I just returned home from one of the most fulfilling trips of my life. I devoted a week to Kauai, the Garden Isle, the island of the Hawaiian archipelago most distant from the Mainland. I spent a lot of time outside – in the rainforest-like mountains and on the white sandy beaches.
Before departing on this adventure, I did my research on what hikes I should consider pursuing, given my skill level and athletic ability. What I’ve realized is easy is only as easy as a post’s author sees it.
And so, I write this post for hikers like me.
Hikers like me are, for benchmarking purposes:
- Pretty athletic: I run an 8-minute mile on a good day and attend hot yoga sculpt classes 2-3 times a week. I also do a lot of walking.
- Familiar with trails and climbs, yet prefer a slower pace.
- Paranoid about slipping.
- Kind of afraid of heights, depending on if there’s something to hold on to.
- Not afraid of getting dirty and/or wet.
- Really into nature’s wonders and witnessing spectacular views only Mother Nature can create.
If you’re a hiker like me, you will appreciate the following tips and tricks for how to conquer the slipperiest, scariest, most scintillating hikes of your life, which in the end will be worth it.
Tip # 1: Don’t be afraid to crawl.
I know, it sounds silly. But, according to the laws of physics, maintaining a low center of gravity means you are less likely to fall – a great relief for those of us afraid of heights and/or slipping. For example, race cars have really low centers of gravity so that they can corner rapidly without turning over. The same concept applies to those of us scaling the sides of mountains. I prefer a crab walk (butt down, hips up) to an army crawl (butt up, hips down) myself, but do what works best for you. Side stepping is also helpful. Instead of directing your body straight down, turn to your left or right and use the outside edges of your feet to help you balance. This way, there’s more space to distribute your weight long edge of your foot instead of solely (pun intended) on the balls of your feet.
Tip #2: Use a walking stick.
Again, it sounds a little silly – reminiscent of elderly folk who need assistance maintaining their balance. There was a time when both of my parents had canes, so I understand this quite well. Having an instrument like this to help you distribute your body weight while traveling up and down a trail not only improves your stability and reduces fatigue, but also improves your lung capacity, so you can travel greater distances and for longer periods of time, allowing you to cover more ground, literally. It’s also helpful for those slippery surfaces we love so much, not to mention taking a rest or as a defense mechanism.
Tip #3: Bring more than enough water.
This one seems like common sense, but you can never have enough water. I’d suggest at least 80 oz. (2 Hydro Flasks worth) for every 4 hours of hiking. Bring a waterproof backpack with you to carry it in: backpacks are much easier to manuever with than a side satchel.
Tip #4: Don’t forget insect repellant and hydrocortisone lotion.
If you’re like me and have sweet blood that mosquitoes like to guzzle, bring insect repellant spray and hydrocortisone cream as a preventative measure. I like to spray myself at the trailhead, and about every hour thereafter as wiping sweat also means wiping said spray. It’s like sunscreen, only it’s screening insects instead of the sun.
Tip #5: General Packing Guidelines
In your backpack, always bring water, insect repellant, and some sort of cloth (i.e. towel, extra t-shirt, sarong, scarf, etc.) to wipe the sweat from your face and body as well as sit one when you need to take a break if there are no obvious clearings or pitstops available. Wear a hat and shoes with good tread to help with slipping. I recommend long pants and sleeves to help protect your skin from the sun and bugs, but it can get hot – in which case I would forgo the sleeves but keep the pants given the choice.
If you have any other tips and tricks for hikers like me, please feel free to comment and share here! On to your next adventure.