Because hiking is a recreational experience, hikers expect it to be pleasant. Sometimes hikers can interfere with each other's enjoyment, or that of other users of the land, but they can minimize this interference by following good etiquette. For example:
- Know and follow the Leave No Trace 7 Principles: 1) Plan ahead and prepare. 2) Travel and camp on durable surfaces. 3) Dispose of waste properly. 4) Leave what you find. 5) Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire). 6) Respect wildlife. 7) Be considerate of other visitors. © 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.
- When two groups of hikers meet on a steep trail, there may be contention for use of the trail. To avoid conflict, a custom has developed in some areas whereby the group moving uphill has the right-of-way. In other situations, the larger of the two groups will usually yield to the smaller.
- Being forced to hike much faster or slower than one's natural pace can be annoying, and difficult to maintain consistently. More seriously, walking unnaturally fast dramatically increases fatigue and exhaustion, and may cause injury. If a group splits between fast and slow hikers, the slow hikers may be left behind or become lost. A common custom is to encourage the slowest hiker to hike in the lead and have everyone match that speed. Another custom is to have an experienced hiker sweep up the rear, to ensure that everyone in the group is safe and nobody straggles.
- Hikers often enjoy the silence and solitude of their surroundings. Loud sounds, such as shouting or loud conversation, disrupt this enjoyment. Some hikers purposely avoid loud sounds, out of deference to other hikers. Staying quiet will also increase the likelihood of encountering wildlife. (This is a hazard if dangerous animals are present; see "Personal safety hazards".)
- Hikers sometimes trespass onto private property from public land or rights of way (easements). Such trespass can alienate the property owners and (in countries where rights of way are not protected by law) close down hiking rights-of-way. To maximize hiking opportunities for everyone, most hikers will either stay on public land and easements, or solicit permission from property owners. Staying on well-marked trails avoids the possibility of trespass.
- Tree branches or other vegetation often hang low across trails. A passing hiker may cause a tree branch to snap back in the face of a hiker behind. While it is courteous to warn following hikers if a branch is likely to snap back, it is every hiker's responsibility to allow enough space between himself and the hiker ahead to avoid the hazard.
- When two groups of hikers meet, it is considered a common courtesy to exchange greetings (either verbal or physical (e.g. smiles and friendly nods)). To pass another group without such acknowledgement is seen as rude.
- Resting patterns are essential to the success of a long hike. Therefore before any hike it is very advisable to preview the trail map and establish resting locations within considerable distance one of the other.
- Many hikers don't enjoy nature because they are too busy trying to walk fast; however, this rush lacks all the reason of hiking. A good pace requires not only a firm rate ( a pace everyone can keep up for extended periods) but also the occasional opportunity to observe a special part of the trail or gaze upon God's wonderful creation.
- For those that hike while following a schedule both pace and resting are to be balanced. Creating a fixed time to rest ( 5 minutes is common) and an occasional chance to observe something in nature.
- Something that many folks overlook while hiking is the need for communication with authorities and especially among groups. In case of any emergency it is always convenient to have some way of contacting help without having to mobilize the victim or risk getting lost further. This has saved many lives before and is a practice that must be followed by everyone.
- One last thing to keep in mind is not to get exhausted or dehydrated as this could complicate the rest of the hike. Always keep extra fluid and energy snacks with you as you hike as these could be life savers in dangerous situations.
The most important aspect of proper foot care for hiking is to have proper footwear. It is a good idea to wear two pairs of socks on a hike: a thin pair next to your skin, and a thick, padded pair over the thin pair. This arrangement will cause the socks to rub against one another instead of rubbing against your feet causing a blister. When shopping for hiking boots or shoes, wear the type of socks you intend to wear when you hike. You will likely need to buy hiking shoes or boots that are a little larger than your normal shoe size to accommodate the extra thickness of socks.
Hiking shoes should have good ankle support and should lace up tightly. Look for good tread on the soles and sturdy construction. You should wear new shoes for a couple of days of regular use before pressing them into service on a hike - this will break them in. New shoes are another common cause of blistering.
