Sawyer’s Tips for Preparing for a Trek

Alright, everyone, first of all, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program. Next, I want to say that the following are ideas for a backpacking training program. You can certainly modify the plan as needed. The most important thing is to strive for at least 30 minutes of cardio activity at least 5 days a week for a few months before your trip. Ready? Here’s what I do:

With my pack, I jog up and down the steps of the bleachers at the local football stadium. (Go at a pace that is comfortable for you.) At the bottom, I do a push-up and then a squat. Don’t rush through this. A quality exercise with good form is better than a fast, sloppy move. At the beginning of my training, I do this for 20 minutes. (But I’ve been doing this for many summers. Start with 5 minutes if you need. It’s better to work into it slowly than to run your body to injury.) Increase by 2-3 minutes per workout until you can do it for 60 minutes. Do this workout 2-3 times per week, and fill in the other days with swimming, walking, biking, or another favorite exercise. (I also like to work my upper body and core once per week.) The week before your trip, taper the length of your workout by 50%. I hope it works for you as well as it does for me! 

Also, rest is very important. Your body won’t benefit from all your effort if you’re not allowing it as much rest as needed. When I’m training hard for an upcoming trek, I sleep about 10 hours a night! And eat as well as you can, too. Do some dynamic stretching at the start of a workout, and finish up with static stretching. Take care of your body so it can take you all the places you want to hike! Happy trails! 

Marshall’s Tips for Introverts Hiking with a Talkative Group

I love backpacking. There’s nothing as good as being alone in the wilderness. The only problem with my last statement is the beautiful word ‘alone.’ What I would give for some alone time on trek! Don’t get me wrong, I hike with a good group. I like everyone in our group, but sometimes the togetherness and talking irritates me. I never knew why I could grow so annoyed in my favorite environment until recently when I learned that I am an introvert.

In other words, I need just a little bit of alone time to myself each day. Since I’m apparently the only introvert in our chatty crew, I’ll share some of the tips I’ve learned that help me stay sane when I’m surrounded with people, day and night, for a week, when I’d sometimes rather be alone in the wilderness:

As much as I love sleep, when I’m on trek, I need to wake up earlier than everybody else and take a short walk by myself. Even 15 minutes of quiet, first thing in the morning, makes an enormous difference in my day. Because once the Stanley girls wake up, there’s no quiet until they’re asleep again. It wouldn’t be so bad if there was just one girl, but there are three, and they talk constantly. And while they talk about interesting things, the conversation seems relentless, so the 15 minute walk alone in the morning is very necessary.

I also benefit from stepping off trail for a few minutes when we stop for snack and bathroom breaks, again, just to snag a moment of alone time in the day. At the end of the day, I usually offer to wash dishes and pump water, because often we break into small groups for those chores, and the girls are less chatty when they’re not all together. Not to be mistaken, I like those girls, but by the end of the day I’m more than ready for less of the girly talk. 

When I meet my down-time needs, I’m better able to enjoy the entire backpacking experience, and even appreciate what the girls have to say. To be completely honest, I don’t think backpacking would be as much fun alone. So by taking time for myself, I can have more fun with the group I love. 

Ellie’s First Aid Advice for the Trail

First aid is such a huge topic, and it’s so important for all the hikers in your group to have basic first aid knowledge, but here I’ll try to explain some of the more common treatments you’ll want to know before you go on trek. And of course, prevention is ideal, yet even the most careful hikers experience some level of issues. It seems to me that the three most encountered conditions on trail are cuts, blisters and dehydration. 

It sounds too basic to mention, but it is imperative to keep all cuts and scrapes clean. On trail, without the luxury of soap and indoor plumbing, I use peroxide wipes from the first aid kit to clean little wounds. They might look minor and you might be tempted to ignore a small scrape, but when you live outside and aren’t taking regular showers, little cuts are vulnerable to infection. A few years ago, Marshall tried to be Mr. Tough Guy and ignore a cut on his shin, and he had to go to the doctor for antibiotics because it started to hurt and itch and smell bad….all because he refused to clean it with a peroxide wipe. 

