Nothing matches the feeling of reaching the end of a hike. Gorgeous views, a well-deserved break, and crisp fresh air. Hiking is an excellent exercise to connect with nature, build muscle, and improve balance, and it’s easy to start. Local and state parks have plenty of trails for beginner and advanced hikers to enjoy all year long, but hiking can also be a simple nature walk around the neighborhood. All you need is a little time and a destination, right? Well, not exactly. Hiking may seem simple, but it has some risks that require proper planning to stay safe. Hikers should understand their limitations and environment to prevent injury and be prepared for emergencies. Here is what you should know...
Know the Terrain
Hiking trails have various lengths, elevation levels, and climates. It’s essential to research trails before hiking to learn what skill levels each one accommodates. Experts recommend beginners hike under five miles and stick to flat or paved paths, while more advanced hikers can tolerate elevation changes, uneven terrain, and higher mileage. Fortunately, New Jersey is mostly flat, but keep terrain in mind when traveling outside of the state.
Pack in Advance
It’s also important pack appropriately. Understand how much weight you can comfortably carry in a backpack before hiking to avoid fatigue, muscle strain, and poor posture.Always pack the essentials like water and food but consider packing extra clothes and a personal locator beacon for last-minute weather changes and guaranteed communication on trails without service. Bring bug spray and wear high socks or pants to avoid tics, bug bites, and poisonous plants too.
Proper attire helps regulate body temperature. Wear layers for colder weather and lightweight fabric like nylon or polyester for hotter temperatures. Cotton isn’t recommended because it absorbs sweat but isn’t quick drying. Seasoned hikers warn that cotton kills, and they avoid the fabric because it increases the risk of hypothermia. As for footwear, hiking shoes are not required, but proper footwear offers more stability and decreases the chance of injury.
Hiking can be done solo or with a group though hiking with a partner is safer. Remember to research trails beforehand, dress and pack appropriately to be prepared for all conditions, and notify a close friend of any hiking plans to stay safe if adventuring alone. For more information visit the American Hiking Society.