If you’ve got a fun hike coming up, it’s easy to feel like a kid on Christmas morning. The excitement and anticipation are unmatched for those who love hitting the trails, and that’s never a bad thing. The more passionate you are about hiking, the better! But, that passion and excitement can also cause you to overlook certain things as you prepare for your trek, leading to common hiking injuries.

You might forget to pack the right essentials, or you might hit the trail with gusto and go at a pace that could be damaging to your body, especially if you’re new to the world of hiking.

The health benefits of backpacking – both mental and physical – are incredible. The last thing you want is to turn them upside down and injure yourself or feel stressed out on the trail because you’re not taking your time or practicing preparedness.

So, what can you do to prevent common hiking injuries? Furthermore, how can you deal with aches and pains that still might occur, despite your best efforts?

Practice Proper Preparation

Avoiding discomfort and injury starts before your hike actually begins. You might be excited to get on your favorite trail, but taking the time to prepare and center yourself is important.

That starts with making sure you’re properly packed. Your backpack should include:

  • Navigation tools
  • Adequate water
  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Rain protection
  • Safety items (fire starter, flashlight, whistle)
  • First aid kit
  • Sun protection

That might sound like a lot, but they are very basic items that won’t weigh you down too much and will help to keep you safe and comfortable.

It’s also important to have the right gear on your body. Don’t bust out your brand new hiking boots the day you plan on hitting a long trail. You don’t know how they’ll fit, and if they’re new, they could cause blistering and discomfort.

Instead, wear something you know you can walk in for miles. Wear clothing that breathes and doesn’t irritate you. And, make sure you’re carrying extra socks if your feet get wet or sweaty.

How to Avoid Common Hiking Injuries

If you’re a seasoned hiker, you might know about some common hiking injuries and how to avoid them. But, it’s always good to remind yourself of the potential risks out there. If you’re a novice, learning more about these injuries will help you be more aware when you’re on your trek.

First, it’s important to take stock of how you feel before you head out on your hike. Medical conditions don’t have to stop you from heading out. In fact, regular exercise is a great way to manage the symptoms of many conditions, like GERD.

But, listen to your body. If you’re in pain or not feeling well before you start, it might be better to reschedule your hike. No one wants to experience GERD symptoms during a hike.

If you’re feeling good and already out on the trail, keep your eyes open. Some of the most common injuries are easy to avoid as long as you’re paying attention, including:

  • Cuts and scrapes
  • Insect bites/stings
  • Poisonous plants
  • Dehydration

It’s not only important to pay attention to your surroundings, but yourself, too. Periodically “check-in” with yourself. Think about how you’re feeling. Are you tired? Take a break. Thirstier than you realized? Drink some water. When was the last time you applied sunscreen? Put on another layer.

By paying attention to yourself and the things around you, you’re less likely to get injured or experience discomfort right away or when you get home.

Recover the Right Way

Speaking of getting home, preventing discomfort doesn’t stop when you’re off the trail.

Hiking is an intense workout, especially if you do it all day in the blistering sun. Taking the time to properly recover is hugely important.

To make sure you’re doing that, start by staying as hydrated as possible. Keep drinking water frequently throughout the next day to restore your energy levels and make sure your muscles are hydrated.

Additionally, eat the right things. Working out impacts your muscles, and stretching afterward might help them feel less tight, but they are depleted after a hike. Proper nutrition is the best way to restore them.

There are no hard and fast rules about exactly which foods to consume. But, you’ll want to include plenty of healthy protein, fats, and carbs. That can be found in everything from tuna to avocados. Eat what you enjoy, but make sure it’s benefiting your body, rather than depleting it further.

If you’re dealing with a common hiking injury and trying to recover, rest is best. If you get back on the trails too quickly, you could risk injuring yourself further.

When you’re ready, though, hiking can be a great way to ease back into a workout regiment after an injury or condition. For example, it’s a wonderful way to manage the effects of varicose veins without putting extra strain on your body.

As you can see, it doesn’t take much to keep yourself safe and comfortable and avoid common hiking injuries. Staying prepared, knowledgeable, and smart about your recovery will allow you to keep that “kid on Christmas morning” mentality, so you can continue to hit the trails as often as possible.

The pandemic has put a chokehold on the economy, and with it, travel, business, and virtually every other aspect of modern life. COVID-19 has essentially changed the way we live our lives, forcing us to adapt to new definitions of normal with many limitations.

