How to backpack safely
Hitting the trails regularly is one of the best ways of improving physical and psychological health. Knowing how to backpack safely goes beyond the obvious stuff about avoiding political trouble spots and crumbling clifftop paths though. Ensuring you have the right clothing, equipment and proper preparation will prevent any health setbacks.
Jo Christian Oterhals
Keeping on track
Whether it's a quick hike through the Cotswolds or a three month expedition through the Himalayas, knowing how to backpack safely begins with the footwear.
Comfort and versatility are the key issues when selecting boots for your trip. A degree of compromise may be required if you will be hiking over rough terrain in addition to marked trails, as you don't want to load up your pack with a variety of specialist footwear. Look for a light but robust, waterproof boot that offers ankle support and reliable grip.
Sun protection is also vital, even if it's just to keep out the watery rays of England in June. Creams with a minimum SPF of 30 should be used for effective protection, along with a wide-brimmed hat. In tropical climates, prolonged exposure to the sun can be a serious health risk, both in terms of sunstroke and increased likelihood of skin cancers.
Regular hydration is a key issue for hikers undergoing strenuous physical activity in hot conditions. Do not underestimate the amount of water you will require for a long trek. A conservative estimate of how much water is required daily is around 2 litres, but adjust this upwards for hot conditions or vigorous exercise.
For hikers heading off for the ever-popular gap year or summer expedition in south-east Asia, knowing how to backpack safely often comes down to having the right equipment in the backpack. Water purification tablets, usually chlorine dioxide, are a vital part of a basic medical kit. When staying in remote regions, or even a dubious hostel, ensuring your water is safe can prevent the trip being ruined by illness.