Whether you like to hike long distances or in short spurts, you can encounter hazards along the way. Hiking trails are often located in parks and wooded areas where rocks, tree limbs, insects and lack of fresh water can all create problems for hikers.
Even the most experienced hikers can get blisters on their feet. Unfamiliar terrain and inclines add more stress to footgear. Blisters often form on heels, anklebones and on big toes when going downhill. Carry a small sheet of moleskin to cut into shape and apply to the blistered area. This action will allow you to continue your hike without undue discomfort.
Another common injury on hiking trails is the skinned knee or elbow. These injuries often occur when hikers neglect to watch the ground as they walk. Tree roots and loose rocks can cause slips and falls that break the skin. Another typical skin injury is from branches that scrape the face and neck. You can find a number of very small first-aid kits small enough to slip into your backpack that contain everything you need to treat scrapes and puncture wounds on the trail. These kits contain a variety of bandage sizes, gauge pads for cleaning wounds and antibiotic ointment in tiny packets. These kits add only a tiny amount of weight to your backpack and can be a big convenience on the trail.
Along with falls, sprains can occur on hikes when you are not paying careful attention to uneven terrain. Sprains can cause pain, tenderness, swelling and discoloration at the site. Carry an ace bandage in your backpack to help support sprained ankles or knees while on the trail. Also, carry a small container of aspirin or ibuprofen to manage pain and inflammation until you get back to civilization.
Unfortunately, you can never tell when you will run into a stinging insect on hiking trails. Bees, wasps, mosquitoes and flies are just a few of the creatures that can deliver painful, itchy stings. Ensure that the first-aid kit in your backpack also contains an anti-sting medication to reduce discomfort from insect bites. These medications are available in individual dose packets and easy-to-pack pens. Always rinse and dry the bite area before applying medications. Remove stingers if necessary.
Sunburn is always a danger on long hikes in hot weather. You may have to hike through long, open area with no shade. Always apply sunscreen before you begin your hike, and re-apply the sunscreen periodically during the day. Pay special attention to re-application after sweating a lot or getting wet in streams or waterfalls. Small, easy-to-carry tubes of sunscreen are available that fit easily into backpacks and do not add extra weight.
Dehydration is the hikers worst enemy. A long strenuous hike can use up fluid reserves in the body quickly in hot weather. Sometimes, hikers miscalculate their water needs and find themselves running out of water on the trail. Bring enough water to allow you to quench your thirst every 30 minutes. Drink before you are thirsty to prevent fluid loss. Tuck a few water purification tablets into your backpack in case you run out of water and are forced to refresh yourself from a stream or creek. Signs of dehydration include increased thirst, dry mouth, dry skin, light-headedness, weakness dark-colored urine and headache. Dehydration can lead to heat stroke, a serious medical problem. Be aware of signs such as vomiting, headache, cramps, rapid pulse or confusion. Get into the shade and seek medical attention immediately.