This guest blog post by Joe Miller, Raleigh Ultimate Hike Coach and author of 100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina
Looking to make the most of your Ultimate Hike experience? Here are 10 suggestions that should help.
- Get boots that fit. I used to always get boots on sale or close-out — then wonder why my feet would get so beat up. Hiking boots/shoes is one area where you should focus on fit, comfort and performance and endure the sticker shock.
- Socks: Back in the day, we had one sock option: tube socks (though we did have quite the array of colored calf stripes to choose from). Today, there’s a “technical sock” for every occasion. Hiking in dry, sandy conditions? There’s a sock for that. In a jungle? Got ya covered. Climbing a scree field? Yup, there’s a sock specifically woven for that (or so the packaging claims).
- Hydrate! If you take but one piece of advice from this post, make it this: drink! Nothing torpedoes a hike faster than becoming dehydrated. Hydration is an ongoing process, one you should be particularly aware of two to three days prior to a big hike.
- Layer your clothes. Some of you will begin training in the cold of winter and do your hike in the heat of spring. Others will start training during the dog days of summer and do your hike in the cool of middle to late fall. Either way, you’ll be hiking through a range of temperatures and weather — sometimes in the same day. From a clothing standpoint you’ll need to be equipped to deal with heat and cold and dry and wet conditions.
- Eat! “Bonk”: that’s the technical term for getting to the mid-point of a 10-mile hike and suddenly running out of energy — and the will to proceed. Avoid bonking with the one-two punch of fueling up beforehand and during a long hike.
- Train for night hiking. No kidding, at almost every Ultimate Hike at least one hiker seems surprised and shocked by the fact it’s dark — and will be for at least the first couple hours. The notion of hiking at night — through a dark forest amid a cacophony of weird and unidentifiable sounds — can seem freaky at first. But for most, once they hit the trail and get used to living within the cozy glow of their headlamp, it’s a treat.
- Consider hiking poles. It’s interesting how many people have no interest in hiking poles at the start of training and how many do after the first 10- or 12-mile hike. Leave your vanity in the closet and do your knees and feet a favor by getting hiking poles.
- Have a good day pack. If you already have a pack, stick with it for the first few weeks. Take note of what works for you (lots of pockets), what doesn’t (minimal access to the main compartment). Then go to your favorite outfitter and check out the options.
- Cross-train. It’s not all about hiking. True, the best way to build up to a 25- or 30- or 35-mile hike is to take long hikes. But odds are you don’t have time to head out every day for a 2-hour, 6-mile hike.
- Listen to your body. As your hikes get longer, your body will be entering new physiological territory. New things will be sore, new aches will surface. You’ll want to pay attention to these new and strange feelings and deal with them before they become an issue. I suggest keeping a malady journal with you on your hike and making note of any annoyances that pop up.