Before you and your kids hit the trails, make sure you know (and follow!) these hiking safety tips.
Before you go, let someone know your plans.---Whether you're planning a 10-mile hike in a remote forest or a 2-mile jaunt around the local park, let someone know where you are going and what time you anticipate returning. When your hike is over, send a quick text to check in. If you're lost or overdue, your point person can alert authorities and help search and rescue teams by sharing your last known location. If your older kids are hiking alone, make sure they share this information with you before they go.
Carry the 10 Essentials.---Prepared hikers know you should never venture into the woods without the 10 Essentials. Even when hiking as a family, if kids are old enough to wander away on their own, they should carry their own backpack with these items.
-----Navigation: a map and a compass (and know how to use both!) =====Sun protection: sunglasses and/or sunscreen =====Insulation: warm and dry clothing and an emergency blanket =====First-aid supplies ====Fire: a lighter or waterproof matches =====Repair kit and tools ======Food ======Water =====Headlamp or flashlight =====Emergency shelter
Make sure your children know what's in their backpacks and how to use each essential.
Remember sunscreen and bug spray. Apply sunscreen before you leave on your hike and bring it along in your backpack with you as well. Wiping sweat away with a shirt sleeve can remove sunscreen, so it's best to reapply periodically. If you and your kids are hiking during mosquito season, make sure to apply and carry bug spray, too. Additionally, hiking clothes can be treated with permethrin in advance to repel insects and ticks.
Check for ticks. Ticks are a hard-to-avoid hazard of the outdoors. Prevalent in grassy and wooded areas, a bite from a tick has the potential to transmit illnesses, like Lyme disease, to humans. Long hiking pants and hats can help keep ticks from finding a warm place on the body to draw blood. After your hike, do a thorough tick check while showering. Some ticks can be as small as a speck of dirt, so keep your eyes peeled for the slightest inconsistency.
Teach your kids about trail hazards.
Whether it's wild animals, poison ivy or a river with a swift current, talk to your children about hazards they might encounter on the trail (and how to deal with them) before stepping foot in the woods. Each hike you embark on may pose its own set of potential hazards, so have a safety talk with your kids at each new trailhead.
by Kim Dinan