Below we summarize just a few of the safety and comfort concerns you should consider when hiking. It is not an exhaustive list and you should do your own research before venturing out.
When hiking Indiana’s trails, it is important to take some precautions to stay safe. The first bit of advice is to know before you go. Acquaint yourself with the park and review maps and terrain and consider your endurance and the type of hiking with which you have experience. When trying something new, it might be a good idea to start small until you know how you will do on the trail.
You should also check the weather. You do not want to be caught out in the middle of a storm, and keep in mind recent weather too. If it rained recently, be prepared for mud or ice if a drop in temperature is expected.
Clothing and Comfort
Once you know what to expect, you will know what to wear and of course you should dress to protect yourself against the cold or sun depending on the season. Obviously dressing in layers is important as you work up a sweat during your hike.
And perhaps most important is your footwear. You wouldn’t drive your car without the right kind of tires and the same thing goes for hiking and hiking boots. Flat top shoes are fine for paved and flat trails but choose a boot with ankle support for more rugged trails. When it comes to socks, pick a pair that covers your skin and prevents skin abrasion against the boot.
Ticks are a concern wherever you find ankle high grass or low-lying shrubs – even in the winter. Ticks are generally dormant in the colder months but can become active during a brief warm spell, and deer ticks are active all year round. The best way to keep ticks off you is to cover any exposed skin and tuck your pants into your socks. You can also consider treating your hiking clothing and gear with permethrin, which repels them.
Finally, never leave home without your hat! In the winter, a wool hat helps you retain heat, and in the summer, a wide brimmed hat will keep the sun out of your eyes and keep you dry in the rain.
Suggested Day Hike Packing List
- Just in case your hiking plan changes, or you get lost
- Backup cell phone battery
- A cell phone can be valuable in an emergency, but most times, cell signals will be weak, and this will cause your battery to drain. Please note, a cell phone is not a substitute for a map, compass and a flashlight.
- Backpack – where else are you going to keep all your stuff?
- In the summer months, it will be easy to build up a thirst and even easier to become dehydrated as you work up a sweat. But water is also important in the colder months when you are still sweating, but just don’t realize it. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and disorientation, which can be very dangerous on a long hike in a remote area. The rule of thumb is to drink one quart of water for every two hours of hiking. If you are hiking with dogs, remember to bring enough for them too.
- If you get lost, a whistle can be used to let people know where you are and even to scare off predators
- Sunscreen (summer) – nothing ruins a hike like getting sunburned
- Long term UV exposure can lead to permanent vision problems and in addition to keeping the glare out of your eyes, a good pair of sunglasses can also protect your eyes from rocks, dirt and other debris. Light colored lens can also improve contrast and color enhancement.
- When hiking with dogs
- Copy of rabies vaccination certificate
- Collapsible water bowl
- Dog brush
- Reflective vest and collar
- Dog jacket and boots during colder months
- Collar ID tag with your name and phone number
- Flashlight or headlamp – no brainer if you are hiking at night whether on purpose or if you get lost.
- First aid kit, including tweezers or a tick spoon
- Bug repellent
- Mosquitos kill more people a year than sharks! In Indiana, mosquitos can transmit the Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus, LaCrosse Encephalitis virus, St. Louis Encephalitis virus, and the West Nile virus.
Many parks in Indiana do allow hunting, so it is important to take certain precautions. The first is to know when hunting season is, and the location where hunting is permitted. Most state parks will prohibit hunting near the trails or might restrict hunting in certain parts of the park.
Dress in bright colors or wear an orange safety vest or hat. This will make you more visible to hunters. This goes for your pets too – a bright orange harness and color will hopefully prevent your pet from being mistaken for prey.
Avoid hiking during dawn and dusk. These are the times when the deer, and hence the hunters, are most active
The Indiana DNR posts hunting dates and has a website that shows you where hunting is allowed.
Hiking with Dogs
Dogs love a good hike just like we do, but to keep your pet safe, follow these suggestions:
- Always keep you dog under control on a leash. Even well-trained dogs will give chase to wildlife or other dogs on the trail when not controlled by a leash. This is a hazard for your dogs and the dogs of others.
- Keep rabies shots up to date. If your dog is in an encounter with wildlife, you will be glad you did. Campgrounds that allow pets will also ask to see the rabies certificate.
- Apply a tick-preventative before hiking and check your pets for ticks after every hike. A good dog brush is helpful for this.
- Brightly colored and reflective harness and collar is a consideration during hunting season (see above) and at night. If you are venturing out in the dark, a clip-on light for your dog’s collar is not a bad idea. Also, always have an identification tag on your dog’s collar with your name and phone number, just in case your dog does get away from you.
- In cold months, consider a dog jacket and dog boots. Most dogs will need some time to become acclimated to wearing the dog boots.
For more information on hiking safety check out these links: