Monday, September 1, 2014

Top 10 day hiking tips

recent pct section hike
I'm a late in life day hiker, started about 5 years ago and now love hiking every day. I love hitting the trails, connecting with Mother Earth and pushing my body to climb higher and faster every day. I hike about an hour a day, always with a climb involved, and do a longer 4-6 hour hike on either Saturday or Sunday, depending on weather, family commitments, etc.

Here's my top 10 tips:

1. Bring your charged up cell phone. I use it to check weather and for emergencies, not only for me, but for anyone in distress I may find on the trail. And you need the camera to capture all the beautiful scenery shots.

2. Invest in good hiking shoes. It took me years to find the right ones, I love my Scarpa Sparks, Merrell Siren Sports and Merrell Moab Mid. Read the reviews and ask the manufacturers what they recommend, I posted on Merrells Facebook page and they sent me in the right direction. Just spend the money, it's worth it. And get good quality wool socks. When I switched from cotton socks to wool socks, my blisters disappeared.

3. Wear a hat. I hated getting hat hair, but now I don't hike without a baseball cap (usually Chicago Bears, got to represent the home team). Keeps you cooler, keeps the sun out of your eyes (my eye doc loves this too), wicks up the sweat and is just good common sense.

4. Wear sunscreen. I had a hard time remembering this one and when I used it on my face, major breakouts. Especially the ones made for faces only. I finally found a daily moisturizer that has SPF in it that doesn't freak out my face that is mostly natural, vegan and paraben free. In the morning I apply it to my face and neck and then use a sport sunscreen for my arms and legs.

5. Wear sunglasses. I have sport semi-wrappy around UV sunglasses, it protects my peripheral from too much dust and debris hitting my eyes. I really struggled with horrible eye inflammation and redness until I made this a priority. I also have photochromic (darken when sunny, lighten when cloudy) glasses for cloudy days to protect them. I actually ended up in emergency care for an eye infection because I didn't protect them on a cloudy, windy day on a Boynton Canyon hike in Sedona. And carry eye drops to flush your eyes if something gets in them.

6. Water is important. I always carry enough water for a longer hike even if I'm planning on a short hike. After a few times of passing up that amazing off-map trail going uphill because I'd run out of water on a hot, dry day, I carry more than enough so I never have to pass up unexplored trails. For my quick week day hikes, I have a reusable water bottle. For weekend hikes, I have a 2 liter Camelbak backpack filled with water and ice and I also carry an extra 2 water bottles mixed with all-natural electrolyte replenishing packs. And just in case I do push it too far (dehydration, heatstroke, been there), I make sure there are at least a couple extra bottles in my car.

7. I used to hike without music and just meditate, but I couldn't calm my mind enough for the relaxation benefits. So now I always bring my iPod and listen to music and podcasts. I find that if my mind is thinking about the technical aspects of hiking (don't sprain your ankle, don't fall off the cliff, is that a mountain lion) while simultaneously enjoying the music, I can relax and meditate and focus on my breathing. I'm not sure why, but it definitely helps calm my busy mind and I get my very BEST ideas while hiking.

8. Bring extra moleskin squares to treat hot spots. I have a roll of moleskin I bought from Amazon, I've cut them up in different sized squares so I can treat any rubbing or possible blister "hot spots" on my feet during long hikes. This tip brought to you from my Marine brother-in-law, Brandon, who has hit the hiking trail hard during training and real missions many, many times.

9. MapMyHike: I just found this app and am in love with it. It will track how many miles for the total hike, how long it takes, how fast you are moving per hour and your altitude during the entire hike. I love having these stats so I know how far I can go and how far to push myself. Screen shot from a recent Pacific Crest Trail section hike:


10. Situps and pushups: My legs are super strong and I have amazing cardio but my arms and torso are weak sauce. So, about 3 months ago, I started adding daily push-ups and sit-ups to my routine. In the beginning, I could not do one push-up, I had to actually do wall push-ups until my arms could support me (bad, I know). But I persevered and now I can crank out 20 at a time without straining and I keep getting stronger. Same with sit-ups, my abs were laughing at me when I started. Now I do 20 crunches and 20 alternating elbow/knees crunches. After years of neglect I still have alot of work in those areas, but you have to just start slow and build up your strength. I have an alarm set on my phone at 3pm to remind me to do them daily.

I hope this helps any kindred hikers out there. Do you have any comments or tips you want to add? I'd love to hear from you, please comment below.

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