Bring extra socks with you on a hike so that you can change them if they get wet. Hiking in wet feet will soften the skin and lead to blisters. It can also lead to fungus growth and immersion foot. Immersion foot occurs when feet are cold and damp while wearing constricting footwear. Unlike frostbite, immersion foot does not require freezing temperatures and can occur in temperatures up to 60° Fahrenheit (about 16° Celsius). Immersion foot can occur with as little as twelve hours' exposure. Affected feet become numb and then turn red or blue. As the condition worsens, they may swell. Advanced immersion foot often involves blisters and open sores, which lead to fungal infections; this is sometimes called jungle rot. If left untreated, immersion foot usually results in gangrene, which can require amputation. If immersion foot is treated properly, complete recovery is normal, though it is marked by severe short-term pain when feeling is returning. Like other cold injuries, immersion foot leaves sufferers more susceptible to it in the future.
Immersion foot is easily prevented by keeping the feet warm and dry, and changing socks frequently when the feet cannot be kept dry.
Before you set out on a hike, check that your toenails are properly trimmed. They should be trimmed straight across, such that they do not hang over the edge of the toe. Cutting them too short or in a curved shape can cause them to become ingrown. Ingrown toenails tend to cut into the toe at the edges of the nail, leading to infection and extreme discomfort.
Leaving your toenails too long can make them susceptible to breaking off, and that can force you to have to cut them too short - again leading to an ingrown nail. Also, long toenails will wear holes in socks more quickly than properly trimmed nails.
Blisters on the feet and toes are caused by something repeatedly rubbing on them, such as a sock or an ill-fitting shoe. As soon as you detect soreness, you should stop and examine the foot. Reddened skin is the first sign that a blister may be forming. Covering the affected area with an adhesive bandage or even a small strip of duct tape will help prevent a blister from forming. If possible, cover the area with a donut-shaped moleskin before covering with a bandage. This will help alleviate pressure on the area.
If the blister has already formed, do not puncture it. Leave the skin covering the blister as intact as possible, as it provides a sterile environment underneath. If the blister is on a weight-bearing surface on the bottom of the foot and you must puncture it, use a sterile needle, and make as few punctures as possible - just enough to drain the liquid. Do not peel any skin off the blister. You can sterilize a needle or a pin by passing it through a flame.
Wash the affected area as well as you can using purified water or a sterile wipe. Again, cover the blister with a donut-shaped moleskin, apply some antibiotic ointment, and cover with a bandage.
Warm Weather Clothing
Keep in mind that the weather can change suddenly. Just because it is warm when you begin your outing does not mean it will be warm the whole time. If there is a chance that the weather will turn cold, take along some cold weather gear as well. Check an almanac to see how cold it can get during the time you are planning to be out.
Here is a list of clothing appropriate for a warm-weather outing.
- Thick socks
- Light Shirt (short sleeve)
- Light Shirt (long sleeve)
- Hat with a wide brim
Cold Weather Clothing Remember to dress in layers. This will allow you to control your temperature better. In cold weather, you do not want to sweat, because that will soak your clothing and chill you. If you find yourself working up a sweat, remove a layer of clothing, or open a zipper. Rely on wool rather than on cotton, because wool stays warm even when wet. There is a popular saying among experienced outdoorsmen that "Cotton kills." This is because when cotton gets wet, it steals the body's heat which can lead to hypothermia and death. Your outer layer should be wind-proof, as this greatly increases the warmth of your clothing. Here is a list:
- Thermal Underwear
- Light shirts (polyester or some other synthetic)
- Heavy Shirts
- Wool Sweater
- Wind Breaker
- Fleece Pants (synthetic)
- Nylon Pants (as the outside layer) or snow pants
- Wool Socks
- Warm Hat
Sleepwear For comfortable sleeping and for modesty on overnight trips, bring pajamas or a sweat suit. In many places where it is warm during the day it gets cold at night, so be prepared.
For either hike, you should bring the following:
- Water bottle
- Water purification equipment
- First aid kit
- Blister kit may be part of the first aid kit):
- Mole skin
- Needle or pin
- Antibiotic ointment
- Antiseptic wipes
- Extra socks
- Extra shoe/boot laces
- Flashlight (torch)
- Map of the area
- Guide book about the trail you are using
- Day pack (a small backpack)
- Hiking shoes or boots
- Trail mix
For a long day hike you will also need to plan on a meal or two. Select foods that are low-weight (you will have to carry it remember), high calorie, and easy to prepare (or require no preparation). If your food requires preparation, be sure to bring whatever you need to prepare it (such as a backpacking stove, a mess kit, and eating utensils).
