In this article, we will look and the most common hiking problems that hikers face and the best ways to solve them.
Hiking is a fantastic way for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy the outdoors.
Although hiking is considered a very safe and relaxing pastime, it also comes with its own set of challenges. With a little bit of preparation and knowledge, all of these challenges can be overcome.
Read on and prepare yourself for safer, pain-free, and more enjoyable hikes!
Why Do I Get Blisters?
Blisters form when the skin is repeatedly rubbed by friction or pressure. The friction or pressure causes the upper layers of skin to separate from the lower layers, creating a pocket of fluid between them. This fluid is called serum, and it acts as a cushion to protect the skin from further damage.
Blisters are most commonly found on the feet, but they can also occur on the hands and other parts of the body.
Blisters on the feet are often caused by ill-fitting or worn-out shoes or boots, or by wearing shoes unsuitable for hiking. Such as hiking in a pair of trainers.
They can also be caused by walking or hiking on rough terrain, or by carrying a heavy backpack.
The Problem With Blisters
Blisters can be a problem for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts because they can cause pain, and discomfort, and impede mobility.
They can also become infected if not properly treated, leading to further complications. In severe cases, a blister can become so large or painful that it makes it difficult or impossible to continue hiking or engaging in other activities.
Overall, blisters can be a nuisance and can cause serious problems if not addressed, and it’s important to take the necessary steps to prevent and treat them while hiking or engaging in other outdoor activities.
How Do I Prevent Blisters?
Preventing blisters can be achieved by using properly fitting shoes and socks. You can also reduce blisters by preparing your feet and gradually increasing the duration and intensity of physical activity. This will toughen the skin on the rubbing areas and prevent future blisters.
We always carry blister prevention products such as moleskin, blister bandages, or Compeed in our backpacks. Not only for ourselves, but for our friends too. After all, the only thing more uncomfortable than a blister is listening to your friend complain about his/hers the whole way home!
It’s important to note that if you have a blister, it’s best not to pop it as it can lead to infection and delay healing. Instead, cover it with a bandage to prevent further rubbing and keep it clean.
Muscle Strains And Sprains
What´s a Muscle Sprain
A muscle sprain is an injury to a muscle or tendon, which is the tissue that connects muscle to bone. This injury occurs when a muscle is stretched or torn, usually as a result of a sudden movement or trauma. A sprain can happen when a person twists, falls or is hit by an object, causing one or more of the muscle fibers to tear.
Muscle sprains can be fairly common for hikers, especially those new to the activity. This is because their muscles and body are not accustomed to the rigors of walking across rough, uneven, and slippy terrain. They may also not have the equipment necessary to protect themselves from such injuries.
Symptoms of a muscle sprain include pain, swelling, stiffness, and difficulty moving the affected area. The severity of a muscle sprain can vary, ranging from a minor strain to a complete tear.
The most common location for a muscle sprain is in the ankle, but it can also occur in the knee, wrist, elbow, or other joints.
How Do I Prevent Strains & Sprains?
Although strains & sprains are common in hiking, they are mostly completely avoidable.
Below are our top recommendations for avoiding injury whilst out on a hike.
Wear appropriate footwear
Our Number 1 rule!
Make sure your shoes or boots fit well, provide good support, and have good traction. This can help to prevent slips and falls that can lead to injury.
If you are new to hiking or do not wish to walk far. A sturdy, comfortable pair of shoes should be ok.
Warm up before hiking
Take a few minutes to do some light stretching or other exercises before you begin your hike. Especially in colder temperatures. This will help to prepare your muscles for the activity and reduce the risk of injury.
Pay attention to the trail
With so much to see around us, it´s not uncommon to take our eyes off the trail and take in nature at its finest, this can lead to injuries.
Watch where you step, and be aware of uneven surfaces, loose rocks, and other hazards. If you would like to gaze at something for a while, stop and take a seat, or at least slow down your pace.
Use hiking poles
Hiking poles can help to distribute your weight more evenly and provide extra support for your joints, reducing the risk of sprains. to know more about hiking poles and their benefits, click here!
Use proper hiking technique
Use good hiking techniques such as:
- Switching your lead foot whilst ascending and descending
- Shortening your steps on steep descents
- Avoid over-extending your legs.
- Take regular breaks
Be aware of your limitations
Listen to your body, and don’t push yourself too hard!
