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Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Hiking Trail Information

Hiking Tips You Haven't Heard Before
By Steven Gillman

Do you need these hiking tips? You do if you ever get blisters or twisted ankles or knee pain. In fact, I stopped getting blisters at all over ten years ago. More on that in a moment. First, lets look at some basic preparation and precautions to take when planning a hike.

Hiking Tips - Preparation

If you haven't done anything physical in a while, you really should try to get in shape before taking a long hike or a backpacking trip. Not only will it make much more enjoyable, but the process of getting ready will point out any problems you might have (sore back, knee problems, blisters, etc.)

Take a hike near home with a fully loaded pack to see how far you can comfortably go. If you are going to be backpacking in running shoes rather than hiking boots, you'll want to strengthen your ankles. A simple way to do that is to hike on uneven ground. This will flex and exercises your ankles if you do it at least several times in the week or two before your trip.

If you will be traveling in the mountains, try bicycling to get ready. This uses a lot of the same muscles you use when hiking uphill. Of course, regular bicycle rides are also a fast way to boost your aerobic capacity. That can help you walk faster more comfortably.

Buy the right equipment before your hiking or backpacking trip. To be honest, on a short hike you can get by with almost anything. But if you plan to be deep in the wilderness, get some decent clothing for that purpose. Jeans get soaked easily in the rain and stay wet, which is uncomfortable, and can be dangerous if it is cold outside. A nice hat can keep the sun out of your eyes, and a rain jacket can keep you safe and warm.

Carry enough water. If you have any problems with pain when hiking, you should probably carry aspirin or other pain relief, even on short hikes. Map and compass are a good idea of course, and tell someone where you'll be.

Hiking Tips - Taking Care Of Your Body

I stopped getting blisters the moment I gave up hiking boots and hiking socks. They create a hot, humid environment that is perfect for creating blisters. Even on longer backpacking trips, I use thin nylon socks and lightweight running shoes. You may want to try it. Chances are, you'll never go back to heavy socks and boots. If you are worried about ankle support, strengthen those ankles! (See above.)

You should also develop a routine for keeping your feet dry and comfortable. Stop occasionally and take off your shoes and socks. Air out your feet for a few minutes. If the socks are wet, replace them and hang the wet ones from your pack to dry. Remove any sand or small sticks and stones from your shoes. If your feet get particularly hot, soak them in a cold stream for a while. Do this, and you'll get a lot more comfortable miles out of them.

If you get knee pains when hiking, the long term solution may be special exercises to strengthen the surrounding muscles. Short term, you can buy a simple elastic knee brace to see if that helps. You might also want to try arch supports. They cost less than ten dollars and can help stop knee and back problems that are related to over-pronation (flattening of the foot when walking). The combination of these two seems to have cured my knee problems.

What if you are out hiking and get sudden knee pain? Here are a few tips: Icing the knee for a while with cold water from a stream or with snow can help. Resting with the leg elevated usually helps a little as well. Making a walking stick from a branch or small tree and using it especially on downhill stretches can take some of the pressure of the knee.

Still too painful to walk? The inner bark of willows and poplars contains a compound that is similar to aspirin. You can scrape the spongy bark off and make a tea of it, or try just chewing some up. Better yet, just use the hiking tips in part one and be prepared.

Copyright Steve Gillman. To get the ebook "Ultralight Backpacking Secrets (And Wilderness Survival Tips)" for FREE, as well as photos, gear recommendations, and a new wilderness survival section, visit:

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Like this article?  You may also enjoy:  Ultralight Backpacking by Steve Gillman, Games for Backpackers, and Breakfast Recipes by Steve Gillman


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