Feet deserve proper attention. After all, if it weren’t for our feet (though they stink!), we wouldn’t hike to amazing destinations! When they carry us all day, hot spots and blisters on our hard-working feet are inevitable. As soon as you feel a hot spot forming (it feels exactly like the name describes…simply a spot on your foot that feels hot as you hike), stop your group and put tape over the hot spot. Athletic tape or duct tape work well. If and when a blister develops, cut a doughnut shape of moleskin to fit around the blister, so that the blister peeks through the hole in the moleskin. And, if it seems like the blister will rupture, sterilize a needle (by wiping it with a peroxide or alcohol wipe, or by rolling the needle in a squirt of hand sanitizer) and carefully poke the needle into your skin at the base of the blister. Gently press out the pus and then clean and cover the area as with a cut. 

Dehydration…it’s not quite as easy as just drinking water while you hike. Granted, sipping regularly is crucial, but if you show signs of dehydration (chapped lips; headache; dark yellow, smelly urine; lack of urination), you need electrolytes. Actually, you need electrolytes all along to prevent dehydration, but especially if you are dehydrated. Salty foods such as jerky, nuts, trail mix, even a small packet of salt, or electrolyte supplements such as drink mixes or other packaged electrolyte foods, will each help your body regain the necessary balance. Sit down for at least twenty minutes (in the shade if possible) as you snack and sip. Be careful to not chug water, though. Go easy on your body and let it recover. Prevent, treat, recover, and enjoy your trip! 

Marlee’s Backpacking Advice for Girls

I thoroughly enjoy backpacking, but between you and me, sometimes it can be awkward for me, a teenage girl, to hike with a group (that includes boys) for days. Here’s where I’ll share some of my tips for girls….if you’re a boy reading this, STOP!

First, it’s one thing if boys get stinky on trek, but it’s different for girls. We don’t want to smell foul. So, I always bring a travel size stick of deodorant along. Use it morning and night, be sure it hangs in the bear bag with all the smellables, and you’ll feel much more feminine…or at least more human 😉 I also sneak a few baby wipes in my pack to clean my face (and then my armpits and feet) before bed. It helps me feel cleaner and rest better. Baby wipes should also go in the bear bag, so duck inside your tent quickly to do this before the bear bag gets hung. 

My very important tip that Mom and Ellie taught me is (drumroll)….if you have used feminine products to pack out, put them in a sealable plastic bag with a few sprinkles of baking soda to neutralize the smell. Double bag it and discreetly tuck it in your garbage bag. Again, this should be hung in the bear bag at night, so that’s why I like to hide it within the garbage bag (so the boys will only see the granola bar wrappers when the bear bag gets filled). 

One more thing, ladies, leave your makeup at home. Once when we were hiking we passed a lady at the trailhead with so much makeup on her face that she looked ready for a ball. I can only imagine how streaked and icky it must have looked a couple days into her hike! When you’re on trek, nobody expects you to look dolled up. Just brush your teeth twice a day, wipe down with a baby wipe at night, sneak your deodorant on, and enjoy the simplicity of life on the trail 🙂 

Lydie’s Tricks to Keep up with Stronger Hikers 

Hey, fellow adventurers! I’m Lydie, the youngest of our crew, and I have a few tricks to share about how I keep up with the stronger hikers in the group.

First, I want to explain a trick called “rest step.” Many hikers know and practice rest step, but for me, being smaller than the rest in our group, it’s especially important to utilize. To feel how rest step works, start walking up stairs or a hill. (Go ahead and try it now. Good.) Now, each time you step up, extend your leg all the way before putting your other foot on the ground. (Feel the difference? When you do rest step, it gives your muscles a little break at every step as your skeletal system shares the load. These little breaks add up as the hike goes on!) Using rest step makes a noticeable difference on long inclines. 

Second, and this probably won’t surprise you, but pacing myself is very important. If I tried to hustle and catch up to the boys every time they got a ways ahead of me, I would be exhausted all day, and would probably trip and fall more often. It takes lots of focus to maintain a pace comfortable for my body; but when I do go at my pace, I rarely get much behind the rest of the group. 

Finally, and this is my favorite, I eat often during the day, and heartily at supper. Throughout the day, it’s very helpful to snack on a fatty snack, like nuts or granola. Fat has more energy than carbohydrates or protein, so keeping a steady supply of high-energy snacks keeps my energy strong. Then at supper, I fill my belly! (Most hikers prefer to have small lunches since hiking on a full stomach drags you down.) Dad is always good about planning meals that have healthy amounts of protein, carbs and fat, so my job is to eat enough to keep my energy level high. After supper, I make sure to get a good night of sleep so I’m ready for the next day’s adventures.