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Important dos and don'ts for staying safe during your national park vacation

Jul 23, 2012, 9:08 a.m.

If you're looking for places to go and things to do this summer but you don't quite have the funds to travel overseas, you could do a lot worse than to break out a national park travel guide and explore some of the natural wonders that can be found right in your backyard. Visiting national parks can be a fun, safe way to spend your vacation -- but just because they're regularly patrolled and frequently visited doesn't mean there aren't dangers out there waiting to spoil your holiday. To help you avoid this undesirable turnabout, we've come up with a short but sweet guide to national park safety that spells out a few key dos and don'ts.

Do... keep yourself hydrated. Far too many inexperienced hikers -- as well as some experienced hikers -- neglect to bring along a bottle of water when they set out for their daytrip adventure. As a rule, you should already be drinking 8 glasses of water per day. If you're going to be doing something physical, like hiking or climbing, you should be drinking even more. A bottle of water could save your life, especially if you happen to injure yourself and aren't able to get back to civilization right away.

Don't... go hiking on your own. Always employ the buddy system, especially when taking a particularly long hike. The above referenced scenario of injuring yourself is a prime example of why it's vital to always let someone know where you are, in the unlikely yet possible event that you get hurt and can't get back to safety on your own.

Do... wear the right kind of footwear. There's a lot of walking to be done in national parks, especially since many prohibit the use of motor vehicles. For this reason, and for the sake of your feet, invest in a sturdy pair of hiking boots. Wearing hiking boots can also give you better traction, saving you from potentially painful falls.

Don't... push yourself too hard. Looks can be deceiving in national parks, and what may appear to be an easy trail could end up kicking you in the rear if you're not in good enough shape to tackle it. Your best bet? Start on an easy hike and see how well you do. If you're not drop-dead tired after you've finished it, consider inching up to a higher level. If you take a look at your trusty national park travel guide , you'll find that all hikes are given difficulty ratings, enabling you to choose based on your health and experience.

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