Hiking is a fun and healthy activity that many people enjoy as South Africa’s hiking trails cover some of the most beautiful natural spots in our country.
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In addition, with Fitbits, Apple watches and other smart technology that come with all the rage in tracking steps and earning points with medical aids – hiking is the ideal activity to exercise and have fun at the same time – with the added bonus of being in nature.
Those that are familiar with hiking know that it comes with some challenging physical demands. Even short hikes will see you walking for hours and climbing over obstacles, carrying a backpack of supplies. In addition, security is a concern in some areas now as there are reports on hikers being attacked. Hikers need to be aware of some of the precautions they can take before and during a hike in order to avoid any mishaps that can lead to injuries or worse.
Rustig has some hiking trails where people can enjoy the magnificent views from Magaliesberg mountains and the kind folk over there supplied these tips on how to keep safe when hiking.
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1. Never hike alone
It’s always good to have a map of your route and to make sure that you understand it. Make sure that your phone is fully charged and that you have all relevant contact details of the hiking site with you as this can save time in case you get lost. A map can help you determine where you are and the best route you can take to reach another location. You should never, under any circumstances embark on a hike alone. Hiking is fun and adventurous but should be done as a group activity. The chances of becoming lost or getting injured are higher when you are alone. If you do get lost, don’t panic as this could make your situation worse. Make sure that you stay in the immediate vicinity instead of wandering off. This will help the rescuers if they need to search for you.
2. Tell someone that you’re going on a hike
No matter how short the hike is, make sure that you tell someone at the hiking site that you are going on a hike so that they are aware of your location. Also tell them which hike you will be doing so that they know approximately how long your hike will take.
3. Physical health
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One needs to be relatively fit and healthy to go on a hike. Hiking can take an extreme toll on your body if you are not fit – even a shirt three km hike. Carry a first aid kit with you as you can’t plan for every instance and sometimes, accidents happen. Everyone’s first aid kit will vary depending on each person’s medical conditions. If you take any chronic medication, make sure that you take your medicine with you. You also need to make sure that you have medical aid in case something happens and you need serious medical assistance. If you become sore, take time to relax and massage the uncomfortable areas. Always start small, don’t go on long hikes that are beyond your physical abilities. The worst thing that you can do is to push yourself too hard and get into a bad situation. As soon as you feel tired, take a break, drink water and rest. If you are obese or have any serious medical conditions, you need to get a doctors approval that states that you are fit to go on a hike. Below are some things that you should always have in your first aid kit:
- Antihistamines – for bites and allergic reactions.
- Antiseptic – for treating any cuts/wounds.
- Bandages and plasters– for cuts/blisters.
- Topical antibiotic ointment – for application to wounds.
- Painkillers – for the relief of pain.
With regards to health and safety, not drinking enough water is one of the biggest mistakes made by hikers. The importance of staying hydrated when hiking can’t be overstated. Dehydration occurs when you don’t drink enough water – irrespective of the weather conditions or altitude. Drink water when you wake up in the morning, before the hike and also when you are on the hiking trail. Most natural water sources have bacteria that can make you sick so it’s better to bring your own water.
5. Know your environment
It’s important to know your environment when hiking because there is a chance of injury when people are exposed to the forces of nature. Find out which plants and animals should be avoided and also do some weather research before you go on the hike. Doing some research on the hiking trail that you will be embarking on will help you know and understand what you’ll be dealing with.