For all Hikers, Backpackers, and Campers—by Ray Anderson

Happy Trails

Friends and fellow hikers:

After much thought, I’ve decided that I’m going to take a sabbatical on my blog, “Take a Long Hike.” Why? Because, for now, I’ve said all I’ve wanted to say about hiking.

I didn’t want to just disappear from my loyal subscribers. I thank every one of you.

My favorite hiking blog is still  www.SectionHiker.com  I suggest you check out Philip Werner’s blog. He has a lot of hiking experience, and he’s a strong writer.

Happy Trails!

Ray Anderson

September 22, 2003

September 22, 2003

Taking a Long Hike on the Pacific Crest trail through the desert

Anza-Borrego Desert

E C Manning Provincial Park, British Columbia.

E C Manning Provincial Park, British Columbia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thru-hiking the Pacific Crest trail in the Sierras

Near Yosemite

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Manning Park, British Columbia

Canadian border

Say you’re going on an extended hike, and you plan to resupply by hitching into a town once a week. Your plan is to get a cheap motel room, go to the laundromat, buy food, and leave the next morning. If you are beat up and tired, you might even stay an extra day.

Hiking Tip: Mail ahead to the motel a “bounce box” of supplies and personal items.

Mail the box before you begin your hike; ask the motel if they will hold it for you and tell them when you expect to arrive. You could send it to a post office, but if you arrive Saturday afternoon or Sunday, you are out of luck.

Your bounce box contains whatever you need and want, and when you leave town, just re-mail the box to your next stop. Thru-hikers bounce their personal items from Mexico to Canada. I mailed to myself extra shampoo and soaps, town clothes (You’ll need to do all your laundry, so what will you wear at the laundromat?!), pre-clipped guide pages and maps for the next section (Why lug entire trail books and unneeded maps?), pills/medicine, reading and writing materials, envelopes, postcards, stamps, address book, etc. On the A.T., during summer, I mailed my gloves north so I would have them in Maine in September.

The idea is to save time and to be efficient so that your short stay in town is relaxed and enjoyable. Give yourself a break; smell the flowers.

The border picture is just before Manning Park, in British Columbia.

Hiking Tip-Navigation

Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Look at the picture above. A good trail path, easy to follow, right? But say it’s mid-day and overcast, and you’re not paying attention. You stop to break and remove your backpack. You void on the right side of the trail, come back over the trail and snack on the other side. You grab your camera, cross back over again and take a picture. Back and forth you go, cropping pictures, poking around, and when you pack up to leave, you head off in the opposite direction from which you came.

Happens more than you might think. Especially when everything looks the same, as in this picture.

Tip: Pick the same side-always-and lay your poles, or something, on that side. I’m right-handed, so I always lay my poles on the right. When I pack up, I’m never confused about direction.

And the most important time to do this–when you tent at night. Have one pole tip pointing in the direction you want to head out in the morning. Twice, on thru-hikes, in the morning, I saw another thru-hiker poling to me, as I hiked toward him. We both knew one of us was heading wrong, because both times we knew each other and our mutual goal. One of those times I was wrong. Not anymore.

Trail

Image by NotLiz via Flickr

Hiker Trail Names

Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail

Long-distance hikers usually have trail names. No one knows how this started, but thru-hikers, those who aim to hike an entire trail in one go, always go by a trail name. On the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) I met Kiwi, Pac-man, Grizzly, Spiderman, Yoyo, etc. My trail name was/is Hamlet (some of my ancestors are from Scandinavia, and my wife says I think too much).

Thru-hikers are friendly and helpful, but they make up a culture of anonymity. In six months of thru-hiking the A.T., I met and hiked with hundreds of people and never knew their real names. Even today, eight years later, I only recall them by their trail names. In this picture, that’s me, Hamlet, on the right, Songbird is in the middle, and her husband, Deja vu, is on the left.

Winter Hiking 3

This post follows two earlier posts on winter hiking. Northern New England has snow, and most of southern New England got many inches of the white stuff already this month. There are places out west, in the Sierras for example, where the snow and ice never melt completely before seasonal snows arrive again. Prepare now to enjoy cold-weather hikes. If you live in the North and are training for a thru-hike, these winter posts have extra meaning for you.

The key word you hear for winter hiking is layers. And two thin layers are better than one thick one. Even for gloves. Rather than wear one big and bulky glove, wear a liner glove underneath a bigger glove. Same for socks. Don’t wear one extra-heavy thick sock; wear a liner sock beneath a heavier one. Most of all, clothe your body in layers so you can remove and add as conditions change. I get cold easily; I want to keep warm but when I sweat, I need to wick that moisture away. Layers enable me to do that.

For my upper body, I start with a polypropylene short-sleeve undershirt. I top this with a polypro long sleeve garment that has a neck riser. I put a long-sleeve fleece over this. This may be enough if I’m moving, but if I stop for any length of time, or if the weather worsens, I’ll add my Marmot shell, complete with hood to cover everything. Layers! And in an emergency, I’ve packed a puffy down jacket, to keep warm in–if I had to seek shelter and overnight. (On any extended hike, of course, I’d pack a sleeping bag and tent.)

For my lower body, I have polypropylene underpants, polypro leggings, and ski-pants. I don’t plan to hike in extreme weather, so this should be okay. Just be able to remove or add a layer.

Other points for winter hiking:

1) Gaiters. They will keep snow from getting into your boots. Your socks stay dry.

2) Bring a spare hat; pack extra gloves and socks. The wind can sail your hat; you may not be able to retrieve it. You could drop your glove in a stream.

