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On paper, hiking seems like a relatively low risk activity. However, ask any serious hiker about injuries they’ve sustained and most will list a few. Here’s how to avoid injury while hiking.
Going on a hike is one of the most natural forms of exercise and a great excuse to get out in nature. The problem is, nature can be unpredictable.
Because of this, hiking can be a dangerous activity if care is not taken, and injuries sustained can range from mild to severe. The worst-case scenarios could be brain or spinal injuries caused by a bad fall, or even death.
There are lots of things you can do to avoid sustaining an injury on a hike and, in this post, we’re going to list our top 10 tips to help you do that.
Avoiding injuries on a hike
To avoid getting injured on your hike you need to be fully prepared for anything nature throws at you, which the following tips should help you accomplish.
1. Wear the right footwear
It might take a bit of trial and error to find the right shoes for a hike. Hiking boots aren’t for everyone and wearing new ones you’ve bought especially for the hike is a bad idea. They could easily give you blisters, a common hiking injury, which if left untreated could rupture and become infected.
Usually, wearing the shoes you train in is the best option, because they’re already broken in and you’re aware of how comfortable they are. Choose shoes or boots depending on the terrain and make sure you have the right grip for off-road surfaces,
In winter conditions, you will also require crampons, which affix to the base of boots to give you greater grip on snow and ice.
2. Watch your step
It’s easy to get caught up staring at the majesty of the natural world while you’re on a hike, but don’t forget to look down and ahead at the trail, too. Hiking trails are usually uneven, can contain rocks or roots, and have slippery surfaces in places.
A misstep could cause you to twist your ankle or fall over and injure yourself, and no-one wants to end their beautiful hike with a trip to the hospital.
3 Use walking poles
Walking poles are a great aid and can help with balance on the trail. They are good for endurance as well because the poles take some of the weight and strain off your legs while hiking. Read about the benefits of walking poles.
4. Food and water
Everyone expects to get a little tired on a hiking trip, but there’s a huge difference between that and being exhausted. Exhaustion is often caused by dehydration and improper nutrition.
If you don’t replace the calories you burn off while hiking and keep yourself well hydrated, you could succumb to exhaustion. Bring lightweight calorie-dense food with you on the hike, and a fair amount of water, and you should be fine.
5. Prepare for the weather
Checking the weather before you leave for a hike is a must. Even if the weather looks great when you set off, you need to be prepared for any sudden changes. If the weather looks terrible, and you think it could put you at risk on the hike, just go another day.
For hot weather make sure to apply and pack sun cream of at least 25 SPF, and wear a sun hat or cap to keep the sun off your head and face. If it’s going to be wet, make sure to wear a fully waterproof outfit and shoes that can handle slippery surfaces.
6. Train well
Training for your hike is the best way to avoid some of the most common injuries, such as foot pain, shin splints, ankle sprains, and knee damage.
Instead of going out on a really long hike on a whim, it’s better to start with shorter ones and build up to it. There are also lots of stretches you can perform to strengthen the specific muscles that are typically injured on a hike.
7. Stop and rest
It’s always tempting to keep going and not stop until the hike is over – you’d definitely finish a lot quicker that way. But, if you want to avoid sustaining an injury, and generally make the trip less rushed and more enjoyable, then take a break once in a while.
Stop and rest to enjoy some food or to stretch out muscles. This will relieve stressful exertion on your body, and give you a chance to really take in the beauty of the environment you’re hiking through.
8 Apply insect repellent
There are lots of different insect repellents on the market, from natural solutions to heavy duty products that contain DEET. DEET provides protection from mosquitos, ticks, fleas, chiggers, leeches, gnats and lots of other biting insects.
If you are hiking in Scotland in the summer, especially on the west coast, you’ll need midge repellent and/or a midge net for you head. The best way to avoid the bites form midges is to cover your skin.
Also, bring some calamine lotion in case insects manage to ignore your repellent and bite you anyway. Calamine lotion stops the bites from being too itchy, so you don’t scratch them and make them worse.
9. Wear long sleeves and trousers
One way to avoid cuts, abrasions and insect bites is to wear long-sleeved tops and trousers. It might not seem ideal in hot weather but you can buy breathable long-sleeved clothes that don’t feel much different than a t-shirt and shorts.
Cuts and abrasions might not seem like a big deal, but like all wounds they can become infected.
10. Take a first aid kit with you
If the advice we’ve shared so far isn’t enough and you still manage to suffer and injury on your hike, you’d better make sure you have the right first aid with you. Your first aid kit should include:
- Bandages & safety pins
- Ibuprofen (for headaches and to ease pain)
- Sun cream
- Insect repellent
- Space blanket
- Salt sachets or electrolyte powders
- Sugar sachets
- Calamine lotion.
In this post, we’ve share our top 10 tips for avoiding injury on a hike. Injuries can happen at any moment but, as long as you’ve thoroughly prepared for your hike, you should be able to avoid injury.