After spending months and months confined to their houses, stuck within four walls, there has been a huge rise in the number of hikers and runners as trails and parks re-open. And why shouldn't there be? It's easy to keep a safe distance in a well ventilated area while enjoying the psychological benefits of getting out into nature.
Being outdoors and in tune with nature provides relief from all the tension and gloomy environment at home, and it also helps us release our pent-up energy. Nevertheless, before you take on a long-awaited hike, certain precautions should be taken to prevent you from contracting coronavirus or infecting others unknowingly.
Checklist: Before Hiking
It is vital to prepare yourself before you hit the trail not only for your own safety but also to lessen your dependence on other people, especially busy health workers, in the event of a sticky situation.
- Covid Protection: When you're near others, please mask up. Remember it's not just about you, it's also about the immune-compromised friends and family you could unknowingly pass the Covid to. We honestly haven't found any face masks we're crazy about wearing through a strenuous hot-weather hike. What we've been doing is tying a bandana above our nose to make a barrier, and then pulling it around our necks unless we're coming close to others. It's respectful, and convenient. But for less strenuous hikes and on days that aren't hot, a CDC-approved face mask is the best protection for you and those around you.
- Communication: If you're lost, you're going to want a means of contact to alert the authorities. If necessary, carry an extra battery.
- Navigation: Have your compass, GPS, or map ready, particularly if you're exploring into unexplored territory.
- Hydration and Nutrition: bring with you enough food, particularly water. You're going to use up a lot of energy on mountain trails — make sure to drink 1 liter of water every two hours of hiking.
- Sun protection: ensure that you wear sunglasses, a hat or a cap, and a wide-spectrum sunblock of a sun protection factor of at least 30.
- Illumination: take a torch or headlamp with you in your bag if you're on a walk later in the day.
- First-aid supplies: you’ll never know when you are going to be in a health and safety emergency. Gauze pads, antiseptic sanitizing wipes, Band-Aids, and antibacterial ointment, as well as pain or allergy medicine, are a safe place to start.
- Emergency supplies: bring some matches to make a fire to warm up, as well as a whistle to make it easier to drive.
- Extras: Make sure you bring an extra set of clothes. Look for moisturizing fabrics and base coats, and look for nylon and polyester over cotton. Make sure you also have a bottle of hand sanitizer and a handful of disposable face masks.
Checklist: During Hiking
For your own safety and for the sake of others during this pandemic, here are a few tips from experts on how to stay safe while hiking.
- Choose a less-traveled path: don't go to very crowded starting points and popular hiking paths; choose less-populated trails. Have a back-up plan in case the route you prefer is overcrowded. We've been rediscovering some of the harder trails that don't get as much traffic by newer hikers. Remember: the more effort it takes, the more space you'll get.
- Give space to others: Don't forget that social distances still apply while hiking. If you see other hikers coming in your way, make sure there is some distance between them and you and remember to keep out of each other's ways. The familiar guidelines to stay six feet from other people to prevent the spread of coronavirus are based on a "closed environment," which means it doesn't consider factors like wind or heavy breathing that could influence how far your respiratory droplets disperse.
There's also some evidence that the virus may also spread through smaller particles, aka "aerosols," which would be able to travel farther than six feet. Irrespective of that, it's wise to keep a long-distance when you're walking and running outside 12 to 20 feet.
- Passing etiquette: Okay so you come up on some others on a narrow trail and want to keep a six foot distance. Somebody will need to step aside! Who should it be? Our thoughts:
- Age before beauty
- Parents with kids before singles
- Heavyweights before Ultralights
Basically, if you're young and fit and packing light, please be polite, take a breather, have a sip, and let people pass.
- Stay local: this is not the best time to explore the unknown. You know, stick to the local nearby trails and locations. Don't rely on anyone for transport or other services.
- Forget large group hikes: go on walks alone or with people in your home and others you have been in touch with. Some countries may also allow a certain number of people to gather for such events, provided they are self-isolating.
- Carry in, carry out: do not throw your trash in the wild; dispose of it properly.
- Wash up: wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water as soon as you get home.
And remember, if you don't feel well and good, just postpone your hiking adventure and make sure you follow the advice of medical experts and park officials.