A Guide to Hiking the Pacific Crest

Pacific Crest Hiking Guide: Health and First Aid

Taking care of your feet is very important on a backpacking trip.
Taking care of your feet is very important on a backpacking trip.
Daniel H. Bailey/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Whether you're hiking for a few hours or months, you should know the basics of first aid before you tackle the Pacific Crest Trail. Courses are often available through your American Red Cross branch or other local groups such as a recreational department. It's also wise to carry some medical supplies with you, such as adhesive strips, antibacterial ointment, sterile gauze pads and antihistamine tablets [source: Pacific Crest Trail].

The most common injuries among hikers, including those on the PCT, are bumps, bruises and foot ailments such as athlete's foot, blisters and cracked calluses. Since your feet are probably your most important asset as a hiker, here's what you should know about their preventive care and first aid [source: Pacific Crest Trail].

  • Whenever possible, take off your shoes and socks and air out your feet. If your socks are sweaty, change them.
  • Dunk your feet in a cool stream when it's hot out.
  • Elevate your legs to promote good circulation and reduce swelling.
  • At the end of every day, massage your feet and take care of any "hot spots" by covering them with bandages or moleskin.
  • If you develop athlete's foot, make sure to keep your feet as dry as possible and apply antifungal medication.
  • For filled blisters, drain with a sterilized needle and cover with a bandage. At night, remove the bandage to air out the area.
  • Some recommend superglueing together a cracked callus, which prevents the crack from deepening and reduces the pain. That may work, but you'll still need to moisturize the area.