With summer now in full swing, National Parks and other hiking trails are populated with both experienced and inexperienced hikers and campers. Knowing basic Hiking First Aid allows you to treat anything from a small blister to a serious fall or severe dehydration. Each trail runs its own risks, and it is always beneficial to be aware and prepared in the event of an outdoor emergency on rugged, unfamiliar terrain. You should be prepared to not only provide temporary first aid, but also find the most efficient way to contact additional assistance in case of a more serious injury.
1.The most basic and often forgotten protocol is using the buddy system. This is especially beneficial while hiking on a trail that you are unfamiliar with or if either of you are inexperienced hikers. For extra security, make sure that both of you are trained in basic first aid; you can take online courses or find training in your area, both for a reasonable price.
2. Clothing and footwear is a major factor in the proficiency and enjoyment of hiking. It is important to always wear bright colors, so in the event of an accident you are easy to see and identify if further care is necessary. Generally, it is smart to dress in loose layers to regulate your body temperature, aid in clothing breathability, and cover more of your skin from potential bug bites and the like. Hiking in the summer is different than the fall due to the heat, so dressing in layers can be difficult. However, the heat is not an excuse to not wear proper hiking footwear. Boots, preferably previously broken-in, are your most important hiking tool that can make the difference between a serious fall and a sure step.
3. Regardless of your hiking experience, it is important to carry an Emergency Wilderness Kit or build your own with essential hiking safety items. Our compact Wilderness Kit can be conveniently clipped around your waist or tossed in a hiking backpack, and comes fully stocked with all the first aid essentials: bandages, gauze, tape, an ice pack, antibacterials, antimicrobials, and much more. These tools can help in treatment of small injuries and can aid in temporary treatment of more serious injuries while awaiting further assistance. If you feel as though this kit will weigh you down, use its contents as a guide on what supplies we think you should have with you on a hike.
4. An irreplaceable tool you should carry is a whistle – in the event of a more severe injury, a whistle is easier to hear than a yell, and catches more attention. 3 short whistle blasts is the universal distress call and will let anyone who hears know that you are in trouble and need assistance. Our Fox40 whistle is a reliable pea-less whistle that can produce 115 decibels of sound that can be clearly heard over ambient noises and at long distances.
5. It is important to stay hydrated and carry water, especially in summer – replenish electrolytes with snacks or sports drinks. Cold water is most effective in hydration – choosing an insulated water bottle can up hydration levels, while alternating water with a sports drink like Gatorade boosts your body electrolytes and aid in your body’s utilization of the water.
6. A flashlight can be used for much more than a night or evening hike. In the event of an emergency, a flashlight and a mirror (or on its own if it has a strong enough beam) can be used to create an impromptu distress signal. Using a mirror to reflect the sun can also create a distress signal.
7. Staying on marked trails is a general rule in most national parks – going off the beaten path can result in an injury, or if caught breaking the rules, a steep fine. If you are hiking an unmarked trail or doing some off-trail hiking, bring a compass. This will keep you steadily headed in the right direction, and won’t leave you stranded in the wilderness.
8. Insect Repellent is even more indispensable in the summer when you have more skin exposed. Bugs are attracted to densely wooded areas in the summer, due to the shade and dampness. When hiking in a wooded area, having an insect repellent with DEET (the most common and effective insect repelling ingredient) will prevent a lot of itching and irritation later on.
We recommend Ben’s 100 Insect Repellent, which is 95% DEET and provides up to 10 hours of protection from mosquitos, ticks, flies, and more.
9. There is no such thing as over-preparation, but there is over-packing. While there is a limit to how much you can carry on your back, there isn’t a limit to your preparedness. Do extensive research (we have attached a few more helpful articles at the bottom of this one), both universal and trail specific in order to plan the best route and equip the best gear. It is better to travel lighter while hiking. Bogging yourself down with gear can result in fast exhaustion. Make sure you have only what you absolutely need. We recommend: energy bars or other snacks, a water bottle, a sports drink, first aid supplies. Not much else is necessary, especially on a short day-hike.
10. Avoid Heat Stress. Heat stress can lead to fatal heat strokes. Follow steps to prevent heat stress such as hydration, wetting a cloth and cooling your head, and don’t be afraid to take breaks! In the event of heat stress, be sure to have an instant cold pack and apply to the forehead, under arms, and groin area to regulate temperature.
Hiking is a great summer past time and a way to reconnect with nature, and can be safely enjoyed by anyone with the proper preparation and tools.