Long hikes in the San Francisco Bay Area offer us opportunities that have become rare in the modern day: To encounter nature (our own as well as that of the outside world) in an intimate one-on-one fashion. Because this is such a departure from the usual manner in which so many of us live in San Jose, however, there can be risks involved in the venture that we may not consider until we encounter them – and by then, it may be too late. Anticipating – and preparing for – the possible pitfalls will leave our minds free to focus on the excitement of the journey.


The safest wilderness hikes are typically undertaken under the supervision of seasoned guides. With proper forethought and precaution, we can certainly enjoy a successful excursion without the help of a professional. Lengthy hikes in wild terrain should never be undertaken alone, however. Companions are crucial. Trusted friends can give us invaluable aid in the event of an injury and also provide us with a gift that’s often underestimated on the trail: psychological support. Fatigue, hunger, dehydration, sun, cold and various other factors can all impair our judgment and confuse our emotional responses. Two or more heads are definitely better than one when it comes to negotiating these sorts of risky experiences, especially when our very survival may be at stake.


Ideally, everyone who is going on the expedition should understand the basic procedures of medical rescue and first-aid. These skills include CPR and the application of bandages and splints. Practice these techniques beforehand until they become second nature, especially if you’ll be traveling through terrain that poses significant risks. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the environment that you’ll be traveling through. Some factors to be aware of include the availability of water, possible high altitudes, any posted warnings in the area and the projected weather forecast.


We burn a lot more calories (about 3,000-5,000 for men and 2,000-3,500 for women) per day when we’re involved in a strenuous activity such as hiking. Pack enough food to compensate for your exertions along the trail.


Other crucial supplies that you should have on hand include:

– solution for water disinfection

– a fire starter kit

– an improvised shelter

– a map

– a compass or GPS

– a cell phone

– emergency lighting

– sunscreen

– insect repellent

– a multi-tool knife

first-aid kit


Be sure to break your boots in well in advance of your trip in order to avoid that great enemy of all Bay Area hikers – blisters. If you’re setting out merely for a day-long excursion, it’s still advisable that you prepare for an unexpected night spent outdoors.

It’s important that you know your own medical history as well as that of any traveling companions. Preexisting conditions can be exacerbated when we enter into unfamiliar environments. Lung problems, for example, will typically become more severe at high altitudes. Be particularly aware of any temperature extremes that you may encounter along your projected road. Consider also any severe allergic reactions that you or any of your company may be vulnerable to, such as bee stings, poison ivy or any of various food allergies.

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