Walnut Creek, Calif. Finally, it seems as though spring is here. Meaning it's time to start getting prepared for the outdoors.
But since unexpected things happen, however, the best way to help guarantee a good time for all is to plan ahead for any favorite activities.
Whether it's hiking, biking, rafting, canoeing or any type of activity that requires physical exertion, take stock of your health.
If you have any medical conditions, discuss your plans with your health care provider and get approval before departing.
And if you've been a couch potato during the winter, it's not a bad idea to start a training program before you embark on your outdoor adventures.
Get your hips and shoulders used to a heavy backpack by carrying a backpack whenever you see the opportunity to do so. Steadily increase the backpack load and the duration you are carrying it. If you have rough terrain nearby, use it to train yourself on steep inclines and rough surfaces.
Jogging and running are good ways to work on your overall fitness while at the same time preparing your legs and feet for the rough times ahead. If possible, run on steep inclines, which will increase the intensity of your workout and will prepare your feet, ankles and knees for the differences in uphill, downhill and even surfaces. Now you're feeling strong and ready to tackle whatever nature throws your way.
Now it's time to review the equipment, supplies and skills that you'll need. Consider what emergencies could arise and how you would deal with those situations. There are plenty of situations to be wary of in the outdoors, such as a member of your party getting lost, confronting an animal, a member of the party getting ill, or injured, or unexpected change in weather.
Make sure you have the skills you need for your camping or hiking adventure. Take time to learn how to read a compass, erect a temporary shelter or give first aid. Practice your skills in advance.
It's safest to hike or camp with at least one companion. If you'll be entering a remote area, your group should have a minimum of four people; this way, if one is hurt, another can stay with the victim while two go for help. If you'll be going into an area that is unfamiliar to you, take along someone who knows the area or at least speak with those who do before you set out.
Pack emergency signaling devices, and know ahead of time the location of the nearest telephone or ranger station in case an emergency does occur on your trip.
Leave a copy of your itinerary with a responsible person.
Bring candle and matches, cell phone, clothing (always bring something warm, extra socks and rain gear), compass, first aid kit, flashlight, hat, insect repellent, map of the area, pocket knife, pocket mirror, space blanket or a piece of plastic (to use for warmth or shelter), sunscreen, water, waterproof matches or matches in a waterproof tin, water purification tablets, and a whistle (to scare off animals or to use as a signaling device).