At the same time, the pandemic has allowed us to view (and travel) the world with an entirely new perspective, one that understands how fragile and fleeting life on Earth can be, and one that recognizes how reckless we have been.

There are many risks involved with traveling right now, like, for instance, landing in Thailand’s Sandbox initiative, and there are many other reasons to want to wait until things clear up to start going places.

Although the term ‘post-pandemic’ seems to be avoiding us, vaccinations and country-wide counter-measures are starting to show us the light at the end of the tunnel.

Pros of Travelling during the Pandemic

photo of a group of friends having fun while exploring the Dolomites

Photo by Felix Rostig on Unsplash

People are very hesitant to travel right now—and with good reason. Although rising vaccination rates and diligent testing has been successfully enforced in many areas, the spread of new virus variants has made people wary of travel.

Since folks are less likely to travel cross-country, standard tourist hotspots are seeing less incoming traffic from foreigners, allowing room for visitors to enjoy and take in the scenery more deeply.

Some of the best options people have right now are to be found locally, but there’s a few reasons why ethically safe travel abroad could be a great option for those looking to feed their travel bug.

Less crowds

Less incoming traffic means more room for travelers to explore and get to know places in an unhurried, leisurely way.

More room for enjoyment

The shift from cross-country international travel to tighter, in-country restricted travel has caused people to adjust by spending more time indulging at their destination throughout their trips, whether it’s art, cuisine, history, or culture.

Not that we didn’t do this before, but now we’re seeing an increase in interest to explore places top to bottom.

Cheaper airfare and accommodations

Less flights going in and out of places means airlines are more likely to give discounts to travelers. Less hotel bookings can also mean more room availability, and therefore better rates and discounted prices for guests.

This has slowly changed as borders open up and more people take to the skies, but there are still many areas where the travel has had a slow start.

Cons of Travelling Right Now

black couple walking down a crowded street wearing masks

Photo by Uriel Mont from Pexels

This one is pretty obvious, but in case you were wondering what it’s like to travel during the pandemic, here’s what you can expect to find in most countries that are accepting tourists.

Less flexibility

  • Curfew in certain areas could mean your nights end at 9PM, that’s a huge chunk of fun in nightly destinations such as Las Vegas or Miami.
  • Bars could be closed as part of ongoing countermeasures, backed up by science.
  • Certain destinations require incoming travelers to isolate themselves for one or two days after arriving.
  • Many attractions, parks, and businesses are operating with limitations or not at all.

More risk

  • Risk of flight delays or cancellations
  • Risk of higher costs due to testing, delays, or hospitalizations
  • Risk of getting infected with COVID

General uncertainty

  • Rules may change suddenly
  • You can be infected with COVID and be asymptomatic
  • Online schedules are at a disarray

Travel Tips During the Pandemic

Weigh the pros and cons of travelling during the pandemic

Photo by Capturing the human heart. on Unsplash

Whether or not you decide to travel right now, you should always keep in mind that the pandemic isn’t over yet.

Before booking your flights, make sure you read up on your destination’s current COVID-19 situation and look up any relevant travel authorities for updates on their COVID-19 response so you know what to expect before you arrive.

As a rule of thumb, you should make plans to wear your mask and follow social distancing rules while visiting so that you help keep yourself and others safe during your stay.

There are many reasons to want to wait until things get better to travel, but there are also reasons for traveling right now that have to be acknowledged, like work- or family-related emergencies that require immediate attention.

Here’s a few tips for travelers who decide to postpone their adventures a while longer and some for those who don’t have a choice or just want to get out.

Do Travel (Don’t wait)

Don’t Travel (Wait)

Research your destination

  • Avoid crows
  • Use masks/social distancing
  • Read up on COVID response
  • Compare flight fares
  • Book early

Start budgeting early

  • Cut expenses
  • Set realistic goals
  • Take your time

Have a backup plan

Take time to learn about your destination in advance

  • Learn about history and culture
  • Pinpoint places you want to visit
  • Figure out transportation

Keep an open mind

Make plans to fully immerse and enjoy yourself

Get vaccinated

Research travel credit cards/promotions that help you save on travel costs

If you do decide to hop on a plane in the near future, check out the CDC’s travel guidelines page for the latest information and updates to travel recommendations so you’re in the know.

