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Six Beginner-Friendly Summer Safety Tips for Exploring the Great Outdoors

The summer solstice is right around the corner, which means we’ve got maximum daylight for exploring the great outdoors! From state parks to forest roads, there’s no shortage of trails to tackle. But with big adventure comes great responsibility, and your safety and comfort should always be on your mind when prepping for adventures that push your limits. 

For beginners, even a short ride on an easy trail can feel like a big step out of your comfort zone. I speak from experience here — as someone who deals with chronic pain, it can be scary to step out into the woods and not know how your body will deal several miles down the trail. But that doesn’t stop me from exploring, and it shouldn’t stop you either. With that in mind, here are a few basic safety tips to help guide you to making the best of the great outdoors this summer. 

Disclaimer: This list is not exhaustive, and you should always do your own planning and research before venturing out into your local parks and trail systems. 

1. Be Weather-Aware

With climate change making each summer hotter and more unpredictable than the last, staying informed about the weather is crucial. Before every outing, check the forecast and be prepared for sudden changes. Practice daily weather awareness to recognize patterns in your area — for instance, if you live in a town that experiences regular afternoon mini-monsoons during the summer, plan your trips accordingly.

Don’t underestimate the temperature, the heat often sneaks up on you. Learn to recognize the signs of heat sickness, which include heavy sweating, clammy skin, nausea, dizziness, and confusion. If you or a companion start experiencing these symptoms, take immediate action: find shade, drink water, and cool down as quickly as possible. 

2. Listen to Yourself and Plan Smart

When planning your trip, choose a route that is appropriate for your physical capabilities. Know how many miles you’ll be traveling, how much vertical distance you’ll climb, and over what terrain. Use a tool like Ride With GPS or Strava to help you see the elevation and road surface. Hedge your bets on distance if you’re new to offroad riding — a mile on gravel takes a lot more energy than a mile on a paved road. Don’t forget that exploring remote areas is not a good time to push your limits. Check-in with yourself frequently, listen to your physical cues, and be ready to improvise when your body tells you to change plans. 

3. Pack Smart and Gear Up

Proper packing is essential for a safe and enjoyable adventure. Get familiar with the ten essentials for exploring remote backcountry areas, and pare down the list according to how far out you’re venturing. Start with the basics: bring enough food and water to sustain you for the duration of your trip, and then some. Hydration is particularly important, so carry more water than you think you’ll need, and consider a portable water filter if you’ll be near natural water sources. 

A first aid kit is another must-have, along with a basic patch kit for your bike or gear. Don’t forget your helmet, either! Before you head out, ensure your helmet fits well and is properly secured. And of course, wear appropriate clothing for the weather conditions. Check out the Bikepacking 101 handbook for more detailed advice on what to pack!

4. Communicate & Have a Backup Plan

Before embarking on a new trail, ensure you have a clear plan and communicate it to someone else. This is especially critical if you’re heading out alone. For example, if you’re planning a solo bikepacking trip through the wilderness, create a detailed itinerary that includes campsite locations and expected check-in times. Some bike computers and phones will let you send a live view of your location and route to others. Know where resources are located while adventuring, such as water sources, places to rest, public bathrooms, and the nearest hospitals. Keep an eye out for log books at trailheads where you can write down your name and emergency contact information. These simple measures can make a significant difference in an emergency, potentially saving your life. 

5. Practice Wayfinding

Getting lost is surprisingly easy to do, but it can be mitigated with proper wayfinding tools and techniques. Always carry a fully charged phone or GPS unit if you can, and plan ahead to download offline maps of the area you’re exploring or purchase a printed map. Pro tip for day trips: if you find yourself at a trailhead with dwindling battery life but need to know where to go, snap a photo of the trail map and quickly switch your phone to airplane or low-power mode. It’s not the ideal wayfinding solution, but it’s better than nothing!

It’s also smart to familiarize yourself with the basics of navigation. Consider natural navigation clues as well — staying mindful of the sun’s position in the sky can help you navigate in a pinch. As you travel, take note of landmarks like rock formations, rivers, and lakes. These skills can prevent minor detours from turning into major problems.

6. Respect the Rules of the Road and the Trail

Both road riding and trails have their own sets of rules and etiquette to follow and understand. On the road, follow the traffic laws and basics of Smart Cycling. For off-road riding, practice good trail etiquette. Yield to others as appropriate, communicate clearly when passing, and always stay aware of your surroundings. These practices not only enhance safety but also contribute to a positive outdoor experience for everyone.

So as you venture out, let curiosity guide you with a measure of caution. Everybody deserves access to the well-being that comes from spending time in green spaces, breathing fresh air, and enjoying good exercise. Here’s to safe travels and memorable journeys this summer — see you on the trails!

Want more beginner content? Tune in to our Gravel Cycling 101 Webinar on Thursday, June 27th at 4PM ET!

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