- Healthy Eating and Hydration
- Hike Etiquette
- Rainy Day Hiking Preparation
- Dressing for a Hike
- The Ten Essentials
- Backpacking Gear List for Two-Day Trip
Healthy Eating and Hydration
As a hike leader and counting the many hikes that I’ve lead one of my eye observances is that hiking has to be the most natural workout there is. It combines some of the best elements of several workouts while allowing you to scale mountainsides and roam across picturesque fields, forest, and waterscapes. Advance hikers may trek through treacherous terrain for many miles and beginners can enjoy wandering on a leisurely stroll off the beaten track.
I think you shouldn’t be concerned with doing a 2, 3 or 5 mile hike and making it to the finish as long as you hike at your own pace, take breaks when tired, hydrate often, eat energy snacks, etc. That’s why I believe as well as Anna that hiking is great for everyone as long as you hike at her own pace. Since hiking consumes calories, you should have food with you to replace some of those calories when you take breaks on your walk. This does not mean loading down your backpack with meats or chips. You want food that’s going to give your energy, and also something that can sustain you if something happens and you’re stuck out overnight.
Although walking on a trail may or may not seem particularly strenuous you may never even find yourself short of breath while on a hike. However, hiking more than a few miles, especially up and down a mountain, consumes significant amounts of energy stored in your body and that amount really adds up over the course of several hours. You also perspire, exhale, and urinate your body’s storage capacity for fluids during a hike of a couple of hours or more. Therefore we most replenish those fluids. The harder you are working and the further you hike, the more fluids you need to consume during the hike.
So what are the best things to take, and what are the good eating strategies? Ideally you want something with a high calorific density, around 440 calories for each 100 grams eaten. That's putting energy back into your system at the rate which you've expended it, so you won't feel tired and lethargic as the hike continues. Here are some essential nutrition tips for hiking:
- One important type of high energy food is complex carbohydrates. When going hiking or doing any kind of extended strenuous activity, bring along dried or fresh fruits and vegetables. Whole grain breads and crackers also fall into this category, as well as beans. These foods are not only high in energy, but high in fiber and will keep your body regulated.
- Another type of high energy food is portable proteins. Proteins take longer to digest than carbohydrates, so they will make you feel fuller and give you a longer lasting energy output. Different kinds of portable proteins include peanut butter, cheese, nuts, dried meats, and protein bars.
- Any food that is high in vitamin C can be considered a high energy food. Vitamin C has been shown to fight both fatigue and illness, and would do a body wonders while hiking. Foods that fall into this category and are portable enough to bring on a hike include raw broccoli, small citrus fruits, grapes and tomatoes.
- Although water is not a high energy food, it's absolutely necessary to bring on a hiking trip. Drinking water steadily will prevent dehydration, which can cause fatigue, muscle soreness, and headaches. Be sure to bring along enough to last your whole hiking trip.
- Juice boxes and packaged milk are refreshing. For locations where drinking water needs to be carried in anyway, the packaging doesn't add much weight. A few boxes can be held in reserve for emergencies. In an emergency it is possible to survive for weeks without food, but only days without water. It is better to carry more water and less food.
- Foods with refined sugars are not high energy foods and should be avoided for any strenuous activity like hiking. They can give you a nice burst of energy due to the easily digestible sugars, but when the sugar level in your blood plummets, so does your energy. For a sustained hiking trip, you need a sustained energy source, which is not food with empty calories.
Tips & Warnings
- Think about leaving a cooler in the car with snacks for after your hike. Things like cheese and crackers don't hold up well in a backpack, but they'll taste great after chilling in the cooler all day. Don't forget the knife. A cold sports drink is always a sweet reward, too.
- One exception to the rule about sugar on the trail: a few squares of dark chocolate dipped into a portable tub of peanut butter may go a long way toward boosting your morale and sensory experience.
- Always take plenty of water, and drink it before, during and after you exercise. Dehydration will affect your mood and could get dangerous. Just make sure you balance your water intake with enough food to keep up your nutrient and electrolyte levels.
- One of my favorite backpacking lift is a banana! They give you that pick me up just before but importantly after I start walking and take a break.
