Hiking Preparation and Precautions Post 1

Hiking in the summer, hiking in the winter or hiking in-between. Each has its moments … and dangers. Not only is weather a factor when hiking, so is the terrain. Different elements under your feet require distinct techniques when walking upon them. When weather causes them to change, the walking techniques change as well.

Too often Johnny Hiker throws on a pair of sneakers, swimming trunks and a T-shirt to walk along an unknown trail, not considering whether the walk will last ten minutes or five hours. Knowing where you are going and how long you will be gone are the first considerations for any hiking experience.

Winter

Whether you are hiking in the warmer south or frigid north, winter brings challenges to the enthusiast. Obviously, snow and ice add their own danger along with cold temperatures, but cold can subtly creep into the body without your awareness of it. The extremities feel its effects first and may be the only part of the body affected. But since the feet support the hiking endeavor, they bear close attention. Notice whether you feel each toe when you stop for a rest or view. If not, it’s time to take off boots and get the circulation flowing again by massaging each foot. A double layer of socks is always beneficial when hiking, but especially so in cold weather. Wool socks are best next to the foot to wick up perspiration, thus preventing blisters.

The ground is usually frozen and therefore very hard. It feels like walking on cement. Depending on your pace and the load you’re packing, the hard and sometimes icy surface can cause early fatigue. Breathing cold air also adds to discomfort when walking fast or uphill and can also add to body fatigue. Therefore, adjust your pace accordingly.

It’s wise to layer clothing, so it can be removed or put back on when appropriate. Nothing seems more discomforting than to heavily perspire, remove an outer shell and feel cold air find its way to hot, sweaty skin.

Since most heat escapes from the body at the top of the head, a covering for not only the top of the head, but also the ears, is beneficial. Staying overnight adds a whole list of precautions to the winter hiking experience, but is beyond the scope of this article. Just know that keeping warm is paramount; adjust to weather conditions as they arise.