After Hiking 2,650 Miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, Running an Ultra Marathon was a Perfect Fit
Hiking has a very noticeable progression. Starting off with day hikes then to backpacking. A few overnight trips later, the idea of going further will start to form. Whether you plan to thru-hike, the idea and progression continues for the next adventure. I followed this same progression and haven’t looked back. After completing a second thru-hike the next step for me was getting into ultra-running, the Pinhoti 100. From everything I had read, long-distance hiking and ultra-running are very closely related and that they are.
My First Ultra was turned into a Short Documentary
TYPE 2 FUN TRAILER - YouTube
Type 2 fun is about making the transition from long distance hiker to long distance runner. After completing the Pacific Crest Trail, months later I decided to try running a 100 mile race. The Pinhoti 100, which is a point to point race along the Pinhoti Trail in Alabama and Georgia.
“It’s not the person that goes the fastest; it’s the person that slows down the least”
Being able to keep moving all day long has been the most beneficial skill going into ultra-running. Yes, you are running instead of hiking but having the mental ability to keep moving makes things so much easier when you are at mile 75 with 25 more until the finish line. More times than not, constancy beats the rabbit (with exception to Joe “Stringbean” McConaughy and Karl “Speed Goat’ Meltzer of course). Those rabbits are machines. But a skill that I have developed from thru-hiking is hiking all day long, which is easier said than done. My style of hiking is considered fast by most but I think steady is more accurate. Hiking the first miles of the day as the sun comes up and the last miles in the dark is a full 13ish hour day (with an hour for lunch). Crushing a 30-35 mile day only requires a 2.3- 2.7 miles/hour. To get the big miles, it’s all about keeping a constant pace while putting in the hours.
Part of keeping a constant pace is how you handle the terrain. How do you tackle the hills? Do you run them or hike them? With the longer ultras most hike the hills, actually, most of the race is hiked. I probably hiked about 40% of the Pinhoti 100. The hills are where I actually passed most of the other runners. This was so crazy to me because it was totally different this past summer on the PCT. The crew I finished the PCT with this past summer would leave me in the dust on climbs, having to smell their dirty unwashed clothes all the way up the mountain. But with my hiking background, it was different in this race. I looked forward to the hills because defaulting back to hiking felt like a time to rest for me.
Welcome to the “Pain Cave”
To start this topic off, I have never been in more pain in my life than mile 78-85 of the Pinhoti 100. On long trails, a common term is “embrace the brutality”. This is said when things seem to be going the opposite way you were thinking it would. Whether you are 40 miles from the next re-supply town with nothing but half a jar of peanut butter and a crumbled Nature Valley granola bar (that has probably been in the food bag for the last 500 miles) or your blistered feet and swollen ankles send agonizing pain up your leg with every step but you have no choice to keep moving because you are 2 days away from the next town to rest or you are hiking through calf deep mud in the rain for 2 weeks straight in Vermont or even swimming across a snowmelt river in the Sierras in 30 degree temps after already hiking 200 miles of snow covered trail knowing you still have 200 more before you will see a dirt trail again. For every one of these not so fond memories, there is twice as much jaw dropping sunsets, open fields drowning in wildflowers and snowy mountain ranges that will leave you sitting in silence forgetting how hungry you are. You have to take the good with the bad.
Having learned that quickly on my first thru-hike, I was better prepared for what was about to happen during the Pinhoti 100. Karl Meltzer said it best regarding running 100 mile races, “its 30 hours, deal with it… what percentage of your lifetime is 30 hours?” It will be hard but you have to accept what is happening. I signed up for this and I need to understand that what is happening is only temporary. Once you get over the wall, things will get easier.
Pro-Tip: A fresh pair of socks feels great midway through an ultra.
As incredible as thru-hiking is, it is also painful. Every day something new seems to hurt. You will spend the whole day trying to figure out a way to relieve the pain in your left shin by taking different strides, leaning on your trekking poles more and even adjusting your backpack thinking that will do something. And congrats! That pain went away… but now your right ankle hurts. You go through the same dance to solve that issue and now your hip is acting up. And don’t forget about the blister underneath the old blister on your right big toe. Thru-hiking is all about managing issues. With just under 6,000 miles on long trails, I understand the feeling of hiking on swollen knees and feet. I understand what is like having to hike on recently popped blister feet. I understand what it is like to hike with feet so wet and cracked they hurt to dry out. I understand what it is like hiking being so hungry you can’t even think straight. To burn 7,000 + calories a day but only consume 2,000. The battle to consume the number of calories burnt while on a thru-hike or running a 100-miler race will never be won.
