Friday, February 05, 2016

How Easy It Is to Quit on the Trail

How Easy it is to Quit

I have hiked in all kinds of weather. Snow, sleet, thunderstorms, rain. And I know how tempting it is to walk away from the hiking trip you’ve planned for weeks or even months, only to see yourself calling up a friend to take you home. It’s not easy when even your first day in the woods is spent in heavy rain and wind that soaks you. Or your muscles are crying out for relief. The terrain is battering your flesh to a pulp. Or this wave comes over you of – “What am I doing out here!” Yes, I have been through all of it and more.

Some reasons why hikers may quit their hike and some solutions:

1.       Heavy pack weight. You are carrying everything you can think of, and normally that means you are carrying way too much to make the hike comfortable. Take out needless ounces that add up to pounds. Take only what you will use. See if there are weight-saving alternatives, like a headlamp vs. a heavy flashlight. A small knife rather than a big one. Chemical treatment for water vs. a pump. A titanium pot vs. a heavy aluminum one. Also, hikers tend to carry too much food. I blog on food choices. There are lightweight choices out there, too. Even dried peanut butter. Just be sure you are also packing good nutrition. If you are out for only a weekend  or even a week, you won't yet have the hiker appetite of long distance hiking.  

2.       Long miles. Okay, so some buff hikers breeze by you on their way to a 15 mile day, and you think you should do that too. The next day you can barely move. Not a good idea. Slow miles at first until you acclimate. Give yourself a chance out there. It’s not a race. Or a competition. Take ti easy and enjoy the journey.

3.       Unreasonable expectations. It can go along with the above but you have some grandiose idea what the hike will be like, only to find it is not meeting your expectations of fun. Fun can be defined in many ways. It does not mean it will be pain free. But surely it is better than being stuck at home or behind a desk in the office. Shift your mental aspects to finding some positive things about the experience. A great sunset. A spider web dotted with dew. A flowing stream. The companionship of fellow hikers you meet along the way. The good feeling at meeting a goal, however small or large it is.

4.       Bad Weather.  Yes, a nasty rain can suck the life out of a hike. Things get wet. You get wet. Be sure you are protecting yourself and your gear. Invest in good raingear. A pack cover and a pack liner (I am liking Zpacks pack liner more and more after being through some nasty storms). Bag your sleeping bag and clothes in waterproof bags so if your pack gets wet, your core clothing and sleeping bag is dry. Most of all, realize the sun WILL come out and you WILL be able to dry out.

5.       You’re hurt. Not necessarily an injury (which is a different scenario that may require you to temporarily get off), but you are suffering aches, pains blisters. Well, you are putting your body through things it’s not used to. Realize the pain will not last either, so long as you are wearing the right shoes, the right socks, and carrying the pack that fits you properly. Reducing pack weight will help minimize the aches. Cut your mileage to begin. Dry out your feet whenever you stop. I think gaiters keep your feet pretty hot in warm weather, so I don’t wear them. The little aches and pains will diminish. Take frequent rest breaks. Drink plenty of water. If you can tolerate it, taking some Tylenol will help with the pain. Usually after a few days those pains begin to diminish. If they do not, then you may need to reassess your gear to find out what’s up. Or if there are physical limitations that need to be addressed.

The next time you are thinking of quitting, check out the reasons above and see if you can make some changes. Guaranteed with some minor adjustments, the idea of quitting a hike will become a thing of the past. 

Related Blogs:

Mental Aspects of Long Distance Hiking Explored
Rain...Part of a Hiker's Life
When Injury Sidelines You

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