One of my very favorite non-nursing activities is hiking, and I'm training to do Wilderness Search and Rescue. I guess the love of the outdoors runs in the family, since my "little" brother actually has a JOB in the outdoors. We've been discussing people getting injured and putting themselves in danger for a while, and I thought, since it's summer, I'd just post some general tips for not making yourself into a statistic in the great outdoors.
1. Pack an Emergency Bivy. Emergency blankets suck. I've used them on car accident victims, and they blow off in even a light breeze. Invest in a "bivy sack" for emergencies. They're under 20 bucks, and TOTALLY worth it. It's basically a metallic sleeping bag-style sack that's orange with reflective stripes. If you were to be caught out or hurt you could climb in WITH all your gear, and survive the night, or wait for rescue. REALLY WORTH IT.
2. LOOK AT THE MAP BEFORE YOU GO. The main reason people call for rescue in MY favorite mountains (the Whites) is that they overestimate their abilities, and get "exhausted" before they make it back to the trailhead. If you've never done more than a mile or two, DON'T plan on going THREE miles to the pretty waterfall without remembering that it's ALSO three miles BACK. If you DO call for rescue, (and can GET a cell signal) it could be some hours before people can get to you. Rescuers are volunteer, and a crew may have to get out of work, pack their gear, and hike in from quite a distance, depending on where you are. Therefore, MAKE SURE YOU CAN SPEND A NIGHT OUTSIDE. If you're not critically hurt (fell off a rock wall climbing, stomped on by a moose, fell in a stream and broke your leg, etc) you should be prepared to spend a solid night outside before you could be rescued. If simple exhaustion is your problem, think about this- IF you could wait overnight, would you THEN have enough energy to hike out? If this is the case, DO IT.
3. Backpacker.com has a good list of hiking essentials, but my top gear list would be the following:
NON COTTON clothing (cotton does not insulate when wet, and is heavy)- shorts and teeshirt
-raincoat and pants (dont need to be expensive, but need to keep water out)
-fleece jacket of some sort (the cheap ones work fine)
-iodine tablets (in case you have to be out there a while, to purify water)
-an EMERGENCY BIVY
-headlamp (seriously, dozens of people every year need rescue because "it got dark out"...BRING A LIGHT!)
-hat and gloves
-plenty of water
that's the minimum. hike in peace, and enjoy the outdoors!!!