The longest journey begins with a single step.
Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching
Accidents happen to even the most experienced and best prepared hikers. That's why it's important that you know how to rescue yourself if you're injured or become ill on the trail.
- Be prepared with knowledge: of the terrain, first aid, how to stay warm and dry.
- Be prepared with gear. If you take a fall on a day hike, you may have to spend the night. Have what you need to stay warm, dry, hydrated. Matches, flashlight, whistle and other items in your pack you thought you'd never need may mean the difference between getting home quickly and safely - or not at all.
Remember: if you're prepared to rescue yourself, you'll also be able to help another hiker, too.
Falls while hiking in mountainous terrain typically account for more fatalities than any other direct cause. A fall can result in a few scrapes minutes from the trailhead or life-threatening injuries miles - and hours - from help. This is why it's especially important to never hike alone.
Most falls and injuries occur when hikers are descending a trail. Wet rocks and leaves have contributed to many ankle injuries in the back country. Hiking poles can help with stability by adding an additional point of contact with the trail.
Overexertion on hot summer days can lead to heat-related injuries.
- Heat exhaustion will leave you feeling tired, nauseous, dizzy and headachy. Rest, rehydration, food and a good night's sleep are the treatment.
- Heat stroke is a life-threatening illness. Symptoms include confusion, delirium and loss of consciousness. The skin feels hot as the body's cooling mechanism fails. THIS IS A TRUE EMERGENCY. Cooling the patient immediately is essential.
Both heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be prevented by avoiding overexertion on hot days. Pace yourself, rest often, drink plenty of water and eat regularly throughout your hike.
COLD & HYPOTHERMIA:
The lowering of your body's core temperature below normal can lead to poor judgement and confusion, loss of consciousness and death - even in summer!
- Early signs of hypothermia may be as mild as poor judgment, a slight sensation of chilliness, and trouble using your hands for simple tasks.
- Later signs can include uncontrolled shivering, unconsciousness and death.
Prevent hypothermia by
- having warm clothes and dressing in layers to adjust temperature as needed.
- keeping dry with good wind and rain gear: your body loses heat three times as fast when it's wet.
- drinking plenty of fluids, eating many small meals throughout the day, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine.