Archive for the ‘Hiking’ Category

Hiking Gear for Short Day Hikes

Hiking, irrespective of whether it is a one day hike or of a longer duration, can be great fun; but only when it is not marred by accidents. Even though it does not guarantee being cent percent accident free, being well prepared does ensure that the chances of some unpleasant incident ruining your outing are minimal. You need to understand that there is some difference between a hike and a picnic, with the former demanding planning well in advance and due importance to the equipment that is to be used.

Essential Hiking Gear for a Short Day Hike

You need to take a few things into consideration when preparing for your hike. These include the duration of the trip, where you are going, what time of the year it is, etc. Just because it is a relatively easy and short day hike, it doesn’t mean you should take it for granted. Obviously, differentiating between the equipment you would carry on a short day hike and camping will help you strike out things that are of no use for your short hike; but will only add to your burden.

Though important, footwear and clothes are by far the most underrated components of your hiking gear. It is important to take into consideration the terrain and weather of the region where you are heading to, in order to decide what clothes to wear. Hiking boots, along with socks made of wicking material, which will keep your feet dry, will ensure safety of your feet. If you are off to a region wherein it rains or snows, or some place wherein you have to wade through water, you need to make sure that you are wearing waterproof footwear.

As with the footwear, even the clothes to wear when going hiking have to be chosen in accordance to the place you are visiting and time of the year. Wearing shorts and cotton clothes will be ideal for summer, but in winter it will turn out to be a disastrous choice. During winter you don’t just need to protect yourself from cold, but also protect yourself from snow. Instead of wearing a thick sweater in winter, it is better to wear two thin sweaters in layers; as this will make it easier for you adapt to the environment when the weather changes. If the chances of rainfall or snowfall exist, it is wise to carry your rainwear and an extra pair of clothes along. (Click on the table to print)

Essential Day Hiking Gear Checklist
☐ Water
☐ Glucose supplements
☐ Water purification tablets
☐ Pocketknife
☐ Maps of the trail
☐ Rope
☐ Compass
☐ GPS device
☐ Cell phone with ICE*
☐ First aid kit
☐ Binoculars
☐ Sunglasses
☐ Sunscreen
☐ Insect repellent
☐ Plastic bags
☐ Whistle
☐ Snack bars
*Store your emergency contact number as ICE i.e., In Case of Emergency.

Even if it’s a day hike, carrying matches or lighter, tinder (easily combustible material), a flashlight, etc., are of utmost importance, as the chances of you falling behind the schedule cannot be ruled out. You can also carry a camera and swimming gear along to make the most of your hiking escapade. Overall, it isn’t a lengthy list as such, and hence a small backpack, which is specially designed for short outings, will be sufficient for your day long trip. A backpack with a hip belt, which takes load off your shoulders would be ideal, but it is not a necessity as you won’t be carrying much load on such a short trip.

Other than carrying all these things, you will also have to carry your mind along with you. As funny as it may sound, most of the untoward incidents that occur in the wilderness only occur because people leave their mind at home and do something that they are not supposed to do. There is a thin line of difference between bravery and foolishness, and disrespecting the nature is nothing but foolishness – which is bound to leave you in deep trouble.

Managing Moisture While Hiking With Layers

If you’re planning a multi-day trek through the wilderness, or even just an epically long day-hike, you will need to carefully consider what to wear. As any seasoned hiker would tell you, jeans and a T-shirt will only get you so far.

Serious hiking requires a more thoughtful approach to clothing, including an accurate assessment of the conditions you’ll be encountering, and a thoughtful layering system that will not weigh you down. Weight is an especially important issue for hikes that extend over multiple days. You can’t bring a suitcase filled with half your wardrobe on this type of excursion – you will need to pack very lightly.

Importance of Moisture
One of the most crucial things to consider when deciding on your hiking wear is moisture. Moisture can come from outside, like rain, or from inside, usually from perspiring. Being wet all the time is no fun, and can also be very dangerous. Water on our skin traps heat, and when the water evaporates, the heat goes with it. This means that, if you are wet in windy or cold conditions, the evaporating moisture could cool you down faster than your body can expend energy to keep itself warm. It’s a recipe for shivering discomfort, and can lead to hypothermia, in extreme conditions.

