Hiking Preparedness

  1. Start by assessing your ability and pick hikes you can handle and move onto tougher and more strenuous hikes. The feeling of accomplishment of achieving a difficult target is one of the best incentives you will have to continue.
  2. Get the right equipment for the hikes you want to do. It is very important to have hiking shoes to support your feet, back packs that you are comfortable carrying and comfortable moisture wicking clothes. Without the right equipment you may be uncomfortable or hurt yourself and that will deter one from continuing to hike.
  3. Carry more water than you think you need. Sip water regularly. Dehydration makes you tired and affects your overall performance. Add Electrolytes to your water, or munch salty snacks. Sweat is made up of sodium and potassium, which needs to be replaced
  4. Eat nutritious, well balanced food for breakfast and on the trail. Make sure food has sufficient proteins and carbohydrates to provide long lasting energy. One gram of carb adds 3 grams of water to your system. Bring trail mix for snacking and providing quick bursts of energy.
  5. Hike with a friend or a group. Sharing what you see enhances the pleasure of outings. Two heads are better for reading trail maps and directions. In case someone has an injury, a companion can get help.
  6. Consider using hiking poles. They ease the effort while ascending and descending by shifting the weight from your legs to your arms. They are invaluable knee savers. They provide stability on uneven terrain and stream crossings.
  7. Do not compete with anyone, but stretch yourself. Hike at a pace you are comfortable with and gradually increase the length and difficulty of the hikes. Eventually you will build the stamina and endurance for longer and tougher hikes.
  8. Headaches, dizziness, or difficulty concentrating can signal dehydration. Anxiety, a weak or rapid pulse, and clammy or hot, dry skin, yellow urine, point to serious dehydration. Stop and replenish with a good meal, and enough water to keep your urine clear.
  9. Know when to turn back. Remember, after reaching your destination, you have to get back. Many accidents and injuries occur when you are too tired.
  10. Enjoy the rewards of hiking. Hiking is a great way to have fun, reduce stress and not even realize you are exercising. Enjoy the plants, flowers, views, fresh air and sunshine. Relish the solitude and views from mountain tops and scenic vistas that are accessible only to hikers. It is food for the soul.

Below is a list of items that I have found necessary for hiking or helpful to keep in my backpack for a day hike. As you hike more and gain experience, you will adapt the contents of your backpack to reflect your personal preferences. Mary Trish Cina.

  1. Backpack – I recommend a pack with a padded belt and sternum straps. These additional straps help distribute the weight of the pack. Daisy chain is another nice feature as it enables you to attach items to the outside of the pack easily. Hydration pack facilitates sipping water at regular intervals.
  2. Hiking Boots and socks – Instead of sneakers, I prefer the extra support and protection of a well fitting hiking shoe or boot. Use shoes with ankle and good arch support. A pair of boots that you love is well worth the investment. Use polypropylene sock liners with woolen hiking socks to keep feet dry and prevent blisters. If areas of your feet are prone to blisters, use moleskin before you start hiking.
  3. Map and Compass – I always carry these, and know how to use them. Many times, I have used my map and compass to help others on the trails, who did not bring their own! Do not rely on GPS as your only means of navigation. They will not help in locations with poor satellite signals or if batteries die.
  4. First Aid Kit – Mine has bandages, an ace bandage, moleskin or duct tape (for blisters), pain reliever, tweezers, a first aid instruction booklet and more. Bring medication you may need ( asthma, allergy, etc.).
  5. Water – I always bring at least two liters, and four liters for longer hikes or on days when it is especially hot. I love the Nalgene and Camelback water containers because they can be reused over and over and they do not make the water taste funny. Bring more water than you think you need, even in winter. Cold weather dehydrates. Sip water regularly. Dehydration makes you tired and affects your overall performance.
  6. Food – It is a good idea to bring more that you think you need, just in case you are in the woods longer than anticipated. A friend of mine always kept dried fruit, nuts and beef jerky in his pack. It did not spoil and in the event he ever got lost in the woods, he would be able to eat for days.
  7. Clothing – There is a saying – Cotton kills! If cotton clothes get wet, it will contribute to hypothermia. It takes too long to dry. Even in warm weather, synthetic, natural fibers other than cotton and poly-blends in particular will dry faster and keep you more comfortable. And yes, even down to the undergarments, cotton should be avoided. Wearing layers will allow you to adjust the amount of clothing you are wearing as you become warmer or cooler depending on changes in weather, temperature, elevation and other factors.
  8. Jacket – In addition to my light fleece jacket, I carry a lightweight rain jacket and rain pants.
  9. Hiking poles. Their length can be adjusted for trail conditions. I can increase the length when descending and decrease it while ascending. A pair provides better stability than a single pole.
  10. Accessories – Hat, mittens, balaclava (I particularly like this because I can use it to keep just my neck warm), gaiters, STABLicers, crampons and micro spikes.
  11. Other – Must Haves: Whistle, head lamp, toilet paper. Optional: Swiss army knife, rope, chemical hand warmers, water purification tablets, sunscreen, lip balm, plastic bags, waterproof matches.

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