A way to manage my energy level from dropping off then spiking during the day is to consume 1 bar around 200 calories every hour while hiking. Almost like an IV of calories, nice and constant. I prefer this source method rather than multiple big calorie dense meals to avoid the groggy post-thanksgiving day lunch sleepy feeling (like that would ever happen on trail). This process worked for me and followed me into distance running, especially after learning that the average body can only process 200-300 calories/hour. Even if more calories are burnt, the extra calories waiting around to be absorbed can cause stomach issues. Though I get my calories from a different source, the basic principle is there. I use a product called Tailwind to get my calories and electrolytes. Tailwind is a powder that is added to water with 1 scoop around 100 calories. So adding 2-3 scoops to my bottles has me covered for the next hour. Using Tailwind and other snacks at aid stations helped me manage the calorie battle to the finish line where then the battle could finally be won at the closest burger joint.
My next race is the Lake Martin 100 in March, followed by a northbound Appalachian Trail and southbound Continental Divide Trail thru-hikes starting 4/1.
I've gathered 5 of my favorite quotes from women adventurers. I love these quotes not only because the women that said them accomplished amazing things, but because these women have inspired me to always remember to live adventurously. So next time you start to feel like you need a little more adventure in your life remember these quotes and get out there!
1. Amelia Earhart on Adventure
I love this quote so much. Most of our adventures will never bring us fame like Amelia Earhart, but she reminds us that each adventure however small is still worth it, even if no one else was there.
"Adventure is worthwhile in itself." - Amelia Earhart
2. Nancy Newhall on Wisdom
Nancy Newhall might be best known for writing the captions accompanying many of Ansel Adams iconic landscape photographs. Her words below always reminds me that I need nature and wilderness in my life more than I know.
"The wilderness holds answers to questions man has not yet learned to ask." - Nancy Newhall
3. Helen Keller on the Earth Underfoot
Helen Keller's accomplishments are impressive, even more so because she was deaf and blind. The next time you encounter a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass while hiking I encourage you to take off your boots and socks and feel what Helen Keller was talking about.
"To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug." -Helen Keller
4. Ruth P. Freedman on Living
Great adventures often start on either a dare from a friend or when you dare to do something new and unknown. So next time you're dared to hike further or explore farther dare to go for it. Just don't do anything too crazy and stay safe out there.
"Only those who dare, truly live." - Ruth P. Freedman
5. Diane Ackerman on Living Wide
Diane Ackerman is an author and naturalist with many inspiring works. I love this quote because it reminds me to plan adventures and get things done. None of us know how long we have, so make everyday wide with adventures.
"I do not want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.” -Diane Ackerman
Holiday Gift Ideas for the Hikers, Backpackers, and Campers on Your List
Finding a meaningful gift is a challenge, so we've made it easy by picking useful and unique gift ideas for your favorite hiker. Browse the whole list or use the links below to jump to categories for Men, Women, Hiking, Backpacking, and Camping.
Holiday Gift Guide Index
Click on any link below to jump to that section of the gift guide.
One of these outdoor inspired iPhone cases is a perfect gift for anyone who enjoys adventures in the great outdoors. Available for iPhone X, iPhone 7 Plus/8Plus, iPhone 7/8, iPhone 6 plus/6s Plus, iPhone 6/6s, and iPhone 5/5S/SE. BUY HERE
The Rumpl Puffy Blanket is perfect for camp and home. Made of 20D ripstop nylon with a water-repelling DWR finish and machine washable synthetic insulation so you can throw it in the wash after a weekend of camping. BUY HERE
These trail runners are our favorite for everyday wear and all but the roughest hikes. The minimalist 11.5 mm sole provides just the right amount of protection while letting your feet move like nature intended.
