Preparing for an outdoor activity, such as hiking or mountain climbing, calls for more than just being in shape. Because nature can play havoc with any excursion, it’s important to be knowledgeable of the surroundings and have good survival skills.
Dr. Edward Otten, president-elect of the Wilderness Medical Society and a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Cincinnati, said proper preparation can mean the difference between an enjoyable outing and a disaster.
For example, those planning a trip to an elevation above 8,000 feet should become acclimated to the oxygen-depleted air before undertaking any vigorous activity, Otten said.
“Once you get above 8,000 feet, it’s very common for people to get mountain sickness because they’re not getting enough oxygen to the brain and the muscles,” Otten said. “Most people don’t recognize it. They think they have the flu or a hangover, but it can be deadly.”
Drowning is the No. 1 cause of death in outdoor activities, a statistic Otten said behooves boaters to always wear lifejackets and learn basic swim strokes.
Hydration is an important part of any physical activity, but it takes on life-and-death significance in the wilds.
Otten, a desert enthusiast, said hot-weather hikers need to drink one to two gallons of water a day and should not expose themselves to 100-plus-degree temperatures for more than a few hours until they become acclimated.
“We exist on Earth only because nature allows us to,” Otten said. “You start challenging nature, you get in trouble.”