Last points to remember
Consider how long you expect to be out. Will you be hiking through meal times? If so, take along enough food to accommodate those meals. Bring snacks for the extra calories you'll burn in between.
Pack a sandwich for lunch, preferably something with protein that won't go bad quickly--like peanut butter and jelly. Rather than carrying a tuna sandwich--the mayo can go bad by lunchtime--try one of the packaged tuna snacks that include mayo, relish and crackers. For best results, transfer the contents from the box to a plastic bag before you leave the house--and bring a long a spoon.
Avoid sugary, processed foods like cookies, cereal and candy bars. They're tasty, but they'll give your body little of what it really needs. For a sweet option that will do your body good, washed apples are a good choice and they travel well.
If you'll be breaking a sweat, know that your body will need at least a little sodium. You'll also want to provide yourself with protein throughout the hike. Items that fit both bills include beef, turkey or veggie jerky and lightly salted nuts, alone or in trail mix.
I hope this helps to give you a thought on what to pack in your backpack that will fuel you up!
Hiking etiquette is mostly common sense, but there are a few topics that are hiking specific:
- We hike quietly and keep talk to a conversational level.
- When hiking on a trail, the larger group yields to the smaller group and moves off the trail until they pass.
- When hiking downhill, we yield to any hiker(s) coming uphill.
- When the group stops for a view, or any reason, we move off the trail.
- Individuals should not stop and cause delays without good reason.
- If a gap is opened in front of you or the hiker behind you is too close, step aside, to the right, and let the next hiker pass.
- Cell phone courtesy is leaving it off.
- Car courtesy is bringing/packing plastic bags to put your dirty boots in and clean camp shoes to wear and another plastic bag/towel to sit on in case you get wet.
- Rider courtesy is giving your driver the carpool amount, in correct change, with a “Thank you for driving”.
LEAVE NO TRACE:The Trail Dames subscribes to and abides by the principles of “Leave No Trace”. For more detailed information visit www.lnt.org. The principles that apply to Trail Dames as we day hike are covered below:
- Leave what you find. Leave natural objects of beauty so others can experience a sense of discovery, the same as you have. Lunch and rest breaks should be taken on durable surfaces.
- “Pack it in-Pack it out”. This applies to your lunch and snack breaks. All leftover food waste and litter must be packed out and taken back. No apple cores, banana peels or any other food or litter is to be left in the forests or on trails. For example, a bear may find & eat the food residue and associate the human smell with the food. The bear may then become habituated to humans as a food source. A fed bear is a dead bear.
- All human solid waste must be deposited at least 200 feet from water or trails. Solid waste must be deposited in cat holes dug 6 to 8 inches deep (hence the need for a trowel) covered and disguised. Urine has little effect on vegetation or soil; however animals are attracted to the salt content and may damage vegetation, so look for a durable surface of rocks or pine needles, if possible. Toilet paper and other hygiene products must be packed out. This is a good use for waterproof zipper bags.
- We strive for minimal impact. When on a hike, if no one could tell that we passed through an area, that is success. We hike on durable trail surfaces and stay on the trail. As good stewards of the environment, we carry out absolutely everything we carried in, and when feasible pick up other litter along the way.
Rainy Day Hiking Preparation
When It Rains, just be prepared!
Rainy-day hiking needn’t be uncomfortable if you’re properly prepared. Here are a few tips:
- Wear clothing that will keep you warm, dry, and protected from the wind to avoid hypothermia is important.. I always pack a breathable rain shell and breathable rain pants and my poncho in my backpack. They will keep you drier on the inside than will coated nylon, rubber, or vinyl garments.
- Keep your head dry. Cotton caps inevitably get waterlogged, which is why a rainproof hat is a worthwhile investment. Get one with a wide brim to help keep the rain out of your face.
- Consider an umbrella. Lightweight, packable umbrellas have their place when on the trails hiking. If the rain isn’t too heavy and winds are light, you can stay dry under an umbrella while avoiding the clammy jacket syndrome. That said, it’s best to have a set of raingear in your pack as a back-up.
- Waterproof your boots if you don’t have the water proof kind. Slather on the boot grease, and work it well into any seams. Boots with fabric uppers often contain a waterproof, breathable membrane to help keep water out. Waterproof coatings or sprays can often help keep water from soaking in, but check manufacturers’ recommendations before applying.
