How To Safely Enjoy The Outdoors: A Guide To Getting Prepared


Now that the weather is warm, it’s a great time to get outside and go for a hike in the woods or a picnic in a nearby park. Before hitting the trails, do a little planning to keep the trip safe and enjoyable – employing some on-the-go pest control to keep critters from tagging along. Here are some tips to help you prep like a pro.

pest prevention while enjoying the outdoorsFind fun places. For many, this year has created an opportunity to explore nature. Not sure where to go? Start your adventure with a search online for “hikes near me,” “bike trails near me,” or “parks near me” to get started. Google will use your location and automatically filter results closest to you. This link also offers a list of apps that can help you find great spots as well. More ambitious outdoor explorers might try apps like AllTrails or Hiking Project for ideal places to hike. These apps can point you to nearby options and offer extras, like updates on trail conditions or reviews from fellow hikers.

Keep in mind that some parks may be closed or have limited hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Check the official website for the most up-to-date information, or you can always call and ask. Remember, a web address ending in .gov means that it is a local, state or national park. Their main purpose is to benefit the communities where they are located – so take advantage!

Pack carefully. Like any good nature scout, you’ll want to be prepared. If you’re planning a hike, the American Hiking Society recommends these 10 essentials:

  1. Appropriate footwear.
  2. A map and compass, or a GPS.
  3. Water: half a liter per hour per person in moderate temperatures and terrains; more if it’s hot.
  4. Food.
  5. Rain gear and fast-drying layers.
  6. Safety items: a light, a whistle, and a way to start a fire if needed (this is a safety precaution; not all parks allow recreational or cooking fires).
  7. A first-aid kit.
  8. A knife or multitool.
  9. Sun protection: sunscreen, sunglasses and sun-protective clothing.
  10. Shelter: a blanket or other means to stay sheltered if you’re stranded.

For a short hike in a well-populated area, you may not need all of these items, but it’s a good idea to at least review this list as a reminder to carry anything you might need.

child sight seeingOne more item to consider: a trash bag, to carry any trash back from the trail. If you’re feeling like doing a little service project, bring a pair of disposable gloves and pick up any litter on the trail too.

Practice safety. For any outing, consider weather conditions. If it’s hot outside, be sure to bring plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated. If it’s really hot, plan for frequent breaks in shady spots or indoors. If there’s any chance of a thunderstorm, have a plan to shelter. Protect yourself from the sun with a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and sun-protective clothing. If you’re biking, wear a helmet. If you’re hiking deep into the woods or other remote areas, be sure to carry a paper map (in case cell service is spotty), a compass, and appropriate survival gear should you become stranded. Always pack a face mask to put on should you find yourself on a trail that’s crowded.


Remember that woods, fields and other wild areas are the places where you’re most likely to encounter a tick or a mosquito, both of which can carry disease. Protect yourself!

Make mosquitoes scram. Mosquitoes can be more than just annoying and itchy; they can be harmful to your health. Mosquitoes bite day and night, and for most of the U.S., mosquito season starts in the summer and continues into fall. Keep in mind that even if you’re not encountering many mosquitoes in your yard or neighborhood, you may find them out in swarms in wooded areas.

To protect yourself, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends:

  • Applying insect repellent containing DEET on exposed skin and clothing. To protect your face from bites, put some repellent on your hands and apply to your face, avoiding your eyes and mouth. Wash your hands afterward. Follow product instructions carefully.
  • Wear closed-toe shoes and clothing that fully covers your arms and legs. Light-colored clothing is best; mosquitoes are attracted to dark and bright colors.

Tick-proof yourself. Lyme disease, which is spread by the bite of an infected blacklegged tick, is on the rise: In the United States, an estimated 300,000 infections occur each year. If you camp, hike, work, or play in wooded or grassy places, you’re at risk. Ticks live in moist and humid environments and like to hide in leaves and bushes. To avoid them, walk in the center of trails and avoid tall bushes or other vegetation.

Whenever you venture outside, wear insect repellant that contains DEET. Always follow product instructions. Perform tick checks when you head back inside. Search your entire body using a handheld or full-length mirror to make sure you don’t miss any spots. Don’t forget to also check your pets. Follow the CDC’s recommended procedure to remove any tick you find.

Keep picnic pests away. Take steps for picnic pest prevention to keep unwanted guests – ants, mosquitoes or other insects – from getting into your food. Choose a spot that is open and away from any soggy ground, wet grass or standing water. Some parks allow you to reserve pavilions in advance; call or check the website. Keep your food in a cooler until it’s time to eat. This is especially important with fruit and desserts – bugs love them. Many flying pests look for bright colors to pinpoint nectar or other tempting food sources. Avoid colorful, bright clothing and picnic supplies, which may tempt bugs to stop and investigate.

Finally, remember the old adage: failing to plan is planning to fail. With just a little preparation, you can enjoy the great outdoors safely and comfortably this summer!

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