Hiking and Camping Tips

hiking

Summer is the time when most of us love being outdoors. When outdoors, hiking or camping are two fun activities that make you appreciate nature and are best-suited for summer. You are close to nature; where you fall asleep under the dim moonlight and wake up to the sound of birds chirping. You can go hiking in the mountains and camp out on a flat hilltop, or in the woods by the riverside. But first, you need to take a few precautions.

Once you decide on the location and the day you wish to start off on your hike, you should move on to making a list of things that you should carry along, things that you can do without, and things that should be completely avoided on a hiking-cum-camping trip.

The first and foremost priority must be given to your footwear. Appropriate and comfortable boots are essential to make your hiking trip a success. Depending on the location, you could choose between lightweight, medium, or heavy weight boots. Along with the boots, pack few pairs of hiking socks to avoid blisters.

Choose a good backpack depending on the number of days you plan to stay outdoors. The backpack should contain all essentials including undergarments (take synthetic ones if you are planning to hike and camp during winter, else go for cotton underwear), rain wear (during rainy season), body lotions, and an extra pair of hiking socks. Don’t forget to pack in the food, water, and toiletries.

To make your camping adventure a success, pack a good quality tent. When you choose a tent, consider the size and not the color or the style. Choose a tent that has a rain fly. Also carry a tent diaper. This is spread out on the floor underneath the tent to keep the tent dry, in case it rains.

The general equipment that is to be carried during a hike or while camping are water bottles, emergency kit including the first aid kit, torch lights and extra batteries, fire lighter, water purification tablets, and a couple of all-purpose zip lock bags.

If you are planning to cook over a campfire, do not forget to include a knife, spoons, plates, kettle, and a frying pan and a couple of unbreakable mugs. Carry bottle openers, duct tape, and light ropes. A compass and a signal mirror are a must.

Whether you are going hiking or camping, you need to have an idea about the foodstuffs that should be taken along. Plan out each meal. Carry cereals and milk powder for breakfast. Avoid meat as it is bound to get spoiled. Take tinned food that will last long and is light on the stomach. When shopping for food, check out the date of expiry. Carrying extra supply of food is a good idea because you tend to feel hungry while hiking long distances. The fresh air and the cool breeze can surely increase your appetite.

If you are camping in the mountains, do not forget to pack a lightweight blanket and sweaters for the night. If trekking during the day, wear a large brimmed hat to protect your skin from the sun. Never forget to apply sunscreen lotion or cream on the face and limbs. The mountain air and sun could cause blisters. Wearing sunglasses will provide extra protection for your eyes from the sun and dust.

Camping or trekking is fun, provided you are well-equipped. Keep in mind the above tips before you head out and have the time of your life.

Appalachian Trail Camping

The Appalachian Trail (A.T.) is formally known as the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Located in eastern United States, it is a marked hiking trail that spans the area between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine, running across 14 states. This seemingly endless trail is approximately 2,175 miles (3,500 km) long, and stretches through wilderness, towns, roads, and across rivers. While most people attempt to hike sections of the trail, a brave and ambitious few attempt the entire trail (termed thru-hiking) in one season. Appalachian trail camping allows one to connect with nature in all her splendor and revel in the great outdoors.

Planning
If you want to have a truly enjoyable hiking experience, and get the most out of your trail camping/hiking trip, you need to plan it well. Before setting out, you need know all the regulations and permits pertaining to the trail, and find out the latest updates about weather and safety considerations. You will need to find out how to get to the trail; which shuttle you can avail of, or alternately where to park. You will need to buy Appalachian trail maps, and if the trip is a long one, gather information about shelters and camping. Two items that are indispensable to Appalachian Trail hikers, are the ‘Appalachian Trail Guide’, containing accounts by thru-hikers, and the ‘Official AT Databook’, which has constantly updated information about trail mileages, water sources, road crossings, shelter locations, etc. Both are published by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC).

