Hiking: First Steps

Hiking appeals to me because I like the idea of my feet taking me somewhere that would be impassible for a vehicle. Sort of like a different version of the tale of John Henry, where man defeats machine. If, like most people, you sit in front a computer screen for multiple hours a day, do yourself a favor and engage in the metaphorically positive act of walking up a mountainside. As usual, building a base of physical conditioning and proper fueling of the body are, of course, keys to success

I don’t want to stifle your creativity, so my trail mix ‘recipe’ is actually going to be a big list of foods. Choose any combination of things from the list below and mix as desired to make a ziplock bag full of energy. Remember, the key word here is energy — suspend any calorie counting for the day. Taking in adequate nutrients during outdoor adventuring is essential. As for proper hydration, the exact amount of water you’ll need to consume depends on climate and level of exertion, though for starters, I’d suggest to drink a minimum of a liter every hour. If you’re still thirsty or your urine is darkening in color, then drink more.

Build Your Own Trail Mix

  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Raisins
  • Cashews
  • Walnuts
  • Sunflower seeds (shelled)
  • Pumpkin seeds (shelled)
  • Pecans
  • Granola
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Hemp Seeds
  • Flax Seeds
  • Cereal (of the non-sugary variety)
  • Wasabi Peas
  • Dried Spices to taste, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne pepper

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Next, the general physical preparation. Before you hit the trail, spend 4-6 weeks getting your body ready. You don’t want to be the one asking your partner to slow down or take a rest, do you? Good, I didn’t think so.

Preparatory Workout for Novices:

Workout A

  • Squats (unweighted) — 2-3 sets
  • Inverted Rows — 2-3 sets
  • Push-ups — 2-3 sets
  • Hip Bridge — Hold for 60-90 seconds
  • Walk with weighted vest or backpack (weight equal to 10% of bodyweight) — 20-30 minutes

Rest 1-3 days

Workout B

  • Walking lunges — 1 set, go as far as possible, until form breaks down
  • Single-leg calf raises — 4-5 sets on each leg alternating, with no rest between sets
  • Single-leg lying straight leg raises (to 45 degree angle) — 1-2 sets
  • Farmer’s carries — 1 set, walk as far as you can with weight equal to 20%-50% of bodyweight
  • Walk with weighted vest or backpack (weight equal to 10% of bodyweight) — 20-30 minutes

Rest 1-3 days, then repeat workout A

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Pack Your Emergency Kit

Never venture into a potentially perilous situation without an emergency kit. Use your judgement and pack anything you think you might need, but I suggest having the following items in your backpack — they’re all fairly small and easy to carry.

  • Fire source (matches, lighter, magnesium stick, etc.)
  • Flashlight
  • Compass
  • Knife
  • Pills (Ibuprofen, Loperamide, Antihistamine, extras of any prescription medication)
  • Solar “emergency blanket”
  • Water purification tablets
  • Band-aids, antibacterial ointment
  • Cell phone (like anyone would ever leave the house without one anymore)

Additionally, color-coded trail maps are often available at designated hiking areas. It’s smart to pick one up if possible. And finally, check with print or online resources to help you identify any hazardous plants or animals that may be indigenous to the area.

By now, you may have noticed that I believe that with proper preparation, most potentially major problems convert into relatively minor problems. That philosophy extends to every area of life, but is especially applicable to endeavors that involve physical effort beyond what we’re accustomed to on a day-to-day basis. The more you can enhance yourself mentally and physically, the easier life’s many challenges become. As per that logic, we can gradually move on to bigger outdoor adventures. Start with an easy local trail, and maybe someday you’ll plant your flag on Mount Everest.

Sources

Appalachian Trail Conservancy. http://www.appalachiantrail.org/

Stroud, Les. “Survive: Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere Alive.” Harper Collins Publishers. 2008.

Wiseman, John. “SAS Survival Handbook: How to Survive in the Wild, in Any Climate, on Land or at Sea.” Harper Collins Publishers. 2004.

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