Spring is almost here!
Though some parts of Canada and the US had a pretty brutal winter, many parts were blessed with a mild one.
Regardless of what the winter weather was, there is something about spring that draws you outside!
Many people embark on their favorite outdoor activity this time of year: walking, biking, roller blading, camping and hiking being a popular one out here in the Rockies!
Before you embark on that hike though, there are a few safety tips that you should keep in mind. A typical Canadian spring day can start out being warm and dry, but within minutes it can change into a torrential downpour or a severe drop in temperature. Proper planning and the right equipment can keep you from getting hypothermia, getting caught out in inclement weather or finding your equipment isn’t living up to your expectations.
The following *guideline can help you plan to ensure your hike is an enjoyable one:
Clothing for Hiking
The layering system applies in spring as it does in the winter and fall (sometimes a cold summer day as well). Several layers are better than one, you can always add or remove items according to your own temperate comfort. Cotton, also known as “death cloth”, should be avoided. When wet, it can remove heat from your body nine times faster than if you were totally bare!
The base layer should be a poly-pro type of material that has a wicking system. This material moves body-cooling moisture away from the body to the next layer of clothing. A thin micro fleece or thicker winter fleece forms the next layer. This layer is really the one that forms the warm microclimate around your body. There are some great wind-stopper fleece materials available as well.
Ensure you have a good waterproof jacket and pants that are breathable. This layer prevents cooling winds whisking away the microclimate formed by your fleece. Fabrics that breathe in addition to having zips that ventilate will be able to prevent moisture build-up inside the garment. Staying dry means comfort and warmth.
Remember the hat and gloves. You can lose a lot of heat from your head so keep it covered! Gloves are an obvious choice, but many of us tend to think of them as winter items only.
What you put on your feet is critical and is as diverse as the terrain you will be in. Use footwear appropriate to the time of year, condition of the ground (wet & boggy, hard soil, snow etc) as well as the terrain (mountainous, prairie trail, beach etc).
Running shoes are a poor choice in most terrain we hike in. They get wet easily, have poor treading & insulation and offer little or no support particularly in rocky areas. Trail shoes are fine for just trails, they won’t be much good to you if you are in an area with sharp rock such as shale that can cut through them easily.
Find a boot that is comfortable, water-resistant (but breathable), has a good tread pattern and offers good support. How do you know if your boot has a good tread and support?
Finding the Best Hiking Boots
Look for a good tread pattern that has various “chunky” shapes that go in various directions, with a square heel. This will help to prevent you from sliding forward, backward and side to side.
To determine if your boot has good support grasp the heel and toe and push the toe up. If it bends at the ball of the foot and has some resistance it is fine. Next twist the boot by twisting the heel and toe in opposite directions. It should resist twisting in the middle under force, although a little bit of give is fine.
Ensure the boot is comfortable, there should be sufficient padding in the ankle and heel area. The ankle should have enough to support it, but it should also be able to allow for movement. A slight dip in the Achilles area allows for comfortable walking downhill.
Socks are just as important as your boots are. Ensure they are appropriate for the type of walking you are doing, they sell socks for everything now days. Running socks, walking socks, hiking socks etc. Just make sure they are padded at the heel and ball of the foot for those extra long treks.
Food for Hiking
Eating frequently not only keeps you energized, but the continued supply of energy helps to keep a body warm. The less fuel your body has, the less efficient it will be in keeping you warm; so keep the fuel tank topped up. Liquids should also be taken in frequently, dehydration only adds complications. Stay well hydrated with warm or cool liquids. Coffee and tea should be used in limited quantities and alcohol should be avoided.
In my next article I will go into more detail about proper equipment and some recommended items.
*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.