By Outreach and Education Manager Rachel Calderara
Here at Wildlands Trust, we lead many hikes throughout Southeastern Massachusetts. With our second OkTRAILberfest on the horizon offering hikes of up to 11 miles, we want to share our guide for hiker preparedness with you!
Hiking is a great way to engage with nature - the best way in this writer's opinion. It is good for the mind and body, and helps build a sense of adventure and independence. But, the activity does come with some inherent risks like dehydration, injury, and exposure. Being prepared with suitable clothing and gear is the best way to keep yourself safe so enjoy your time on the trail.
- Appropriate Footwear. Not only is it important to take care of your feet to keep them from hurting, but it's important to support your foundation! If you're going to be hiking through strenuous terrain with steep inclines or rocky areas, we definitely recommend sturdy boots with good ankle support. Sneakers are okay for flat, short hikes. For guided hikes with Wildlands Trust, we require at least sneakers and prefer boots, and never accept flip flops!
- Water. Have you ever felt a headache coming on while hiking? You're probably experiencing the first signs of dehydration. Dehydration can lead to disorientation, nausea, dizziness, heat stroke, and/or hypothermia. Departing for your hike without carrying water is just a bad idea. We recommend carrying more than you think you'll need - plus, the extra weight in your pack will give you a better workout!
- Food. Keeping your energy level high is important for an enjoyable hike. Trail snacks with protein, sugar, and salt are great ways to keep your energy and electrolytes up! On especially hot days, drinking water isn't enough and you'll need to add some salt and sugar to your diet to avoid dehydration - of course, don't overdo it!
- Rain Shell. We find that people are reluctant to carry a rain shell or poncho, but it can save you from hypothermia and is a small, light-weight item in your pack. The weather in New England is unpredictable, and it rains all year long. Keeping yourself and your clothes dry in a surprise rain storm is essential for your well being.
- Sun Protection. The importance of clothing or sunscreen that will keep your skin protected from UV rays can never be understated.
- First Aid Kit. A well-stocked first aid kit should live in your pack, always ready when you need it. If you're going on a guided hike with Wildlands Trust, your leader will have a kit as well!
- Long Pants. Even in the heat of summer, lightweight pants can help protect you from ticks, poison ivy, scrapes and scratches, mosquitoes, and the sun!
- Hats/Sunglasses. Speaking of sun protection, keeping your face shaded and retinas protected form UV rays will help you stay cool and remain healthy in the long run.
- Insect Repellent. New England has one of the highest rates of Lyme Disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Repellent can help make you hard to detect by ticks, mosquito, and other biting insects.
- Flashlight. Getting lost can happen, even to the most experienced hikers. If you find yourself out past dark by accident, a flashlight is a useful tool and lightweight in the pack.
- Navigation: maps, compass, and/or GPS. Trail maps for Wildlands Trust properties are available on our website for free. We don't recommend heading down a trail without a map!
- Matches. Lighters can die, but matches kept in a waterproof case will go the distance. Keep a small container of strike-anywhere matches in your pack if you need to light a fire in a pinch.
- Shelter. Carrying an emergency blanket, which folds up to about the size of a smart phone, can keep you warm in situations of unplanned overnight excursions or hypothermia.
Our goal at Wildlands Trust is to get your outside and enjoying nature, and to keep you safe while doing so. Please know that if you show up unprepared for a guided hike, you may be turned away for your own safety and the safety of the group.