1. At least one, if not all, hikers should have a cell phone to call for help, but don’t just rely on the phone in case a signal cannot be obtained. Have a basic first-aid kit to treat sprains, bug bites, cuts, and sunburn.
2. Stay on the marked trail. Wandering off the trail might be good in theory, but getting lost in the woods unsure of how to get back is no fun.
3. Be respectful and considerate of others on the trail. Leave any gates as you found them, keep the noise down, and be extra respectful of those on bikes and horseback – stay to their right.
4. Clean up after yourself, and others, if you have to. Don’t forget a trash bag to collect your litter, and any other litter you may come across. Leave the area you’ve visited better then you have found it.
5. Know where you are going by becoming educated about the area or trail you are hiking. Have a map and a compass and know how to use them. You can even use a GPS device if you have one available to you. Talk to the landowner to know if there are any restrictions you need to be aware of. If it is a national park, research the rules online.
6. Wear the appropriate clothing and footwear. Dress in layers so that you can adjust to the temperature as it rises and falls during the day. Comfortable hiking boots are best for your feet. Be sure you are not wearing a pair of boots for the first time on the day of your hike.
7. Don’t take on a hike in length or terrain more then you or your hiking companions are willing and able to handle. If it’s your first hike, don’t choose a trail that is extra long and full of hills and rough terrain.
8. When packing – less is more. Remember that while you can lift your bag when your full of energy the night before, try to keep in mind how you are going to feel with that bag on you a few miles down the trail. The same principle applies for both long and short hikes. You have to carry what you pack. There is nowhere safe to leave something on the trail.
9. Trekking poles are very useful contrary to what you may think is a tool for beginners or the less advanced hikers/climbers. It allows the body to transfer weight from the legs to your arms offering stability and lowering the chances of injuries such as a sprained ankle.
10. Wearing a hat can help keep your body temperature cool and block the sun which can cause wrinkles and skin cancer. Find a hat that has a large but thin brim so it blocks the most sun but does not weigh your head down too much.
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