Are you a beginner climber? Don’t leave home without reading these hiking tips first!
A day hike is one of the best things you can do for your body and soul without pushing your physical and financial limits. There are countless reasons to enjoy the outdoors: It gets your heart pumping faster, fills your lungs with fresh air, and rewards you with a magnificent birds’-eye view atop a summit!
But if you are hesitating because of fear of unfamiliar trails, dangers of provoking an animal or insect attack, or threats of getting an injury, these hiking safety tips will help you regain your peace of mind.
So after you’ve loaded your backpacks and packed three liters of water, read up!
Hiking Tip #1: Plan Your Route
Preparation starts the moment you choose where you will be hiking. First, check out the reviews of the chosen mountain trail and its characteristics. Google it!
Read blogs and find out: Is the difficulty beginner-friendly? Does it have a water source along the trail? How many hours will it take you to finish? Is the trail well-marked?
Here are some of the things you should also read up on:
- Trail difficulty. Depending on your fitness and experience level, choose mountains that you can most likely overcome but will still challenge you. Don’t go to major hikes immediately!
- Fees. Despite mountains being a public property, there are still occasional fees to prepare for. Some of these are environmental fees, guide fees, and tourism fees that vary from one place to another. Make sure you bring enough cash to take you home!
- Weather. This is a must prior to your climb. If weather forecasts expect heavy downpour that weekend, it might be best to bring sufficient gear, or to cancel the trip altogether.
- Terrain. Know whether you are going to deal with mostly limestone rocks, inclined steps, or thick forests. This will help you get an idea of your battleground during the day.
- Current Affairs. Know the status of the mountain you’re going to climb! You don’t want to start your travel only to find out that the mountain has been closed due to environmental or political reasons (it happens!).
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Hiking Tip #2: Wear Proper Gear
You don’t need to look like you’re climbing Mt. Everest on your first climb!
One of the simplest ways to know what to wear is to know the weather conditions. If you expect a sunny stroll, wear proper sun protection such as sunblock, bandannas, arm and leg sleeves, and sunglasses. Colder weather or overnight camping means bringing thermal blankets, jackets, and scarves.
In case of rain or a river cross, be sure to waterproof your valuables with ziplock. It is up to you to bring rain coats as some mountaineers feel that getting slightly drizzled on is part of the outdoor experience.
Finally, wear shoes with good traction that will suit the trail accordingly–be it sandy, rocky, grassy, or muddy. When in doubt, go to your local outdoors store and ask for recommendations. You can also consider taking a walking stick with you for balance, or just grab a suitable fallen tree branch along the way.
Knowing the trail also allows you to prepare beforehand the things you should pack. For safety and rash-protection in forested areas, wear tact pants or thick long socks to protect your legs from scratches. For trails mainly consisting of limestone rocks, wearing gloves that cover half the fingers will protect you when you hold on to tree branches and rocks for support.
Hiking Tip #3: Exercise Those Muscles
Mountain climbing, trekking, and hiking are vigorous physical activities. The best way to prepare for them is to stay active even before your day hike!
Here are some ways to prepare your body:
- Strength training. Strengthening your leg muscles surrounding the knee is key to ensure they can endure prolonged hours of walk. You can also do push-ups to improve arm strength for trails that will entail minor rock or rope climbing.
- Endurance training. Do cardio workouts for an extended period of time to increase your stamina incrementally. You can also do this while carrying a heavy backpack to get a feel of how it will be like on the day of your climb.
Eat the right food, too! Days before, consume carbohydrate-rich foods such as rice, bread, and pasta. This act of carb-loading enables your body to have enough fuel stored to be burned during the activity. Don’t make this an excuse to pig out though! Finally, sleep well before the hike so you are in a better condition to get that heart pumping.
It’s also best to know your physical limitations so you don’t overexert yourself. Determine the pace you are comfortable with and rest whenever you feel like it.
Hiking Safety Tips #4: Ask for Help
Being adventurous does not translate to being reckless!
Take the responsible route by registering at the jump-off point of the trail. This is usually the DENR or the local government post where climbers are ushered in before they climb. Leave your name, expected time of return, and person to contact during emergencies. Additionally, take note of numbers to get help from, although do not expect your phones to have signal in the wilderness.
As a beginner climber, it might be your best option to climb in groups and to hire a trail guide. When traveling with a group, plan an alternative meeting place in case one of the members of the hike gets lost. You can also assign one of your companions to be your buddy who will look out for you should you lose your way or experience slight difficulty.
Most of all, if you feel tired and fatigued en route to the summit, ask your trail guide for breaks to catch your breath! Don’t hesitate also to ask for assistance during more challenging assaults.
Hiking Safety Tips #5: Prepare for emergencies
Part of the experience in the wild is the unknown. That is, not predicting what’s out there and what you will encounter. Sometimes, it’s not even a wild animal or a killer insect you should watch out for, but good old scratches!
Be knowledgeable with common physical setbacks such as sprains, blisters and cramps. Other possible problems in the outdoors are hypothermia, heat exhaustion, dehydration, wounds and scratches, and fatigue. Pack a simple first aid kit that contains painkillers, hydration salts, bandages and alcohol. Learning first aid is also a huge plus.
What’s the most important tip when facing worst-case scenarios? Take a deep breath and stay calm!
Hiking, like most activities, is best enjoyed prepared. Abandon your fears and get a peace of mind by knowing that you are well-prepared for your first climb. Enjoy!
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