If you’re feeling tired or experiencing pain, take a break, eat some food or if you feel unsafe, consider turning back.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
A good diet and regular exercise can help to maintain good muscle tone and overall fitness reducing the risk of sprains.
A healthy lifestyle will also reduce body fat and will put less strain on your muscles and bones whilst hiking.
Take care of existing injuries
If you have an existing injury, try to ensure that it is fully healed before going on a hike. If your injury is not fully healed, consider shortening your hike or wearing supporting aids such as a knee brace.
Gradual increase in intensity and duration
Gradually increasing the intensity and duration of your hikes can help to build the muscle necessary to go for longer, whilst also teaching you more about what equipment is required for longer hikes.
Dehydration is a condition caused by your body losing more fluids than it takes in.
The human body needs water to function properly, and dehydration occurs when the body’s water levels fall below the normal range.
This is a common issue for hikers as water is heavy, so often hikers do not take enough, resulting in dehydration, deep into their hike.
What are the symptoms of dehydration?
Symptoms of dehydration can vary, but common signs include:
- Feeling thirsty
- Dry mouth and throat
- Dark yellow urine
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
It’s important to note that dehydration can be especially dangerous for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, as the combination of physical activity and exposure to the elements can cause increased sweating and fluid loss.
How do I prevent dehydration?
To prevent dehydration, it’s important to:
- Drink enough water before, during, and after hiking
- Carry a water bottle.
- Add some Electrolyte powder to your water, or bring a hydration drink.
- Be aware of the symptoms.
- Eat foods high in water such as fruits and vegetables
Getting lost can be common for new or inexperienced hikers (sometimes even experienced ones too!). In cities, or small natural areas this is not usually a big problem, but getting lost in the mountains can have some serious consequences.
Hikers can get lost for a variety of reasons, including:
- Poor planning
- Inadequate equipment
- Lack of experience
- Bad weather conditions
- Damage to trail signage
- Natural barriers such as fallen trees or landslides
- Bad advice
- Lack of landmarks
How Do I Prevent Getting Lost?
99% of the time, getting lost is due to a fault of the hiker and is avoidable.
Here are a few tips to ensure that you don’t get lost on your next hike:
Research the trail and area beforehand. Research maps of the local area and take some time to plan your route, taking into account:
- Expected weather conditions
- Trail difficulty
- Fitness of everyone in your hiking group
- Food and water for the distance
- Time for the hike, including rest breaks
- Equipment required
Bring a map and compass
A map and compass are essential tools for navigation and are a fairly cheap addition to your backpack. When used correctly they can help hikers stay on course even if they lose sight of the trail or landmarks.
Bring a GPS device
Most modern smartphones come with GPS tracking that uses apps such as All Trails which can be very helpful when planning and following a route.
It is important not to rely on your device completely, as it can run out of battery or lose signal.
Stay on the trail
Follow designated trails and avoid shortcuts. Leaving the trail can lead to confusion and disorientation. If you do feel like you have left the trail or taken a wrong turn, it is good practice to return to a better position.
Keep an eye out for markers and landmarks
Pay attention to trail markers and landmarks, such as:
- Rivers or streams
- Unique rocks or trees
Let someone know your plans
Let someone know your planned route and expected return time, so they can alert authorities if you don’t return.
The sun´s harmful UV rays are stronger at altitudes. Protecting yourself when hiking in the mountains is a must!
Fact time: The World´s first commercial sunscreen was invented for climbing mountains! Produced by scientist Franz Greiter in 1946 after suffering from severe sunburn whilst climbing the famous swiss mountain Piz Buin.
We recommend wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30.
It’s also a good idea to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours or after swimming or sweating. Additionally, wearing protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and hats, and seeking shade during the sun’s peak hours (10 am-4 pm) can also help protect your skin.
Our favorite sunscreen for hiking is called Palm & Pine. It is SPF50, very sweat and water-resistant, and comes in a small container which is perfect for your pocket. Check them out here
Insect bites and stings
Insect bites can be a nuisance while hiking causing discomfort, pain, itching, and in some cases, allergic reactions.
To prevent insect bites while hiking, we recommended taking the following steps:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to cover as much skin as possible.
- Use insect repellents
- Stay on designated trails and avoid tall grass or other areas where insects thrive.
- Keep windows and doors closed or screened in your camping tent or cabin.
