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Summer Camping Secrets: On The Trail

Once you've left camp, these tips and techniques will make your on-trail miles more enjoyable.

Save energy on steep slopes by using the rest step: With each stride, lock your back knee and rest all of your weight on that leg for a moment. Step up, letting momentum swing the back leg forward. Also, use pressure breathing: Exhale forcefully through pursed lips, as if blowing out a candle; this allows more air to enter when you inhale.

Pick an SPF (30+) with avobenzone, zinc oxide, or titanium dioxide. These block both UV-A and UV-B rays. Reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating madly. Sun-scorched? Wear a wide-brimmed hat and, throwing fashion to the wind, hang a shirt from your pack to shade your legs.

Forget windshield tourism: Hop on a bike and cruise the roads, which some parks restrict to cyclists during shoulder seasons and off-hours. Many vendors also rent bikes, like Yosemite Lodge ($25.20 per day). Check with rangers for specific opening and closing dates. Here are a few good options:
>> At Yellowstone, riders have free rein mid-March to mid-April and in November when roads are closed.
>> During summer in the Smokies, the über-popular Cades Cove Road becomes a cyclist-only loop twice a week before 10 a.m.
>> Yosemite’s (p. 53) Tioga Road around May

Acclimate by spending one to two nights near the trailhead (often around 9,000 feet high). Sip water regularly (four to five liters a day) so your pee stays almost clear. Ascend at a conversational pace; take a 10-minute break every hour. If you start feeling acute mountain sickness (headache, nausea), slow your ascent or descend, and take ibuprofen.

Have two people lift up the boat, but just one person carry it, says Tyler Fish, Outward Bound guide in the Boundary Waters: Most canoes weigh about 70 pounds, and two people beneath one can easily knock each other off balance.


After hiking in woods or tall grasses, check your body (particularly ankles, groin, pits, and neck) for these sesame seed-size bloodsuckers. Found one? Grasp the tick’s body right behind its head with tweezers and pull straight out gently but firmly. The tick will tire and release its mouthparts. Wipe the bite with antiseptic.

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