Photo By: Pixabay. Author: Michael Bourke
What’s a camping trip without a hike to truly become one with nature and explore Mother Nature’s beauty? Hiking as a group includes several benefits such as decreasing depression, improving mood, and boosting overall wellness, but there are a few safety tips to keep in mind to ensure the fun doesn’t come to an abrupt end.
Can’t I Just Hike Alone?
We all love our alone time now and then, but a hike isn’t the best place to start. Like most sports and activities, hiking has its risks but they are exacerbated when you are completely and totally alone. Group hiking is a much safer route. Imagine the pickle you’d be in if you were to twist your ankle or suffer from serious dehydration. In a group there is always someone available to go get help or at least lend a hand. In addition, a group setting is noisier, serving as a deterrent for nosy and oftentimes dangerous wildlife that might get a little too close for comfort.
Group hikes are also an excellent opportunity to expand your social horizon. Whether you are hiking with friends or just joined a hiking group, it is a great way to socialize, rekindle old friendships, and start new ones. Besides, everyone in the group obviously enjoys hiking, so this is a great way to pick each other’s brains and discover new hiking trails and to-die-for views.
Group hiking means exactly what you think it means – hiking with a group. Unfortunately, many search-and-rescues are a result of a hiker falling behind and becoming lost as they struggle to catch up. It is imperative that everyone stay together, but sometimes that is easier said than done. Designate a group leader to place hikers strategically based on their pace and experience level. Fast hikers should take up the rear of the group, keeping those ahead of them motivated and at a steady pace. Consider implementing a buddy system and creating brightly colored t-shirts that everyone can wear so that it’s easy to spot anyone who is lagging behind or speeding ahead.
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While it might be tempting to separate when certain members get tired and need a break, it is best to stop and start together. You started the hike together, so you need to finish together too. If you find that some group members have a drastically different pace than the others, consider choosing a group leader for a slow-paced group and a fast-paced group on the next outing. Group members can choose which group best suits them, but keep order, direction, and safety via a group leader.
While you won’t need a pack heavy enough to carry you through the Appalachian Trail, hiking will require a few essentials. The most obvious gear is the appropriate footwear. Basic trail shoes will suffice for short hikes, but longer hikes and heavier loads will need the extra support of hiking boots. Speaking of extra, make sure you bring extra food, water, and clothing. For various reasons, you could be on the trail longer than expected, and you’ll be glad you brought along that extra granola bar and water when your stomach starts rumbling or you feel yourself getting dehydrated.
Safety items are a must as well. Be sure to pack a flashlight, whistle, matches, first-aid kit, knife or multi-purpose tool, sunscreen, and sunglasses. Accidents happen, both small and large, so it is best to be prepared for anything. Should an accident occur, your greatest resource will be a map, compass, or GPS to help you find a nearby campsite or emergency exit route. Depending on how far out of range you are, cell phones will be rendered useless, so these old school navigation devices will quickly become your greatest ally.
Group hiking is an excellent way to enjoy the outdoors within the safety of a group and spend time with people who share your same interests. Make the trek a success by keeping all group members together and packing the right gear.