Shelters for Camping
If you are backpacking, you need to plan where and how you will spend the nights. If you want more flexibility in your schedule, and are happy to carry the extra weight, you could pitch a tent. While the ideal place to camp is near a shelter, you could also utilize one of the designated campsites that have flat, cleared places, and at times, tent platforms. In some parts of the trail, such as the southern Appalachians or the national forests of the Virginias, one is allowed to choose their own place to camp, but you have to be very careful about clearing up, as well as affecting the area as little as possible. One can do this by picking a site that does not appear to have been used, pitching the tent on dead leaves or grass, at a distance of at least seventy paces from water. Be careful not to tramp upon plants and seedlings. The ideal is to minimize human impact on the environment. Hikers are discouraged from lighting campfires for the negative ecological impact they have, and are requested to use a backpacking stove instead. If a campfire is a must, build one in an established fire ring and adhere to the fire restrictions of the trail.

Your other camping option lies in more than 250 backcountry shelters that exist along the trail. Most shelters are three walls, a wooden floor, and a metal/shingled roof. They are usually located in proximity to a creek or spring, and several have a privy close by. The shelters slowly fill up with hikers as they arrive. For this reason, it is advisable to carry a tent as backup, in case they are full at the time you reach. Shelters are built to provide for an individual hiker. Therefore, if you are in a large group that would occupy the entire shelter, you are advised to camp out instead. Shelters provide good protection in bad weather and a good opportunity for interaction. You should be aware that shelters located in heavy-use areas may need a permit, registration, and/or fees. Also, be prepared to encounter grime and rats in some of the shelters, which are the outcome of messy hikers who don’t clean up.

When you hike the Appalachian Trail, it is critical to ensure that you follow the ‘leave no traces’ practice. Try not to trample vegetation or use up wood for fires. Do not litter, cut down trees, or vandalize any structure. It carries with it a responsibility towards the environment and towards others hiking the trail.

Best Food for Mountain Hiking

A hiking trip usually lasts for several hours or a day, but some may stretch over a couple of days too. Thus, a hiker will usually need to carry at least one meal along. More important than any meal though, is water. The human body is 66% water. It is a known fact that a person can survive for about a month without food, but less than a week without water.

While planning the meal for a hike, stick to foods that are light to carry, that can be kept cool, and those that can be safely transported. Options for a day hike range from sandwiches, fried chicken, bread and cheese, and salads. These foods can be made the previous night and refrigerated or frozen. They can be kept cold during the hike by packing them along with frozen box drinks. The drinks will thaw out and you will have a nice chilled drink to refresh yourself with.

Alternately, you could take along non-perishable foods like nuts and crackers. Make sure you carry sufficient water, but if you run out of it, purify the water from streams or lakes by boiling or using purification tablets.

For a long hike, you will need to put some thought into planning your meals. While you can pack the above suggested foods for the first day, you will need to carry foods with a longer shelf life for the subsequent days. Some suggestions include canned tuna, ham, chicken, and beef, jars of peanut butter, dried noodles, and soups, juice boxes, beef jerky and other dried meats, dried fruits and nuts, powdered milk and fruit drinks and dehydrated foods. You could also carry dried pasta and powdered sauce mixes.

For a hike lasting a couple of days, you can carry foods that would be ideal for each of the three meals. Options for breakfast are a nutritious cereal or muesli that can be eaten with milk, made by mixing powdered sachets with water. Breakfast bars are a quick non-fussy option. If you are carrying equipment to cook food, or are ready to collect firewood and make your meal, you can prepare porridge, oats, cracked wheat, or semolina polenta plus dried fruits.

For lunch or dinner you could use the tinned food, or make sandwiches (provided the bread stays fresh) using a solid bread-like rye or pita with cheese, salami (which will last longer if kept whole), or margarine, peanut butter, jam, or honey, and pickles. Pre-prepared packet meals of rice or noodle base are another way to go. Frozen dried meals, though expensive are lightweight and yet another option to consider. It is also possible to prepare your own dehydrated foods. One may be surprised to learn that almost all foods can be dehydrated, from broccoli to lamb stew to mangoes.