3) Pack a body size piece of Tyvek—the insulation used by contractors. You can fold it up to sit on, and also lay it under your sleeping pad.

Just remember, winter hiking means staying warm and keeping dry. Bring lots to drink and plenty to eat and you’ll be fine.

Hiking in harsh weather

Shell by Marmot

Winter Hiking 2

Traction for hiking ice

Microspikes traction system

In this second post about winter hiking, I need to address one thing from last time. I’d said one of the rewards of winter hiking was losing weight. In this case, however, body weight should not be lost by eating normal nutritious meals. One must eat extra carbohydrates and fats. What’s more, don’t stop for lunch–keep moving and snack, snack, snack.

Proteins take days to metabolize and fats take hours, but simple carbs metabolize quickly. Energy bars, gorp with candy, cookies and crackers, all give quick energy. This is what to snack on during the day, after you’ve had a solid fat-filled breakfast of cereals, toast with peanut butter, or bagels and cream cheese, or french toast with syrup, and cheese, nuts, fruits.

But you will lose weight on a rigorous winter hike because you’ll burn off more than you eat. Because proteins take so much longer to metabolize, you put yourself in danger if you decide to eat “diet” meals. You will tire and get cold faster, which can lead to falls and accidents. Carbs and fats will keep you energized and warmer, especially if you keep moving and don’t stop for lunch.

Here are some more winter hiking pointers:

1) Add Tang or Gatorade to water to reduce the freezing point. You must drink extra liquid to stay hydrated. Drinking water seems counter-intuitive when it’s cold outside, but you will sweat a lot. A flavoring added to water ,keeps it from freezing and adds taste.

2) Don’t eat snow. Always melt it before you consume it. Eating actual snow will make you cold and the amount of energy your body expends to melt it outweighs the benefit.

3) Keep spare batteries covered and in a pocket so that they are warm and ready, if needed.

4) Pack a small container of glasses/goggles anti-fog stuff.

5) Fleece is best for warmth. And if fleece gets wet it still insulates. “Down” is warm, but useless when wet.

In winter conditions, keeping warm is a function of keeping dry. The trick is to keep cool. “If your feet are cold, put a hat on, or pull your hat down over your ears. If you are hot, take off your hat, or pull it up over your ears.” Don’t remain hot or cold, stay cool!

Thanks to fellow AMC member Bob Vogel for providing most of this information.

(Microspikes traction system for ice and snow)

Windbeeches on the Schauinsland in Germany (Bl...

Image via Wikipedia

Winter Hiking

Traction for hiking ice

Microspikes traction system

Winter

Winter (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

You may be thinking spring, but it’s still winter up here in New England. One of the rewards of winter hiking is losing weight. While hiking in winter, however, body weight should not be lost by eating normal nutritious meals. One must eat extra carbohydrates and fats. What’s more, don’t stop for lunch–keep moving and snack, snack, snack.

Proteins take days to metabolize and fats take hours, but simple carbs metabolize quickly. Energy bars, gorp with candy, cookies and crackers, all give quick energy. This is what to snack on during the day, after you’ve had a solid fat-filled breakfast of cereals, toast with peanut butter, or bagels and cream cheese, or french toast with syrup, and cheese, nuts, fruits.

Despite the extra food, you will lose weight on a rigorous winter hike because you’ll burn off more than you eat. And because proteins take so much longer to metabolize, you put yourself in danger if you decide to eat “diet” meals. You will tire and get cold faster, which can lead to falls and accidents. Carbs and fats will keep you energized and warmer, especially if you keep moving and don’t stop for lunch.

Here are some more winter hiking pointers:

1) Don’t dress too warmly while you are moving; save your warmest clothing for whenever you stop moving. Your sweat needs to be wicked away. If you are covered in a puffy down jacket while moving, you trap all that moisture. That explains what I saw once when a cross-country skier unbuttoned his thick puffy jacket—the inside was all frozen. Not good.

2) Keep food handy, bite sized, and ready to eat. You will burn an enormous amount of energy, as you can imagine. You need to snack often, and conditions aren’t good for sit-down cooked meals. If you are wearing gloves, and are bundled up, you need food accessible in handy pockets. Pre-open the snacks and put them in baggies or containers that you can open or unscrew with gloves. Cut the food up ahead of time into mouth-sized portions.

3) Add Tang or Gatorade to water to reduce the freezing point. You must drink extra liquid to stay hydrated. Drinking water seems counter-intuitive when it’s cold outside, but you will sweat a lot. A flavoring added to water ,keeps it from freezing and adds taste.

4) Fasten pull-ties on those little zipper handles. When you have to void, you can keep your gloves on if you have ties on those tiny zipper handles. Use shoe lace, trash bag ties, anything. When you snack, you can keep your gloves on as you unzip pockets.

5) Don’t eat snow. Always melt it before you consume it. Eating actual snow will make you cold and the amount of energy your body expends to melt it outweighs the benefit.

6) Keep spare batteries covered and in a pocket so that they are warm and ready, if needed.

7) Pack a small container of glasses/goggles anti-fog stuff.

8) Fleece is best for warmth. And if fleece gets wet it still insulates. “Down” is warm, but useless when wet.

In winter conditions, keeping warm is a function of keeping dry. The trick is to keep cool. “If your feet are cold, put a hat on, or pull your hat down over your ears. If you are hot, take off your hat, or pull it up over your ears.” Don’t remain hot or cold, stay cool!

Happy trails!

(Microspikes traction system for ice and snow)

Windbeeches on the Schauinsland in Germany (Bl...

Image via Wikipedia

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