This week, Gaye Levy from Backdoor Survival will teach you the importance of hiking and the many benefits it can have if you want to lead a more prepared lifestyle. Check out her list below, and be sure to visit Backdoor Survival for more great tips.
As the weather continues to improve, my daily hikes get longer. I am so blessed to live in an area with miles of hiking trails, many just a few footsteps outside my front door. Even if that were not the case, hiking is something I adore so rain or shine, I am out there with my hiking boots and my dog, Tucker.
You might be thinking that this is easy for me to say, living as I do in Western Washington, land of Subarus, down vests and hiking boots. To be honest, though, even when I lived in the city, and downtown at that, I still made it a point to hike at the local parks and around town, taking in the sights and the sounds along the way.
Over the weekend, as I was enjoying a hike, I thought about all of the ways that hiking can make you a better prepper. Whether you can hike a mile or ten, here are 10 ways that hiking can help you be better prepared.
10 Ways Hiking Can Prepare You For Anything
1. Become accustomed to carrying a pack on your back
The first time I loaded up my emergency pack and put it on I almost fell over. It was heavy and it was uncomfortable. Lesson learned. I needed a pack that was ergonomically suited to walking some distances and the albatross I had put together was a fail.
I finally settled on what I feel is the perfect pack (Rothco Medium Transport Pack) and learned through experience that 20 pounds was the max I could carry. Hiking gives you an opportunity to become accustomed to carrying a pack on your back and allows you to adapt to its feel as you travel over a distance with you hands completely free.
2. Get practical experience using items in you emergency kit
I don’t care how experienced you are, stuff happens and you need to be prepared. This is especially true when you are in the middle of nowhere. Stumble and trip? You need to learn how to get yourself back up on your feet with any scrapes and sprains dealt with. Need to go potty? Learn to squat in woods. Need help? Learn to signal.
Disoriented or not sure where you are? Read a map and use your compass.
3. Break in hiking boots or other footwear
A short hike gives you an opportunity to gradually break in new hiking boots. Be aware that good socks are important too.
4. Learn to observe your surroundings and increase your awareness of dangers
Whether the danger is a brewing squall or a wild animal, you need to be ever-alert to potential dangers while out on the trail or in the bush. After spending time outdoors, you become more attuned to the nuances of sound and the physical cues of nature.
Where I live, the predators are mostly in the form of bald eagles who will swoop down and make a meal of your small pet. Because of the time I spend outdoors and on the trails, I have developed a sixth sense for danger and keeping a look out has become automatic, requiring no special thought.
5. Practice reading a map and using a compass
These days we rely upon a GPS to get us from point A to point B. Not that many years ago, we had maps with compass rose plus a compass. If you are lost, will you be able to find you way home without using electronics? Hiking provides you with ample opportunities for learning to read a topographical map and to read a compass.
6. Learn to read the skies and predict weather conditions
As someone who boated for 20 years in the waters of Puget Sound and the Canadian Gulf Islands, I know how quickly the weather can change. There are some rules and some tricks to reading the weather, but once you figure them out, it becomes easy to look at the sky and determine the likelihood of a storm.
7. Deal with changing elements with aplomb
You only need to be stuck unprepared in a sudden thunderstorm once. After that first time, you will know to include a poncho, emergency blanket, or tarp to use to protect you from the elements.
8. Recognizing local edible foliage and berries
Foraging for food is another skill that needs to be practiced and honed. While hiking, you can observe local edibles and even snap photos or take samples. Once home, you can research what they are and determine whether they are safe to eat.
9. Stay in good physical shape and build stamina
It goes without saying that being in reasonable if not excellent physical shape will enhance your ability to survive following a devastating disruptive event. There is more to being in good shape, though, than height and weight in proportion.
By increasing the length and difficulty of your hikes, you can build up stamina and endurance far beyond what you can do with almost any other type of activity except perhaps swimming.
10. De-stress and clear you mind of cobwebs
Getting out on the trails and spending some time with nature will make you more relaxed and less anxious. Being a prepper with the endless list of things to do can take its toll, and for me at least, hiking gives me an opportunity to de-compress and de-stress.
This is the number one reason I hike at least a mile daily, and often three miles or more. Rain or shine. And always with my dog.
Items to Take On A Hike
While the purpose if this article was to point out ways hiking can help you prepare, I feel that it is useful to point out some items you should take with you when you hit the trails. Including these items will help ensure your safety while enjoying the outdoors and learning to become a better prepper!
- Topographical Map
- First Aid Kit
- Signaling Device
- Paracord or other Cordage
- LifeStraw Water Filter
- Food/Energy Bars
- Emergency Blanket
- Fire starter
- Mobile Phone or Two Way Radio
A handy and thorough hiking checklist can be downloaded and printed using this link.
The Final Word
When you think about it, hiking and camping share many of the same skill-building attributes. The advantage of hiking, however, is that you don’t have to set aside a huge block of time to reaps its benefits. You do not have to make camp or cook meals. A single hour or two is all you need along with some basic gear that you most likely already own.
One piece of advice: when hiking with others, set the pace to accommodate the person with the least stamina and lowest capabilities. Save the marathon hike for another time. Being a good prepper means helping those that may not be as strong as you are achieve what they can without endangering themselves.
Regardless of where you live, hiking can be an uplifting physical and mental experience. There is something about getting out for an hour or two, or even for an entire weekend that will nurture the soul and give you a renewed focus to keep on doing what you do.
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Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!