As I have started the transition from casual day hiking to long distance hiking over the last year my many hours of research, both online and in the real world, has equipped me to offer these top 10 hiking tips. And, yes, these are tongue-in-cheek, satirical and may even be considered by some to be mildly humorous.
So without further ado, grab a pencil and paper (to take notes, dummy) and prepare to find out just how wrong you’ve been doing it until now. In reverse order…
10. Don’t waste time. If it’s light you should be hiking so get going. Afternoon naps by a waterfall after lunch are for wimps, not thru-hikers. Also, real hikers don’t spend evenings in town socialising at divebars and staying 6 to a room in a cheap motel. That was what college was for.
9. Slow down. Go easy at the beginning of your hike to ease your body into the rigours of full time hiking with a heavy backpack. Take it slow on the uphills to stop your body overheating and take it slow on the downhills to ease the stress on your knees and ankle joints. Take your time at peaks to enjoy the views and the accomplishment. Don’t rush any part of your hike – the journey is not a race. Take time to revel in your surroundings. You may hike at a pace of your own choosing any time between 3pm and 4pm (on Thursdays).
8. Don’t buy imported gear. Apart from the obvious reason (your own kind is more deserving of your custom), foreign workers are probably exploited anyway so will be grateful if you kept your money away from them. Of course that means you have to know the provenance of every raw material and legal entity structure of every group company you deal with, and home-designed items manufactured in Asia (like smartphones) are a grey area we don’t like to mention, but all that is just the price of having principals like nobody else seems to.
7. Don’t buy ‘expensive’ gear. If you do then it’s obvious you’re not a real hiker (“All the gear and no idea”). Arcteryx gear may be designed, cut and constructed better than most other brands but they ought to do that for the same price shouldn’t they? And if not they should stop doing it. And Patagonia’s ethical achievements are probably just lip service. You should pay less with another brand and donate the difference so you control where the charity goes.
6. Don’t buy cheap gear. Cheap gear needs replacing more often (landfill is bad) and indicates exploited workers, animals or the environment somewhere down the opaque supply chain. You must only buy items at the exact right price point from the exact right brand, although it seems that no-one can agree on what those are. Even so, publicise what you bought, from whom and at what price and someone helpfully will tell you where you went wrong.
5. Don’t buy new season gear. Only a lemming who doesn’t understand the value of (their own) money would buy something that just came out. Wait a year and it will be the exact same item but very possibly cheaper! Sure, it might actually go up in price (like down items will do in 2014) or get dropped from the range or be improved in a new release but that’s the price of having more money than sense. Does that sound right? More sense than money? Hmmm.
4. Don’t carry too much weight. Ultralight is the only way to hike in the 21st century. Smaller, lighter, thinner. Less is more. A great way to socialise on trail is to compare the size of your load with your new friends – the one with the heaviest pack should be given a new trail name so he doesn’t forget it. Keep a copy of your gear list with you for easy comparison (and prevent nosy people looking into your pack to see what you actually ended up using).
3. Don’t be an “ultralight” nut. Ultralight hikers are obsessive to the point of being a real cult. Seriously, how can carrying a lighter tent or wearing lighter footwear actually help? Those things are just a few grams lighter anyway. It’s not a real challenge if you can stand up straight with your pack on. In the army they carry 100lb loads, or something. Ultralighters risk their own safety and always end up asking to “borrow” your stuff like parasites.
2. Physical preparation before a long hike is a waste of time. In fact, it’s probably dangerous or something. The only way to get your mind and body ready to mountain trek is… to go trekking in mountains. It might take a few weeks and a stress fracture or two before you get in ‘trail shape’, but it’s definitely true because someone you heard about did the whole trail after deciding to do it only the week before. Case closed: training beforehand will not help you in any way at all to be safer from injury, reduce your chance of quitting and actually enjoy the experience from Day 1.
1. Hiking the Appalachian Trail is easy. There’s so much help, from regular markings to trail angels to frequent resupply opportunities. Maybe it does have more elevation gain and loss than 18 Mount Everests (50% more than the PCT) and less than 15% of northbounders succeeded in 2013 but your friend heard it was actually quite easy so it is. Right?