Raise your hand if you like to hike!
I know some of you guys are hikers out there. Some of our friends love car camping, others like getting out for long backpacks and still others would rather stay in a hotel. I love that we can all be so different! I personally don’t like hiking with a heavy pack (why not put it on a kayak and explore a river?), but I DO love getting out in the mountains and going long. There’s something about the endurance required and the mental fortitude that’s necessary that draws me to get out and go long. But for those who want to learn a little more about how to fuel, what to drink and where to start, I thought I’d do a more in-depth look at the in’s and out’s of a long day hike based on our RockWall Trail-in-a-day hike. Remember, our theme was to go light and go long. Our packs didn’t weigh much and we didn’t bother with ANYthing that could have been consider an “extra.” This is just from our experience on this particular hike, but the concepts of what to pack work for hikes of all lengths. Stay tuned or scroll through the end for a great, short video with a few highlights and a twist on the story from my husband!
What to Pack: Clothes
- Layers. Generally, when you’re up high in the mountains, you need to be prepared for anything. That means:
- a warm layer
- lightweight pants
- a rain jacket (take your chances based on the forecast but it’s generally a good idea!) and
- something warm for your head – be it a toque or a buff or something like that.
- hat – especially in the heat of the day, with glaciers around you and not much protection from the sun!
For this trip, our goal was to go light, so clothes-wise we each had a light rain jacket, shorts (wearing), a warm layer (down sweater for me, fleece for Mikey) and a toque.
What to Pack: Equipment
- Chapstick with SPF (this has been a life saver to me, mainly on multi-day trips, but it sure helps even on single day ones!).
- Extra Shoes: Normally we hike in our Chacos (yes, even crossing short snow fields) because we can’t stand hiking boots, don’t need the ankle stability and like the light aspect of the sandals – great for stream crossings too! But going so long, we decided to bring a pair of running shoes too, which proved to be a good decision for extra padding at the end of the day. They were light and worth carrying, although normally we only wear and bring one pair of shoes.
- Emergency Blanket: Small and worth packing out!
- Bivvy Bag: We only bring this for long trips or trips where we know we won’t have many options “out.”
- Silicone Scout Tarp: A great lightweight tarp to have for those just-in-case moments if you need shelter…
- Steri-Pen: Since we were going light and because we crossed so many pure, glacial streams, we knew we’d be okay with just our steri-pen, which is a handheld “pen” that uses UV light to kill bacteria in the water. We’ve used it in much dirtier water and been fine, but up there in the mountains it’s a pretty safe bet you won’t be getting giardia by using it! (bonus) 😉
- GPS: It’s another bonus item, but helpful to see how far you’ve gone, what your pace is, your elevation gain (there was lots in this one!) and how far you’ve got to go! Mikey and I typically hike by feel (think: RPE – rating of perceived exertion – how we feel out of 10, say) and maps, but our friend Zeal was all over his heart rate monitor and GPS. Fun to look at the same thing in a different way!
- Honey Wafers: New to us and a great decision; my chocolate one was like a crushed up brownie.
- GU’s: The salted caramel and espresso love were HUGE hits with my mouth and stomach!
- Chews: Like candy on the trail – instant energy.
- Pro-Bar: Lots of calories, good to nosh on something more “solid.”
(This shot captures how we were all feeling at the time: I felt great, Mikey felt good, Zeal’s Achilles needed a break and we were all living off of corn nuts at Numa Pass!)
- Apple: We don’t normally bring because of the weight, but we had some extras and it was a great crunch on the trail!
- Peanut butter, jelly & banana waffle sandwiches: Real food! Just don’t make many days in advance; preferably the night before for longevity.
- Corn nuts: From the bulk bin, these never let us down. We pretty much subsisted on these for the end of our hike thanks to several unexpected hours on the trail.
- Almonds & Quaker Oat’s cereal squares: Good fast fuel.
What to Pack: Hydration
- Nuun tablets: For extra electrolytes, which was extra important on the hot day we had!
- X2Performance: This helped immensely. Mikey really felt the difference, and I’ve never felt so good in general on a hike right from the start. This product is a “convenient, 2oz. natural sports energy product that can boost your training, workouts and competitive performance… It works with your body to naturally increase energy levels, enhance endurance and improve both in- and post-workout recovery” (source). And I have to tell you, my calves were tight the next day and that was it, and it didn’t take the first half of my day to feel warmed up like it usually does on a hike. I was ready to go and went all day, and Mikey used a second bottle later in the day (I thought I left mine in the car but it turns out it fell to the bottom of my pack) and could feel the effects. It’s natural and a great product. Check out the link above for my video review of it this winter and the link in the source above for more info on the product (not an affiliate link, I just love the stuff, although I did receive it for free from a prior blog campaign).