Start your day with powdered milk, hot chocolate, tea, and coffee that come in sachets. Carry powdered sugar, and you can have a steaming hot cuppa while enjoying the sunrise.

How to Choose Proper Trekking Poles

A trekking pole is one of the most-used equipment by trekkers, hikers and backpackers. They are used to increase your stability and act as a scaffolding on any track. It is a must-have in your trekking gear.

Why do We Use Trekking Poles?

Trekking poles are most utile for people who have any sort of damage in their legs. These poles reduces the compressive pressure by 25%. Trekking poles are basically used to attain more balance while trekking. While you are going up-hill or down-hill, a trekking pole helps in reducing the stress and fatigue on your leg-joints. It also eases, crossing slippery surfaces like streams or snow patches, and also makes it safer. They can probe into the mucky areas, confirming if it is safe to walk over.

How to Choose the Perfect Trekking Pole

To choose proper poles, you will have to consider factors like its type, size, capacity, grip, etc. Let’s go through these factors one by one.

Type of Poles
1. Anti-shock Poles
Anti-shock poles consist of internal springs which helps in absorbing shocks and jerks on the trails. Also, these poles have an option to switch to a standard (without internal spring) trekking pole, when not needed. An anti-shock trekking pole is highly recommended for those who have any sort of a leg-joint or a hip problem. Anti-shock poles are a little expensive.

2. Standard Poles
These are anti-shock poles minus the anti-shock effect. These poles provide a good support and balance but are not as good as anti-shock poles. They are less expensive and lighter in weight.

3. Compact Poles
Compact poles are relatively smaller than the above mentioned poles. These poles are also known as ‘women poles’ as these have smaller grips addressing to the woman’s needs. They are light in weight and are very easy to carry.

4. Hiking Staff
Hiking staffs are single poles that are best used when the terrain is flat and you have no burden on your back. They are available with an anti-shock system and also with a camera.

Weight
Normally, lighter the poles are, the more they cost. They are easier to swing and easier to carry. Lighter poles facilitates quicker movements and less stress.

Price
Depending on your reliability on a pole during trekking, you should pick your trekking pole. There are variety of brands and different price ranges for trekking poles. If the price is not a concern, pick an anti-shock-light-weight pole for trekking.

Grip
The grip of a trekking pole varies from brand to brand. A few brands have different poles for left-hand and for right-hand. Many poles also have an extended grip, which enables the user to have a lower grip position. This shortens the length of pole for an uphill climb.

The grips on the poles are made up of cork, foam or rubber. A cork grip adjusts with the shape of a hand easily, giving you a better grip. It also prevents vibration and moisture from sweaty hands. Similarly, a foam grip absorbs sweat and is very soft to touch whereas, a grip made out of rubber is harder, prevents your hand from vibration, and shock. However, during the summers these grips have been complained to cause blisters. Therefore, rubber grips are best used in winters.

Shaft
It’s the shaft of the pole that you actually pay the money for. A shaft is usually made up of either aluminum or carbon. An aluminum shaft has an tendency to bend under high stress trekking, though it does not break easily whereas carbon poles are better at reducing vibrations. They are strong too, but they are more threatened to splint or break under high stress. So, choose whatever suits you, out of the two.

Locking Mechanism
Locking mechanisms are adapted in poles to enable the user to adjust the length of the pole according to the slope and his height. There are four type of locks.

1. Stop Lock: This system prevents the lock from being unstable.
2. Flick Lock: This is very strong and easy to adjust. This lock is lever based.
3. Duo Lock: You can adjust the length of the pole here easily.
4. Super Lock: This locking system uses an expander to adjust the length of the pole. It is very strong and reliable.

Baskets
Normally all the trekking poles have removable baskets. Baskets used in them are small.

Pole Tips
Pole tips are made of carbide or steel and both are durable. However, buy a pole with a rubber-coated tip to protect your gear.

It is important that you clean your pole, specially the multi-locking area to prevent the locking system from slipping and corroding. I hope that the explanation above was of help. In the end, you should keep your needs in mind before the purchase. All the best!