Water-resistant Layers
To stay dry during long hikes, it’s a good idea to have, at minimum, a water-resistant outer layer, like a rain jacket. This will help keep you dry, by repelling most of the moisture that comes from the outside. Water-resistant jackets are usually also breathable, which means that, they let air pass in and out. This is a good thing, because it can help regulate your temperature if it’s warm, and can help keep you dry, by letting your perspiration evaporate efficiently. Unfortunately, breathability also means that the jacket will be less water-resistant. A waterproof garment or poncho, which is not breathable at all, can be totally waterproof, but that’s when moisture on the inside can become a problem.

Waterproof Layers
If you wear a waterproof jacket or poncho, you are almost guaranteed to stay dry if it rains. If you sweat, however—and you will sweat if you are exerting yourself on a hike—that moisture will have nowhere to go. There are several problems with this. First, it’s uncomfortable. But this is the least-important problem. More importantly, if you are soaked with sweat, you could lose more heat than you need to, leading to chills. In warm conditions, the opposite problem occurs. The purpose of sweating is to cool your body down, but if the sweat can’t evaporate, the heat it contains will stay against your skin, and you could overheat. You’ll be producing more perspiration to compensate, which could lead to dehydration.

Waterproof and Breathable Layers
Some products claim to be both waterproof and breathable, but many experts argue that this claim doesn’t make sense, and that waterproof garments are, by definition, not breathable. Still, waterproof, breathable clothing is very popular among people who go hiking for long distances in wet conditions.

Base Layers
Another way to manage moisture from the inside is to choose base layers appropriately. A base layer is the first layer that you wear while hiking. Casual hikers on short outings might simply choose a cotton T-shirt as a base layer, but experienced hikers know better. As is the case in most sports, synthetic fibers like polyester are the best base layers for hikers. Synthetic fibers can be very lightweight, and they absorb very little moisture. A cotton shirt is very absorbent, so it traps wetness against the skin. Synthetic base layers do not have this problem, and are an important part of the equation for staying dry.

Choosing appropriate clothing doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. All you need to do is ensure that you’re making the right choice, instead of the easy or uninformed one.

Things to Know While Hiking in Humid Climate

On a recent trip to visit family in Texas, I got a chance to do a little hiking. Being from an area with a much less humid climate, I got to thinking about the unique issues involved in hiking in high humidity areas. During the Texas spring, wildflowers are in bloom, and some areas of the state are truly a hiker’s paradise. But if you’re used to dryer weather, you might find that moisture is something of an obstacle.

Perspiration
Let’s not mince words about it-one of the most difficult things about hiking in humidity is the sweat. I’ll admit that Texas Hill Country has lower humidity than some places I could have chosen, but by the end of the day, I was feeling very, very swampy. Do yourself a favor and bring along a towel or old T-shirt to keep yourself dry. I would also recommend that you carefully think about what type of fabric you’re wearing before you go. Not only are some fabrics, like denim, more absorbent than others, not all clothes are equally friendly to the skin when you’ve been out in the sun all day. I’ll spare you the detail, but let’s just say that I would not recommend denim. My hiking partner wore a pair of lightweight, moisture-wicking pants, and I wish I had done the same.

Hydration
An issue related to perspiration is hydration. Some people think that you do not actually produce more sweat in humid climate, but the slower evaporation makes it seem like you do. This is a myth. In fact, most people do perspire more in humid climate. The reason is this – it’s true that sweat takes longer to evaporate in humidity, and evaporation is the primary reason that perspiration cools us down. When our sweat evaporates, heat goes with it, and the air can reach our damp skin to decrease our body temperature. In humid weather, the lack of evaporation means that sweating is a less efficient way of cooling off, so you produce more sweat to make up for the reduced efficiency. So what does all this mean for hydration? It’s simple – bring extra water. You’ll be sweating more, and all that moisture has to come from somewhere! Make sure you pack enough water to replenish yourself.