This thorough guide to the great outdoors will give any adventurer a refresher on survival. There are 400 techniques and tips for thriving outside, so even the most experienced outdoorsmen will likely learn a few new tricks. BUY HERE
The Black Diamond Trail Pro Trekking poles offer a lightweight shock absorbing design at an affordable price. The flicklock adjustment is quick to adjust between climbs and descents and the men's and women's specific models offer tailored lengths. BUY HERE
The lightweight Gorrillapod tripod is perfect for those adventures where you only bring a camera phone. Compatible with almost any size phone including iPhones and Android phones, this tripod makes capturing amazing slow motion and time-lapse shots. BUY HERE
These classic ceramic coffee mugs feature topographical maps of our favorite National Parks. They make the perfect gift for any hiker that has a day job and wants to bring a little adventure to their coffee breaks. BUY HERE
The backpacker on your list probably has had the same oatmeal and freeze-dried breakfast options for years. Introduce them to a better option with this delicious sweet potato has made by an award-winning chef from fresh ingredients. BUY HERE
The new GoPro Hero 6 is the ultimate adventure camera. Now waterproof without the case so you never need to worry about the elements the Hero 6 makes the perfect gift for your favorite adventurer. BUY HERE
Hiking seems to be a divisive issue. For some people, it seems like nothing could be simpler – they seem to glide up mountains and through deserts with no effort and nothing but a smile on their face. For the rest of us, it may not come so easily. For those who are just getting started, the technicalities in the hiking world can seem like Latin, and even small hikes can feel like treks through the Mojave. Learning any sport takes time, and no matter how experienced you are, there are always new things to learn. In this article, we’ll go over five simple tips for hikers of all levels to make their trips more comfortable – no matter where they go.
#1: Stay Hydrated
This first tip might seem like a no-brainer to some, but we think it’s important enough to mention again – and in detail. We all know that the human body is made up largely of water – but a lot of people don’t realize just how much water we actually lose each day.
Even when we aren’t exercising, we lose water through our natural bodily processes, like sweating and going to the bathroom, and it’s essential to get that water back. When we exercise, it becomes that much more important to hydrate to maintain the delicate balances of our body’s functions.
Hydration while hiking requires two considerations: bringing enough water and drinking enough water. A good rule for most climates is that you’ll want to drink about 2 liters per person, per day. If you’re a large person, expect to be exercising strenuously, or in a hot climate, increase that amount of water. Actually drinking the water you bring is the next step. Don’t be afraid to stop regularly to drink – you’ll look a lot less cool with severe dehydration than you will stopping to take a sip of water.
#2: Hike at Your Own Pace
This next tip is especially relevant for new hikers or slower hikers. While some people start hiking just to enjoy their surroundings, many of us have the desire to push ourselves, mentally, physically, or both. It can be very exciting to test your physical limits, explore new surroundings, and reach new heights – but it’s not worth it to get injured or cause an accident.
Similarly, many people hike socially. Hiking with your friends and family can be one of the best ways to bond, and it’s an incredible way to stay active while staying social. However, you need to keep in mind that everyone’s body is different. If your hiking companions are outpacing you to a point where it’s uncomfortable or even painful for you to keep up – speak up! Your health is much more important than the speed of the group, and group members pushing too hard is common cause of trail accidents and injuries.
#3: Don’t Hike Outside Your Experience
This next tip relates to the last, but it includes a few more factors to consider. Hiking is a very subjective sport. What one person might consider a breeze could be very challenging for another. Likewise, a trail that one person considers strenuous, another person might use as their warm-up. You are the only one who truly knows what your capacity is going to be for a given trail – so use that information to your advantage.
When picking a new trail or deciding whether to join a group, consider your experience. For instance, have you hiked in the snow before? Have you hiked at high altitudes? If you’re jumping into something new, make sure you feel prepared for it, and your companions know that it’s your first time. You’ll feel better knowing that you prepared for the unexpected, and you’ll be able to enjoy much more of what the trail has to offer – rather than being anxious, worn out, or in over your head.
#4: Hike with A Buddy
We’ve mentioned it a few times above, but maybe the best way to make hiking more comfortable is to bring along a friend. Hiking socially is not only a great way to socialize – but a great way to hike! Companionship allows you to distract from tough parts of the trail, commiserate on unexpected let-downs, celebrate successes, and appreciate the beauty of nature together. Friends can point out interesting sights you may not have noticed, help you find the trail, and so much more.
If you don’t have a go-to hiking buddy, don’t despair! Most cities and towns have groups for hiking where people can meet – and many are separated by fitness level or by interests, like birdwatching, professions, other hobbies, religious groups or relationship status. If you prefer to keep the talking to a minimum, consider adopting a dog, instead – check out this list of the best hiking dog breeds for the low-down on man’s best friend on the trail.
#5: Wear the Right Clothes
Our final tip might seem like an obvious one, but it can actually be pretty tricky. Finding the right clothes can be difficult – and seemingly expensive – for hikers, but having the right gear is one of the best ways to maximize your comfort, safety, and performance on the trail.
