Did you know that 61 million people in the United States have a disability? Of these 61 million people, roughly 13.7% of people report having serious mobility issues regarding walking or climbing stairs. However, you can still enjoy the great outdoors! When you have a good plan and the right gear, even rough terrain can’t get in your way.
More and more adults are going on fun wheelchair hiking adventures and hitting trails all around the United States. Rolling your wheelchair through lush scenery comes with several physical and mental benefits. You’ll exercise both your body and mind, and wheelchair hiking gives you a unique chance to enjoy the world right outside your front door. Ready to roll out to your next adventure? Here are top tips to ensure your next wheelchair hiking excursion is a load of fun.
When temperatures warm up, it’s time to consider getting out and going on your wheelchair hike. Use these six top tips to ensure that you have a rewarding and successful first hike. You never know; you may find a hobby to pursue all spring and summer long.
Tip #1 Do Research
Before you pick a trail, it’s important to know where you want to go so you can prepare for your journey properly. Check the local trails in your area first. You can ask other hikers for recommendations or look online for detailed trail information. From this point, you can determine which trails are accessible before you leave your home.
Federal and State parks will tell you which trails are fully ADA-accessible right on their websites. Look for descriptions that outline the trail’s surface texture. If a website falls short, look for hiker forums. Feel free to ask questions about how accessible the trail is. These forums can give you firsthand accounts of what to expect.
Tip #2 Invite Others
The next time you go out, stop for a minute and take a deep breath of fresh air. Turn a beautiful day out wheelchair hiking into a fond memory by inviting friends and family to come along. Bringing others will give you fun company, and they double up as someone to talk to when you start exploring. They can help motivate you to keep going, and hiking is usually a shared activity.
Inviting friends also decreases the chances that you’ll bail out on the day of the hike. Also, it’s important to note that several people in wheelchairs or who have trouble moving around tend to spend time cooped up. Inviting them to come out with you ensures that they can enjoy the scenery too. However, make sure that both of you understand the terrain, so no one is surprised halfway through.
Tip #3 Get the Correct Gear
Once you pick out a trail and call a friend or two, it’s important that you take steps to outfit yourself with the correct gear. As long as you do, hiking is possible for anyone, regardless of their mobility levels. You can start with an adaptive wheelchair for hiking. These types of wheelchairs usually have mountain bike tires that are ideal for rocky terrain. If this is your first time on the hiking trails, using a trail rider wheelchair can help you test them out.
Also, a lot of trail wheelchairs come with levers. So, instead of relying on your shoulder muscles to move, you use your biceps and pecs to move the chair forward. In turn, you’ll be able to continue building up your arm strength while going out and exploring the trails by you.
Tip #4 Bring Snacks + Stay Hydrated
No matter if you’re planning on going on a complicated trek or on a short hide, you want to bring snacks. Ideally, you’ll pick food and snack items that have a lot of carbohydrates and proteins to fuel you as you move. Things like beef jerky, trail mix, and peanut butter protein bars are all good choices.
You want to drink plenty of water before you head out on your wheelchair hike. Hydrating before you go is critical. Pack a bottle or two of cold water to take with you while you’re out and about to. Make sure you take sips every 20 minutes or so to help keep your hydration levels up. Also, don’t forget to wear and hat and sunscreen. The more comfortable you are when your hike starts, the better you’ll feel at the end.
Tip #5 Book a Group Hike
Did you know that there are a lot of groups around the United States that organize multiple wheelchair hiking events each year? Going on a group outing is a fantastic way to meet people who share in your interests. Some groups will even offer adapted hiking wheelchairs for you to use on your hike.
Additionally, booking a slot on a group wheelchair hike means that there will be people around if you have a problem during your hike. They can all keep you motivated, and these groups cater to a broad range of mobility and fitness levels. Try to find one that is a good fit for your needs.
Tip #6 Get Creative
Know that you don’t have to stick to traditional trails. If you don’t have any good ones around your location, don’t be afraid to get creative. Look for horse boarding facilities and ask about their trails. They could be open to the public. Consider looking at city parks, golf courses, or ATV trails. There are dozens of types of trails to look for.
If you’ve already gone wheelchair hiking on a beginner’s trail, don’t be afraid to push yourself a little. Remain realistic while making it an adventure and enjoying the ride. Know your abilities and strengths if this is your first wheelchair hike while slowly working up to more difficult challenges.