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Challenge: Summer Fun

Summer Fun: Hiking Safety Tips

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Summertime is the best time to spend time with your family. You don’t have to worry about scheduling your family activities around the school schedule, and you can enjoy the outdoors without fear of frostbite.

If you’re planning some outdoor activities this summer, like hiking or camping, it’s important to stay safe and always be prepared for anything. Here are some hiking safety tips to keep yourself and your family safe while you’re enjoying the great outdoors.

Preventing Common Hiking Injuries

Any paramedic will tell you — there are a number of common injures they see on the trail that can be easily avoided. Things like:

  • Sprained or Twisted Ankles. Uneven terrain can be difficult to navigate, leading to ankle damage. Wearing proper shoes and being aware of your environment can prevent these injuries.
  • Minor Injuries. Scratches and scrapes are inevitable when you’re wandering off the beaten path. Carry a basic first aid kit, and make sure it includes things like antiseptic wipes and bandages.
  • Insect or Wildlife Related Injuries. You’re going to encounter insects and wildlife while you’re hiking. Avoid antagonizing them, and, if injuries do occur, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Back Injuries. An improperly balanced backpack or one that is too heavy can lead to back pain and injury. Walking hunched over because your pack is too heavy can contribute to spine issues such as spinal stenosis. Spread the load between all the hikers, or, if that isn’t an option because some of your hikers are young, only take what you need with you.

Now that you know the common hiking injures to avoid, here are some tips to keep you and your family safe while you’re traversing the trails.

1. Be Prepared for Everything

Even if you’re familiar with the trails that you’re going to be hiking, it’s important to be prepared for any eventuality. When you’re packing your backpack, make sure you remember:

  • A map and compass. Don’t rely on your phone’s GPS for wandering through trails. Go old school and bring a map and compass with you to ensure you never lose the trail.
  • Food and water. Dehydration is a risk while hiking, but it can be prevented by bringing sufficient water along and ensuring everyone drinks. This is especially important for younger children.
  • Extra clothes. You never know when you might need an extra layer of clothing. People can get wet from swampy areas or unexpected rain.
  • A first aid kit. We’ve mentioned this once already, but it’s important enough to mention again. Bring a stocked first aid kit and someone who knows how to use it.

2. Know Your Trail

Exploring the backcountry can be great if you’re by yourself, but, if you’re bringing the kids along, it’s a better idea to stick to trails that you’re familiar with. It’s still a great experience for you and for them, but it’s safer when you’re hiking with little ones. Plus, you’re closer to help if there is an emergency or an injury that you can’t tend to yourself.

3. Check With the Rangers

Rangers are there to help make sure everyone on the trail is safe, so if there are any unexpected hazards on the trail, they’ll be the first to know.

Checking with the rangers before you start your hike is a good idea so you’ll be prepared, especially if there has been any rough weather lately. You don’t want to come across fallen trees or washed out sections of trail unprepared.

4. Protect Yourself

While food, water and supplies are important, many people still forget to protect their skin. Make sure you pack sunscreen and insect repellant.

Sunscreen is important even if you’re going to be under the canopy of the forest. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 to protect your skin, and reapply every two hours you’re outdoors.

Insect repellant, on the other hand, protects from more than itchy bites. It protects from the diseases that these insects carry. Ticks can carry Lyme disease and mosquitoes can carry everything from West Nile Virus to the Zika Virus, depending on where you live.

5. Know Your Limits…and Theirs

When it comes to hiking, you’re only going as far as your smallest or least energetic member. It’s important to know both your own limits and the limits of your children. A fun hike can become a nightmare with overtired children who just can’t stand to walk another step want to lay down and take a nap right on the trail.

Take frequent breaks, and start slow. Take the time to assess their strengths and weaknesses and their limits before you start planning extensive all day hikes.

6. Set Ground Rules

Hiking is a great way to spend time with your family, but it’s important to set and reinforce some ground rules before you head out into the wilderness.

Teach your children not to wander off the trail and why it’s so important to stick with an adult during your hike. If you’ve got multiple children, establish a buddy system and make everyone stick close to their buddy while you’re out in the woods.

Also, teach your kids to be safe in the woods — don’t drink water out of local rivers or streams and stick to the snacks and drinks you’ve brought with you.

Hiking is a wonderful way to get out of the house, get some exercise and spend time with your kids, all at once. Staying safe on the trail is the best way to make the most out of your hiking trip. Take the time to prepare before you take your kids out on the trail so you can all have the best experience possible without worrying about injuries or getting lost in the woods.

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