How to Avoid Hiking Injuries

By Nushin Huq

Between 2 Pines Magazine

 Image by Shutterstock.

Hiking is a fun, socially-distanced, affordable activity for the entire family. Regardless of age or ability, people can find a trail a suits them. That’s one of the reasons a record number of people hit the trails last year, looking for fun during the pandemic.

 

Unfortunately, hiking injuries have also increased, but many of which were preventable with just a little planning.

 

The Most Common Injuries when hiking are:

 

  1. Foot injuries

  2. Weather/Elements related injuries

  3. Animal/Insect Related Injuries

 

Steps that will help you prevent most common injuries.

 

Before you leave:

 

  1. Research the destination: Look up the parks and trails you are visiting. Is the terrain flat or hilly? Is the trail smooth or rocky? Which trails are accessible? What is the temperatures and is the area prone to quick changes in temps? All this information is invaluable to keeping yourself and your family safe and happy. It will give you the information to dress appropriately and pack properly.

  2. Read the must haves list below and make sure you pack appropriately.

  3. Pack a first aid kit. If your outing is a short trip to a nearby park, then a basic first aid kit will suffice. On the other hand, if you are going to a remote area, then you’ll want to pack a kit that is more extensive.  

MUST HAVES

 

  1. It all starts with the right footwear - It’s surprising to see the number of people walking on trails with nothing but flip flops or sandals, which can lead to a number of injuries. Not only can hikers slip on uneven terrain or get cuts and scrapes, sandals leave your feet exposed to potential snake bites.  When going on short hikes on relatively smooth terrain, make sure you wear closed toe shoes with traction like sneakers. If you are going on longer hikes or planning to hike on uneven terrain, invest in hiking shoes/boots for yourself and your family. They’ll give you stability to prevent injuries and many are water resistant. Don’t forget to wear breathable socks and bring extra pairs that you can change into case it rains.

  2. Water, water, water- Make sure you bring enough water with you on a hike. It’s important to consistently rehydrate. When hiking during mild, dry weather, hikers might not feel thirsty, but can still become dehydrated. Make sure you consciously take time out to stop and drink water. 

  3. Dress in layers, prepare for all types of weather- If you researched the park before you left, you’ll know what are the typical temps on the trail. Keep elevation in mind. Temps can drop as you go uphill. That’s why it’s important to dress in layers. And don’t forget to bring a poncho for the rain. 

  4. Dress to protect: Not only should you dress for the weather, but also to protect your body. This means wearing a hat and sunglasses for sun protection. Depending on the area, you might consider wearing hiking pants and long sleeves to protect your skin from bites and scrapes. And as mentioned above, at a minimum wear closed toe shoes to protect your feet.

  5. Sun screen and bug spray- You want to protect your skin and your family’s skin from sun damage, so lather on the sunscreen. Bug bites aren’t fun, and mosquitoes can carry disease. Keep everyone safe and happy and, spray on some mosquito repellent. 

  6. First- aid kit: you’ll want something for cuts and scrapes at least. It’s also good to bring something for bug bites (and an Epipen if you’re allergic to bites). If you are going on a longer trip, somewhere remote, then make sure you pack supplies to treat more extensive injuries (see before you leave, number three).

  7. Snacks and food: This again depends on the trip. If you’re going on a long backpacking trip, you’ll be using a lot of calories not just hiking but carrying your load. It’s important to fuel your body. Kids on the trail are also running around, burning up more calories than you think. It’s important.

  8. Backpacks- for a long hike, this is a necessity. For a short hike, a day pack will suffice. Make sure you get a bag that works for your situation. If you go to a store that sells hiking equipment, someone is usually available to fit you for a bag. For a long hike, this is necessary to make sure you not only get a bag that will fit your equipment, but it the correct size for you so you don’t hurt your back.

 

NICE TO HAVE

 

  1. Baby carrier- If you have babies or toddlers, a baby carrier is nice to have. Toddlers will probably enjoy walking for a bit but will get tired, and a carrier can be a saving grace. It will keep your arms free and from tiring from holding a baby or toddler. But remember, with carriers and backpacks, take the time to wear them properly. Otherwise, you will be in for a world of back pain later. If possible, take turns with other adults on the trip. 

  2. Consider a walking stick- If you’re on flat terrain, then it’s probably not necessary, but if the trail you’re planning on conquering involves changes in elevation, then consider investing in some walking sticks. They’ll save your knees, going both uphill and downhill.