On the Hawksbill Mountain Trail, Shenandoah Nat'l ParkWhen it comes to outdoor activities, hiking is one of the best choices where the whole family can join in and have fun together. You can all enjoy and share the experience of witnessing the beauty of nature up close and on a personal level. Although hiking seems a simple enough feat, it has some risks attached to it depending on the environment and location where you plan to make the hike. Planning your hiking trip properly is very important to avoid any mishaps that may occur. In order to enjoy your hiking, you should be ready and well prepared for anything.


Do enough research to know the weather conditions and dress accordingly. If it is cold, wear enough clothes such as a hat and why not double your socks, this will keep you warm.  Even if it is warm, keep your face covered to avoid sunburns. 

Study the trail, know beforehand the features and details such as elevation, length of the trail, difficulty, etc. There are usually descriptive guides that provide a detailed narrative of how to navigate the trail. It points out important landmarks and signs that you could use to get your bearing and navigate the trail. Also, by going through this descriptive guide before you hike, it will give you an idea of how difficult or strenuous the hike could be, therefore, you can decide to go choose a much easier trail or opt to only go halfway in accordance to your abilities. Know what you are getting into and plan your hike accordingly taking into account the members of your party. If children are coming along, plan your hike according to their abilities and limitations, not yours.   

RProper hiking boots is necessaryegular shoes would not do, don't take risks and get yourself hiking boots. They are not only sturdy enough to take the punishment of the trail, but proper hiking boots provide your feet with proper ankle support and protection for your feet, especially if you traverse rough terrain. You don't want to find yourself walking out on your trail and then find your return trip unbearable due to sore feet, or worse, having to deal with shoes that have fallen apart. 

What to Pack:

Water – The ultimate essential component of any hike. Dehydration is a serious problem, especially if you are outdoors and hitting trails out in the wilds. Your survival literally depends on your ability to access and take in water to replenish fluids you lose and combat dehydration. Make sure you have a supply of clean potable water to take along on your hike. The initial inconvenience of carrying it is worth it. Besides, as the hike goes along and on your way back, you'll be consuming it so it isn't heavy as it was at the start of your hike. Don't depend on obtaining drinking water from sources (streams, creeks, etc.) along the path of your hike. If you wish, do research or ask around from local authorities if the water sources are safe to drink. Don't take chances, especially if you have children joining you. 

Backpack -The first and foremost thing is to pack your backpack. Depending on the length and duration of the hike, you will likely use at least one backpack for your essentials - water, food, snacks, blanket, etc. While packing them, place the heavier things at the bottom, this will help balance your center of gravity. Remember, if you are going with a group, all the things should be equally divided so that each backpack carries a small quantity of every necessity that may be needed. This will prevent a problem in case one backpack is lost. Imagine if all your water were in that one backpack that got lost.

Map - Unless you are thoroughly familiar with the trail, don't wing it. Study and learn the trail and the route you will follow using a map and/or a trail guide. Getting lost is always a possibility. Once you are deep into the trail, especially if there is ample vegetation and large trees, you could easily lose your bearings and orientation. Especially if the weather suddenly changes, such as overcast skies limiting the amount of sunlight coming through the foliage or sudden onset of rain. 

First Aid Kit - A first aid kit is an important component of your backpack. It is best to be always prepared for any eventuality. Also, include knife, matchbox, flashlights, rope, and whistle, insect repellent.

Food - Food is an important source of energy. Bring food according to the objective of your hike. In fact, the purpose of your hike might be to have a picnic at a beautiful, scenic spot along the trail or at the end of it. Aside from the picnic meal, make sure you also have snacks or food that affords you to take quick bites on the move or during short breaks. 

Hiking/Camping Survival Kit(67516)
Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/iandavid/922278097/

Important Reminders

  • Always drink enough water during hiking to avoid dehydration. 
  • Bring energy rich food such as beef jerky, energy bars, nuts, dried fruits to nibble on and munch on while on the move or during short breaks to give a bit of a boost. 
  • Drinks that have electrolytes can also be used other than water to help replenish fluid loss due to perspiration.
  • Take small breaks on the way to avoid tiredness as fatigue can be fatal. Tired bodies also lead to tired minds and errors of judgment are likely to occur in that condition. 
  • It is always recommended to carry a stick with you to help you walk on inclined surface. 
  • If you feel tired, try to sit on a place, take off your backpack, relax and have something to eat. Resume you hiking when you are fresh again.
  • Be aware of any poisonous creatures such as snakes, scorpions, etc and including poisonous vegetation such ivy.
  • Avoid leaving the trail to explore bush. You could get easily lost. 
  • A whistle is very important in case of emergency such as facing a wild animal or as a signal to call attention if you fall or get stuck somewhere.

Hiking is fun, but if taken for granted in terms of preparation it can be dangerous as well. It is always good to conduct enough research about the hiking site before starting and be prepared for sudden changes in the weather. With proper planning, you will find hiking as a wonderful activity to enjoy along with your loved ones.©

Hiking Safety Video