Why Travel Insurance Helps

airplane aisle during flight

Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash

With the COVID-19 pandemic, travelers are facing a variety of new obstacles at the airport, as well as in hotels and check-ins throughout their trips.

As part of their COVID-19 safety and security response, some countries, like Thailand, Costa Rica, and Jamaica, are now requiring medical insurance coverage for travelers of up to $100K.

The best insurance coverage will provide you with a safety net that can protect your investment from the unexpected. As part of your insurance policy, you should expect coverage in the following areas:

  1. Trip Cancellation
  2. Delays
  3. Baggage Loss
  4. Hospitalizations
  5. Quarantines

Note: not all countries require hospitalization coverage, but having a solid backup plan can be useful in case a sudden outbreak pulls down the curtain on your plans.

As we transition to a post-COVID world, mental health issues are running rampant. Over 40 million adults in the U.S. have some type of anxiety. Depression, excessive stress, and loneliness are other common problems. 

Needless to say, people are looking wherever they can to give their mental health a boost and to find the help they need to feel good again. In some cases, that might mean talking to a therapist or counselor. 

Other times, you can manage your mental health and well-being by giving your brain a natural dose of a mood-boosting activity. The psychological benefits of hiking and backpacking are great for helping you manage your mental health.

Whether you’re already an outdoor enthusiast or you’re trying to find ways to improve your mental wellness, understanding the mental health benefits of backpacking can make a big difference. 

So, what can you expect from the “nature pill” of getting outside and staying active? Let’s look at some of the benefits and how you can get started as a hiker. 

You’ll Unplug and De-Stress

We live in a digital world where it seems like we always have to be “connected.” While technology has its benefits, it can also have some drawbacks when it comes to your mental health. One survey discovered that people who are always checking their digital devices tend to have higher stress levels. 

The psychological benefits of hiking and backpacking include forcing you to unplug and disconnect from things like social media, text messages, and work emails. The activities can even get you off of the couch and keep you from spending your weekend binge-watching a new show.

Streaming shows and movies can be fun, but watching more than four hours of television a day can decrease your dopamine levels, increasing your risk of depression. 

Being outside, however, has the opposite effect. Some of the mental health benefits associated with being in nature include: 

  • Lower stress
  • More focus
  • Boosted mood
  • Improved attention span
  • Reduced risk of psychological disorders

It might feel impossible to go “off the grid” for a long period of time. But, taking a weekend backpacking trip can help you to feel rejuvenated and keep your mind clear so you’re ready to tackle whatever your life throws at you. 

Reduced Rumination

One of the biggest factors contributing to poor mental health is worrying about the past or future. People tend to exaggerate the “negative” things that have happened in the past, making them worse in their own heads.

More prominently, however, those with anxiety will spend a lot of time fearing the future – especially the “what ifs.” 

When you’re backpacking, you’ll have less time to ruminate on those worries. It’s also the perfect time to practice mindfulness. 

Mindfulness is something you can do every day, but with so many distractions in life, it can be hard to find the time or do it the “right” way. When you’re outdoors on a long hike or setting up camp, it’s the perfect time to choose to be mindful. If you need some tips to get started, try these: 

  • Set a positive intention before you go hiking
  • Focus on your breathing
  • Take in your surroundings whenever you take a break
  • Pay attention to how being in nature makes you feel

The more prepared you are for your backpacking adventure, especially as a beginner, the easier it will be to have those moments of mindfulness. So, make sure you feel comfortable with the route you’re taking and that you have all of the necessary supplies.

When you choose to be mindful, you’ll focus on the present instead of worrying about the past or future. You’ll also learn how to manage those fears when they come, and push the negative thoughts and worries aside. 

How to Get Started

One of the great things about backpacking is its global availability. You can hike almost anywhere in the world as long as you can find a good trail and a safe place to camp.

All you need to get started is the right gear, basic safety knowledge, and a bit of strength and stamina (something you’ll get more of as you’re more active outdoors!). 

What we touched on here is only a fraction of the mental health benefits of backpacking. The runoff benefits are just as important. For example, backpacking is a sustainable hobby.

You can find peace of mind in knowing you’re doing something good for the planet, and possibly promoting others to do the same. If you choose to go with friends or family members, you could also be giving their mental health a boost – and that’s something to feel good about!

