Now that hiking season out here in the Rockies is not far off, it is a good time for making plans to get out and enjoying those activities we all love to do.
I mentioned in the last article that I would go into more detail about proper equipment and some recommended items, so here it is.
Proper planning and the right equipment is still on the agenda and remember even in the summer we can still get hypothermic as easily as we can get heat exhaustion.
The following *guideline can help you to plan for ensuring your hike is an enjoyable one:
Rucksack/ Back Pack
The type and length of hike you are doing will determine what your needs are for a backpack. A half or full day hike means just a basic day sack (if you are sure of where you are going) that will carry your necessities. The longer and more difficult the hike, the larger the pack you will need to carry. If you are going for a full day that includes some rough terrain, “iffy” weather or you are planning on going for several days, then you will need to get the appropriate backpack. The following guidelines, will describe how to fit one properly:
- Check with the shop you are going to, in places like MEC, the staff are pretty knowledgeable on proper fitting packs. Some packs are better suited for women, so make sure you get one that will be comfortable and fits properly.
- Ensure the pack has padded hip straps, and that they will fit on the hip and will not slide upward! This will ensure that your hips and lower legs will take most of the weight, keeping it off your back!
- The shoulder straps should not be in a “v” shape at the top, but rather rounded. The “v” shape will cut into your shoulders, making a long trip pretty agonizing on your neck and upper shoulders! The more rounded shape will ensure a good and comfortable fit.
- The “back board” of the pack should be adjustable for your back length. If it is too long the hip straps won’t fit properly, which can put some strain on the lower back and if it is too short you can strain both the upper and lower back.
- Make sure the size is big enough for what you need, but not so big that you can’t carry it. Depending on your size, about 50 L is pretty good for women.
- Extra pockets inside and outside as well as straps can come in handy when you need to strap extra gear onto your pack that you may need to get at quickly.
- Some packs come with a “built in” camel back system. This is ok for shorter trips, but pretty individualized for longer trips, whatever is your preference.
Ensure you place all your heavier equipment in the bottom of the pack. This keeps the weight on your hips. If you have heavier stuff that you need access to often or quickly, try to strap it to the outer part of the pack. Heavy items at the top of the pack will just pull you backwards and create a lot of strain.
A “rain coat” for a pack is a good idea but not necessary. If need be, keep all your items that you want to keep dry in plastic bags inside the pack, and if you wish, a black plastic bag will keep your pack dry as well.
Trekking poles are handy to have if you are doing a lot of altitude ascent or descent on steep slopes. They can keep you from tumbling down a steep incline, save a lot of energy on both the ascent and descent, save your knees a lot of hammering and are useful as poles for a make-shift stretcher if need be! One is better than none, but two are the best bet, especially for those used to skiing either down hill or cross-country. The following are a few guidelines to keep in mind when purchasing your poles:
Trekking poles that are collapsible are a good investment. They pack down small to save on space and you can adjust them to your height. They can be strapped to the outside of your pack for easy access when you need them.
A tungsten-carbide tip helps to ensure if you are going across dry or wet and slippery rocks, you will have a solid grip with the pole. It is also something that will be able to take quite a battering and last a lot longer than other metals.
Some poles come with a shock absorber, although not necessary, they really do help to absorb the impact of the constant jarring while going downhill. This can help prevent repetitive strain injury if you do a lot of steep slopes!
Ensure that you have a suitable first aid kit regardless of where you hike, but ensure it is sufficiently equipped, especially if you do a lot of trekking in remote areas. It is so important to not only carry a first aid kit, but to really know how to use it! Too many people have inefficient kits that don’t do much at all, or kits that are so extensive, they wouldn’t know how to use any of the equipment at all! There are a few really excellent first aid companies out there that deal with the outdoors, and if anyone would like their names, please contact me and I will pass on their details.
*This guideline is not intended to teach the individual on outdoor survival. The individual should be fairly experienced or take a course in outdoor risk management.