Take a hike! But not before packing some safety essentials for your trip

The D.C. area has hundreds of miles of trails for hikers of all skill levels to enjoy.

But the American Hiking Society is encouraging hikers to check out their list of 10 essentials before heading out the door.

Topping the list, said AHS communications manager Maggie Peikon, is proper footwear.

“Generally speaking, you’ll want footwear that can provide safe traction to keep your feet protected throughout the duration of your hike,” she said.

Some outdoor enthusiasts prefer sport sandals, but Peikon said, “There’s a time and place for sandals, perhaps on hikes through water or water crossings.”

Typically, hikers are best off with hiking shoes or boots that offer more coverage and stability, Peikon said.

Other items hikers should have with them are maps and compasses or GPS units.

The AHS website advises: “While phones and GPS units are handy, they aren’t always reliable in the backcountry,” so hikers should consider carrying a paper map and compass and know how to use them.

Staying hydrated in hot weather is always important, no matter what your activityis, but Peikon said it’s especially important for hikers: “The rule of thumb is to carry a half a liter of water for every hour you plan to be hiking.”

And even if you think you’ll just take a short hike and can skip carrying water, don’t.

“You never want to be in a situation where you don’t have enough water,” Peikon told WTOP.

Peikon said it’s important for hikers to consider their own fitness level and the type of hike they are planning on taking: “Especially in the summer heat, overexertion can happen quickly, and if you’re not used to a particular level of fitness challenge, it can present a real challenge for you.”

When it comes to running into unexpected company on the trail, like snakes or bears, she said hikers need to be aware of their surroundings.

If hiking alone, hikers should make noise, either by clapping or singing, “Just so that you don’t surprise a bear.” If you do cross paths with a bear, she said, “Speak calmly, like ‘Hey, bear,’ and walk backward — never turn your back to a bear.”

Peikon suggests carrying bear spray, but remaining alert to your surroundings.

Like bears, snakes typically try to avoid humans, but there are cases when hikers step on them, unaware that a snake was underfoot.

“Generally, they try to stay off the trail, but of course it happens, they’re going to be in those sunny spots, warming themselves up, so just keep an eye out for them,” Peikon said.

You can see the organization’s complete list of 10 essentials on AmericanHiking.org.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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