By all appearances, a hiker may seem similar to a free spirited gypsy; throwing caution to the wind when the mood takes them; discovering romantic locations with no effort whatsoever. But on closer inspection, outdoor enthusiasts – especially the sort that spend numerous days away at a time – are some of the most forward thinking hobbyists around.
If you’re thinking about setting out to prove to the world (or to yourself) that you aren’t just a sidewalk-sailing, asphalt-aspiring pavement princess, here are a few things you’ll need to consider in advance.
Believe it or not, jogging to and from the fridge to fetch your two week-old pizza (no rush, its good for another week bro) probably isn’t going to cut it as a beneficial training regimen for a multi-day walk.
The best exercise to prep your muscles, joints, and mind for repetitive pronation, is climbing stairs. Whether it be a stairclimber at your gym, skipping the elevator at your office, or recruiting a local apartment building to your cause, a liberal supply of going up and coming down the old fashioned way will whip you into primetime fitness quicker than any Zumba class or Tae-Bo video.
A good rule of thumb is to do one flight of stairs per kilometre of the walk you’ve set in you’re sights, twice every day starting two weeks prior to the walk. Adding weight to simulate the added burden of the pack you’ll be carrying is a great idea as well, via a schoolbag loaded with books or squeezing extra value out of your groceries as workout equipment.
Something is better than nothing.
Even if you decide to do something less relevant to the unique strains of walking (like one of those stationary bicycle spin groups where the instructor nearly overdoses on caffeine prior to class so that he can scream without wavering for an hour straight) it’s better than nothing.
You’ve got to use the muscle to build the muscle. Otherwise, you’ll be cheerleading for your companions as they march onwards and leave you stranded by your fat cells in some remote corner of the bush. That is no way to die my friends.
After you begin training your body, you’ll need to give some consideration to your toolbox – and I do mean in that order. Many people assume that they can compensate for being a mouth-breathing sack of cells by purchasing a cute down jumper or fancy pack.
However, it doesn’t matter how strong your thighs are or how much endurance you have, if you don’t have the proper gear, you’re going to make things a lot harder on yourself and potentially endanger your own life or that of your mates.
A reliable tent, solid sleeping bag, and dependable footwear are integral parts in maintaining a reasonable level of comfort while in the woods.
Your first line of defence against the elements is a tent that is going to keep you warm, dry and safe. Double-walled tents are marginally heavier, but superior in almost all scenarios to a single-walled. Unless you’re going to be in a snowy alpine environment, go double-walled every time.
Depending on the climate and weather forecasts of the region you’ll be walking, you’ll need to decide whether a down or synthetic sleeping bag is more practical. Down has a much higher heat retention, but falters drastically upon getting wet. Synthetic, on the other hand, is not as warm but will perform well even after absorbing moisture. If you’re in an area with heavy precipitation or you still wet the bed, you’ll be better off with the latter option.
Attire is also a critical element if you’re embarking on an extended saunter through the wild. While cosmetics and jewellery can be left at home, a good pair of shoes will absolutely play a vital role in your sustained endurance and sense of enjoyment.
Of all the cladding I’ve worn on my feet in Oceania, the Moab 2 made by Merrell performs like a dream. Both waterproof and padded with what feels like clouds, hooves are the only thing better for long hauls (although the Moab 2 is much easier to install).
Other pieces equipment you will likely find useful include a stove, waterproof layers, and a box of matches and lint to aid in fire if they’re allowed on the track you’re eyeing.
Spending extended lengths of time walking through the wild may thrust you into some sticky situations where versatility will be your only aid.
Do your research beforehand.
The best means of prepping for potentially unfortunate circumstances while on a road less travelled, is to survey the track’s route on a topographic map and suss out alternative campsites and positions of vulnerability and exposure, providing yourself with some scope into the lay of the land and how to time and sequence certain sections of the journey.
Consulting rangers, guides, and personal testimonies online may also shed some light on points of safe shelter.
Moreover, a long-distance hike may take a toll on your equipment, so visualising how you could modify your gear to make due is extremely worthwhile. Carrying a bit of rope to rig up a tent into a bivvy setup is and excellent manoeuvre, as neither tent poles nor fabric are invincible.
Don’t Forget the Non-Negotiables.
A first-aid kit and PLB/EPIRB are the most obvious staples in an emergency gameplan, as either/both could save your life. Study up on methods of injury response so that you can treat yourself or others if necessary, and suss out sites on the track which might be conducive to helicopter landing so that you’ve got an extraction point if life-threatening conditions arise and you’ve no other choice but to deploy a rescue beacon.
Emergency response teams are not a taxi service and should be reserved for only the most grave situations. If you have a broken leg, you’re probably not going to be able to just walk it off. If you have a splinter- rub some dirt on it kid.
Merrell are a leader in performance outerwear, helping people combat the elements and conquer their summits. The MOAB is the world’s no.1 selling outdoor boot and we are proud to be partnering with the brand to launch the new MOAB 2 boot in Australia and New Zealand.
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