From getting scratched by thorns to tumbling down hillsides, hikers face many dangers and it’s essential to always be prepared:

Blisters

The most common ailment for hikers, blisters are caused by friction from socks and /or footwear. The friction builds up heat and moisture inside the boot and the results are always painful. To help prevent blisters keep your toenails trimmed, walk regularly, wear in your boots slowly and walk around barefoot (when it’s safe to do so) in order to build up calluses that will help prevent blisters.

To treat blisters, first remove your boots and socks, get rid of any sand or gravel and let your feet dry and cool down. Cover the sore area with surgical tape, a plaster, or special blister moleskin (an artificial skin that you can cut to shape and stick to your own skin). Moleskin can be bought at most chemists. Take off any bandages after the day’s hike and let the skin recover overnight. Keep applying moleskin or dressing each day even once the pain and swelling goes down to prevent any recurrence.

If the blister is at the surface and filled with fluid, use a sterilized needle to pierce the blistered skin, let all the liquid out, and cover with moleskin. If the skin has ruptured, cut it away and clean the new skin underneath with antiseptic. Try to leave the new skin out in the open air to harden, then apply gauze and moleskin on top. Later, apply benzoin or rubbing alcohol to harden up the skin. Always keep blisters and the surrounding area clean and sterilized.

The ABC of Hiking provides a comprehensive bank of first aid information for hikers, so be sure to check there if you want further information. You can also purchase first aid kits via the site.

Contacting the emergency services

This could save your life if you get into trouble whilst out hiking. Make sure to first let friends, family, even the local authorities (if you’re heading somewhere remote and hazardous) know your plans. Give them a map of your proposed journey and tell them when you expect to complete it by. If you go missing, they will then be able to call the emergency services with a good knowledge of where you might be.

Local tourist boards, centres and council offices will be able to give you the number for their emergency services and the frequency for emergency radio channels. Make sure you have this information before you travel.

Take a mobile phone with you on your hike and preferably a radio too, as your phone can easily lose its signal. Distress flares are an excellent idea, but a simple mirror can reflect the suns rays and alert people to your position. A fire built in a triangular shape is the internationally recognised symbol for distress. Pile wet leaves and twigs onto the fire to create maximum smoke, but be careful not to let the fire get out of control.