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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

10 hiking must-haves

After living just over 2 years now in the mountains of Flagstaff, I have learned many lessons about hiking.  Here are a few tips and tricks!

1. Invest in a good hiking daypack.

Camelbak has served me very well.

A Lowepro backpack, as seen above, is a good brand to look into if you want to bring along your Canon, Nikon, etc.

Now, I haven't backpacked anywhere and camped overnight (I may like hiking but I'm still a bit high-maintenance), but if you are going to become a routine day-hiker - do plentiful research on a good daypack! Having a bladder for water is an absolute must, and then having enough space when you take off layers of clothes is ideal. If you have a nice camera, it would definitely be in your best interest to look into Lowepro. My personal daypack is a Camelback that you can see in the above picture. 

2. Bring more than you think you need for snacks and water.

And have a delicious breakfast beforehand! With a view if you can :P

I've caught myself a few times underestimating the amount of food I would need on a hike. This is when the motto "go big or go home" comes into play.  Also..leave water in your car, at your tent, wherever the home base is for you. Dehydration is not fun.

3. Research the trail as far as technicalities but don't spoil the views!

I didn't look up any pictures of the Narrows...so I was a bit amazed when it came down to the hike.

Make sure you understand the difficulty level of the trail you will hike.  Alltrails.com is a great website to use to read people's reviews of their hikes. Now, this is just a personal opinion, but don't look at all the pictures previous hikers posted.  Make your experience your own, and be surprised by what you come across.

4. Wear appropriate footwear.

These boots are made for hiking.

These shoes were not made for hiking.

Too many times I have seen people hiking in flip-flops, Toms, flats, you name it. This happens most often in places like the Grand Canyon and Zion where folks think they're on "vacation" like they're at a beach. (Sidenote, I will admit, my first hike ever was Mist Trail at Yosemite and I wore Puma sneakers as you see above..) If you are serious, and care about your safety, and other strangers' safety, invest in hiking boots. There are so many kinds out there from lightweight sneaker looking versions (not sure the reliability of those though), to the kind I have which, are heavy, ankle supportive boots.

5. Bring first aid supplies.

There are many small kits out there that have everything you will need in case of an emergency.  Hopefully you'll never need it but it's best to be safe than sorry. Also - bring sunscreen and make sure your phone is fully charged. Obviously you shouldn't be using your phone besides to take pictures, so set it up in airplane mode so you can save battery.

6. Always check the weather.

Break out the lightweight waterproof jacket and hat as necessary!

There are many obvious reasons to check the weather: figuring out how much you need to layer, if you need rain gear, heck, if even you should go on the hike at all.

7. Invest in other supplies as needed - hiking poles, headlamp.

Make sure your poles are at the appropriate height, they should be at different heights for you going uphill vs. downhill.

This goes back to researching your trail appropriately. I have hiking poles (not my favorite, I don't recommend REI brand poles), that have helped me significantly with steep climbs and declines. They have really saved me when going down tricky areas. A headlamp is something you should have no matter what, whether it's at home in case of a power outage, or if you are on the trail later/earlier than anticipated.  Be careful where you put it as if something hits it, it can turn on, and be on for who knows how long..and when you go to use it, the light barely works. (Not speaking from experience or anything..)

8. Take breaks when you can.

Combine those breaks with photo ops!

I'm all about pushing yourself, but keep it reasonable especially in the heat or any other extreme conditions. Also, be considerate of others when you are hiking in a group and make sure no one gets left behind.  Breaks are a great opportunity to take pictures rather than stopping in the middle of a random part of your hike!

9. Meet your fellow hikers.

You never know what kind of people you will meet on your hikes! Make sure to always say hello, and strike up a conversation if you would like. I have met folks who have hiked that certain trail several times and offer some really good tips, to those who are also hiking it for the first time ever and you can share how your experiences have gone thus far!

10. Reward yourself!

You did it! You just went on an awesome hike, that probably took a few hours or the whole day. Sit down, have a good meal, and reflect on your experiences! And don't forget to brag about it to all your family, friends and co-workers :)

If you didn't learn anything else.. Pizza and Beer is a must after a good hike.