Outside with Charlie: Hiking tips

By July 26, 2011


Summer has finally graced us with its presence. If autumn rolls in on time, we will have lost about a month of warm weather and a few trips to the mountains.

Now that temperatures are steadily warm the snow is melting rapidly and the rivers remain high, fast and cold.

Trails into Desolation Wilderness are now more accessible but hiking in the back country is still questionable at higher elevations. Trails on northern slopes will be the last to lose all the snow.

With the hiking season finally here it’s time to review safety issues. Some items should always be in your pack no matter how long you plan to be gone. Take enough water or a water purifier if you will be gone more than a day.

Take adequate food plus a little extra — nutritious food that will provide enough calories for sustained hiking. Always take chocolate. It just tastes good, especially in the middle of nowhere.

Take a flashlight, headlight and extra batteries. Your day hike may be delayed and you will need light. Matches and material to make a fire should be in a waterproof container.

A map of the area and a compass should be readily available — and you or someone in the group should know how to use them. GPS devices are handy, but only with good batteries and a connection with their motherships.

Take sunglasses, sunscreen and insect repellent in every season. Sunglasses protect your eyes from the sun, bugs and tree debris.

An up-to-date first aid kit is essential. There are pre-packaged wilderness kits available or you can build your own. Meds should be fresh and take enough prescribed medication to last in case something goes wrong or you decide to prolong your hike.

Layers are key to staying comfortable. If you don’t have wet weather gear, carry a couple large plastic trash bags, which can be converted to ponchos and keep you reasonably dry.

Wear synthetic clothing, which will dry quickly and wick moisture away from your skin. Cotton does not dry well, and traps moisture.

Wear a hat to keep the sun out of your face and neck, and to provide warmth on chilly days. If you have the right hat, you’ll look really cool.

A good knife like a venerable Swiss Army knife or a military survival knife should be in your gear as well. Make certain that your footwear is up to the task.

Leave a note or a message with someone about where you are going and when you plan to be back. Check the weather before you head out. Check and double check your gear. Having too much generally isn’t a problem. Not having enough always is.

Stay safe, keep hiking, stay outside.

Charlie Ferris

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