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What to Know if You’re New to Hiking

hiking necessities

If you don’t quite understand what’s so great about the great outdoors, you’re not alone. While for some people, nature just comes, well, naturally. For others, outdoor activities can be a bit intimidating. If this sounds like you, read these tips before you hit the trail.

Dress for Success

This catchy phrase applies to more than just job interviews. Nothing will ruin a hike faster than being dressed uncomfortably. Be sure your next hiking experience is a positive one by following these tips:

  • Layers, layers, layers. You’d be surprised at how quickly a warm, sunny morning can become a wet, chilly afternoon. Be prepared for any potential weather changes by dressing in layers. Layers are also good if you plan to hike in a shaded, wooded area or at a higher elevation.
  • Protective shoes. When choosing your footwear, always take into consideration the terrain and the distance of your hike. Choose shoes that are both comfortable and protective, like hiking boots. Outdoor sandals are a popular choice, but don’t offer as much protection as a tennis shoe or hiking boot.

Need a breath of fresh air? Find out more about hiking in Tennessee.

Where the Wild Things Are (and Aren’t)

From blue herons to black bears, Tennessee hiking trails are home to all kinds of creatures. Wildlife encounters may not faze the experienced outdoor enthusiast, but can be unsettling to a beginner. Keep in mind that where you hike will determine what types of wildlife you’re most likely to see.

For example, it’s very unlikely you’ll see a bear in Nashville’s Shelby Park, but it’s possible if you’re hiking the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The best way to prepare for any potential wildlife encounters is to research the area where you’re planning to go beforehand.

Don’t let size fool you. Disease-carrying insects like mosquitoes and ticks are just as much of a threat as larger creatures. Limiting skin exposure and wearing insect repellent are the two most effective ways to prevent bites from mosquitoes and ticks. Unlike itchy and irritating mosquito bites, tick bites are less noticeable, so it’s important that you perform a thorough tick check as soon as you return indoors.

Lastly, don’t forget that wildlife includes plants, too. Poison ivy is the most common poisonous plant in Tennessee and knowing how to identify this three-leafed plant is the best way to avoid it. If you do come in contact with poison ivy or any other poisonous plant, clean the area with soap and water or an alcohol wipe as fast as you can. The quicker you remove the plant’s oils from your skin, the less likely you are to develop a rash.

Prioritize Your Pack

Every hike is different, so what you should or shouldn’t include on your packing list depends on the duration and intensity of your trip. However for even the shortest hikes, there are a few essential items that hikers should never leave home without. Here’s what to bring:

  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Trail map
  • Bug spray
  • First-aid kit

Safety First

Preparation is the first step to having a fun and safe hiking experience. In the days leading up to your hike, research the area that you’re planning to go and keep a close eye on the weather forecast. Before you head out, tell someone where you’re going and what time you expect to return. Learn how to follow trail markers and stay on the trail at all times to avoid getting lost or injured.

Finally, have fun! You may find that you enjoy the great outdoors more than you’d originally thought.

Most outdoor activities have some level of risk, and you may need to consult an expert before engaging in the activity. Always check the current weather conditions before embarking on any outdoor activity.

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