Fall is one of the most popular seasons for taking a hike, and we don't blame you! From the leaves changing colors to the new smells and cooler temps so you don't overheat, it's almost perfection. Here's some tips to help you and your family prepare for your hike and stay safe on the trails.
There is a fair amount of planning that should happen before your trip even happens. Here's a few items The American Hiking Society recommends you have with you:
- A map and compass or GPS so you know where you're going and how to get back if you get lost
- Water (and extra water) should go without explanation, but without water your body and muscles become dehydrated, leaving you thirsty and unable to perform properly.
- Food to help you keep up your energy. Sacks that are high in protein are your best bet for energy and recovery out on the trails.
- Layers and rain gear because the temperature can change unexpectedly depending on your location, altitude and the weather forecast.
- A flashlight, whistle, fire and first aid kit for unplanned emergencies. You never know when injury, unexpected chills in the air or getting lost is going to happen. Rather be safe than sorry.
- Knife...just in case.
- Sunscreen and sunglasses because it's important to protect your skin and your eyes from the sun, especially when you will be out all day.
As important as it is to have the right equipment, it's also important to have a good backpack and have it packed properly. If you're planning on spending a night in nature, it's important to pack your sleeping bag at the bottom of your backpack. Heavy items should be stored near the top of the bag against the back. This will help you maintain your center of gravity, improving posture and your balance. Items that will be used frequently or in an emergency, such as water, snacks and a flashlight should be stored in easy access spots such as outside zippers or pouches. Put extra clothing and electronics such as your cell phone into plastic zip up bags so if you get wet those items will stay dry. If possible, find a waterproof bag or waterproof your pack yourself. This will help to keep everything safe and reduce the weight.
There are a couple varieties of hiking boots that are designed to match up with your adventures. If you're planning on going for a day hike, you will most likely be fine with trail shoes or hiking shoes like the Men's Merrell Yokota Trail shoes (left). These shoes feature a low cut silhouette and a flexible midsole. Another great option for a day hike is a trail running shoe if you're looking for a little less bulk on your feet. Hiking boots come in mid and high cut ankles to provide you with more support for longer adventures. If you're planning a weekend hiking trop or a day hike with a pack, this style of boot will be your best option. These boots usually require being broken in, so it is important that you purchase your shoes well enough in advance to allow for that process. Waterproof boots like this Women's Merrell Salida Mid (right) are always a great option because they will keep your feet dry. Your hiking boots can be made from a variety of textiles including leather for a durable, water resistant quality, synthetics that dry more quickly and tend to run on the less expensive side and waterproof as mentioned before to keep you dry. As with any shoe, it’s best to try them on at the store at the end of the day whenever possible. Your feet swell as the day goes on, and trying shoes on at the end of the day helps prevent the purchase of shoes that are simply too small. Finally, be sure to break your boots in before heading out on the trail. Wear them around your house, taking them up and down stairs and on an incline if possible. If you feel any signs of discomfort, they’re probably not the right boot for you.