Archive for February, 2016

Desert Hiking Essentials and Safety Tips

Hiking in the desert may seem unconventional to some, but this activity does have quite a few avid followers. Desert hiking gives you ample opportunity to indulge in rock climbing, walk along the gorgeous terrain, and of course, click pictures as you move ahead.

Hiking, as all other adventure sports, should never be taken lightly, especially when you consider the harshness of the desert. There are certain safety measures and precautions that you need to keep in mind, every step of the way.

Top 5 Desert Hiking Essentials and Safety Tips

1. Carry All Essentials

A desert hike is definitely not a stroll in the park, so it is imperative to make preparations for it. To begin with, you must make a list of essential items which you need to carry along with you. These include basic supplies and safety equipment. Usually, the items that you carry along for your trip depend on the location, weather, and the amount of time you plan to spend there. But a desert hiking trip in particular, calls for the following essentials –

– Extra water
– Extra food
– Map and compass
– First aid kit
– Flashlight with spare batteries
– Spray water bottle to mist water on your body
– Protective clothing
– Sunscreen
– Whistle/mirror for use during emergencies
– Swiss knife

2. Keep Sipping on Fluids

Nothing works like good ol’ water to beat the desert heat. Preferably, you should never hike between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., times when the sun is at its brightest. However, it is important to be hydrated at all times, in order to keep heat-related afflictions at bay. A good hydration pack will help you keep up your fluid intake, and won’t be too cumbersome to carry.

It is estimated that an individual perspires around half to one quart of fluid for every hour spent walking in the sun. This may exceed to around 2 quarts if you’re walking uphill in harsh sunlight. Ignoring the health risks associated with desert hiking can place you in a potentially life-threatening situation, especially if you’re alone. Therefore, remember to keep sipping on water every few minutes, rather than waiting for thirst to strike, and make yourself vulnerable to a heat stroke.

3. Respect Mother Nature

The solitude of the desert may trick you into believing that you are the master of this vast expanse of land, but it obviously isn’t so. Deserts are home to a large number of rattlesnakes, coyotes, black widow spiders, and scorpions, not to mention several land-dwelling insects. Your presence on their land would not bother them, unless you go and bother them first. Therefore, as a responsible hiker, you must keep yourself from going unnecessarily close to any animals, or deliberately harming them, lest you wish to be attacked by them. Accidental encounters may happen, of course, which is why you need to be acquainted with first aid measures as well.

4. Know What to Do if You’re Lost

In case misfortune befalls, you might lose your way in the desert. Your immediate response would be to panic, but do refrain from doing so. Instead, follow the Stop-Think-Observe-Plan (STOP) method to reassess your situation. This involves stopping to relax and get over your ‘freaked out’ state of mind. The next step is to look around and think about your best available options. This includes studying your map, assessing your possessions, and making optimum use of them. The third step is to observe the environment around you to chalk out an exit/escape route. The final step is to plan what your next move is going to be, having taken complete stock of the situation you are in.

Deserts are usually notorious for being reception-free zones, so don’t always expect your mobile phone to work here. Thus, it is of utmost importance to let your loved ones know about the exact details of your hiking trip, so that they can take the necessary measures to send out a search party in case you are lost.

5. Never Overestimate Yourself

As a hiker, you could be an amateur or a veteran, but you should never override any of the prescribed safety norms issued by the authorities. So, if you know of any adversity coming in the way of your hike, do not challenge it. Devious terrains that are out-of-bounds for people, stormy weather, etc., are some of the things that you should keep away from, no matter how thrilling it may seem to you. Throwing caution to the wind may not necessarily cause harm, but you will be putting your life at risk.

Hiking needs to be enjoyable, exhausting, and rejuvenating at the same time. To make your trip a memorable one, make sure that you tap into your inner spirit of adventure, and follow safety rules alongside. Hope you have a great trip!

What to Look for When Buying Hiking Socks

Every hiker admits to conducting enormous amounts of research before buying hiking shoes, equipment, backpacks, and even hydration packs. But one piece of gear that unmistakably goes unnoticed is the simple pair of socks.

Wearing the wrong socks can land the most seasoned of hikers in quite an uncomfortable position. Therefore, it is imperative to pay adequate attention while shopping for this seemingly menial piece of clothing.

Buying Guide for Hiking Socks

It may sound a little preposterous to have a ‘buying guide’ for socks, but rest assured that you’ll be thankful for this information during that unexpected lash of rain on your next trip in the mountains.

Consider the Material

Say no to cotton.
It’s natural to prioritize comfort and opt for cotton socks, but this fabric can be a nightmare for hikers. It is a poor insulator, it does not dry fast enough, and it may cause blisters due to friction.

100% wool is no good either.
Woolen socks provide amazing warmth and cushioning. They have better wicking properties (the ability to draw moisture away from the skin), as compared to cotton. But they don’t dry fast enough, and may feel itchy to some.

It’s better to skip silk.
Silk socks are lightweight and airy. They also wick well, and offer comfort to the wearer. The downside, however, is that they are quite delicate, and also very expensive.

Synthetic blends are the best buy.
Synthetic socks can be made of elastic, acrylic, spandex, polyester, nylon, GORE-TEX, or COOLMAX fibers. These provide comfort through cushioning, possess good wicking properties, and can take a lot of wear and tear. Another plus point is that they are easy on the pocket as well. When blended with cotton, wool, and silk, they enhance the qualities of the natural fibers.

Types of Hiking Socks

Heavyweight
As the name suggests, these are meant for colder climes, and are usually worn over a pair of liners. They provide considerable warmth and cushioning.

Mediumweight
Here, the cushioning is slightly lesser than the heavy-weights, but these are also worn over a pair of liners, and are known to provide warmth.

Lightweight
These are comfortable and light, and are recommended for short hikes in the summer season.

Liners
As you already know by now, liners are usually worn under heavier socks for their wicking properties. But they can be worn by themselves at times, if the weather demands it.

How to Choose Hiking Socks

Armed with this information, it will probably be easier to make a choice. But while you’re in the store trying on some pairs, do not make a hasty decision. Check for the comfort of the elastic, along with the padding on the underside. They should also provide adequate support to the arch of your foot.

Besides these qualities, look out for the following factors as well.

Weather conditions
The first point to consider while making a purchase is the weather. Hikes in peak summertime (when the weather is hot and arid) call for synthetic liners, which are good at wicking the moisture away from your skin, especially if your feet are prone to perspiration. For winter hikes, you may need to carry socks made of a thicker fabric like synthetic blended with wool or silk to keep your feet warm. You may want to wear these over a pair of liners to maintain warmth.

Perspiration factor
Highly absorbent materials tend to be thin, so you can never have a pair that keeps your feet dry, and provides warmth at the same time. Therefore, if your feet tend to perspire heavily, donning liners underneath your regular socks is advisable. By doing so, you will not be compromising on providing insulation for your feet.

Comfort level
Your comfort level is of utmost importance, in tandem with the necessities mentioned above. As an individual, you may be allergic to certain materials, so you need to test them at home before you venture out on a hike.

Duration of the hike
Long hikes call for extra pairs of socks, of course, but you need to also consider the factors mentioned above. If your hike includes more than one overnight stay, ensure that you keep the changing weather conditions in mind, and pack accordingly.

So, the next time you go sock shopping, remember that it isn’t such a trivial matter as it is made out to be. Keep these points in mind and make the right choice.

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