Friday, February 20, 2015

10 Things to Do Before You Begin Your Long Distance Hike

You’ve been thinking abut this trip forever, it seems. Your big step onto a long distance trail hike. The nerves are getting to you a bit but so is great expectation. Especially the gnawing sensation if you have everything you really need to do this. Try this checklist to see if you have covered all your bases before you embark on your adventure.

1. Your gear. Have you got everything you need for what may lie ahead? Esp. weather wise? Try this
Gear choices can be overwhelming. Do the best you can.
gear list to see if you may have forgotten something, even the small stuff. Have some money on hand during your hike to replace some gear issues for long distance hiking. Even if your gear choices aren't perfect, it will be ok. Some extra money can help remedy some of that, esp if it is a safety issue. Other times, just let it go.

2. Your means of communication. While we like to get away from the electronics out in the wild, electronics are necessary for planning ahead, calling home, checking on shuttles and hostels, unplanned emergencies, etc. Plan for a cell phone. Some family members may want to follow your progress so consider a SPOT or similar device. Leave an itinerary at home. Though it may change, it gives your loved ones an idea where you will be.

3. Your navigation. Most say just follow the blazes, but lots of time, esp. in surprise weather, that doesn’t always work. Have the means for navigation on you. Maps (or map apps for your cell phone), current guidebook and / or guidebook pages, etc. If using a phone for map apps, be sure you have an extra power pack for it. A compass is an added bonus, but make sure you know how to use it. Same for a GPS for certain hard to follow trails.

4. Your health. Have you been to the doctor AND dentist for all necessary checkups? Make sure you will have the medicines you need. How about extra prescriptions, esp. for glasses should they break while on the trail? Do you have a prescription for things like doxycycline for a tick bite on the trail? Also, be up to date on shots like Tetanus. Don’t forget to bring a good first aid kit and consider taking a first aid course before the trip. 

5. Your money. Check your accounts to make sure everything is up to date and you have the money you need should you have to spend a few extra days in town due to bad weather, illness, gear replacement, etc. Carry some cash on you as well as a debit card and credit card on you, along with your driver’s license or other form of ID. Be sure you have an extra debit card at home to mail out just in case the magnetic strip wears out.

6. Your trail mail. Are you expecting mail on the trail? Make sure you have your mail drops ready to go or a person ready to do them for you and a responsible person to mail them. As things can change en route, be sure you give yourself plenty of time for the drops to get there. Use Priority Mailing case you need to forward drops (which can be done for free if you don’t pick up the box at the PO). Use this checklist for maildrops and what to put in them.

7. Your house, bills, pets. Is your place or residence being cared for as well as the bills for it? Things like this can really distract from a hike unless you have prepared for it. Make sure all these things are covered. That also includes any pets left at home – that they are cared for by responsible people and have the food, medicines, vet info, etc they need.

8. Your job. If you have a leave from your job, make sure everything is OK at work for you to return. If you quit your job, have some ideas what you will do when you get back. Maybe make a list or have an idea of a job that interests you.  Be sure there is money to cover several months of bills after you get back as you look for a job or to pay the bills until you start work and get paid.

9. After the trail. Prepare for the after the trail doldrums. See my blog on coping with post-trail issues
which are very real after any major hike. Don’t
let depression and other issues kill the joy of your great adventure.

10. Now…Relax. The bases are covered, so get out there and enjoy it. Take it day by day. And don’t be afraid to change things on your hike if needed. Be flexible. The journey is more mental than physical.  

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