By Felicia Baratz-Savage
Heading out for a hike during your stay abroad is the perfect way to enjoy fresh air, get some exercise and appreciate the beauty of nature. Whether you’re hiking through a tiny urban park tucked between neighborhoods or a huge nature preserve, you need to plan ahead for a safe trip. Follow these tips and you’re good to go:
1. Bring water. Always bring more than you think you need, especially if you’re unknown territory – which is very likely the case if you’re in another country. You’ll want to have one liter of water per person per hour — more if it’s an especially hot day or you’re planning to hike at a high speed. Your pack may be a little heavy to begin, but it will get lighter as the day goes on and you drink your water.
2. Bring snacks. Unless your hike will last less than a half hour, bring some snacks along. Nuts are the perfect hiking snack because their salt will help replace electrolytes and pack a lot of protein to give you sustained energy. You can also turn to granola bars, dried or fresh fruit, beef jerky and trail mix. Plan to
eat at least something every hour, in addition to stopping for a larger meal if you’re hiking for more than two to three hours.
3. Wear sensible shoes. Naturally, hiking isn’t the time to put on a fancy pair of heels, but it’s also not the time for that pair of beat-up sneakers with holes in the soles. Choose footwear that will support your feet, offer a wide base for stability, a high top to support your ankles and a textured sole for traction, Brooks running shoes offer an ideal amount of traction and support. Also, remember that wearing a brand-new pair of shoes on a long hike is almost a guaranteed recipe for blisters. Stick a few band-aids in your pack just in case.
4. Carry a big stick. A hiking stick is any hiker’s best friend. It provides added stability for uneven trails and offers support when you’re tired. (Plus, you’ll look pretty darn cool.) Get a dedicated hiking stick you can use on every trip or keep an eye out for a fallen branch you can take with you. If you’re hiking with kids, sticks come in handy for digging in the dirt . . . . or having impromptu sword fights.
5. Wear layered clothes. You want to be comfortable when you’re hiking, which means no cotton, which gets wet and cold easily. Opt for a couple of layers of wool or synthetic materials that give you a full range of motion and don’t make you excessively warm. Your outer layer should be wind-resistant and waterproof for weather, plus durable for branches.
6. Bring emergency supplies. Although you don’t want to be that guy (the quintessential doomsday predictor) on every hike, you should have basic emergency supplies with you. These include a small first aid kit, trail map and compass and a device you can use to communicate in an emergency, whether it’s a two-way radio, cell phone, signal flare or loud whistle. Someone in the group (if you’re traveling in a group) may want to have a knife for cutting through branches, but that will likely have to be procured within the country you’re in. Airlines aren’t too keen on that kind of stuff coming aboard with you. On that note, if you’re hiking alone, let at least one person know where you’ll be and when you plan to be home.
Once you’re stocked with gear, you’re ready to enjoy the beauty and splendor of your international adventure. Don’t be afraid to stop to check out an awesome tree or a spectacular view. After all, hiking isn’t necessarily about how far you go, it’s about experiencing something new and amazing.