Gear Up for Summer Hiking
Summer Hiking Season, get ready
Perhaps you just discovered hiking in the mountains or you’re an old veteran. Either way, being ready for summer hiking is something you always need to prep for. Having well-adjusted gear and being physically fit are essential to enjoying the hike and the outdoors.
Day hiking is a great way to get in shape for longer hikes or even backpacking. Perhaps you have only ever been a day hiker. There are certainly many nice day hikes all over Colorado; hikes that will suit any type of hiker, group, or family with children.
Getting ready for a day hike is relatively easy. It’s best to have a small backpack to carry basic gear, such as:
- A water bottle. You will get thirsty even if you’re just going for an hour.
- Sunscreen. High elevation sun is very damaging. Even on cloudy days sunscreen is important.
- A lightweight rain jacket or windbreaker. Weather conditions change quickly in the mountains.
- A map or at least a definite idea of where you are going. Cell phones are not reliable in the mountains.
- A snack. It’s easy to think you won't need anything to eat but snacks are a good idea to bring along, just in case, and enjoy at your destination.
- A hat or visor, especially on a sunny day. You can always store it in your pack.
- A camera, not essential but nice to bring along.
Tips for Breaking in New Boots From Home:
- Check the Fit. Try on your new boots with a pair of hiking socks, preferably your favorite pair that you plan on wearing a lot once you’re ready for the real deal. Take your time and line up the tongue and gussets, and lace them up snugly (but not too tight!). What you’re doing here is forming creases on the tongue and gussets that will eventually custom-fit your new boots to your feet.
- Start Small. Now that your boots fit, wear ‘em! Keep them on your feet as you do small household chores like vacuuming or taking out the trash. It doesn’t need to be for long, but it should be often, and you should make sure you’re moving, not just standing. Throughout this process, the sole of the boot will slowly start to form to the shape of your foot, and though it will probably feel stiff at first, eventually you’ll make those uppers nice and supple.
- Build Up. Once you’ve broken them in a bit around the house, start taking those new boots out for walks. Wear them when you take the dog for a walk, or when you head out to restock on groceries. Start with short excursions, and work your way up to longer walks or ones with different terrain. You can build up from here as well by wearing a backpack loaded with steadily increasing amounts of weight
- Listen to Your Body. If at any point in this process, from mowing the lawn with your new boots on or taking a two-mile walk around your neighborhood, you feel like your boots are pinching your feet, or if you take them off and find that your feet are covered in blisters, you might need to reevaluate some of these steps or even your new boots entirely. If the fit is the problem, you’re going to need to return your boots and try a different size or even a different brand. But blisters and discomfort could also be caused by moving through these steps too quickly, and taking on too much too soon, or by any rocks or dirt that find their way into your boot during your jaunts around the neighborhood. It might even be your feet that are the problem, which can easily be fixed by spending more time walking around barefoot at home, clipping your toenails, or using skin cream to avoid cracking. Whatever it is, make sure to take the time to do some troubleshooting, because your feet will ultimately thank you.
- Hit the Trails. Once it’s deemed safe to do so, you’ll be able to get out and hike with your new boots without any growing pains!
Getting in Shape for Hiking Season
Regardless of whether you’re breaking in new gear, it’s important to be in shape for hiking season. Normally, you could do this by starting with some small hikes and working your way up to the big guns, but right now this isn’t possible for everyone.
When it comes to hiking, there are three distinct categories where you’re going to need to be in shape: Cardio, Strength, and Endurance. Each of these, from the strength in your legs and core for carrying that pack, to your ability to hoof it up that scree field without getting winded, will feed into each other to make you a strong hiker, and there are a lot of exercises you can do right from home to get ready.
Walking, in general, is going to be a super useful exercise for you, and while longer walks are great, a short, 10-minute walk around the block is also a good way to warm up for some more intense exercises. You don’t even need any real equipment, though if you have dumbbells, resistance bands, or other home workout equipment, that’s wonderful. Soup cans, laundry detergent bottles, or jugs of water make great weights. Exercises like squats, lunges, planks, push-ups, and crunches don’t require any equipment at all, except the environment around you. To prep for those steep inclines in the mountains, make full use of the stairs in your house or apartment building, or take a daily walk in a nearby area that has some uneven terrain or hills. If you don’t have access to stairs, find a sturdy box or stool and do some step-up exercises for a lot of the same effects (for extra strength training, slowly start adding weight to your backpack and wear it while you do this).
*Please note that it is always important to listen to your body when exercising. Take rest days, stay hydrated, don’t push yourself too hard, and STOP if something feels wrong. Remember, you won’t be able to do any hiking this year if you injure yourself
It can be easy to let current events get you down, especially when they stop you from getting outside and enjoying nature as the weather warms up. But one of the best ways to stay positive is having something to look forward to. So work hard, prep your body and your gear, and as soon as the coast is clear, hit those trails for an epic season of mountaineering!
Written by Emily Krempholtz