The biggest piece of your hiking wardrobe, and the one that gets the most attention, are your hiking socks and boots. Nowadays there are a ton of footwear options, from fully-waterproof mountaineering boots to minimalist water shoes, and it can be hard to know what to buy. There are plenty of more in-depth guides out there, but here are some general tips:
In cold weather, you want waterproof shoes or boots
In snow or rain, you want high-topped boots
In the desert or other warm climates, more minimal, breathable, or sandal-like shoes are probably a better bet
All shoes should have good arch and ankle support on any uneven terrain
Pair your boots with a good pair of hiking socks made from merino wool, or synthetic material that manages moisture and prevents blisters
While your footwear and socks are important, your clothes are, too. Cotton and denim are just fine for casual, short hikes, but these materials don’t stay warm when wet, don’t wick away sweat, and can start to chafe after a long day. Consider investing in some technical gear – shirts, pants, shorts, and jackets – to make sure you stay dry, warm, cool, and comfortable wherever you go.
These five tips are some of the simplest ways to stay comfy on the trail – regardless of your experience and fitness level. Try them out, and let us know how they work for you!
When your short hikes are breezy 10-milers, and you rack up 30+ miles each and every weekend, you tend to get picky about what you put on your feet. After years of hiking and backpacking, I’ve fallen into the category of the foot-care superstitious, as though the ingredients for keeping my toes dry were some mysterious witches brew that could not be altered for any reason. Though I often have my doubts about new trends that enter the hiking and trail running world, I’d been curious to try compression socks for quite some time. When CloudLine Apparel sent me a pair of their finest in backcountry-blue, I knew I had to give them a go!
Now, the science on compression socks is largely out at the moment. Studies have shown mixed results as to whether or not they improve performance due to increased blood flow. There’s also a lot of unproven, anecdotal evidence that they lessen muscle vibration, increasing efficiency among the muscle fibers in your legs so that the fibers can focus on moving you forward, rather than fighting gravity.
Remarkably, studies monitoring the effects of compression socks on athletes during rest phases have been great. The socks’ pressure increases venous blood flow among runners during chill-out and recovery time, lowering the dreaded next-day soreness. There is also some evidence that they could help speed recovery by more quickly clearing blood lactate if one wears the socks after a workout.
I decided to test out CloudLine’s compression socks on a trail I had done before that obliterated my calves – Alta Peak in Sequoia National Park. The trail climbs 4000 vertical feet in 7 miles before descending into the beautiful Alta Meadow. This time, I decided to up the ante by carrying my full 35lb. pack all the way to the summit for an extra challenge. I left the socks on as I did a bit of recovery yoga in the evening by my campsite and decided to sleep in them as well to see how they alleviate soreness and fatigue the next day.
I can happily report that my calves felt fantastic on day two, with very little soreness after a big, uphill hike with a backpack on. I switched socks the next morning into a basic, Merino wool pair of CloudLine hikers and traversed an easy 7 miles back to my car. Now, oftentimes I feel the most sore the second day after a heavy workout or leg-busting hike, so I made sure to monitor my legs as the week progressed. I was thrilled that my lack of calf soreness remained; my legs felt fresh and ready for more action as soon as I was back from the trek.
Conclusion: I will definitely be taking these babies with me on my longer, mile-crushing trips this summer and fall, as calf soreness when you’re way out in the backwoods is no bueno. I can’t wait to try them out trail running as well! Consider me a convert.
A Good Knife Can Be a Lifesaver On & Off the Trail
A sharp knife can be one of the most useful tools in your pack or pocket. Along with always wearing our CloudLine hiking socks, we always carry a knife when we are hiking and backpacking. A good blade comes in handy for everything from food prep to survival and is an important item on the 10 Essentials list. Whether you are looking for a pocket knife for everyday carry or just for the trail we've rounded up our favorite options for everyone from ultra-light backpackers to day hikers.
How to Choose a Pocket Knife
When selecting a pocket knife, it is important to consider how you plan on using it. Are you looking for something you can carry everyday or specific to an activity? If weight is important a single blade will be the lightest option and if the functionality is more important look for a knife with multiple blades, saws, and tools. There are also many knives designed for specific activities, so you may consider looking for a knife specific to your favorite hobby. For this guide, we've divided our recommendations into two categories: single blade and multi-tool pocket knives.
