As spring slides toward summer, we are thinking more and more about being indoors less and less. And, with 2016 celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the National Parks Service, we are looking to spend a lot more time exploring and hiking trails in America’s parks. Before you head off to some new-to-you old wild places, here is a quick list to review. Now, get out there, enjoy your next big adventure.
1. Start Small
If you aren’t a seasoned hiker or simply haven’t been out in a while, begin with local day hikes and weekend campgrounds to find what works best for you and your family.
2. Dress Appropriately
Research your terrain and environment along with the 48-hour weather report to dress and pack accordingly. Temps can drop dramatically once the sun goes down, when storms blow through, or if you get off trail and need to wait for assistance. Pack a fleece jacket or vest, a warm cap, gloves, and water/windproof layers to keep you warm and dry.
3. Let Folks Know Where You’re Going
Getting lost is a very real possibility, especially when you’re not the most-experienced person or group on the trail. Let family and friends know your planned route and schedule. Make a contingency plan to enact if haven’t returned as expected.
4. Bring a Lighter
Seriously, bring a lighter. What if you needed a fire to stay warm or to alert rescue teams? It’s such a small addition to your pack and a little plastic Bic® lighter can make such an enormous difference, you’d be foolish to leave this simple hack behind.
5. Bring a Paper Map—And Know How to Read One!
Yes, we agree, GPS is one of the seven wonders of the new millennium, and we don’t remember how we got anywhere before we downloaded the app either. But, and this is a very bug but, what if you are out of cell range and aren’t sure where you actually are? Learning to read a topo or trail map is an essential skill. Even if you have cell service, a topo map will help you be aware of what terrain you’re about to navigate. A trail map can help you find alternate routes to water or camp shelters and lean-tos should the weather change quickly. Plus, knowing how to read a map is just plain cool.
6. Bring Snacks, Lots of Snacks
You will get hungry. No matter if you plan to be out for an hour or a day, you will want something to munch on to restore energy and maintain stamina. Packing high-protein snacks will keep you going. And in the event that you do wander off the marked trail, a couple of snacks could sustain (and comfort) you til help comes.
7. Bug Spray—Bring It. Use It. Period.
“Oh, they don’t bite me much,” you say. . .now. Get out in the deep woods and see how much you appeal to all kinds of biting, stinging, buzzing bugs that live in the wild. A few more ounces in the pack won’t change your carry but could turn a scratching, swatting, miserable experience into a well-protected and comfortable one. There are plenty of DEET/DEET-Free options for all hiking members. Spray any exposed skin and your clothing, as well, for maximum protection.
Whether you’re a seasoned trail hound or a novice hiker, we want to hear about your adventures. Share your pics on Instagram with #mylifeoutdoors and let us know the story of your National Parks Adventure this summer.