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A Quick Orientation to Hikingby paulshikleejr by paulshikleejr

A Quick Orientation to Hiking

Hiking is great fun, but it's not a walk in the park.

You can get into serious, even life-threatening, danger if you're stupid or even not smart about it.

Here (presented roughly in order of importance) are a few bullets on hiking to get you started:
  • Understand where you're going. Use to get a good idea of what to expect. Don't bite off more than you can chew. has great resources (including this library of articles and is always getting better.
  • Read this article on heat illness. Seriously, it might save your life.
  • Read this article called Hiking 101. This is a great narrative introduction to the art of hiking.
  • Bring more water than you think you'll need. Not just because you'll need more water than you think you will, but because water is also a tool. It's useful for splashing or pouring on you, just wetting your mouth, and/or rinsing off trail dust.
  • Weigh your options (from the point of view of how best to get to water) when you've used half your water. Consider turning back or exiting the trail, especially if you're behind distance-wise, but thought you were bringing enough water to reach your objective. This is common sense, but I've seen people want to press on because they feel OK or they think there's water up ahead.
  • Hiking by yourself can be very peaceful, but it's safer to hike in groups or on well traveled trails. At least let people know where you're going. Remember, if you die on the trail, animals might eat your body.
  • Be brutally honest with yourself. If you're concerned about continuing (because you're running out of water or thirsty or hungry or cramping or anything else), figure out how best to get to safety.
  • The inbound leg can be just as difficult as the outbound leg, particularly if steeper inclines are involved. Every time I've done Camelback (Echo Canyon) and Piestewa Peak, it's taken me just as long or longer to get back to my car than it took to get to the top.
  • No work or casual shoes on the trail. Use at least heavier running shoes or trail running shoes. "Better," lighter running shoes might not provide enough grip or protection on the trail. Amazingly, I've seen parents who've brought young children wearing only flip-flops to the Piestewa Peak Summit Trail.
  • Bring snacks with you. Nature Valley Oats 'n Honey granola bars are good because they don't melt and keep well. If you feel like you're depleted of energy and don't have snacks, figure out how best to get to safety.
  • Bring rehydration drink mix packets or rehydration drinks with you. Sugarfree is better (only if you have snacks) because that allows you to regulate hydration and calorie replenishment separately. If you go sugarfree, remember that rehydration is NOT the same as calorie replenishment.
  • A water permeable and absorbing hat is better because it will retain the water you pour on it.
  • Be careful about using earphones/earbuds on the trail. They make it hard to hear rattlesnakes. Once on the Shaw Butte Trail, a women with earbuds ran between me and an actively rattling rattler.
  • Yoga mats are useful as seat protectors. I don't do yoga, but I carry four yoga mats. Watch out for cheap mats, they can stick to leather.
  • Consider wearing biking gloves. If you slip and fall on the trail, you can rip your hand open when you're breaking your fall.

WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

2018-09-29 paulshikleejr


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