For the Insider
“You’re almost there.”
“The view is going to be spectacular.”
“The summit is just around the corner, I can feel it.”
Just a few of the reaffirming statements I tell myself during the million times I want to quit on the trail. Hiking is more than just walking in the woods, it’s more than climbing an incline – it is the definition of mental fortitude. There are multiple times when I contemplate turning around, or laying down on the ground and waiting for a bear to come find me (joking about the bear).
To make your hike more successful, here are a few things to consider: backpack filled with the necessities, appropriate dress and to know your trail.
Backpack: Needs to be comfortable and preferably have a waist and chest strap. I made the novice mistake of hiking in my sneakers and my daughter’s school backpack on my first hike and regretted it for three days following. Believe it or not, but backpacks have a size. Not just in how many liters of stuff it can hold, but how it fits on your body. Aaaaand you actually get measured and sized for a backpack. I mean, who knew? I recommend before you spend the cash (they are pretty pricey) that you rent or borrow someone’s bag and hike with it before you purchase one.
What to bring in your backpack? According to N.H. Hike Safe, these are the backpack essentials for any hike into the woods:
Rain jacket and pants
First aid kit
Headlamp or flashlight
Water and food
Appropriate dress: Throwing on your favorite T-shirt may look cute, until it gets soaked and sticks to you. The phrase “cotton kills” is more accurate than you think. It is essential to wear moisture-wicking clothing from head to toe (this applies to your undergarments as well). Hiking socks are crucial to your comfortable, blister-free, temperature-controlled experience. I have hiking boots, winter hiking boots and low-top hiking shoes. Time of year and length of hike can determine what to put on your feet. Your footwear should correlate to the weather and terrain.
Know your route (and let someone else know your route): In addition to bringing a map, I also take a screenshot of the map and have it handy on my phone. Even if you don’t have cell service, you can bring up the photo.
Weather changes quickly in the mountains. Fatigue and unexpected conditions can also affect your hike. Know your limitations and when to postpone your hike. Remember, the mountains will always be there.
New Hampshire Fish and Game recommends turning back when the following conditions occur:
1. Weather changes. When the weather changes suddenly, you need to respect nature’s unpredictability and head for home.
2. Fatigue. Your group’s pace should be set by the slowest hiker. If that hiker is unable to continue, keep your group together.
3. Unexpected conditions, like streams that are too swollen by rain or snowmelt to cross.
4. Running out of time. Darkness can come quicker than expected.
Respect the messages and signals nature and your body send. If you stay safe, you can always come back another day.
Above all else, you should never change your route. If you do not return on schedule and the person you left your plans with contacts authorities, search and rescue efforts will start where it is presumed you are. If you have taken another route, this can substantially delay help reaching you. Always leave emergency plans with someone reliable and responsible.
Hiking allows you to explore nature for any amount of time and any fitness level. Just be sure to do your research and select a trail that works for you. Most of all, take your time, see the views, smell the air, enjoy the sounds of nature and have fun!
(Crystal Reynolds is an owner of 43 Degrees North Athletic Club.)