10 Things to Take and Do on Your National Park Trip
National Parks are America's gems. While you're out in nature, exploring and enjoying them, be sure to take and do these 10 things designed to help you stay safe and enjoy your trip.
In 2016, Matt Rocheleau of The Boston Globe wrote an article about the most common reasons people need to be rescued from America’s National Parks. He highlights data tracked from the National Park Service from the years 2004 to 2014.
- Men need rescue nearly 53% of the time
- The most common area for rescue (at 20%) was the mountains, between 5,000 and 15,000 feet
- Coming in at a close 2nd (15%) were the mountains and foothills below 5,000 feet
- The most common activity that needed rescue was day hiking and walking, at 42%
- The top factors that contributed to people needing rescue were fatigue/physical condition at 23% and insufficient info about the area they were in 15%
- Thankfully, 93% of the people were found within 24 hours.
Don’t be a statistic, prepare for your visit to a National Park by taking these ten items with you and preparing ahead of time.
Bring a First-Aid Kit
Safety is important when you are out in nature. Before you head out to the park, put together a first aid kit, and also have access to a first-aid manual. You’ll feel safer and better able to handle small bumps and bruises with ease.
Prepare for Wild Weather with the Right Clothes
National Parks are wild places, and weather can change rapidly. Temperatures can rise into the 90’s during the day and drop down to the teens at night. Don’t get caught out in the country without warm clothing and blankets.
Don’t Let Rain Ruin Your Trip
The weather can be volatile in a National Park. Be sure to pack simple ponchos or light rain gear on your trip. They pack lightly and are easy to tuck away. Don’t let a surprise storm ruin your trip!
Water is Life
Carry bottled water for every day trip, even if you think you will not be out in the wilderness for long. There is water available at many campgrounds, so refills will be available. You’ll need about half a liter of water per hour when doing moderate hiking activities.
If you’ll be out hiking away from drinking water refill stations, then learning to purify your own water is a necessity. Mountain water may look clean but beware of Giardia. It’s a waterborne organism that can’t be seen but can play havoc on your stomach if you have it in the water.
The easiest way to purify water is to use water purification tablets, 8 drops of chlorine, or 20 drops of iodine per gallon.
Obey the Trails
Always stay on the hiking trails and chose ones that are suitable for your skill and physical abilities. You are more likely to run into wild animals when you are off the path.
Before setting out, consider the length of the trail, how steep it will become and the altitude at your destination. Leave your intended route, planned length of trip, and return date with a park ranger or family member before setting out.
Beware of Altitude Sickness
One of the most common problems for hikers is altitude sickness, which happens when you ascend above 8,500 feet without proper acclimation. You can prevent this by spending a night at a higher elevation and easing into your climb.
Be aware of the signs of altitude sickness:
- Shortness of breath,
- Body weakness
- Sleep disturbance
If any of these things happen, get to a lower altitude as soon as possible. Find out more in this article from Healthline.
Animal Proof Your Food
It is estimated a bear’s nose is just as sensitive as a bloodhound, which is equipped with about 230 million scent receptors. Bears can sniff out human food with impressive efficiency. Having a bear at your campsite, or on your car, can be problematic!
Avoid attracting bears, raccoons, and other scavengers to your car and campsite by animal proofing the food you leave in your car and in your packs. At many developed campsites, you can obtain animal-proof containers. It may be prudent to plan ahead by bringing your own.
For a list of National Parks that require the use of approved canisters, read the article, Bear Resistant Canisters, from REI.
Prevent Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is caused by a virus carried by deer ticks, which thrive in dry, brushed covered areas. Be aware and before walking in the woods, tall brush, or through fields, prevent Lyme disease by taking these steps:
- Spray yourself with tick repellant
- Wear long pants tucked into socks
- Wear long sleeves
When you undress after your trip, search your body for ticks and remove them with rubbing alcohol and tweezers. Find out more in this article from The Mayo Clinic.
Guard Against Sunburn & Heatstroke
Many National Parks have high altitude areas that can be accessed by vehicle. At higher altitudes, the air is thinner, and ultraviolet rays are at their strongest. Sun reflecting off snow, sand, or water can do damage – even on overcast days. Protect yourself from sunburn by wearing SPF 15 or higher and a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
Exposure to heat for a prolonged period of time can bring on heatstroke, especially if you are not used to being in these conditions. This is a severe medical threat that requires immediate attention. Symptoms include:
- If not treated it can lead to convulsion and unconsciousness
Be prepared ahead of time by consulting your first-aid manual for treatment or read this article from Medical News Today.
Plan ahead for your National Park experience by utilizing these 10 things to take and do before your trip. Knowledge is power, my friends!