Take a Hike!
Preparing for fun and safe hiking adventures
The Joy of Hiking Adventures
One of the best ways to enjoy the great outdoors is hiking! Nothing matches the serenity of walking through a beautiful forest or along a crystal clear lake, hearing nothing but birds chirping, wind in the trees, and your own footsteps across the ground.
Hiking is a great way to get and stay fit. You can choose trails appropriate for any age or fitness level, from a sedate stroll to a challenging climb.
Fitness for Fun
If you are new to hiking, start slow! Nothing takes the fun out of an adventure like an injury, and it is hard to enjoy an epic view if you can’t catch your breath. If you have been quarantining with Netflix, start small with some walks around your neighbourhood. As your fitness increases, you can add distance or difficulty (hills/rough terrain, etc.).
Plan to be Prepared
The Right Footwear for your Hiking Adventures
The key to a successful hike is the right gear. Start from the ground up with the right pair of hiking boots. Your footwear is the most important part of your gear preparation. The wrong boots will turn a hike from delightful to miserable faster than a rainstorm. The right pair of boots will fit comfortably, give you the traction and support necessary to be safe and confident on varying terrain, and keep you moving by preventing foot pain AND decreasing joint pain.
Dress in layers, often, a hike will start chilly, but you will want to be able to peel off layers as you get warmed up. Hiking up inclines or along the water can cause significant fluctuations in temperature, so being able to quickly and easily bundle up or cool down is critical. For particularly buggy areas, you may want to invest in clothing designed to defend against bugs, lined and treated with permethrin.
A waterproof layer is ALWAYS a good idea, regardless of the forecast. A surprise rain shower can ruin your hike or simply be another part of the experience – depending on how well you are dressed! Another note for footwear – waterproof is KEY! Even without the rain, you could be tramping through streams or dew-soaked fields and having soggy feet is one of the worst feelings!
Staying Safe While Hiking
Sunscreen is essential; even on cooler days, the sun’s rays can cause damage. Sunglasses that fit snugly and comfortably will allow you to keep your eyes wide open and catch all the scenery!
A small “emergency” kit is a great idea – short hikes can become dangerous with inclement weather, a missed turn, or an injury. Carry a first aid kit, some high-energy snacks, and water. Smartphones can be great for navigating, but a backup, an old-school map will never run out of batteries or become too water-logged. A headlamp and hand sanitizer will round out your kit, giving you the basics to face almost any situation!
Always ensure someone knows where you are and when to expect to hear from you – that way if something DOES go wrong, someone will be out there looking for you ASAP.
Check out our tips on What To Pack for Health & Wellness
Where to go?
Many different apps will allow you to search trails in your area, destination, or route. They will often be rated for difficulty in addition to giving you the basics like length, substrate, incline, etc. This can be a great way to find new hiking places or plan the ultimate hiking road trip!
Hiking Adventures with your dog(s)
Bringing your best buddy
Most dogs love nothing more than joining you on a hike, with new things to sniff and new places to explore. Not every dog is an adventurer at heart. Make sure your dog will enjoy the trip, not just that you would love to have them along. Consider your dog’s age, fitness, and breed when deciding on the length and difficulty of the hiking route. Your veterinary team can advise you on what is safe for your dog.
Follow the travel and hiking adventures of these 3 Dalmatians and 1 Irish Red&White Setter at @Bedlamacresdalmatians
Leashes and the like
MOST areas for hiking will be on-leash. There are many reasons for this, including the safety and comfort of people using the trail; and your pooch’s security. There might be wildlife in the area, so it is essential to protect natural areas by keeping your dogs on a leash. Some parks/trails include sensitive fauna that could be harmed by an enthusiastic pooch bounding through it; other hazards, such as old fences/wires, etc can pose a risk to a loose dog.
A harness may be a good option for your on-leash hike, as it allows your dog to pull ahead, sniffing and investigating, without pressure on their neck. A sturdy leash is a must. Flexi-leads are rarely a good idea – dogs can become tangled, you can drop your clunky end and startle your dog, and your dog can get way too far out front. There are belts you can wear that hook your dog’s leash as well; these leave your hands free for balancing yourself on a hike, accessing water, etc.
Don’t forget to pack an Emergency First aid kit for your dog. Get yours here.
Planning a Road Trip with your dog(s)? See our Tips on What to Pack.
Doggy Back Pack
Your pooch may be able to pull his or her own weight and carry a small backpack with poo bags and treats. Mine always keep my car keys (they are far less likely to lose them than I am!). If your dog hasn’t worn a pack before, start slow and light, then work up to them carrying a moderate weight. It is recommended that dogs not carry more than 10% of their own body weight. This means my 43 lb Dalmatian can comfortably carry a water bottle, my keys, and some treats.
Off-Leash Hiking Adventures
Some areas will allow for off-leash hiking. This can be an incredible adventure, but it needs some preparation, too. Most importantly, ensure your dog has an excellent recall. They need to come reliably when you call them, not just in your yard/house, but when there are distractions around. If your dog starts chasing a squirrel and totally ignores you, they could run onto a road, into another hazard, or get lost!
If you travel with your Dog(s) you will want to read our Pet-Friendly Travels articles.
Being out in nature is lovely, but it can bring risks. Talk to your veterinary team to protect your pet against anything they might encounter. Dogs exposed to streams, puddles and/or wildlife (e.g. rodents, raccoons), urine or faeces may need different vaccines and parasite prevention. Similarly, your pooch may need other flea, tick, and heartworm prevention depending on where you live or where you plan to travel. Your veterinary team will be able to work with you to protect your precious pal.
Learn how to protect yourself and your pets from Ticks and Lyme Disease on your hike.
* The initial topic for this article was suggested to us by the Gabor Shoe Company. They provided us with the infographics that have been used in this article. There was no sponsorship agreement for this article, and Roguetrippers has no opinion on their footwear. This article should not be viewed as an endorsement of their products.