- Keep your food and drinks covered when eating.
- Rest or camp away from stagnant water which attracts mosquitos.
- Don’t move rocks or fallen trees which can disturb insect hives.
If you get bitten or stung
Avoid scratching the area as it can cause an infection. Instead, apply a cold compress or lotion to the affected area to reduce itching and inflammation. If you experience an allergic reaction such as difficulty breathing, hives, or a swollen face, seek medical attention right away.
If you know that you suffer from allergic reactions to bites and stings then it is important to make everyone in your hiking party aware, so that they can act quickly.
Exhaustion and fatigue
Suffering from exhaustion and fatigue during a hike can have serious consequences.
When out in nature it is easy to underestimate the toll that long periods of walking can put on our bodies and our energy levels. It is important to look out for symptoms of exhaustion and fatigue in ourselves and our hiking partners. Taking action quickly to ensure that the situation does not worsen.
Symptoms of exhaustion and fatigue
- Lack of energy or motivation
- Difficulty concentrating or staying focused
- Drowsiness or difficulty staying awake
- Slow reaction time
- Weakness or muscle aches
- Irritability or mood swings
- Appetite changes
- Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
How to avoid fatigue and exhaustion whilst hiking
Proper preparation and awareness can ensure that everyone in your hiking party can enjoy their adventure.
Here are some tips to avoid getting tired on the trail:
- When new to hiking, start with an easy trail and gradually work your way up to more challenging hikes.
- Pack enough water and snacks to stay hydrated and energized throughout the hike.
- Wear appropriate clothing and bring layers to adjust to changing temperatures.
- Set a realistic pace and take breaks as needed.
- Use hiking poles or a walking stick to help with balance and stability.
- Make sure you are physically and mentally prepared for the hike.
- Check the weather forecast, and plan accordingly.
- Find a hiking partner at a similar level
- Don´t be scared to cancel or shorten your hike if you do not feel good.
There is little worse than coming into bad weather while out on a hike. Especially when you are not properly prepared.
Bad weather can not only be unpleasant, but it can also be dangerous! Causing issues such as:
- Reduced visibility: Rain, fog, and snow can reduce visibility and make it harder to navigate the trail.
- Bad trail conditions: Rain, snow, and ice can make the trail slippery and increase the risk of falls and injuries.
- Hypothermia: Cold, wet weather can cause hypothermia, which is a dangerous drop in body temperature.
- Lightning: Lightning can be a major hazard in thunderstorms. Hikers should avoid exposed areas and tall structures during a storm.
- Flash flooding and landslides: Heavy rains can cause flash floods and landslides, making trails impassable and dangerous.
- Difficulty to find shelter: bad weather can make it hard to find shelter or to set up a tent.
- Reduced morale: Hiking in bad weather can be uncomfortable and unpleasant, reducing morale and causing stress and anxiety.
For the reasons above bad weather is one of the top causes of mountain rescue call-outs worldwide!
How to avoid bad weather whilst hiking
Check the weather forecast
In the days up to your hike, keep an eye on the weather forecast and pack appropriately or consider alternative routes to suit.
When checking the weather, Pay attention to the:
- Rain or snow forecast
- Wind strength and direction
Try to time your hike to avoid bad weather, starting early or waiting for the bad weather to pass.
If bad weather is forecast or a possibility, prepare for sudden weather changes by bringing appropriate clothing and gear, such as:
- Waterproof clothing
- Extra warm layers
- A warm hat and gloves
- A hot drink
- Waterproof boots
Choose your trail
If you are expecting bad weather on your hike, pick a trail that is well-maintained and easy to navigate.
Bring a map and compass and know how to use them in case you get lost or disoriented. Also look out for landmarks, rocks, or trees that can be easily recognized to help you navigate if you need to turn back.
always look around at your surroundings during your hike. Look for signs of approaching bad weather, such as dark clouds or distant thunder.
Have a plan
If you plan to hike into bad weather make an emergency plan, such as knowing where the nearest shelter is or how to call for help.
Slips Trips & Falls
Slips, trips, and falls are the 3 most common causes of injury whilst hiking, but we have some good news… With the right equipment and some knowledge, almost all slips, trips, and falls are completely avoidable!
How to avoid Slip, trips, and falls while hiking
- Wear proper footwear with good traction to prevent slips on wet or slippery surfaces.
