by Diane Spicer
You can save yourself a heap of time and trouble by doing a routine hiking gear check at the trail head before every hike.
If you're a newbie hiker, why not start on the right foot by doing a systematic gear check before tackling the trail?
Think in terms of comfort and safety.
Also become one with the word "prevention".
Your hiking gear is different than
mine in the details, but essentially we both carry a pack, wear sturdy
trail wear and hiking clothing, and probably have the same hiking
accessories: trekking poles, for instance.
Here's my methodical approach to a hiking gear check, before each and every hike.
Your modifications will give you an optimized list of hiking gear checks, and they will change with the hiking seasons.
Let's start off on the right foot.
I start with my choice of the best hiking boots.
Once I get them on, I ask myself:
Or an even worse scenario: Boots laced too tightly?
It's gonna be "ouch time" before you know it, especially on the down hill parts of the trail.
You won't know for sure until you take several steps with your pack on. But you can get a clue just by standing in your boots.
So that's why I take the time to pay attention to where my boots feel weird.
Make it a habit to wiggle those toes and see how things feel down there!
Maybe it only takes a simple sock adjustment.
Whatever the issue, I take the time to fix it.
Please don't make the newbie mistake of just "sucking it up", because it will eventually lead to foot troubles.
Next, I do a mental clothes check as part of my hiking gear check.
How do my hiking pants/shorts feel?
Full disclosure: Sometimes my underwear and my pants are locked in mortal combat.
A quick discreet adjustment does the trick.
Other times, I need to step into the woods for a minute to fight the battle and win the war.
Am I wearing too many layers?
That's why I like to err on the side of feeling chilly for starters, and never start off with a jacket unless it's snowing or raining.
Read more about hiking clothing layers here.
Trust me on this!
Endure a few minutes of feeling a bit cool, and rely upon the heat generated by your skeletal muscle contractions to make you feel toasty warm soon after you start hiking.
After I'm satisfied that my clothing won't chafe, irritate or bind me, I take a few steps and ask my back and shoulders to check in with my pack.
If you are wearing a properly fitted backpack, you should have several options for adjustments at the shoulders, chest, and waist.
Don't be afraid to tug on all of those cords and toggles, if only to experience how the pack feels differently on your body.
Alternatively, have your hiking partner make adjustments if you can't grasp the cords while wearing the pack.
Next, I do a quick mental check-in regarding how my pack is packed.
These little things can drive any hiker crazy after awhile, especially on a multi-day backpacking trip.
If you routinely use adjustable hiking poles, it's important to check how they're functioning, too.
One last hiking gear check: my head.
Not my mental status.
My actual head.
You get the idea!
Minor adjustments now give you a much more pleasant trail experience.
Don't be the hiker who soldiers on bravely until these irritations result in a melt down or a snapping, snarling approach to the trail.
Now for the mental part of your head.
Your brain is your most important piece of hiking gear, because by making good decisions you'll have an enjoyable and safe hike.
Pay attention at the trail head to little things that can really jam up your hike.
A few examples of questions you can ask yourself to save time and aggravation later:
Also scope out people who are acting strangely at the trail head.
You know that "uh oh" feeling, right?
Is anyone lingering or lurking?
Hikers don't do that!
Once I've been walking for 15 minutes, I check in again with my feet.
They rule the roost on a hike, as far as I'm concerned. If they ain't happy, ain't no one happy.
Thus, if I feel any pinching or heat anywhere on my feet, I stop and remove my boots and socks.
I sometimes duct tape the contact points between feet and boots pre-emptively, just to head off trouble.
These little hot spots could blossom into full blown blisters if I ignore them.
If you get a blister, don't berate yourself.
Just use these blister treatment approaches.
As you can see, I am a firm believer in being comfortable and safe during a hike.
It only takes a few moments to check in, and make the necessary adjustments, to ensure a great hike.
If they're seasoned hikers, they'll understand the importance of a hiking gear check at the start of the day.
And regular check ins along the trail!
Because in the long run, it saves everyone time and keeps everyone safe.
Regular gear checks: what a great habit for any hiker to develop, and now you have some tips to get you started.
Hurrah for good hiking habits!
Now build some great hiking self care habits.
Hiking Gear Checks
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Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer.
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