- Hydration packs: Much easier than water bottles! 2 litres
Note: Fuel for your body. We feel best when we take in fuel every hour, and most energy shots or bars can be portioned up into 100 calories each (most GU’s are this much, chews are closer to 160 calories, a few handfuls of cereal get you there too). Every hour we also take in water, although we’re better at sipping as we go so we get more in. It’s important to try out what works for you and build off that best. Just as in racing, the golden rule is to never do anything new on your race day (or, in this case, hike day!) as your body isn’t used to it and you’re taking a gamble.
Things we did wrong:
- …Tried something new on hike day. 😉 We made some great food from our athletes’ food zone portables cookbook, which is written by Chef Biju and Dr. Lim and offers “75 all-new portable food recipes for cyclists, runners, triathletes, mountain bikers, climbers, hikers, and backpackers. Each real food recipe is simple, delicious during exercise, easy to make—and ready to go on your next ride, run, climb, hike, road trip, or sporting event” (source).
While we had tried a few recipes before, we had always made them and eaten them soon after their creation, but this time we were away from home (and refrigeration) on a rafting trip for 2 days before our hike, so we essentially made them 3 days before use. BAD IDEA. The raspberries and jam that were in the 2 different recipes we made went rancid and fermented, and while things we’re quite as soggy as I feared (the book mentioned nothing about storage so we assumed we’d be okay but I was curious), they still weren’t our first choice of food. We ended up tossing the leaky ones before the hike and couldn’t eat the ones that smelled ripe and fermented while on the trail. Major fail, because we ended up with less food than we needed come the last few hours of the hike.
- Clear thinking. When you’ve been going full blast for 17 hours, what’s another 3, right? Well, when you didn’t anticipate the hike taking that long due to your friend’s Achilles injury (we were moving 1 km an hour at the end together! That.is.slow) and you’re on the trail longer than expected, you need to stay sharp mentally. Overall our morale was high for most of the day, but the last 3 hours of rain, darkness (good thing we had our headlamps!), and fatigue started to get to us. After Zeal hobbling for a few hours, Mikey prayed for insight to know how to help him, and as SOON as he finished praying he remembered he knew how to tape an Achilles! Soon after, Zeal was revived and hiking well, I was warming back up because we were finally moving at a good clip again, and we were feeling sheepish for not having taped sooner! Sometimes the obvious is in front of you but you don’t see it. For example, I wanted to tough it out and not get in the bivvy bag while we stopped and taped Zeal’s injury, but I was getting cold and it was getting to my head. Mikey forced me to get in the bag and I immediately warmed up, legs warm in my shorts (should have brought those rain pants!), heart rate returning to normal, body relaxing. No need to tough it out – just need to keep thinking clearly.
- Clothing changes: We could have used rain pants, but other than that, we were happy with our clothes for the long day. That’s not to say they would have kept us that dry in the last few hours with the rain and water soaking from the vegetation hanging over the trail, but it’s still another layer between you and your skin!
Things we did right:
- Fuel well & consistently. Despite the fact that we didn’t have enough food for the whole time, I felt great, personally! I was feeling hydrated (pee was clear & copious with many quick pit-stops along the trail; the Nuun’s definitely helped with this!) and I was never hungry. I think the boys could have used more food judging by how they felt at the end (a bit irritable and a bit out of it as soon as we made it to the car; Mikey lasted so well, in good spirits and a strong body, but bonked as soon as we reached the parking lot hard), but I think overall we fueled well throughout the entire day.
- We communicated well with each other. If the pace was too fast, someone spoke up. If there were “hot spots” that needed taping, we pulled over. If someone needed fuel, we grabbed some and all ate a bit. We worked pretty well as a unit despite our different fitness levels and desires for the day’s outcome (Mikey and I were pretty determined to get all the way to the end).
- Kept moving and kept a good pace.
- We were prepared to spend the night outdoors. It wouldn’t have been a comfortable night out, but we could have lasted if we needed to sleep on the trail.
Although that doesn’t cover everything (like the beauty of that trail, the specifics of where we started and where we finished, of the car shuttle and how we kept moving that long and still enjoyed one another!), it covers a lot of the basics. I hope you find this helpful and can get out for an urban hike, a good long day, a backpack or a few hours on some trails before the final days of summer are gone!
Lastly, here’s a video with some fun footage of the epic hike as well as a twist on viewing the undertaking of such a challenge – and the challenges in life. It’s a Digital Story that Mikey created as a part of the young adult Digital Storytelling class he taught at Wellspring Calgary in August 2014. Check out survivethrive.org/events to see when the next digital Storytelling workshop will be or take a look at survivethrive.org/workshops to see what other types of workshops you could have come to your own area.
Any questions or comments on the above? I’d love to hear about things you did right or wrong on a hike or if you enjoy getting on the trails. Live well & be well friends!