Living near the Rocky Mountain Continental Divide, I like to spend as much time as I can in the out-of-doors. Hiking in this part of the country presents its challenges, but the prepared hiker can definitely enjoy the beauty, peace and serenity of nature if they follow a few simple guidelines. First of all, to avoid potential injury and unnecessary soreness it is a good idea to get in hiking shape before you head out into the woods. It is also recommended that you consult with your medical provider before beginning a workout regimen. Once you feel comfortable with your level of fitness, the following list will help you to make the most of every opportunity you have to commune with nature. These items are listed in no particular order and apply to all hiking areas a person might venture into. Here’s my Top Ten List for Hikers.
1) Wear warm, comfortable, breathable clothing. It should also be light weight. Today there are so many choices that will fill this requirement and as with many of the items on this list, you should be able to get great deals if you plan ahead and buy during the off season.
2) Warm, comfortable, lightweight footwear. It is recommended that your shoes be broken-in before you head out into the forest. Also they should be laced up firmly and
come up over the ankle. An aggressive tread is also a must as you may need traction in compromising situations such as crossing creeks and/or climbing over boulders.
3) Hikers should always carry some type of hat or head covering. While in the elements, it does not take long for the sun to de-hydrate a person and a hat will aid in
helping you retain your hydration level.
4) On that same topic, sunscreen is a highly recommended item to take with you. Cover any exposed skin with an ample coating 10-15 minutes before you head out and
check yourself periodically throughout the hike to see if you need more. Many a day in the woods has turned into a disappointment because someone got fried by the sun.
5) Bells and bear spray are a necessity. Although many areas of the United States may be critter-less, it is always a good idea to carry some type of personal protection. Bells announce your presence and will tend to alert wild animals to make way. Bear spray is a must, especially in my part of America. It is safe and effective. On a side note, 99% of hikers will probably never have to use bear spray, but it is a good idea to carry it with you.
6) Plenty of liquids are a necessity. Water should be the drink of choice, but other electrolyte replacement drinks will suffice. It is recommended that you drink often
throughout the trek even if you are not thirsty. A lightweight ergonomic water bottle that hooks securely to a pack is recommended.
7) Take along plenty of energy foods including protein bars and light weight snacks. That does not mean junk food. When hiking your body furnace is burning lots of calories, so pack foods that will replace what you are burning.
8) Depending on the duration of your trip, some sort of pack is a must. If your journey is short, you will need some type of day pack that you can comfortably wear around your waist. For longer treks you will need a very lightweight-frame type backpack. Many novice hikers make the mistake of taking too much gear. Your backpack’s weight is a huge factor in determining how much you will enjoy an extended hike. Take the necessities only.
9) When I hike, I always take along inexpensive survival gear which includes a lighter or matches, knife, hand-warmers, compass, first-aid kit, compass and a map of the area. These items do not take up much room in my pack and are a must if something unexpected happens.
10) For the last one I recommend hiking sticks. They are a great item to include as they allow for increased cardiovascular work by giving the arms the same type of exercise as cross-country skiing. They also provide stability when negotiating difficult terrain. I firmly believe that hikers should take with them an optimistic outlook of adventure. Our great outdoors is a wonderful treasure, one resplendent with beauty and the breath- taking opportunity. Take in all nature has to offer, enjoy your hike and make the most of it by being prepared.