Autumn is one of the best times of the year to enjoy the great outdoors and go for a hike. Cooler weather and changing foliage create a great opportunity for exercise and activity that’s as pleasant and relaxing as it is physically healthy. But before you put on your hiking boots, it’s important to make sure you are prepared and familiar with some of the risks you may encounter while you’re out on the trails.
Here are five safety tips that should be top of mind when you’re out on a hike.
1. Bring plenty of water
On a crisp autumn day, dehydration may not seem like a cause for concern, but the vigorous activity of hiking can lead to sweating and dehydration no matter what the temperature is. Before you set out on a hike, make sure you have plenty of fresh drinking water in your bag; to stay hydrated, you need about a liter of water for every two hours you plan to be hiking.
2. Dress for success
Exposure to the elements is a real risk for anyone in the outdoors. You’ll want to dress with plenty of layers that can be added or removed to regulate your internal temperature: you may feel warm hiking, for example, but quickly become cool if you stop to take a break. Try to avoid cotton clothing and instead wear wool or synthetic fibers. And remember, it’s still important to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays by applying sunscreen to any exposed parts of your body!
3. Keep an eye out for critters
Ticks are a constant danger to be aware of outdoors, especially if you’re hiking through high grass or other heavily foliaged areas. Long pants and sleeves can reduce your potential exposure, and it’s important to do a tick check on you (and your pets!) after a hike to make sure there are no ticks on your skin. Make sure you also watch for other potential dangers in wooded areas, such as insects, snakes, and other wild animals.
4. Look but don’t touch
Beautiful plant life is one of the best parts about a hike in the woods, but there are a number of poisonous plants that you should watch out for. Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac can all grow in the underbrush of wooded areas. Covering exposed skin will help reduce the odds of exposure, but you should also be able to identify these plants and make a point to avoid them.
5. Don’t go it alone
The buddy system is recommended any time you set off into the woods so there’s someone there to help you should anything happen. Additionally, it’s important to let other people know where you’re going and when you’re expected back; if you get lost, it’s important that someone knows to alert help!
In addition to the tips above, make sure you take basic safety precautions. Always stay on the trail. Wear stable footwear and bring a first aid kit on your journey. Make sure you have a map of where you’re hiking, and any other basic supplies (such as energy bars and a flashlight) in case you end up outside for longer than expected.
With just a little bit of preparation, you can answer the call of the great outdoors and enjoy the physical and mental benefits of a healthy hike.