Staying Cool
Since your body has a harder time cooling itself down in humid climate, take extra precautions to make sure you’ll be cool enough. Dressing lightly is one good way to stay cool, but remember that snakes, plants, and insects can be dangerous to bare skin. Wearing a hat is essential in humid climate, to keep cool, and storing water out of the sun inside a pack can help keep it cold. Most of all, check the weather in advance, and don’t plan a long hike for an exceptionally humid day.

Humidity and Altitude
It is important to distinguish between humidity and altitude, but the two are not totally unrelated. At high altitude, the air pressure is lower than it is at sea level. This means that, the air is thinner and can’t hold as much water. That’s why higher altitudes tend to be dryer, while low altitudes are more humid. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, dense but dry air is often found in deserts at low altitudes. In general, though, if you are in a climate that’s more humid than you’re used to, chances are good that the altitude is also lower than you’re used to. Hiking at low altitude is different from altitude hiking, because the denser air can deliver more oxygen to your body. This might make the hike feel easy to you, but remember not to overdo it!

With a little advance preparation, hiking in humid weather can be a wonderful experience. If you’ve thought about the unique aspects of humidity hiking ahead of time, you are sure to have a good hike.

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.

What to Wear While Hiking

Clothes to wear while hiking in the cold
True lovers of nature are always looking for ways to spend time amidst the greens. Hiking and camping are the ideal choices to refresh one’s mood, while enjoying that adrenaline rush. However, before you set out on your hiking adventure, you must be well-equipped to handle various unforeseen situations that may arise. Apart from the basic essentials, the clothing that you opt for is equally important to ensure that your trip is safe as well as enjoyable.

The weather largely dictates the kind of clothing you should pack. Layered clothing will help you to adapt to the changes in the varying moods of Mother Nature!

Summer
–The best material for hiking gear in the summer is synthetic fiber like, polyester or polyamide.

–Start with a base layer of comfortable innerwear. Opt for a short-sleeved top and three-quarter length leggings.

–For the next layer of clothing, go in for a zip up jacket and comfortable trousers.

–Carry a jacket that is windproof as well as rainproof, for precaution against the natural elements.

–Wear a pair of liner socks and carry an extra pair along with you.

Winter
–Wear a thermal top with long sleeves and full-length leggings over your innerwear.

–As a second layer, go in for a fleece jacket with long sleeves or a woolen turtleneck. Over the leggings, opt for pants that are water-resistant and thick enough to protect you against the cold.

–For the third layer, take along a jacket that will act as a shield against the wind and rain, if required.

–While hiking in winter, two pairs of wool socks and two pairs of gloves are recommended.
Spring and Autumn
–The base layer includes a non-cotton top. Wearing leggings is optional depending on how cold you feel.

–The second layer includes full-length pants and an insulated jacket that is weatherproof.

–Carry a fleece jacket along with you.

–Wear two pairs of socks; woolen ones over synthetic ones.

Tips to Remember
**Always ensure that you wear a base layer of clothing made of fabrics that absorb sweat. This layer is the closest to your skin and fabrics that do not absorb sweat will make you feel sticky. Polyester microfiber is suited for the warm summers, whereas polypropylene is preferable for the cool winters.
**The outermost layers should be windproof and water-resistant. Look for a comfortable jacket with several pockets.
**Avoid wearing denim. Instead, opt for special hiking pants that are easily available in stores. Shorts can come in handy, so always keep an extra pair in your bag.
**The kind of footwear that you choose is extremely important. This would depend upon the climate and the kind of terrain you are about to explore. For example, during the rains, choose waterproof shoes with a sturdy sole that will enable you to get a better grip. Always look for the cushioning in the footwear. Stiff shoes are bound to make your feet hurt.
**Opt for hats or caps to protect yourself from the heat. Knit caps are ideal for the cool winters. Sunglasses are essential to protect your eyes from the harsh rays during the day.
With the right outfit for hiking, your trip can be made enjoyable without any hindrances in terms of comfort. The right clothing can help you face any changes in the weather with a smile!

