of muscle cramps, reduced alertness and lethargy which makes very easy for me to fall and injure myself.
Being aware of Animals
Giving animals their space can help get rid of injuries such as bug bites and stings. Hiking in the wilderness is risky due to the presence of wild animals. It is thus important that a hiker stays in his or her trails always to avoid injuries caused by such animals.
In conclusion, hiking can only be an exhilarating activity if it comes out as a safe adventure if only the above safety measures are taken into consideration. I usually feel good when I sit around the fireplace safe and sound with all my three children eagerly waiting to tell them stories about my hiking adventure.