After the recent events in the Andirondack mountains, where two young adults were found hypothermic after two days stranded near a 5,114-foot summit, we decided it was probably best to update everybody on the importance of being safe when hiking or trail running.
We know that it's getting colder and less people are attempting to trek the snowy or frigid trails of their favorite national parks or city mountains and trails, but nevertheless, let's be prepared! Maybe there are more cold-loving, adrenalin junkies and thrill-seekers out there than we thought.
Next time you lace up, gear up and pack up, make sure you have the essentials. If you're thinking to yourself "I already know what to bring with me. I've done this a million times," humor us and read through the list.
After all, if we're supplying you with part of your hiking and trail running gear, we want you to have a great time, as well as be safe! You can't make use of the gear if you're unsure of how to prepare yourself.
So, here we are. The most important rules, tips and necessities for your next trail run or hike:
1. Make use of the "buddy system." Yeah, yeah, we know, Mr. or Mrs. "I work alone." But each year, for example, Georgia State park rangers spend hours searching for numerous hikers and trail runners who've slipped on waterfalls, got off the trails, didn't return on time and encountered other various problems. Would you want to be alone for one of these? Maybe slipping and falling, and no one around to call for help? Not trying to scare you, of course, but take precaution when traveling alone. It is best to stay with a group or others. Note: never climb on waterfalls.
2. Carry a light with you. Whether it's in the form of a headlamp or flashlight. Make sure you have a light with you. According to the Great Smoky Mountains staff, "darkness arrives much quicker in the mountains." You don't want to be left in the dark completely on accident. We suggest the hand torch and the night runner shoe lights.
3. QUENCH YOUR THIRST. Yosemite National Park recommends one quart every 2 hours, and the American Hiking Society reminds us that "without enough water, your body's muscles and organs can't perform as well." If you drink too little, you're susceptible to hypothermia and altitude sickness, too! Also, don't drink soda or alcohol. They dehydrate you. And if you're purifying your own water, make sure to take the necessary precautions: "boil water for at least one minute or use a filter capable of removing particles as small as 1 micron."
How can you store all of that water on your person, you ask? Well, lucky for you, companies like Hydroflask, GU, Camelbak, Nathan Trail and Fitletic have made products just for you. The Hydroflask can hold anywhere (depending on the size you get) from 12 to 64 ounces! If you're someone who doesn't like the taste of water (I don't get it, but I know it's a thing), use GU Hydration tabs. But the best way to hold the most amount of water, however, would be to double up with a hydration belt and a camelbak. The camelbak, a backpack made for water, can hold 1.5 liters of fine H2O! Nathan trail also makes a hydration belt that holds two 10 oz. flasks.
4. Tell someone where you're going. Our parents used to tell us this all the time, and it's no different at 20, 30, 40 or 50 years old. We still need to tell someone where we're going, because if we get lost and haven't told anyone, welp, looks like we're in a lot more trouble than if we gave someone a trail map, huh? Tell whoever it is right before you leave, where you are going and when you expect you'll return, then check in with them when you get back. Hand them an itinerary if possible, and tell them that if you haven't checked in when you said you would, to contact the park rangers or park service to alert them of the situation.
5. Did I just hear a whistle? That's what you want other trail runners, hikers or park staff saying instead of screaming to no avail. Yelling can take a lot of energy. A whistle is much more effective. Remember that 3 blasts is a call for help, but I'd say that just blowing it repeatedly will get someone to notice you're in trouble!
6. Clothes are key. First, avoid cotton. Use clothing that can wick moisture, dry quickly or conserve heat. And second, always carry proper rain gear. Even the weather-person says "it couldn't rain even a drop today!," assume that he or she is lying, and take rain gear with you. A good tip is to bring a "pumpkin bag" (trash bag sold in Autumn), which is usually a bright color (think orange) and can be converted into a poncho. Third, dress in layers and don't leave your house or car without a hat. A snow hat and something with a brim! If you're going to be in the mountains after all, expect it to be chillier and windier. Note: bright colors are always best. Like some sweet warm arm bands!
7. Bring a first-aid kit, sunscreen, fire starters, knife, multi-tool and high energy-food. These speak for themselves! For the food, think granola, peanut butter, bagels, trail mix, power bars, jerky or even candy. Mmm. Survival.
Make sure to check the park website of wherever it is you're thinking of hiking or trail running. You want to make sure you're well aware of anything happening in the park and/or precautions they've advised you to take. These suggestions were curated from the Georgia State Parks website, Yosemite National Park, the American Hiking Society and the Great Smokey Mountains.
Be safe. Be prepared. Be active.