Appalachian Mountain Facts

The Appalachian range is in fact the oldest chain of mountains on the North American continent.
The Appalachian mountain range, simply referred to as the Appalachians at times, is a vast mountain system in the eastern part of North America. The formation of this mountain range began approximately 300 million years ago as a result of tectonic movement, and continued through the Palaeozoic and Mesozoic periods.
Interesting Facts about the Appalachians
▶ In a broad sense, the term Appalachian refers to the entire mountain range as well as the hills and plateaus in the surrounding. The range derives its name from the Apalachees — an Indian tribe that inhabited this region.
▶ Almost the entire Appalachian mountain range is located in the United States, except for a small part which extends into south-eastern Canada. The range also covers a part of the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean.
▶ The Appalachians run along the eastern coast of the United States over a distance of 1,600 miles, extending from Newfoundland in the North to Alabama in the South. The average width of this mountain range varies between 100 to 300 miles, while the average height of individual mountains averages 3,000 ft.
▶ The whole range can be broadly divided into three sections: the northern section, central section, and the southern section. The northern section extends from Newfoundland and Labrador province in Canada to Hudson River in New York. The central section extends from the Hudson Valley to the New River. And lastly, the southern section extends from the New River to Maine.
▶ Some of the most prominent geological features of the Appalachian range include the White Mountains, Black Mountains, Green Mountains, Allegheny Plateau, Mount Mitchell, Great Smoky Mountains, Cumberland Plateau, Blue Ridge, etc. Mount Mitchell, with a height of 6,684 ft., is the tallest mountain of the Appalachian mountain range.
▶ While the climate in the Appalachians varies throughout the year, it can be typically defined as cool and wet for the most of the part. With elevation coming into play, one can observe sharp contrast in the weather at higher and lower altitudes. Leaving aside occasionally excessive snowfall and cloud cover, the weather in these mountains is quite pleasant and attracts hordes of tourists here every year.
▶ The primary habitat of this region is mainly made up of temperate forests. The secondary habitat, on the other hand, is made up of mixed-deciduous and boreal forests. The list of tree species found in the Appalachians include trees like mountain ash, red spruce, black spruce, white pine, eastern hemlock, Balsam fir, Fraser fir, etc.
▶ Spread over thousands of miles, the Appalachian range is also rich in terms of biodiversity. The wildlife of Appalachian mountains consist of several species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Some of the most popular animals found in this region are the white-tailed deer, black bear, moose, hawks, woodpeckers, foxes, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, bats, thrushes, grouses, frogs, salamanders, and rattlesnakes.
A signboard showing Appalachian Hiking Trail
▶ An important feature of this mountain range is the Appalachian Trail or Appalachian National Scenic Trail — the 2,175 mile long hiking trail, extending from Mount Katahdin, in Maine, to Springer Mountain, in Georgia. A small part of the trail, which extends into the Canadian territory, is referred to as the International Appalachian Trail. Along with the Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trail, the Appalachian Trail forms the famed Triple Crown of Hiking.
▶ In the United States, the trail passes through the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. At 6,643 ft., the Clingmans Dome in Tennessee and North Carolina happens to be the highest point of the Appalachian Trail.
▶ There is no dearth of observational towers in the Appalachian mountains, all of which give a panoramic view of this region. Of these towers, the Mount Mitchell Lookout Tower in the Mount Mitchell State Park, Clingmans Dome Observation Tower in the Great Smoky Mountains, Wesser Bald Lookout Tower in the Nantahala National Forest, etc., are very popular among hiking enthusiasts.
▶ Other than designating these areas as national forests, parks, and state protected areas, all attempts are made to avoid causing any damage to these mountains. In 1980s, when the authorities realized that the traditional method of constructing road by cutting the Grandfather Mountain would damage it, they decided to construct a concrete bridge around the slopes, and thus came into existence the Linn Cove Viaduct.
All these facts make the Appalachians a delight for individuals who are into hard-core hiking, as well as those who are looking for weekend getaways. Appalachian Trail camping — one of the major attractions on this trail — is a once in a lifetime experiences that one should not miss. Pleasant climate, rich flora and fauna, adventurous hiking trail … you name it and it’s there in the Appalachians.
Recommended Links