- Watch where you step and pay attention to the terrain, avoiding loose rocks, wet roots, mud, and other hazards that can cause trips and falls.
- Use hiking poles or a walking stick to increase stability and help you to maintain balance on uneven terrain.
- Use caution when crossing streams or other bodies of water, and be aware of the potential for wet and slippery surfaces.
- Use caution when climbing or descending steep inclines, and take your time to find the best footing, use your hands, and your sticks when required.
- Avoid hiking alone always let someone know your route and expected return time.
- Be aware of your physical condition and take rest as needed.
- Do not take unnecessary risks and always be aware of your surroundings.
Covering difficult hiking trails without the right experience or equipment can be dangerous, time-consuming, and sometimes scary.
What Makes Hiking Trails Difficult
Many factors can make a trail difficult to hike such as:
- Steep inclines or descents
- Rough, uneven terrain
- Slippy terrain due to ice or moisture.
- Lack of signage
- Poor weather
- River crossings
- Overgrowth of vegetation
How To Navigate Difficult Hiking Trails
To successfully navigate difficult hiking trails, we recommend considering the following points:
Research the trail before you set out, using trail maps, online resources, and local knowledge (a great place to gain local knowledge is in local hiking shops)
Pay attention to the distance, elevation, and weather conditions. Making sure you have the necessary gear and clothing for the conditions.
Pro Tip – Always let someone know your planned route before setting off
Pack the right equipment
When hiking on difficult trails, it’s important to have the proper equipment to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
If you plan to cover difficult terrain we recommend packing as a minimum:
- Hiking boots or shoes
- Trekking poles
- Water bottles or hydration system
- Headlamp or flashlight
- Navigation tools
- Extra layers
- First-aid kit
- Emergency whistle
There may be other essential equipment required for specific hikes such as ropes, ice axes, or wildlife protection.
Stay on the trail
Stick to designated trails to avoid getting lost or putting yourself in danger. Be aware of trail markers, and pay attention to your surroundings.
Many marked hiking trails have been created to provide the safest and most easy way to navigate natural areas. Leaving the path is seldom the best way to make trails easier.
Take it slow
More difficult hikes will require more time and energy. Don’t rush and take your time. It is better to finish a hike with some energy left, rather than pushing your body and your energy to the limit!
Never be scared to ask for the help or advice of fellow hikers that you meet on the trail. You can learn a lot and meet some amazing people.
If you do find yourself in a bad situation, don’t hesitate to seek help. Use your whistle or cell phone to call for assistance.
Enjoy the trail
Remember to take in the sights and sounds around you. Hiking can be a great way to connect with nature and enjoy the outdoors.
While hiking, it’s important to be aware of the potential for encountering dangerous wildlife.
Different regions may have different types of potentially dangerous animals, but here are a few common examples:
- Mountain lions
- Moose and Elk
It is important to be aware of the potential for encountering dangerous wildlife on a hike. Always check the park or trail website for specific guidelines and regulations regarding wildlife, paying attention so which season you are hiking in and what you may come across.
Equipment failure can be a major problem while hiking, especially in remote or difficult terrain.
Although this is becoming less of an issue as the quality of hiking equipment improves, it is something worth considering when packing for a hike. Especially for those looking to venture deeper into the wilderness.
How To Avoid Equipment Failure Whilst Hiking
Check your equipment before you go
Before leaving on a hike, inspect all of your equipment, making sure it is in good working condition. Check for any signs of wear or damage, and make sure everything is clean and properly maintained.
Bring spare parts and tools
Bring extra batteries and other small parts that may be needed in case of equipment failure. Also, bring along a small multi-tool or a repair kit, to make minor repairs on the trail. We always carry a tiny sewing kit, some duct tape, and a few tie wraps. You would be amazed at what you can fix with these items!
Know your equipment
Make sure you know how to use all of your equipment, including your map, compass, GPS device, and any other electronic devices you’re bringing.
Use quality equipment
Invest in good quality equipment that is designed for the type of hiking you will be doing. Look for equipment that has a good reputation for durability and reliability.
Avoid overloading your backpack, as this can put unnecessary stress on the straps and zippers, and make it harder to carry
Keep your equipment clean
Clean your equipment after every hike to remove dirt, sweat, and other debris that can cause corrosion or damage over time.
Store your equipment properly
When storing your equipment, make sure that it is kept in a dry, cool place, away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.
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