- Buy some gaiters. These cloth boot covers (think spats) that snug to your shins and hook to your laces are worth their weight in gold for the rain, mud, and other crud they keep out of your boots. Cross-country skiers use high ones to keep the powder out, but low gaiters are fine for hiking.
- So equipped, you can plow through the puddles and keep your toes dry. When hiking in the rain, you’re likely to find water and mud on the trail. Embrace your inner child and slog right on through. Skirting the trail to avoid the wet stuff leads to trampled vegetation, erosion, and trail deterioration.
- Be extra careful crossing streams. Rainfall equals high water, and swollen streams flow swiftly. Use trekking poles or a hiking stick like I do to help maintain balance when crossing streams. Be prepared with a Plan B if you can’t find a good place to cross.
- Unbuckle those buckles. Whenever crossing a water course, regardless of the level, unbuckle your pack’s waist belt and sternum strap so you can more readily doff the pack if you lose your footing.
- Use a pack cover or carry a large garbage bag to rip open and cover your backpack. Most pack fabrics don’t take long to soak through in a driving rain, a waterproof pack cover over your pack to keep it and its contents dry is great! It’s also a good idea to line your pack with a plastic trash bag to help keep your pack contents dry. As a bonus, you’ll have an emergency poncho as well, a trash bag.
- Toss in a towel. A hand towel is a welcome convenience for drying face and hands during a rest stop.
How to Dress for Hiking
Another concern that some want to address is "What do I wear" on a day hike. This is very important for your comfort and safety. If you are hiking and you are wearing cotton fabric, it could prove very harmful if you get soak and wet from a fall in a creek or for just a down fall of rain. Blue jean or clothing that don't allow the moisture to wick from your skin can not only be uncomfortable but can cause your body temperture to drop drastically and sometimes result in Hypothermia. It took a while for me to learn this and I really think especially for you new to hiking this would be helpful.
Clothing to wear on a hiking trip! The key to being comfortable on the trail is layering. Whether you're on a one hour hike or a multi-day trip, the weather can change at any minute, and to stay confy you need to have layers. Additionally, your hiking apparel should be "wicking", which means that it will "wick" the sweat and moisture away from your body so you remain comfortable on the trail. Anything fleece or polyester is wicking. Fleece vest and jackets are great!
Base Layer: What you wear directly against your skin. Always avoid cotton unless you're hiking in supper hot, dry, dessert conditions! That means wear nylon/synthetic underwear, and a lightweight thermal top to wick sweat away. This is really really important.
Mid Layer: This is what will keep you warm. Again, you make sure it isn't cotton. A fleece vest is always great, and it gives you great flexibility. It is easy to put on over a base layer; it packs down small, and is lightweight.
Outer Layer: This is what will keep you dry if it rains or snows, and it will block the wind! The outer layer is also called a "shell", so think of a turtle's shell...it protects him from all the elements. Same for you! Common materials for shells are Gore-Tex, which makes the material waterproof yet breathable. The more you hike, the more you'll want shell bottoms as well (aka Rain Pants). Just make sure your shells fit over your base and mid layers! Remember that when you are shopping to buy maybe a size larger!
Did you notice a common theme? NO COTTON!!! Why not cotton? Because cotton fibers collapse when they are wet, so it takes a very long time for it to dry. Much better materials are synthetics (like polyester and fleece) and natural materials like wool. Wool is on the heavy side in terms of weight, but if you get caught in the rain or snow, your wool sweater or socks will still keep you warm. NO COTTON also means NO JEANS.
Trail Dames 10 Essentials
1. Common Sense: Trust your intuition, and make the safest decisions for the situation. It is not about “the goal.”
2. Map/Compass: Make notes on your map showing landmarks, water, time from car.
3. Flashlight/Headlamp: Always carry 1 set of extra batteries for your light source.
4. Whistle: 3 blasts/pause/3 blasts—repeat.
5. Knife: A sharp knife is a safe knife.
6. Rain Gear/Clothes: Take it even if there is 0% chance of rain. NO cotton! Keep the core warm. Beanie for head/ears.
7. Waterproof Matches/Lighter: Collect tinder, start small, make a Δ w/sticks, fan, add larger sticks.
8. Food/Medication: Bring enough for the day of hiking + 1 more day.
9. Water/Purification: Carry at least 2 liters (32 oz)/2% Iodine: 8 drops per liter-wait 5 min-clean rim-wait 30 minutes-safe to drink.
