Pack Smart and Safe: Fall Hiking Essentials

Hiking seems to bring an extra level of enjoyment to crisp autumn air and fall foliage. Whether you’re an avid hiker or just dipping your toes in, reviewing the basics of wilderness safety and equipment will benefit you as you enter this hiking season.

Wilderness First-Aid

Brushing up on wilderness first-aid basics before a hike will end up saving you time and energy in the long run. Consider taking a wilderness first-aid course, especially if you don’t have a medical background or feel comfortable with treating injuries.

The most common minor to moderate hiking injuries include bug bites, scratches, bruises, and sprained ankles. Pick up a first-aid hiking kit at any hiking store for supplies to treat these ailments.

Prevent an ankle injury:

  • Pack durable, non-slip hiking shoes
  • Bring hiking poles (and review how to use them correctly if it’s your first hike with poles)
  • Watch your footing

What to pack in case of an ankle injury:

  • An instant ice pack
  • Athletic tape/wrap (and instructions on how to properly wrap an ankle)
  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain medication (check with your doctor on which medication is right for you)

Grab a wilderness first-aid pocket guide for more comprehensive safety tips, especially if hiking overnight or on technical terrain.

Be Careful of the Cold

Another leading cause of hiking injuries is hypothermia (a significant drop in body temperature), which commonly occurs in cold, wet, or snowy environments. Staying dry is key in preventing temperature loss.

What to pack for the cold:

  • Parka
  • Rain cover
  • Extra dry clothing, including socks
  • Instant heat pack and/or hand warmers

Hydration Hacks

Even in the fall and winter, pack water strategically. A rule of thumb for packing water is to bring about 1 liter of water for every 2 hours of planned hiking, or about 2 cups of water per hour. In summer months, this could increase by double or more, depending on the temperature and terrain. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, remember to stay hydrated throughout your journey.

Research the trail ahead of time to see if you need to pack all the necessary water, or if reliable water sources will be available during your hike. Always have a backup water source, such as water purification tablets, a water filtration straw, or a way to boil water. If you get halfway through your water supply and have no reliable upcoming water source, turn around and don’t risk it.

Don’t Let the Clouds Fool You

Overcast and snowy weather cause UV light to be extra reflective. To avoid unnecessary visual strain, pack a hat and sunglasses. Sunscreen is also still necessary, as the sun is still able to cause a sunburn or UV damage in those conditions.

Fatigue may set in more subtly on a temperate fall hike, but make sure to still plan to stop, take breaks, and eat periodically. Taking a small break about each hour is recommended to keep pace and tend to the physical and mental demands that hiking requires. This not only prevents injury, but will also keep your mind alert and confident in your ability to complete the hike.

Final Thoughts

Hiking is the most relaxing when you’re prepared and can safely tackle your route. In addition to the above tips, don’t forget to do further research. Take a safety course, talk to park rangers, and get recommendations from outdoor equipment shops.

Have fun and be safe! Check out the selection at UV Skinz for all the sun protection products you need this season.