Walking safety equipment includes the obvious, like reflective gear so motorists can see you, and the not so obvious, such as a fanny pack to hold your valuables. This section will also address basic safety tips like keeping the volume low on music players so you can hear danger signals.
Portable Music Players
Lightweight, portable radios, compact disc players, and digital music players are popular walking companions. They come in a variety of sizes and styles, from those that attach to your belt to those that are incorporated into headsets.
Some headphones are even built into earmuffs -- a handy innovation in the winter.
Remember, for the sake of safety, it's a good idea to keep the volume control at a sensible level. If you're blasting the music, you may not hear danger signals around you, such as approaching cars or cyclists or barking dogs.
Even if you're not going on a day-long hike, you may still need to carry a few things -- money, keys, identification -- as you walk. One popular way to do so is to use a "fanny pack."
A fanny pack is a specially made belt with a zippered pouch. The belt can be adjusted so that the pouch area rests in front or in back -- whichever is most comfortable. (If you will be walking in a crowded area, you'll probably want the pouch facing forward for safety's sake.)
Some manufacturers even make socks and shoes that come with tiny, sealable pouches for keys, change, and identification.
Special packs are also available for carrying infants while you walk. These packs feature a collar to support the baby's head, as well as an inner pouch to position the infant securely.
Newborns, who need more support, are more secure when carried on the chest. The same pack can later be adjusted to carry the older infant on your back.
A wide variety of portable containers are on the market for carrying liquids during walks, from disposable lightweight plastic water bottles to high-tech insulated thermoses and wearable water bags that come with thin hoses for hands-free drinking as you walk.
Some models feature an insulated carrier that keeps the contents cool on hot days and warm on cold days. Others have a dual function. They come equipped with a handle so that you can use the filled container as a hand-held weight.
Reflective gear is important for your safety when you walk at night, particularly if you are walking along a road in an area with no streetlights or sidewalks.
When a car's lights hit the reflective gear, you become visible at a much greater distance than you would be if you wore nonreflective white or light-colored garments. Reflective gear does not guarantee safety, however, so you'll still need to stay alert and face the traffic as you walk.
Reflective material is incorporated into many garments, including vests, headbands, belts, sashes, and leg bands. You can also purchase reflective safety trim that can be sewn, taped, or ironed onto your walking outfit. Ideally, the reflective gear should be worn on the chest, arms, waist, legs, and ankles.
It's especially important to wear reflective material on your legs and ankles, because much of the light from headlights is directed toward the ground. And because these body parts are moving, they are more likely to attract the driver's attention.
To learn more about walking, see:
Peggy Norwood Keating, MA, Contributing consultant
Rebecca Hughes, Contributing writer