Whether you need to find a way to relax and get rid of stress or you’re struggling with your mental health and want a way to cope, backpacking is a wonderful option.

Keep these mental health benefits of backpacking in mind as you pack for your next adventure. The more you understand how backpacking can help, the more you’re likely to focus on your mental health while you’re hiking through the woods. 

The summer is upon us, which means fun in the sun and amazing hiking and backpacking adventures across gorgeous landscapes. While we love to enjoy the warmer months, caution is of absolute importance.

Currently, heat waves are occurring across the globe, with record-breaking temperatures of over 100 degrees becoming the norm.

Excessive heat can be one of the most dangerous elements you can face, and prolonged exposure may lead to many dangerous conditions that could make you very ill.

That is why you need to be smart about summer backpacking and pack the right items before going out on long treks. Here are some pointers to stay cool while backpacking in hot weather.

Heat Concerns for Summer Backpacking

The first step to staying safe when backpacking during summer is to understand the potential risks of being out in the heat so you know when you need to take a break or hydrate.

Heat exhaustion is the main concern that you want to avoid because, if not properly handled, it can quickly turn to heatstroke, which could create disorientation, confusion, and a high fever that could lead to further sickness.

The symptoms of heat exhaustion include nausea, excessive sweating, and a headache that gets progressively worse. If you feel these symptoms, it is important to find shade, then sit down and relax and drink water until you are feeling better.

On that note, you also want to watch for the signs of dehydration, which also include fatigue along with a dry mouth and dark-colored urine. If you don’t drink water when these issues begin, it could start to affect your blood pressure and you could become too tired to continue.

Along with the issues associated with activity on a hot day, you also want to avoid a sunburn whenever possible. More than just giving you a little color, an excessive sunburn can cause blisters and swelling and can even lead to chills and nausea.

To avoid sunburn, apply sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30 before you leave to protect against the sun and dangerous UVB rays.

What to Bring To Stay Cool While Backpacking in Summer

When preparing for your adventure, it is essential that you take the time to create a packing list of everything you need, with an emphasis on first aid supplies and tools that will keep you cool while hiking or backpacking in summer.

The most important items involve hydration and that means bringing plenty of water you should drink during the course of your adventure. Moderation is key, as drinking too much can actually lead to over hydration, which can result in fatigue and cramps as your blood cells are so inundated that they lose functionality.

If water is too plain for you, then at least bring hydration packets that contain electrolytes as they replenish some of the fluid and minerals in your body that you lose when you sweat.

There are smart ways you can ensure that you have the water supply required for the hottest days. One idea is to get a hydration pack which is either part of your backpack or a separate entity that houses an extra water supply.

That way, you won’t have to hold it in your hands and it can balance your weight as you walk. If you want the water to remain cold, then freeze a water bottle the night before and it will last longer during your hike.

If you plan to camp during your summer backpacking adventure, then you will want to find a tent that will keep you as cool as possible. That means finding one that is a light color as it will reflect the heat.

Dark fabric will absorb the heat and make the interior warmer. A lightweight model like this heat-blocking tent has a mesh interior so you can allow a nice breeze to enter. Set the tent up in the shade and open the vents so the air can flow through.

Backpacking in Hot Weather? Plan Accordingly

In addition to packing the right equipment, you will also want to take the time to plan your hike accordingly, so you can avoid the warmest parts of the day.

Generally, it is hottest between the hours of noon and three in the afternoon, so you either want to return home by that time or wait to take a night hike as the sun is setting.

Early morning hikes are ideal because the sun will be rising, it won’t be too warm, and you will generally have the trail to yourself. If you are planning on an early morning hike then you will want to ensure that you get enough sleep, so you can have the energy required to climb those peaks and observe the beauty of nature.

One way to make sure you get enough rest is to use a sleep calculator, which will tell you when to lay down so you can get the 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye that the doctors recommend.

It is also a smart idea to plan the clothes you will wear during the hike, as what you choose could drastically change how warm you get during your adventure. Just like with your tent, you want to choose lighter-colored clothing that will reflect the light instead of absorbing it.

Also, opt for loose-fitting clothing, and if you can find hiking apparel with vents, then that is the best option. If you have especially sensitive skin, then make sure to wear pants and long-sleeved shirts so your arms and legs aren’t hit with those harmful UV rays.

