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25 Habits of Highly Effective Hikers

Guarantee yourself a great adventure– every time–by adopting these proven routines for planning and pulling off the perfect trip.
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Some people just have more fun. They get out every weekend, enjoy extraordinary summer adventures, and they make it all seem so easy. Their secret? They’ve made backpacking routine. And you can, too. Just develop the right habits–the ones that help you plan early, stay in shape, pack efficiently, and eliminate those annoying hurdles that get in the way of a good time. Here’s how.

1. PLAN BIG ADVENTURES BY MARCH 1
Fortune–and permit regulations–favor the prepared. Start early to prevent the chronic lament: "Maybe I’ll hike Yosemite next year."

>> The best adventures rarely happen spontaneously–you make them happen. Set aside time–when you take the kids to the library, instead of watching reruns–for research. Bookmark websites, dog-ear guidebook pages, clip out magazine stories. Someone tells you about a secret lake? Write it down.

>> Plan the details months in advance. For summer adventures, get things dialed in the dead of winter–or by March 1 at the latest, when many coveted permit slots and campsites open up. Line up companions, commit to dates, and schedule your vacation time. >> Going to a popular destination? Put a reminder about permit application dates on your calendar a week early so you’ll remember to submit the form on the first day possible. (For info on 30 national parks, visit backpacker.com/permits.)

2. CHOOSE THE RIGHT PARTNER FOR BIG TRIPS
Challenging conditions can test the best of friendships. To improve group dynamics:

>> Plan well in advance so you have time to find the best companions.

>> Communicate the details and difficulties of your proposed trip to prospective partners. Meet with them to go over guidebooks, articles, backpacker.com, and Google Earth pages.

>> Agree on training goals for demanding hikes.

>> Ask potential companions about prior trips. When things went wrong, what was the problem? If their former partner is always to blame, keep searching. 

>> New partner? Take a short shakedown trip to determine "tent compatibility"–that is, will you kill each other if stuck inside for hours on a stormy day?

3. CALL PARK RANGERS THREE DAYS BEFORE DEPARTURE TO CHECK ON TRIAL CONDITIONS

4. ALWAYS BE READY FOR WEEKEND GETAWAYS
"I never seem to make it out the door." Do you say that too often? Stay ready all the time to avoid uttering those nine awful words ever again.

>> Identify five destinations within an hour of home for dayhikes and overnights. Make a folder on each that includes maps, driving directions, and notes on campsites.

>> Make sure your gear is organized in one place (a big plastic bin in the garage, say). Organize, clean, and repair gear within a day of returning from one trip so it’s prepped for the next. Refill fuel bottles, too.

>> Keep camp foods–dry goods like pasta and rice, fixings for a simple dinner and breakfast, and perishables like cheese–on hand so you can take off on short notice. Keep bulk cocoa, nuts, and jerky in your bin.

>> Set hiking dates with friends or family so you hold each other to it.

5. TAKE CARE OF YOUR FEET

>> Make sure you wear boots that are appropriate for the terrain and load. Unnecessarily heavy and stiff boots will cause fatigue, while shoes with flimsy support can create sore feet. For hiking with moderate loads, get a midweight, midheight boot with moderate forefoot flex and torsional rigidity.

>> Break in boots on dayhikes and errands. Even lightweight shoes need some time to loosen up.

>> Use a foot lubricant like Hydropel or Bodyglide to eliminate friction, or a powder like Gold Bond, BlisterShield, or Zeasorb to keep feet drier.

>> Tape hot spots preemptively.

>> Before long uphills, lace boots snugly below the midfoot (use a double overhand if your boots don’t have locking laces there) and looser around your ankles. For long descents, tighten laces back up around your ankles.

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