3 Safety Tips for Hiking with Your Family
Hiking with your family is an excellent way to make memories and teach your children outdoor skills. Spending time in the great outdoors can help your children learn how to appreciate nature, care for the environment, work together and build a healthy sense of responsibility and independence.
Hiking also provides a way for your family to spend time outside and exercise together. These essential safety tips for your next hiking trip will ensure you’ll treasure the memories you made together.
Start Slow, Stay Together and Keep Morale High
Kids may not like their first hike. If you present hiking as an adult activity, the chances are that your children’s natural, exploratory excitement will tank. Ease into hiking and make it fun. Of course, fun depends on the ages you’re working with. Here are some ideas:
- Views and fun spots
Find a hike that takes the kids to a beautiful overlook, a waterfall, a stream they can play in or even a playground. Make it an adventure with a fun ending. This can keep your children happy, motivated and eager for more.
- Sing songs and play games
Teach kids to stay within view and practice the buddy system, but consider making it fun by singing songs or playing rounds of “Guess what animal I am.”
Whether it’s a wildlife bingo of animal signs, bird calls and spotting squirrels or it’s a contest of who can see the most hawks, friendly competitions have a way of making outdoor activities more engaging for kids. Children are naturally curious and observant, and games capitalize on this.
- Read books beforehand
Depending on their age, either read to your children or have them read books about wilderness safety, wildlife species and the trees and plants they’ll encounter. This promotes a healthy respect for the elements and animals, as well as feeds children’s natural curiosity.
- Make it a challenge
Inspire kids to view hiking as an exciting, adventurous challenge, but keep it relatively easy to start off. Encourage them to view the physical challenge as something fun. If they express tiredness, urge them to keep going, but keep the inaugural trip relatively short. Pushing them too much can discourage them from hiking again.
Good morale is the first step in safety. A sense of excitement, teamwork and a healthy respect for the wild go a long way in helping everyone to work together, communicate and stay safe.
Be Prepared and Pack a First Aid Kit
Always bring an outdoor first aid kit. If you end up doing longer, more arduous hikes, pack an Israeli Bandage and plenty of triangular bandages. Wound care supplies help prevent infection and stop bleeding. Always pack a knife for emergencies to assist with wound care and survival tasks.
Dehydration and hypothermia are among the most common outdoor first aid situations. The early signs of dehydration include dizziness, dry skin, panting and a rapid heartbeat. If these occur in you or your children, encourage the group to rest in the shade, cool off and drink water.
Prevent dehydration by resting if anyone exhibits signs of overheating and by packing and drinking plenty of water. Electrolyte powder packs are available at most outdoor stores, and these can help rehydrate someone in a pinch.
Hypothermia, on the other hand, occurs when the body’s temperature drops below its normal range. Warning signs include cold red skin, low energy, shivering, confusion, lack of coordination, drowsiness, memory problems and slurred speech. Hypothermia is scary to watch, so prevent it by making sure everyone dresses in warm layers when it’s cold.
If it’s very cold, keep everyone moving. If you ever notice signs of hypothermia in yourself or in someone else, add layers and keep them moving. Dehydration compounds the effects of hypothermia, so getting someone to drink water and eat high-sugar food can help elevate their body temperature.
Packing plenty of water and high-energy foods can help you prepare for a variety of survival situations and keep you and your family fueled during your hike.
Know the Trail
Know where you’re going and how long you’re going for, and leave your hike itinerary with a friend or family member who’s staying home. Knowing where you’re going keeps you safe, and you can also entice the kids with what’s around the next bend. Teach kids to pay attention to the trail and encourage them to look back. In case they ever get lost, they know what the return journey looks like. Carry mapping tools and show kids, and especially teenagers, how to read a map.
As you walk, use your knife to mark trees along the trail in case you get lost. Teach your children to make arrows pointing in the direction you are walking, so they can move in the opposite direction to get back to the start of the trail.
Knowing the trail also includes understanding the risks and hazards associated with the trail and planning accordingly. Is it a rocky, technical path? Encourage everyone to wear boots with plenty of ankle support to avoid sprained ankles or unexpected tumbles. Will there be lots of dense underbrush and foliage? Everyone should be in long sleeves and pants to prevent scratches and tick bites. Will you be in the hot sun? Pack even more water than you think you’ll need.
Make sure you’re prepared to handle any local wildlife or natural obstacles you may come across. Teach kids how to stay safe around bodies of water and demonstrate water purification techniques if necessary. Obey the rules of the trail and leave no trace of waste and refuse behind.
If you prepare, you will feel far more confident and ready for your adventure. Your kids will pick up on this confidence, and they can learn a lot by watching the way you prepare for your hike.
Make the journey fun and help them understand the beauty, risks and many opportunities for joy in the outdoors. This can help everyone make good memories, stay safe and encourage your children to live a life of appreciating the wilderness.
Do you have a safety plan for hiking with your family?
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