Balance. You’ve heard this word so many times. Talking about work, food, dance, physical condition, mental and emotional steadiness, as well as in art as an aesthetically pleasing integration of elements. We try to find it while judging and when interact between ourselves. Balance is what allow you to progress protecting you from discomfort and unintended consequences at the same time. It can be applied in hiking, too.
Generally, we may classify hiking trips in day trips, two days trips, multi day trips (2-5 days) and backpacking. Notice that if any kind of logistics is used, luggage or gear transfer, we can consider those trips as day trips.
1. Reduce weight
Try to ignore “for any case” thoughts. It is clear, bigger backpack means more weight. Doesn’t matter how big or small it is, it will be fully loaded.
Water is necessary but heavy too. Remember that 1 liter means 1 kg and very likely you are not going to a desert ;)
To determine the ideal weight of your backpack I suggest you to apply this simple formula: 5% of your weight for a day trip and 10 % for two or multi day trips. For more than 4 days I gladly suggest detailed planning of logistics for the supply of water and food.
2. Choose a gear
It is all about walking, so comfortable boots or trekking shoes are essentials. Depending on the type of terrain, it may be appropriate sneakers too. If you just bought a new boots, wear them at least one week before the date you plan the trip. Take 15 min walk around the neighborhood first day. Continue the next day with 30 min stroll. After that walk every other day for 30 min more until you reach 3 hours long walk.
Trekking poles are not a fashion accessory, it is an equipment! You don’t need to suffer - make it easier! Depending on the terrain and the single person it was estimated that using trekking poles reduce effort from 10% on flat parts up to 25% on uphill parts. If your backpack is 10 % of your weight, trekking sticks will annul that weight completely. Enjoy!
Lightweight technical clothes will not reduce weight on your back but you will feel better and you will not have to frequently change wet clothes.
Over time attempt to get a range of backpacks from 10-15 l for daily trips and short distances, 30 -50 l if you plan to stay overnight, to 60-80 l “cabinets” for multiple day trips and backpacking. For activities which lasts just a couple of hours a belt bag is quite enough.
3. Eat well not much
It is not a picnic! Your body can endure more than you think and your brain is the one who asks. Your last meal should be at least 1 hour before departure. If it will be only mid-morning stroll or even a 2 hours quick climbing remember that you can have a lunch in the mountain hut or after you return home, if you prepare it in advance. In that case put an apple, an orange or a banana in your belt bag. Small bottle of water, 0.3-0.5 l, will suffice.
When preparing for a day trip think of what and how much you eat daily. You don’t need more much than that. Sandwiches, snacks, ham, cheese, all that salty food etc. seem practical but you can prepare easily all other foods you eat regularly using light containers so that you can take with you. What about a fruit day? A banana, which is far better than energetic bar, 2 apples, some berries or other seasonal fruit and a handful of nuts will be a delicious meal. When water is mentioned, mind that 1 l is 1 kg, and in term of backpack weight it can be 20%, even 30% of the total weight. Some suggest carrying about 1 liter for every two hours. It means 5 liters for 10 hours? For me, but I’m a camel, 1/2 l a day is enough. So let’s find a balance and be realistic: with 1 liter a day no one will die of thirst.
I didn’t say that salt and sugar, snacks and candies are harmful and not useful at least. So yes, take some food you like, a favorite combination of sandwich, a delicious chocolate or prepare a cake! All that tastes much better in a fresh air.
Planning is crucial. Start with checking maps and guides even if you are not going hiking alone. Having in mind the route you are familiar with you will enjoy more. If you are going alone you will feel safer. Your progress along the way will be confirmation that you planned a trip well. All you can imagine is on the net today so inform yourself about the place you are going to. Read blogs, hiking clubs pages, search social networks and contact people who walked the route you like to do. Hikers are friendly community who will gladly advise you.
Divide the route in approximately equal sections and assess time for every part. Write your own timetable which you will check while walking.
Estimate your ability reasonably. Don’t set hardly achievable goals. Nature is not place where you can test yourself so don’t push yourself to your limits.
Call friend(s). Sometimes is hard to believe that you are the one whom a wild boar drove ran just a few meters ahead ;)
Check weather forecast paying attention to possibility of rain, wind, low or high temperature and how often the weather changes where you go. Btw. I use www.yr.no. Don’t ignore any unusual or extreme data if predicted. You can’t rely on hope! Due to weather forecast shorten 3 or 4 day trip to 2 day trip or just a day trip. Why to miss what you can do? Nature is always there so there will be no problem to compensate what you have to prolong.
Start with all this a few days in advance. Change, combine, evaluate. Finish and be ready a day before the trip.
Prepare yourself a day in advance. Make a checklist, if you still haven’t did it. No rush, go sleep earlier, think about nice places you will see in a couple of hours.
Wake up on time, prepare a coffee, again - no rush… let it be just a pleasant walking. Your trip begin after you lock the door. Drop a door key in the pocket and forget it for a while…
More effort requires more rest. Save time to rest after the trip. If tired driving home is unpleasant, even dangerous. For a whole day trip spare an hour to spend in a quiet place close to your ending point. Refresh yourself with a fruit, sip a water. No matter how much water I took for the trip and how much I drank, I always leave two sips for the end. Breathe calmly thinking you did something good for yourself.
Constantly balancing with all these 5 factors, weight, gear, food and drink, planning and rest you’ll find your perfect combination easily.
Now get up and look for a map! Make a rough draft of a trip then make fine tuning carefully applying tips mentioned. And, to reverse Dylan: Yes, think twice - it’s all right!
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