10. Emergency & First-Aid Kit: This kit should contain:
- Insect bites/ Sunburn /Allergic Reactions/Pain
- Insect repellant/Sunscreen
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Hypothermia (it doesn’t have to be cold!)
- Space blanket (use with DRY extra clothing & hot liquids)
- Hand warmers (place on neck, armpits, groin/top of legs)
- Sterile gauze pads (various sizes)
- Gauze roller bandage
- Band-Aids (various sizes)
- Athletic tape/duct tape
- Neosporin/alcohol wipes
- Nitrile gloves (safe for latex allergies)
- Ace bandage
- Tweezers/scissors (if not part of knife)
- Needle & thread/safety pins
- Large heavy-duty trash bags/ziplocks
- Icing gel (quick energy/sugar for diabetics)
Backpacking Gear for Two-Day Trip
Backpacking, like everything, is not an exact science. There are many ideas and opinions on what to take on a trip out on the trail. The following is an example of what I carry when I go out for a few days. There are many other gear lists to be found on line, and I suggest doing some research and finding what works best for you.
Two-Day Backpacking Gear List
*- can be rented at REI if you do not own
- I have a couple of extra to loan, first come, first served
#- not everyone needs to bring these, we will share some of this gear among us
- Backpack *
- Pack cover
- Blaze Orange- something bright to pin on your pack. (this is for trips during hunting season)
- Hiking Poles
- Tent *
- Ground cloth
- Sleeping Pad
- Sleeping Bag *
- Clothes- basically 2 sets
- To hike in: pants, shirt, sports bra, socks, boots/shoes
- For camp/To sleep in: pants, shirt, fleece pullover or jacket, socks, hat, rain jacket, rain pants, extra socks, light jacket camp shoes- tevas, crocs, etc., (Make sure all clothes are appropriate material, absolutely no cotton tees or jeans)
- Stove #
- Fuel #
- bandana- 2
- head lamp
- small camp towel
- emergency ditty-duct tape, extra lighter, dental floss, pocket knife, emergency blanket
- personal ditty- comb, tooth paste and tooth brush, chapstick, sunscreen, bug spray, body-glide
- first aid ditty- antibiotic cream, bandaids, advil, duct tape, needle, tylenol pm, benadryl, any medications you take
- Toilet supplies- TP, hand-sanitizer, trowel, handi-wipes
- Bear bag rope #
- Water bag #
- platypus or nalgene bottles for water- 3 liters worth
- water purification- either drops, filter #, or steri-pen
- Food- plan on 2 lunches, 1 dinner, 1 breakfast, and snacks.
Always bring one extra dinner for emergencies.
- Breakfast suggestions- bagel and peanut butter, instant oatmeal, trail mix, instant coffee and hot tea
- Lunch suggestions- this is usually a cold meal. Beef jerky, tuna packet with mayo packet, cheese, bagel or bread, little debbies, candy bar, dried fruit
- Snack suggestions- Luna bars, Snicker Energy bars, trail mix, nuts
- Dinner suggestions- something that you can mix up with hot water- Ramen, Instant potatoes, lipton noodles, beef jerky etc.
- Carry stuff that is light, easy, and can spend two days in a backpack without going bad. You will be burning @6000 calories a day, so don’t try and cut calories....you will really need them.
Notes: Think light!!!!! If your pack weighs more than 20 lbs without
food and water, it weighs too much!!! Less is better!!
Pack everything in zip lock bags- you can never have too many zip lock bags! Leave the extra packaging at home. Pack your extra clothes and sleeping bag in big garbage bags Please, please break in your boots or whatever shoes you intend to wear!! Also, bring some money or credit cards for hiking into town!
Most importantly- don't forget to bring your flexibility, sense of adventure and sense of humor! Have fun!