In creating this blog I aim to educate as well as inspire. As I write about my trips into the mountains, I always find myself inspired by being out in the vast serenity.
After many years of trial and error, I have learned some simple tips that help me avoid being uncomfortable while trying to soak in the beauty of the outdoors.
Having picked up the habit of writing about my various hikes, I have found that the experiences are much deeper than a passive stroll or a way to exercise. I want to help other hikers not only be inspired to get out there as often as possible, but to do it with confidence.
Hikers are not typically the “softy” types; I know I am not. However, as I age I am finding that being chilled to the bone takes away from the fun when exploring the mountains of my desires.
Anyone who hikes knows the weather can change from a hot sunny morning to a cold rainy evening. Mountain hikers often tease one another if someone is complaining about the weather: “If you don’t like it, wait ten minutes.” The weather on all mountains is unpredictable, so it is best to start all your hikes prepared and layered.
Most experienced hikers learn to stay warm on the trail through trial and error, getting their bones frozen when not dressing for variations in the weather. When venturing into the mountains, I recommend that you dress in clothing made by brands such as Under Armour. Under Armour is a brand of clothing that is made out of 63 percent Nylon, 23 percent polyester and 14 percent Elastane.
The combination of these materials does a great job of wicking the sweat away from your body. Also, the fabric is lightweight and dries very quickly.
Though many hikers find Under Armour to be their favorite, other manufacturers use similar combinations. When you are shopping for a base layer, read the labels. Look for a fabric that wicks away sweat (Cotton does not, which is why it is not a great choice for cool or cold days). Once you have your base layer, then layer on top of it as needed for conditions.
As for your lower body, your feet take you where you want to go on your hikes, so take care of them. I prefer to hike in Smart Wool socks, even in the summer. They have just the right amount of padding and keep my feet at a comfortable temperature.
As for boots, a poor pair can ruin your hikes by way of blisters, sprained ankles and many other enemies of the foot. I prefer two brands of boots: Danner, Red Wing and Keen. I am currently hiking in a pair of Red Wing boots with ankle support (I find it very important to have ankle support).
Here’s a rule of thumb I have picked up when purchasing new boots: Always buy a half-size larger than you would normally wear. While hiking you can retain water, and your feet are likely to swell. You will also want the extra room for thicker socks during the cooler seasons. A half-size larger will be enough, but not too much; going too large can invite blisters.
You should always bring a hat, but which type of hat will depend on the weather. A baseball cap can protect your face from rays on sunny days and a beanie can help retain heat on cooler hikes.
Probably the most important thing you can do before going out on a hike is to drink and pack plenty of water. Always have enough water on you or around you. We carry a water pump along with our camel packs.
You can get a water pump at any sporting goods store for between $40 and $150. Becoming dehydrated can make for a bad situation. Having available water is by far the most important hiking tip to remember, but a close second would be having access to food.
Some easy-to-carry foods that can provided much-needed energy include: Trail Mix, energy bars, fruit (also good for hydration) and, something I like to pack, hard-boiled eggs and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Always be aware of the wildlife whose territory you are enjoying. Gnats, mosquitoes, ants, ticks and flies love it when you enter their space. These affectionate pests show their love by swarming you, invading your food and nibbling on your exposed areas; it is their way of saying they are glad to see you.
Remember to pack bug repellant, even if you do not think bugs will be an issue. Different seasons, changes in precipitation levels and other natural factors can bring more bugs to an area where you have not encountered them before.
You should also be aware of larger species of wildlife—those that cannot be dissuaded by a bottle of Off! Bears, mountain lions, deer, bobcats and many other animals live in our favorite hiking spots.
If you take precautions, respect their areas and leave them alone, they will usually keep to themselves. Remember that you are in their home and it does not always take a lot to spike their curiosity. If you are hiking in an area that is unknown to you, ask local hikers if there have been any issues lately and inquire what you can do to avoid enticing the local wildlife.
And, last but not least, remember the mantra that we have had instilled in our heads since grade school: Safety first. While out and exploring your mountain of choice, be sure to take necessary safety precautions. Always tell someone back at home where you plan on hiking.
A GPS is an excellent idea and a wise investment. Plus, while you are likely to be far from any cellular phone towers, it never hurts to bring your cell phone. I know, part of the appeal of hiking is to disconnect from society and the last thing you want to hear is a ringing cell phone, but still having that link back to the real world can really come in handy.
Once my husband and I went out for a drive in the Pah Rah area just east of Sparks, Nevada. Our plan was to explore a long dirt road we discovered, see where it went and then go for an impromptu hike.
Before we left for this particular trip I took one look at my phone and gladly left it behind. My husband never likes to bring his phone when we go exploring, but he knows I have mine … usually. Later that day I was wishing I had not said no to technology. About 10 miles down the mysterious dirt road, my husband’s old Chevy broke down. The transmission finally had enough of the rocky road and gave up.
With no phones on board, there was nothing we could do except walk out of there. We ended up walking for hours and long after the sun had set we emerged in the far west side of what we learned was Palomino Valley.
Thankfully there was a house sitting out there in the middle of nowhere that had its lights on. As we stumbled up to this house hungry, cold, dirty and worn out from our three-and-a-half hour hike out of the desolate mountains, we rang the doorbell and asked to use their phone. We were able to call my sister and brother-in-law, and they came to rescue us.
So, the moral of this story: Safety first. Bring the necessary items, like a phone, flashlight, food, water and a GPS. Plus, make sure you tell people where you are going. I know we sometimes think we need to disconnect from it all, but it is possible to disconnect without being completely detached.
Please share how you practice good hiking habits in the comments below.