There is nothing more exciting than celebrating the bright summer months with an exciting hike, but caution must always be present. Try the tips above to stay cool while hiking and enjoy your summer backpacking adventure without worry.

Over the past year, many avid travelers have had to slow their roll and reduce their travel due to COVID-19. During this time of quiet reflection, the realities of human carbon emission have begun to fully sink in.

As cars cleared the streets and airplanes stayed grounded, the facts remained: One long-haul flight from London to New York can produce around 986kg of carbon dioxide per passenger, according to the Guardian (US). That amount is comparable to the average yearly carbon output of a person living in a country like Paraguay or Burundi. 

With the return of air travel and the alarming projected increase in aviation emissions, you may be seeking solutions to carbon offset travel while exploring all our beautiful planet has to offer.

The What & How of Carbon Offsets

Carbon offsetting involves recognizing and directly addressing your individual carbon emissions. Online calculators make it fairly easy to determine exactly how much carbon you emit in your daily life. However, when travel is thrown into the mix, transport and other activities may cause your carbon footprint to skyrocket.

By employing simple techniques to counteract your carbon emissions, you can fill your passport with stamps while still protecting the environment. Carbon offsets for travel take many forms, and you can choose which forms best fit your lifestyle. 

Whether you prefer planting trees, encouraging less wasteful farming techniques, or helping isolated communities install cookstoves to replace wood fireplaces, you’re sure to find a cause you can get behind. Canceling out your carbon emissions allows you to get back to what you love most: travel.

The Truth About Travel & Carbon Emissions

According to the Washington Post, “flights were responsible for 2.4 percent of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2018.” While this may seem a relatively small sliver, the statistic fails to tell the whole story. 

For one thing, those numbers are projected to soar to nearly three times their current level within the next few decades. For another, because of the vast inequity of carbon emissions on our planet, a flight is likely to take up a much larger percentage of your personal carbon footprint.

Lifestyle Changes to Carbon Offset Travel

Reduce Waste & Consumption

There are many ways in which you can reduce or help carbon offset your travels. One way is by adopting a minimalist lifestyle. Minimalism doesn’t mean getting rid of everything you own, though — it means recycling, avoiding single-use items, and maximizing the enjoyment of any collections you do have without relying on quantity over quality.

A minimalistic approach to life will reduce the amount of waste you produce, thereby making the Earth greener and more enjoyable when you travel.

Eco-Friendly Digital Solutions

While you’re on the road, you can make use of several digital solutions that allow you to travel while being kind to the Earth. Carbon and solar calculators permit you to measure your impact on the environment and take concrete steps toward living a zero-waste lifestyle. 

Eco-tourism apps, on the other hand, can help you locate local produce, find sustainable lodging, and rideshare, no matter where you are in the world. In the future, fully electric driverless cars will help accelerate this change even more!

Adopt Environmentally-Friendly Work Habits

Today’s work landscape is also rapidly evolving to accommodate more eco-friendly habits. Depending on your lifestyle and work preferences, some of these techniques may work better for you than others. Two of the most popular options for eco-friendly work are work-from-home and work exchange programs.

Working From Home

As we’ve come to realize over the past year, working from home has one rather major impact: no commute. Not only does working from home save you money and time, it also significantly reduces your carbon emissions for flights. 

When you reduce the amount of fossil fuels you produce on a daily basis, this helps carbon offset travel and travel-based carbon emissions. Freelancing writing is one popular way of achieving this flexible, work-from-home lifestyle.

Work Exchange Programs

For those unable to go freelance, consider participating in a work exchange program in the location you’d like to visit. The options available to you depend on your nationality and the country you wish to work in. 

Potential work exchange programs in the United States include ranch work, the hospitality sector, and childcare services. When you work and travel at the same time, you’re less likely to jet off to a new country each week, reducing your overall fossil fuel emissions and allowing you to enjoy a rich, authentic work-travel experience.

Other Ways to Carbon Offset Travel

If you still haven’t achieved the carbon-neutral lifestyle of your dreams, there are several other ways to offset your carbon footprint. Many companies are more than happy to take your donations, but you’ll want to ensure their projects are legitimate and high-quality.

Some airlines also offer options for passengers to manually offset their carbon emissions for flights.

No matter what your current lifestyle, there are always ways to reduce your carbon footprint while journeying across the planet. Take the first step today toward living a greener life and saving the planet you love to explore!