One of great things about Connecticut is the many hiking trails throughout the state. Walter and I took advantage of this this last week, on one of the first beautiful days of spring, by hiking at Devil’s Den in nearby Weston.
The trail was listed as a fairly easy hike, and good for beginners. We had no trouble on the incline, but the deceivingly sunny day caused us to get stuck in a downpour without any rain gear. Since weren’t dressed for rainy weather, we got really cold – fast. The storm also caused us to misread the map and get thrown off course, unsettling even if the weather is fine.
Luckily, we figured out our navigation mistake and make it back to our car unscathed – or so I thought. A few days after the hike, I felt really ill and had what I believe to be the stomach flu. I have no way of knowing if it had any correlation to our hike, but I can’t rule it out.
Our naiveté in expecting the weather to stay as predicted got me thinking about how we could’ve properly prepared for the hike, and possibly avoided getting sick. I did some research and found a list of ten essential items recommended by the Moutaineers, a Seattle-based hiking organization.
This checklist will the be the first in a three part series on hiking safety tips and guidelines, because hiking is a great form of exercise, but it can also be extremely unpredictable and dangerous if you’re not prepared. Next time we go hiking, I will make sure to bring the following:
- Map. A map not only tells you where you are and how far you have to go, it can also locate campsites, water, and an emergency exit route in case of an accident.
- Compass. A compass can help you find your way through unfamiliar terrain – especially in bad weather.
- Water, and a way to purify it. Without enough water, your body’s muscles and organs simply can’t perform as well. Bring at least one full bottle and water treatment tablets should clean water stations not be available.
- Extra Food. Any number of things could keep you out longer than expected: getting lost, an injury, or difficult terrain. A few ounces of extra food will help keep up energy and morale.
- Rain Gear and extra clothing. Learn from my mistake and bring a rain jacket and hat, and avoid wearing cotton. My outfit is from the fitness brand Ellie, and would have been perfect if the weather held out!
- Firestarter and matches. The warmth of a fire and a hot drink can help prevent an encounter with hypothermia. And, fires are a great way to signal for help if you get lost.
- First aid kit. A small kit like this is perfect for hiking. It’s small and light, but packs a lot of useful items into the waterproof package.
- Army knife or multi-purpose tool. This useful tool can remove splinters, fix broken eyeglasses, open cans, and perform repairs on malfunctioning gear.
- Flashlight. For finding your way in the dark and signaling for help.
- Sunscreen and sunglasses. Pretty self explanatory – bring sunscreen to prevent sunburn and sunglasses to protect your eyes.