Pocket Knife Blade Materials
Blade materials vary by price and use. As a hiker and backpacker, you need your blade to hold a sharp edge and resist rust in wet and humid trail conditions. Often there are trade offs, and selecting the correct blade material for your needs will ensure your knife holds up when you put it to work in the wild.
High Carbon Steel - creates an extremely durable sharp edge, but is susceptible to corrosion. Regularly oiling the blade and working in dry conditions are best for this material.
S30V - Vanadium is added to stainless steel for excellent blade retention that resists corrosion.
154CM - This stainless steel and carbon blend creates a stronger knife with good blade retention.
420HC - An affordable blend of stainless steel and carbon that is easily sharpened but offers only fair blade retention.
Proprietary Blends - Many companies use proprietary blends that are a variation of the types above.
Choosing a Pocket Knife Blade Shape
There are endless variations of blade shapes, but the most common blades fall within these categories. And these shapes are the most often chosen for hiking, backpacking, and camping.
Drop-Point -One of the most popular blade shapes offers all around performance and strength.
Tanto -Ablunt tip makes these blades stronger for scraping and prying making it a popular shape for survival knives.
Needle-Point - A symmetrical point with double edges makes this shape useful in wilderness survival situations when used for spearing and throwing.
Clip-Point - The top of this blade curves to a point for puncturing and detailed work like adding a new hole to a leather belt.
Sheepsfoot -This shape is perfect for backcountry chefs. The curved tip avoids accidental stabbings and the flat blade is ideal for slicing and chopping during food prep.
Choosing a Blade Edge
After the shape of the blade, you must also consider the blades cutting edge. The most common options for a cutting edge are flat, serrated, or combo.
Flat Edge - A flat edge is easier to maintain and sharpen and stands up to heavy use well.
Serrated Edge - A serrated edge excels at cutting rope and softer materials, but is not suited for cutting harder wood. The edge is also harder to sharpen.
Combo Edge - Many blades feature a combination of flat and serrated edges with a section of serration near the grip and the rest of the blade edge flat.
Choosing a Grip Material for your Pocket Knife
A knifes grip or handle is almost as important as the blade. It needs to feel comfortable in your hand, stand up to years of use and provide a secure grip as you work.
Metal - Most often made from aluminum, titanium, or stainless steel. These grips are light weight, durable, and strong; if not as comfortable as others.
Wood -Natural and beautiful, wood handles are a classic look but should be protected from exposure to moisture.
Antler -These durable natural grips are popular with hunters.
Plastic - This affordable material allows knife designers to easily create endless grip shapes and textures.
Rubber - Not as durable as plastic, but provides a comfortable grip.
The Leatherman Skeletool KBX offers a decent sized blade in a slim and ultra light package that is perfect for the weight conscious. Throw this knife in your pack or slip it in your pocket and you will hardly notice it's there. And the integrated bottle opener is a nice touch for opening post hike beers.
The award winning CRKT Homefront knife features "field strip" technology, allowing you to disassemble the knife for cleaning without any tools. Popular with backcountry fisherman for the ability to easily clean up after cleaning their catch. This feature is also super handy for backcountry chefs who want a knife that can be easily cleaned after meal prep.
Buck Knives have always reminded me of my grandfather who always kept one in his pocket and in my young mind seemed to be able to fix anything with it. This knife's large blade classic design and quality materials make it a great option for everyday carry. The handle comes in a large variety of materials including wood, antler, and synthetic for a custom feel that matches your style.
Assisted open features on knives like the SOG Aegis while not completely needed, are super cool. There is something oddly satisfying about the crisp action of the blade springing open. And you never know when you might need to quickly open your knife one handed. We also really like the red locked indicator that lets you know the blade is locked in place.
The Gerber Ripstop II combines a futuristic looking design with a partially serrated 3" blade into a light weight knife for everyday carry. Dual thumb studs and the large cutout in the blade make for easy opening with either hand.
The iconic Opinel knife design was invented by Joseph Opinel in 1890. The simple and sturdy design has remained largely unchanged over the years and has remained a favorite because of its reliable blade that can stand up to years of heavy use. The N°8's classic styling and simple design have seen a surge in popularity with the hipster crowd, but its minimal weight and large 3.35" blade making it a great option for day hikers and ultra light backpackers as well.
At only half an ounce the SOG Micron is the smallest and lightest knife on our list. While the locking 1.5" blade is small, the tanto tip adds strength for tasks on the trail. The Micron is a great option if you are an ultra light hiker or backpacker counting every ounce. It also makes a great addition to an Altoids tin survival kit or as a backup blade.
