Whether you’re looking to take a break from the stress of everyday life, or just immerse yourself in the beauty of nature, taking a hike could be the solution.
If you’ve never hiked before, don’t let that deter you. One of the best things about hiking is there’s no experience or expensive gear required to get started. All you need is some time, a sense of adventure, and a little bit of preparation.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, make sure to follow CDC guidelines for outdoor recreation, such as avoiding crowded parks and maintaining at least 6 feet of social distance between others. That said, a hike in the fresh air could be just the thing to lift your spirits when you get stir crazy.
Ready to hit the trail? Here are 9 tips to help:
- Know your route. The first step of a great hiking trip is choosing your trail. Chances are you can find a trail nearby that will make for a great day hike. But if you’re looking for a multi-day trip or impressive scenery, you may want to travel to a state or national park. (Some parks might be closed due to coronavirus restrictions, so make sure to check before you go.) Websites like REI’s Hiking Project let you search nearby trails and read reviews too, so you’ll know exactly what to expect.
- Choose the right shoes. Footwear can make the difference between an enjoyable hike and hours of pain. For relatively flat and easy trails, a pair of running shoes should do. But if you’re tackling rough and rocky terrain, you’ll appreciate the ankle support offered by a high-top hiking boot. Whatever you choose, prevent blisters by making sure your shoes fit right and are well broken in.
- Play it Safe. When going for a hike, safety should be a top priority. Hike with a partner from your household if you can, keeping social distancing guidelines in mind. Be sure to let someone else know of your hiking plans. It’s a good idea to leave a copy of your itinerary in the car, too – just in case a search and rescue crew would need to find you. There are also plenty of outdoor apps available that can provide everything from first aid tips to GPS tracking.
- Dress in layers. Weather can be unpredictable when you’re hiking – especially at higher elevations. Always check the forecast right before you leave, and dress accordingly. Wearing multiple layers can help keep you comfortable throughout the day by adding and removing clothing.
- Be prepared. Just like the weather, nature can be unpredictable. So even if you’re only planning a short day hike, it’s good to be prepared. Carry some essentials like water, snacks, matches, a flashlight, a pocket knife, and a small first aid kit. Hopefully you won’t need these items. But if anything unexpected happens, you’ll be glad you brought them along.
- Get in shape. Preparing for a hike takes more than packing a bag. You’ll also want to prepare yourself physically. Before your trip, step up your cardio by walking or running to get in shape. Exercises like squats and steps can prepare your legs, while planks and situps help strengthen your core.
- Know your limits. When you’re choosing a hiking trail, it’s best to start small. Pay close attention to the difficulty rating of your chosen trail and be realistic about your limits. An average hiking pace is about 3 miles per hour, but you’ll need to add an hour for every 1,000 feet of increased elevation. Remember, choosing a hike with too much distance or elevation can leave you sore – or worse, stranded.
- Pack light. It’s important to be prepared, but a heavy backpack can make hiking feel like a chore. Avoid overpacking by sticking to the essentials and saving weight where possible. For example, a travel-size tube of sunscreen is a better choice than its full-size counterpart. And if you’re hiking alongside a clean water source like a creek or river, you can filter water instead of carrying it all on your back. Read tips for filtering water from the American Hiking Society.
- Know the rules. Every park and trail has its own set of rules. Do your homework before your hike so you know what’s allowed. All hiking areas will ask you to follow “leave no trace” principles. This means leaving the hiking area as you found it and packing out all of your trash. Most parks prohibit feeding wildlife, and there will be additional rules on camping, straying from marked trails and building campfires.
Hiking offers amazing opportunities to experience nature while spending some quality time with friends and family. Follow these tips, and you’ll be all set to plan a perfect hike with the people you love.
At Erie Insurance, we know planning is smart… but life is rarely predictable. That’s why we’re with you on the journey, for whatever’s in store. Your local ERIE agent is flexible when circumstances change, steady when the unexpected happens, capable when help is needed, and optimistic about what the future holds. Contact us today to ensure your home – and everything it stands for – is protected.
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