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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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16. Use a stuff sack (weighted with a rock) to throw bear-bag ropes.

17. DON’T GET HURT
Prevent common injuries with these easy steps.

>> Avoid long, awkward leaps across streams or rocky gaps. With a heavy pack, the force on joints can turn a wobble into a sprain, strain, or blown ACL.

>> Wear boots appropriate for your hike–sticky outsoles with shallow tread for dry rock and packed dirt, but deeply lugged boots for wet trail, mud, and snow.

>> Resist the urge to push on when tired. Either set up camp–or rest for 15 minutes to eat, drink, and recharge.

>> Use trekking poles for better traction and weight distribution. Going downhill, lean on them slightly and step with your feet directly below your hips.

>> Sharpen your knife. A honed blade is less likely to stick or chip, and requires less force to use. Remember to cut away from you, and clear your fingers when you close it.

>> Have knee or back issues? The simplest way to ease them is to drop weight from your pack. A lighter load will reduce strain on your joints and muscles.

18. SCOUT PHOTO ANGLES AFTER DINNER, THEN RISER EARLY TO SHOOT SCENICS IN THE DAY’S BEST LIGHT

19. NAVIGATE CONFIDENTLY
>> It sounds obvious, but pay attention. Hikers typically lose the trail at a bend or switchback, where others have made the same mistake and beaten out a rogue path. If the trail suddenly narrows or peters out, backtrack.

>> If the trail seems to take an illogical turn–like straight up a steep slope when it has been following gentle switchbacks–stop and reassess. It could be an animal path.

>> Some parks and wilderness areas have primitive trails that are worth exploring–but can be faint or intermittent. Get info pretrip, from rangers or other sources, about a path’s condition. If it disappears, examine the ground for signs of hardened treadway. Use a map, compass, and GPS to determine location. Watch for saw-cut logs that indicate past maintenance.

>> Unless you know exactly where you’re going, avoid spontaneous decisions to take an off-trail shortcut.

>> When snow obscures the trail, look for a slight depression, or trough, in the snow (polarized lenses make it easier to see). Also, look for a corridor through the forest that has no low-hanging branches or brush poking up through the snow. Look forward and backward frequently for blazes or cairns. A fresh layer of snow concealing the trail? There may still be hiker-packed snow beneath the powder–if your boots abruptly start sinking in more deeply, it could indicate that you’ve stepped off the trail.

20. HEAVY RAIN EXPECTED? CARRY A LIGHTWEIGHT, COLLAPSIBLE UMBRELLA AND 5-BY-8-FOOT TARP FOR WET CLIMATES. USE THEM WHEN COOKING, EATING–AND TO SHIELD YOUR TENT’S ENTRANCE.

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