Hiking tips

Q&A: Safe hiking tips from an expert hiker, family doctor

By MultiCare Health System

Boasting thousands of hiking options – from easy walks to mountain peaks – we North Westers like to think of ourselves as fearless outdoors people, confidently heading out into the wilderness for adventure hikes. a day of sorts.

But the truth is that many of us are new to walking or rarely walk. Even experienced hikers run into trouble from time to time. Preparation and common sense can mean the difference between enjoying a great day or getting injured or lost, says expert hiker Jacob Swan, PA-C.

Swan is a Physician Assistant in the Department of Family Medicine at MultiCare Kent Clinic. He is also an avid hiker, mountaineer, and volunteer member of Seattle Mountain Rescue.

We sat down with Swan to get her advice on safe hiking.

What are your recommendations for choosing a day hike?

Swan: Do your homework on the trails, understand the maps. Don’t overestimate what you can handle. You can find detailed descriptions of the hikes on the Washington Trails Association website, which are suitable for all skill levels. Many guides are also available. Mountaineering clubs and outdoor stores are also great resources. Joining a group hike or club can be a great way to start and build your confidence.

Before people get started, what’s your first piece of advice?

Swan: Tell family and friends exactly where you’re going, to the trailhead, how long you’ll be away, and when you expect to return. Don’t forget to check the weather too.

What supplies should you bring on a day hike?

Swan: I refer people to what’s called the 10 essentials. These include a map, first aid kit, water, food, knife, sunglasses/sunscreen, extra clothes, rain gear, knit hat for warm and a brimmed hat for protection from the sun. I also recommend hikers pack a GPS device, which you can buy at outdoor stores or online, and a lighter or waterproof matches in case you need to start a fire to stay warm. The 10 essentials can be adapted according to the intensity of the hike.

Wear shoes that are waterproof, with traction on the bottom and mid-level or ankle support. Do not wear worn-out shoes or flip-flops. I also recommend hiking poles. They provide stability on our trails which are often filled with tree roots and rocks. The poles also relieve the knees.

And of course, bring your cell phone to take pictures of the magnificent views. But don’t count on having cell phone service everywhere.

How much water and food should I bring?

Swan: Generally, allow half a liter of water per hour per person for moderate activity at moderate temperatures (this may vary depending on effort, temperature and other factors). Good snacks are trail mix, fruit and cheese. Avoid sugary foods.

In your work with Seattle Mountain Rescue, what are some of the situations you encounter?

Swan: We see everything from sprained ankles, cuts, broken legs and backs, to, sadly, heart attacks and falling off cliffs. We have rescued people who have become lost in the woods and have been severely exposed to the elements, both hot and cold.

How should people avoid getting lost?

Swan: Make sure you have a map of your hiking location. A printout of the trail description may also be helpful. Stay on well-marked and designated trails and avoid the temptation to stray off the trail, even if it’s just a small detour.

For more experienced hikers on more remote trails, this is where the GPS device comes in. There are apps you can use, but since cell phone service isn’t always available, it’s best to have a device. I recommend checking your route on your GPS device every 10 minutes or so to make sure you’re still on track. Of course, on very popular, well-marked hiking trails, this is usually not necessary.

What to do if you get lost?

Swan: If you have cell service, text a family member or friend telling them you are in X location according to your GPS device. Dial 911. Try to return to the last location on your GPS route. If you are unable to contact anyone and/or do not have a GPS device, follow the US Forest Service STOP recommendations.

What are the signs of heat stroke and how to prevent and treat it?

Swan: Symptoms include nausea, blurred vision and dizziness. To avoid heatstroke, drink plenty of water, take breaks in the shade, and wear a wide-brimmed hat. If you experience these symptoms, find some shade, drink water, even sit in a cold stream for a bit to bring your temperature down.

If you’re stuck overnight, how do you protect yourself from the cold?

Swan: Create heat however you can. Protect yourself from the wind, keep your clothes dry, avoid exposed areas, find shelter, build a fire. I tell people if you’re going for a long hike expect temperatures 20 degrees cooler than expected. Bring more clothes than necessary.

What are some of the benefits people get from hiking?

Swan: Hiking benefits your cardiovascular system, blood pressure, weight control, and coordination. Beyond that, it can release stress and anxiety. People fall in love with hiking because they come into contact with nature. It is soothing and restorative. Plus, new adventures forge new connections in your brain and give you a sense of accomplishment.

What are some of your favorite hikes?

Swan: Locally, I love the Snoqualmie Pass area. I have climbed Mount Rainier four times. My goal is to reach the top and ski Washington’s 15 peaks above 9,000 feet. I did about half of it. It’s such a beautiful and beautiful area that we live in. I encourage everyone to get out there and enjoy it.

MultiCare Health System is a not-for-profit healthcare organization with more than 18,000 employees, vendors and volunteers.

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing [email protected]

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We will only publish your name and hometown.) Please limit letters to 300 words or less.