Show your support and love for your favorite national park with one of these special edition Swiss Army Camper knives. By purchasing you will help Victorinox donate $25,000 to the National Park Foundation and get a classic Swiss Army knife featuring 13 tools that will come in handy on your next camping trip. Tools include 2 blades, wine opener, can opener, saw, screw drivers, and more.
Sometimes you don't need a heavy classic Leatherman and all you want is a good blade. The Leatherman Juice B2 gives you 2 good blade options, straight and serrated, for getting any cutting job done right. Best of all it is one of the lightest options on our list.
The Gerber Obsidian knife is a great every day carry multi-tool pocket knife. The large blade has plunge lock that ensures the knife stays open in use and closed while stored, and the comfortable grip provides leverage for tough jobs. Tools include flat and phillips screwdrivers, a file, and a bottle opener.
This modern update to the classic Opinel design is a solid survival knife. The comfortable grip is fiberglass reinforced for strength and includes an integrated 110-decibel emergency whistle, fire starter, and cutting hook. In short, this knife is adventure ready and makes a trusty knife for hikers and backpackers venturing into the backcountry.
Leatherman is known for bigger multi-tools with pliers and dozens of features, but the classic pliers multi-tool can be unnecessarily heavy for day hikers and backpackers. Enter the Crater series of multi-tool pocket knives. They pack in the tools you use most including phillips and flat screwdrivers, a combo blade, and a carabiner that doubles as a bottle opener in a light weight package that is perfect for hikers.
A Backcountry Pad Thai that is Ultra Light and Delicious
If you are feeling adventurous and want to make your own meal for your next backpacking trip this Pad Thai recipe is a great place to start. It doesn't take much prep work at home and is fairly easy to prepare on the trail and is delicious. A few of the ingredients can be difficult to find at local grocery stores but can easily be found on Amazon with free shipping and can be used for other backpacking recipes as well. Best of all because we won't be using traditional fish sauce, you can easily keep this recipe vegetarian-friendly by omitting the chicken.
Dry the red pepper and shredded carrots in a food dehydrator.
Place the freeze-dried chicken, freeze-dried scrambled eggs (we just used some scrambled eggs from a Mountain House Breakfast), dried carrots, and dried red pepper in a zip-top sandwich bag.
The coconut oil can be kept in a small snack size zip-top bag.
Measure out the rest of the dry ingredients and place them in a second ziplock sandwich bag.
Then place the sandwich bags and noodles into a quart size freezer bag.
Add the noodles, chicken, eggs, and dried veggies to your backpacking pot and add just enough water to cover and bring to a boil.
While the water is boiling combine all the ingredients except for the coconut oil and chopped peanuts with 2 Tbsp of water and stir well to create the sauce. This can be done in a cup or right in the zip lock bag.
Once the water has boiled and the noodles are tender, drain the remaining water.
Combine the noodles, coconut oil, and sauce in the pot and gently stir until the coconut oil has melted and everything is combined.
Garnish with chopped peanuts and enjoy!
Let us know if you try the recipe and be sure to check out our full collection of recipes for more backpacking meal ideas.
If you've never gone hiking or have never planned your own hike there are a few things you should know before hitting the trail. The last thing you want is to become a news story about an unprepared hiker who got lost or needed to be rescued. Luckily, preparing for a successful first hike is not rocket science. Just follow these tips and you will be on your way to a great first hike that is safe, fun and memorable. So keep reading, and then get out there and go hiking!
1. Pack the 10 Essentials
The 10 Essentials are number one on this list because they are everything you need for a safe first hike. Prior to your first hike you should obtain the 10 Essentials and get familiar their use.
The 10 Essentials Include:
Navigation: Topographic Map, Compass, and Optional GPS / Altimeter
Sun Protection: Sunglasses, Sunscreen, and Hat / Clothing for Sun Protection
Insulation: Extra Clothing for Coldest Possible Weather
Illumination: Headlamp or Flashlight and Extra Batteries
First-Aid Supplies: Enough for the length of Trip
Fire: Lighter, Waterproof Matches, and Firestarter
Repair Kit and Tools: Knife, Multitool, Duct Tape etc
Nutrition: Enough Food for an Extra Day
Hydration: Enough Water for an Extra Day
Emergency Shelter: Tent, Tarp, Bivy Sack, Poncho, Space Blanket etc
As part of your 10 Essentials, you obtained a map of the area you would like to hike. You can use this map to look at trails and pick one that seems like it will match your fitness and experience level. Part of the fun of the outdoors is pushing your limits and endurance, but it's best to be conservative on your first hike. You can also check sites www.alltrails.com for suggestions and recent trail reports. Lastly, it's always great to ask a friend for their recommendations.
