Safety should always be a top priority when you venture out for a hike, but even the most careful hiker might fall victim to injury with enough time. It’s one of the realities of a sport that takes you to remote and at times challenging terrain.
Sustaining an injury during a hike can be troubling. A situation that seems minor can escalate in severity quickly if you’re not prepared to handle some adversity while on the trail. Follow these simple guidelines to resolve a situation that has you injured on the trail.
Whether it’s a sprained ankle, a bad cut or an insect bite, most of these challenging situations end positively. Keep that in mind if something happens during your adventure. If you’re hiking with a friend, which you should be, remember that they’re there to support you. Observe the situation and understand how you can make a plan to handle your new circumstances.
Before you hit the trail, you probably packed a bag. If you’re using good hiking practice, that pack should contain some basic first-aid equipment. Bandages, a tourniquet, tweezers and some basic painkillers/anti-inflammatory medication can go a long way when you’re hurt on the trail. Many times, it’s just a matter of using what you’ve brought with you to make the situation more comfortable and taking it slow until you can safely get off the trail and back home.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
If you’re feeling like you can’t deal with the situation alone or need some help from fellow hikers, ask. Most people will be happy to assist you. Don’t feel like it says anything about you that you’ve been injured. Any athlete will tell you that getting injured is part of participation in just about any sport, and hiking is no different. What’s not smart is letting an injury get worse because you didn’t seek help.
If you have a severe injury, make sure you let someone know quickly. That way, they can contact emergency services and get more help on the way soon, giving you the best chance of resolving the situation without further damage or risk.
Know the Signs
Some of the conditions you’ll have to face when you’re out in the wilderness are more insidious than a physical injury. Make sure you understand how to recognize the signs of heatstroke, hypothermia, dehydration and other environmentally influenced conditions. Hikers fall victim to these issues all the time but fail to recognize their effects.
If You’re on a Through-Hike, Find a Doctor
For longer-distance journeys, many of the same rules apply. However, it’s not always safe to get right back out on the trail if you’re hurt. Many long-distance trails include waypoints where you can re-stock supplies, so ask whether there’s a physician present to take a look at you. Always heed the warning of a trained doctor. If you’ve been advised to cut your trip short, or even if you just think that’s the best decision for your health, you should feel no shame in doing it. Just find an alternative way to get home.
Many hikers enjoy long careers without ever having to face the challenge of being injured on the trail. Your skill level and the amount of hiking you do will influence the likelihood of you being injured. Have fun out there, and stay safe, but if something does happen, know that it’s not any reason to stop hiking. Just handle it with confidence and come back another day!
Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington