Your backpacking pack is all set to go and you are really psyched about your hike. Don’t cave in to the scare of ticks and Lyme Disease. Instead, protect yourself with against Lyme disease from a tick bite before you head out. Current hysteria about ticks; yes you should take it seriously, but don’t stop enjoying a great outdoor hike. You don’t have to cover your body in toxic Deet. Instead, adapt the theory that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Here’s how you can keep doing what you love while preventing disease!
While most tick bites can be successfully treated with antibiotics, if you prevent them altogether, this is still the best way to go. The very prospect of getting bitten by a tick can turn the simple pleasure of hiking and camping into a gamble with your health. It’s unrealistic to think you’ll never encounter ticks in the wild, which makes a precautionary tactic the best ammunition.
If you understand as much as you can about ticks, you will automatically make prevention something you do prior to every hike. You should know where they like to hang out. How do they find their way onto your body? It’s also important to know how to properly remove them and care for yourself if you do get bitten.
Hikers; You Can Avoid Contact With Ticks This Way
Avoid These Areas While Backpack Hiking
Choose your hiking location carefully because certain areas are more prevalent than others for ticks. If you do some basic research of seasonal information regarding ticks for your area, you may choose a different location. Some people no longer enjoy hiking or camping because of the threat of ticks and tick-borne diseases. Why would you just stop enjoying the outdoors? You simply have to be prepared with knowledge and alter the way you explore the outdoors to minimize your risk. It’s a small price to pay for not having to give up what you love in the wild.
Early in hiking season, when cold days are still prevalent, if it’s uncharacteristically warm for a few days, that’s an extra dangerous time. Ticks will come out of dormancy and be hungrier than usual on a day like that. Avoid hiking in heavily grassy or wooded areas on warm days that follow colder days for this reason. During the spring and early summer, ticks are at their most dangerous growth stage. They’re tiny, like a poppy seed, making them hard to see, and if they’re carrying a disease, they’re already potent.
The greatest exposure to them is from May to July in states with lower elevations (1600 feet or lower) such as New England and the Northeast states. You may prefer using a hiking trail that is paved or gravel bottomed to limit tick exposure. These trails are more popular for hikers who enjoy day hikes or don’t want to go backcountry thru-hiking. There are still many ways to enjoy backpacking without giving up our joy for being outdoors.
Backpacking Pack – Here’s The Facts, Not The Fiction
The deer tick or blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) is the one that transmits Lyme disease as well as other nasty illnesses such as anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, and Powassan virus disease. These ticks thrive in fields and woodlands where there is an abundance of deer and mice, which are their favorite hosts. So, where do they hang out mostly? Since they’re not a flying insect, they can be found on grass blades and bushes 18-24” off the ground.
When you brush past them, they will attach to clothing or skin not covered. This is why you should walk in the middle of the trail if you are hiking in a highly tick-ridden area. Avoid tall grassy meadows and leave the bushwacking for fall or winter, when ticks are more dormant. If you are hiking in a higher elevation, usually more than 1700 ft., you find fewer ticks, if any.
Backpack Hikers – Ticks Are Everywhere; Be Protected
They also live in lawns and gardens, especially at the edges of woods and around old stone walls. They are attracted to grassy areas where the creatures they feed on live and roam. So, in areas that have deer, rabbits, birds, lizards, squirrels, mice, and other rodents, ticks will be close by for easy meals. Sounds like they are everywhere and would be impossible to avoid, right? Once again, prevention is the way to go, unless you want to be totally house bound.
During Your Hike – Best Precautions Against Ticks
Backpacking pack hikers, don’t sit on the ground without a pad. Ticks also crawl on the ground, so avoid sitting directly on it. Also, avoid sitting on logs or directly in the grass. Choose a bench or large rock instead. If you pack a blanket, then enjoy that meadow, just check your clothes when you pack up and move on.
Hikers may prefer to sit on a pad that’s been treated with permethrin. Ticks like to crawl into dark, moist areas, so when you do tick checks, pay attention to your armpits and groin.
Backpackers: Make Your Own Homemade Tick Repellant
Backpacking pack hiking trips can be much safer with this simple recipe you can easily make yourself. And no, you don’t have to know how to cook. Just mix 1 part tea tree oil to 2 parts water. Tea tree oil is easily found in stores or on Amazon. For example, mix ¼ cup tea tree oil to ½ cup water and put in a spray bottle. It’s natural, non-toxic and safe for skin and the environment.
How Do Ticks Get On You While Outdoor Hiking?
Ticks can easily brush onto your clothing as you hike through grass. They tend to start low and climb until they find your bare skin. If you spot them early, just pick them off your clothes instead of pulling them out of your skin. Wearing light clothing makes them much easier to spot. Do periodic checks of your clothing, shoes and hat throughout your hike. They take their time scouting out the best part of skin, which gives you time to remove them before they bite you. When you pick off live ones, step on and crush the little buggers!
Some Hikers Prefer Permethrin Insecticide
You may prefer to use a Permethrin product which kills insects on contact, since it’s been found to reduce the chance of tick bites. Whether you make your own natural spray or Permethrin, be sure to spray all of your clothing outdoors when there is little-to-no wind. Let them dry for several hours before wearing. Spray your hat, boots, backpacks, tent, and clothes. Dogs need protection too, so spray your dog’s bandannas, collar, and backpack. Tuck your sprayed pant legs into your sprayed socks. Don’t give ticks exposure to skin, even in warm weather.
Hiking Trekkers; Do This If You Spot A Tick on Yourself Or Fellow Hiker
First of all, don’t panic. Ticks don’t usually land on you and immediately bite. When a tick bites a human or animal, it firmly latches on to the skin to feed. It may stay there for days sucking blood if it isn’t interrupted. The longer a tick is attached to your skin, the greater the risk of disease transmission. So, if you spot one on your skin, in spite of careful preparation, you’ll need to remove it as soon as possible.
Backpackers; Get Out Your Surgical Instrument (Haha)
Start by wiping the area with an antiseptic solution. You should always carry a pair of tweezers in your hiking bag. Place each side of the tweezers on each side of the tick’s head, then firm;y but gently pull the tick straight out. Be careful not to squash the tick or pull it sideways, because this can leave part of the tick left in your skin. Once you see that all parts of the tick body are removed, clean the area again with your antiseptic solution.
Trekkers, There’s An Easier Way I Like
Another easier tip, which I use, is to carry a small 3 oz. plastic bottle of Dawn dishwashing liquid and some cotton balls in your backpack. They aren’t heavy and sure can be handy. Saturate the cotton ball in Dawn and apply it to the tick. Give it a few seconds and the tick will withdrawal and adhere to the cotton ball for easy extraction and disposal.
Hikers Should Be Aware Of These Symptoms From An Unknown Bite
Backpacking pack trekkers remember, Lyme Disease is nothing to ignore. The sooner it is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome. It’s important that if you notice a rash or develop an itchy feeling near a tick bite, seek medical attention immediately. It’s possible the bite is infected or you may have contracted a tick-borne disease. Be aware of these early symptoms:
- Rash with Bulls eye appearance of a red circle
- Fever or chills
- Loss of appetite
- Reduced energy or fatigue
- Muscle and joint aches (can be shifting, intermittent, and recurring)
- Generalized stiffness, discomfort, or pain; headache
Often, a two to three week treatment of an antibiotic will quickly clear up Lyme disease. But, when ignored or misdiagnosed for prolonged periods, your body will produce more severe symptoms. These could include short-term memory issues, facial palsy, arthritis, heart palpitations, and inflammation of the brain. At this stage, the illness can be difficult and expensive to treat. Protect yourself always.
Maybe It’s Safer To Forego Hiking Completely?
The answer to that question is a resounding NO! Ticks are just another nuisance that you find in the wild, probably even in many backyards. Concentrating on prevention, and learning how and where to avoid them, you’ll be able to keep enjoying your hikes. You can still enjoy and be safe in the great outdoors. There will always be insects and creatures in the wild that you need to respect and prepare for exposure to them. If you let bears, snakes, wolves and ticks fill you with fear, you’ll be sitting home all the time. You have the facts, so simply apply them and keep happy hiking safely. Come see us at Nature Trail Backpacks and feel free to comment to help other hikers.