3. Check the Weather Forcast Before Heading Out
Checking the weather before your hike is a must. A current weather report will help you pack the right clothing and avoid planning your hike during any big storms. Most weather is not a problem as long as you are prepared but try and schedule your first hike for clear and sunny weather to maximize comfort and views.
4. Tell Someone Where You're Hiking and When You'll Be Back
Always let at least one reliable person know when and where you are hiking, and when you expect to be back. This can be a quick call or even better a text message so they can easily pull up the details later if you don't check in. This is often called a "Trip Report." The last thing you want is to end up lost with no one knowing where you are or that you are hiking.
5. Bring Snacks to Stay Fueled and Hydrated
Snacks are one of the joys of hiking and best of all you'll be burning enough calories to enjoy your favorite treats guilt free. We always bring enough to have something to snack on if we end up unexpectedly spending the night in the woods because the weight of a little extra trail mix in your pack sure beats eating bugs. Also, bring enough water for an extra day on the trail. It's also a great idea to bring a water filter or purification tablets so you can refill at lakes or streams.
6. Dress for the Trail with the Layer System
Plan your layers for the coldest weather you could possibly encounter on your hike. Wear fabrics that wick and dry quickly like merino wool and synthetic materials, always avoid cotton. Even in warm weather, the top of a windy peak can feel pretty cold if you're sweaty from the hike up, so pack a layer to wear while you enjoy the view.
7. Bring a Friend or Two - AKA "The Buddy System"
Solo hikes are great, but your first outing will be more enjoyable if you bring friends. A more experienced friend can lead the way, but even if everyone is a newbie there is safety in numbers. Plus we strongly believe that adventures are better when they are shared!
8. Practice the Principles of Leave No Trace
Next to bringing the 10 Essentials, practicing Leave No Trace principles is the most important thing to do on your hike. Don't litter, pick wildflowers, or leave the trail and trample vegetation. If you see garbage pick it up, basically leave the trail better than you found it.
Lastly, "Hike Your Own Hike." Enjoy the trail at your own pace, hike as far as you want, take breaks when you want, and don't feel the need to keep up with the trail runner that just sprinted up the switchbacks ahead of you. Hiking should be an escape from the pressures and competition of everyday life.
In our current political climate, National Parks, Monuments, and Public Lands that were once protected are now in danger of being opened to mining, drilling, logging, and development. These videos are a powerful reminder of the reasons we preserved these places. Watch them, share them, and most of all contact your elected officials and let them know how important these wild places are.
You can find contact info for your Federal and State elected officials here.
Wallace Stegner might be best known for his prolific writing career of both fiction and nonfiction. He won a Pulitzer Prize for Angle of Repose and the National Book Award for The Spectator Bird. In 1960 Stegner turned his literary talents towards conservation and penned a Letter to Congress urging them to preserve wilderness.
A passage from the letter:
"Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases; if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species into zoos or to extinction; if we pollute the last clear air and dirty the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence, so that never again will Americans be free in their own country from the noise, the exhausts, the stinks of human and automotive waste . . . ”
More than anyone else we have John Muir to thank for the wilderness that has been preserved in the United States. Muir famously convinced Theodore Roosevelt to explore Yosemite with him and his influence directly resulted in Roosevelt's creation of the first National Monument and the creation of the first National Park.
"If you think about all the gains our society has made, from independence to now, it wasn't government. It was activism. People think, 'Oh, Teddy Roosevelt established Yosemite National Park, what a great president.' BS. It was John Muir who invited Roosevelt out and then convinced him to ditch his security and go camping. It was Muir, an activist, a single person." - Yvon Chouinard
Tomorrow Somewhere New tells the story of a family that sold their home, bought an Airstream, and hit the road. They now spend their time exploring National Parks and enjoying the great outdoors. You might not be ready to take your adventures to the same level, but their story will inspire a desire to see places you've never been and then fight to preserve them.
Adventurer Pazson Woelber created this beautiful video with images from a trip exploring Gates of the Arctic National Preserve. Combined with the moving words of Robert Marshall this video will make you want to spend more time in the backcountry.
