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Hiking Questions
April 30, 2013

April 2013: A Note From Diane


They say April is a cruel month for gardeners.

What about hikers?

In the northern tier of the northern hemisphere, we're waiting patiently for the last vestiges of snow to melt and the muddy trails to dry up.

But I must admit that I'm NOT very patient.

The best approach for scratching that hiking itch? Go hiking!

Second best is to go shopping for hiking gear.

I'm a big fan of the old fashioned shopping experience, you know, going to a real store and trying on the gear before purchasing it.

Not as fast, or convenient, as online shopping, but definitely more satisfying in terms of scratching the hiking itch.

My 8 year old Deuter pack is slowly falling apart, one zipper and seam at a time. So I had to face facts: time to invest in a new day pack, and that means shopping!

I spent 3 hours in REI (an outdoor equipment coop which returns an annual 10% to its customers - you might want to consider joining) last week, but it was time spent wisely to make a final decision about a day pack.

Here's what I discovered: The pack market has changed for women. And not necessarily in a good way.

It took me one whole hour to sort through my options for a women's day pack and sort the packs into "contenders" -vs- "not for me". Yes! I created a physical pile of "maybes". Be sure the store you go to will indulge this reckless behavior...

The next hour involved sorting through potential gender-neutral packs and men's packs. What did that involve? Lots of try-ons and a full length mirror. If your favorite gear store doesn't provide a mirror so you can see all sides of a pack once it's strapped to your back, go elsewhere.

The third hour? Lots of mental calculations and re-sorting the packs into "yes" and "maybe" piles. Lots more mirror time, too. No, I'm not narcissistic, just determined to pick the pack from the piles that physically fit. (Perhaps I am still a bit fatigued from my shopping trip.)

During this whole time I was fighting the feeling of "overwhelm". Too many choices! Too many colors, and don't get me started on the preponderance of pink & purple (my 2 least favorite colors, pretty on flowers but not so much on me as I move across a talus pile or through dense vegetation).

And who designs these packs? They're overbuilt in ways that mean absolutely nothing in terms of trail safety and comfort! Example: Teeny tiny zippers on teeny tiny pockets, to hold what? A tube of lip balm, if you're lucky. But gee, aren't those metal pulls with embossed lady bugs cute? Argh!

One more rant: The plethora of packs designed for long torsos, even the allegedly gender specific ones. I had to try on kids packs to find any that really fit in that area, but then of course the other features were inadequate. And it's no fun fighting off the 5 year olds for first dibs on the green and blue packs.

Maybe it's just me, but purchasing hiking gear seems harder than it needs to be.

I finally decided to go with a "retro" day pack, with simple features in a non-neon blue. It may or may not be what I would call a Prince Charming pack - perfect in every way, at midnight or in full sunlight. But it was the best I could do, given only 3 hours to shop.

Send me your ideas of what a functional and comfortable day pack should look like - design features, colors, bells & whistles. I'll be sure to share your ideas!

Something I love!

After all that ranting, I thought I should balance it out with a rave connected to that teeny, tiny pack pocket.

Have you been searching for a lip balm that doesn't leave a weird taste in your mouth while coating your lips with a sticky film that migrates into the corners of your mouth?

Here's my discovery: Badger Lip Balm Sticks.

The ingredients are perfect: organic extra virgin olive oil, beeswax, shea butter, and vitamin E from sunflowers.

No odor, no chemical or faux fruity taste, either.

SPF 15, and it's broad spectrum to block UVA and UVB rays (superficial skin damage -vs- damage to DNA in skin cells).

But what really made my day was the fact that it's "non-nano" uncoated zinc oxide. Have you been following the nano controversy? It's worth a look. (Side note: Try this search engine for a refreshing user experience:

I paid $3.50 for a 4 ounce tube, and I'm hooked.

Here's the website for more info:

Hiking For Strong Bones

Hiking pays off in many ways, not only physically but for today, let's stay with bone strength as a reason to hike well into your middle years (and hopefully beyond).

An article in the July/August 2012 issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion caught my eye with its factual title: "Changes in Hip Bone Mineral Density & Objectively Measured Physical Activity in Middle-Aged Women: A Six Year Prospective Study".

The first question I had was "How old is middle aged?"

Answer: Younger than you think! The researchers defined middle aged women as between 35 & 45 years of age!

So I'm a geriatric hiker!! But I kept reading...

My next question: "What qualified as physical activity?" I was wondering if hiking would be mentioned, or maybe gardening or running.

Answer: Any daily activity qualified. The participants wore an accelerometer for 7 days in a row, during normal waking hours. They were sorted into 3 categories: low physical activity (lots of sitting and sedentary activity), moderate (brisk walking defined as 3.5 miles per hour or 10 minute bursts of activity), and high (at least 150 minutes of vigorous activity per week, so day hiking would qualify).

The researchers detected a positive association between the level of physical activity a woman engages in regularly and her hip bone mineral density. Move more, hold onto (and possibly gain) more bone! And they went even further by sorting women into sub-groups according to menopausal status, maternal history, calcium and vitamin D intake, and age, making it easy to apply the findings to yourself.

On the face of it, it appears that hiking women are definitely doing the right thing in terms of hanging onto bone, as well as building new bone.

And that's why I always carry a pack, no matter how short or "easy" the hike. It's nice to put a bit of a load on your bones to remind them that they don't have to give in to the effects of gravity and age.

I'm including the link to the journal. You have to pay for the article, but if you live near a university you can check their library holdings for free access to it.

Setting Hiking Goals

You probably have a "to do" list for every other area of your life (most women do).

So don't neglect your hiking life!

I have lists of "must do this year" hikes, and a list of maintenance chores: air out the tent before the first trip of the season & waterproof that new pack are at the top of my list.

Maybe you're new to hiking, and have a list of skills you want to build over the next few years: navigation, flower or bird identification, or your first solo hike.

Or you could set yourself just one global goal this season: to do more hiking, period. In other words, make time in the busy busy-ness of daily business for getting out onto a trail on a regular basis.

So what are your hiking goals?

And do you need help achieving them?

Let me know if I can answer questions or supply information.

And don't be shy about sending your trail reports in, I can't wait to

post them!

Well, that's all she wrote this time .... From me to you,

Happy Trails always.

-Diane a.k.a. Happy Hiker


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