"Between 1929 and 1939, Robert Marshall explored and mapped the Brooks Range mountains of Alaska. The compilation of his writing Alaska Wilderness: Exploring the Central Brooks Range is a classic of outdoor and conservationist literature." - The World Beyond the World
You If you haven't already, contact our elected officials and let them know why wilderness must be preserved here.
Tips for Handling Bear Encounters While Hiking and Backpacking
Seeing a bear in the backcountry can be simultaneously breathtaking and terrifying. We are always hoping for a chance to see a bear from a distance while also hoping to avoid the danger of a close encounter. Over the years we've been given good and bad advice on what to do when we see a bear, like the time our Scout Master threw a rock towards a black bear and told us to drop our packs and run if it charged us (three things you should never do during a bear encounter). While bear attacks happen regularly, the number of attacks is very low in relation to the number of hikers, backpackers, and campers spending time in bear country every year. While it is impossible to completely eliminate bear danger in the backcountry, employing common sense and familiarizing yourself with these bear safety tips and resources will greatly reduce your risk.
Visit a Ranger Station and Check Trail Reports
It is always a smart idea to check with the local ranger station before exploring a new area and especially if it is bear country. A Ranger will know if any areas are closed due to high bear activity and recommend trails based on the latest information. You can also check online for recent reports of bear activity in the area you will be visiting.
Carry Bear Spray and Know How to Use It
While no one tip or safety measure can ensure your safety, one of the best bets is to always carry bear spray. Statistics collected on bear attacks show that bear spray is the best option to avoid serious injury and is much more effective than a firearm in deterring an attack. The video below from Banff National Park does a great job of demonstrating how to use bear spray.
How to Use Bear Spray - Banff National Park - YouTube
Avoid Surprising a Bear by Making Noise and Keeping Your Distance
You don't need to bring a Bluetooth speaker and annoy every hiker within earshot to stay safe. The idea is to ensure you are making enough noise for a bear to hear you coming with plenty of time to scamper off. You can use a bear bell, talk with your group, or clap your hands and say "Hey Bear". This is most important when approaching blind corners or areas with limited sight distance. While each National Park's recommendation on distance varies we like to stick with Yellowstone's 100 yard rule and make sure we keep at least 300 feet between us and any bears especially if they have cubs with them.
Travel in Groups
In bear country the old adage "there is safety in numbers" definitely applies. Groups of 3 or more hikers are easier for a bear to hear, smell, see and avoid. And if you do end up in a close encounter with a bear being in a group makes an attack a less appealing option for the bear and it is more likely to retreat.
Food Safety and Using a Bear Bag or Canister
Food and other scents can attract bears to your camp. Never cook, eat, or store food in your tent. If possible prepare your food and do cleanup away from camp and use a bear bag or bear canister to store food at all other times. Any scented toiletry items should also be kept in your bear bag/canister. When hikers are careless with food, bears can start to see hikers and their camps as easy food sources, which can lead to trails being closed to hikers and increases the risk for everyone.
If you do surprise a Grizzly or Black Bear and find yourself in close range it is important to stay calm. Remove the safety from your bear spray and have it at the ready. If the bear isn't charging, slowly back away speaking in a calm but clear voice to show you are not a threat. Never run away or try and climb a tree as the bear might be triggered to chase you. If the bear begins to charge hold your ground and use your bear spray once the bear is a within 60 feet of you and it will usually veer off. A bear is faster than an olympic sprinter, so you don't want to wait until it is too close or you may not have time. If you are lucky holding your ground and using bear spray will end the encounter and you can safely leave the area.
The National Park Service recommends reporting any bear encounters to the local ranger station to help inform and protect other hikers.
Tips for Grizzly Bear Attacks
If a grizzly bear charges and doesn't veer off wait until it makes contact and then lay on your stomach (if you have a pack leave it on for protection) clasp your hand over your neck and spread out your legs to make it harder for the bear to flip you over. Stay still and quiet, playing dead until the bear leaves the area. Give the bear plenty of time to leave the area and then get help.
Tips for Black Bear Attacks
While Black Bear Attacks are considered less frequent than Grizzly attacks, Black Bear Attacks have to be handled very differently. Playing dead will not work. If possible escape to the safety of a vehicle or building, if that is not realistic you must fight back with everything you have, concentrating on the bear's sensitive muzzle and face.
Lastly, if a bear of any kind is stalking you, or attacks you in your tent or cabin it is considered a predatory attack and playing dead will not work and you must fight back.
This article is by no means exhaustive, check out these additional resources for more info on bear safety.