Carry your trail mix where it is easily available for snacking as you walk.
- Respect both public and private property
- Do not trespass.
- Dispose of trash properly. If no disposal facilities are available, pack out what you pack in.
- Do not destroy the flora or fauna.
- Have a good sense of humor.
- Help others with their necessities.
- Do not play games that can hurt others.
- Follow and obey the leaders.
- Finish what you start.
- Tell someone where you are going and report back, particularly if going into the wilderness.
For good health and to avoid injury, it is important to stay hydrated. This is accomplished by drinking lots of water while hiking. Signs of dehydration include infrequent urination, strong-smelling urine, dark yellow urine, headaches, irritability, and lack of perspiration. You need to drink before you feel thirsty.
It is a good idea to bring a water filter or purification tablets with you on a hike so that you can refill your water containers at every opportunity. Note that water becomes more scarce as you go higher into the mountains, so if you are climbing a mountain trail, stock up on water whenever you see it.
Make sure you know how to use your filter and make sure it works before setting out on a trip. You do not want to discover that your filter is defective at a time when your health (and possibly your life) depends on its proper operation.
It is especially important to purify any water you collect on the trail before drinking it. Bacterial contamination cannot be reliably detected without lab equipment, so it is better to be safe than sorry. Purifying clean water will not hurt you. Even water that looks clean could be rife with harmful bacteria. Giardia is a very common parasite that will cause sickness in humans. Diarrhea and intestinal cramps are very real possibilities for those who do not heed these warnings.
Signs that water is contaminated include the following:
- Nothing living in the water: If you cannot find any signs of life in the water, it is very likely to be unfit for drinking. If plants and animals cannot live in the water, it may contain poisonous chemicals.
- Oil film on surface: Runoff from roadways can deposit petroleum-based oil in the water. If you see a rainbow slick on the surface, this is a sign of pollution.
- Foul Odor: Foul smelling water is sure to be foul tasting as well, but the damage caused by drinking it may well extend beyond the taste buds.
Food is the body's fuel, and hiking is an activity that burns fuel like a Hummer. Hiking doubles your caloric burn rate, so you must compensate for this by doubling your caloric intake.
The most important nutrient for the hiker is water. The absolute minimum is two liters per day. It is far better to drink one liter per hour, especially if it is hot, or if the hiking is strenuous.
The remainder of the diet should be made up of 60% carbohydrates, 10-15% proteins, and 25-30% fats. For extended, long-distance hikes, it is important to be sure you get sufficient quantities of vitamins and minerals too.
Cold, Wet Weather
Keeping dry is not only important for comfort - in cold weather it is also essential to safety. Bring an extra set of clothing with you so that if you do get wet, you'll have something to change into. To stay dry, wear a water-proof outer layer. It is also essential to dress in layers and to vent your clothing to avoid sweating. Perspiration will soak your clothing just as quickly as precipitation.
Footwear should be as waterproof as possible and provide warmth. To avoid blisters, footwear also needs to be snug. Many hikers prefer mukluks for cold-weather hiking.
Hot, Wet Weather
As with cold, wet weather, you should bring an extra set of dry clothing for hot weather. Bring a poncho, or other waterproof outer layer to keep yourself dry. Waterproof hiking boots will help maintain dry feet.
Pathfinders can work together or individually on this activity. Equipment should include the Ten Essentials:
- Compass (optionally supplemented with a GPS receiver)
- Sunglasses and sunscreen
- Extra food and water
- Extra clothes
- First aid kit
- Fire starter
A 10-mile hike should include one meal, and it should provide about 2000 calories. The meal can consist of the "main" portion which is eaten as a meal, as well as "trail food" which is eaten while walking. GORP (Good Old Raisins and Peanuts) is the classic hiking snack.
The description of the route can be simple, but it should be detailed enough so that others can retrace your steps. Leave the plan with someone who is not going with you in case there is an emergency and you are unable to return when planned. This information is essential to a rescue team should the services of one become necessary.
Here is a form to fill out that will assist greatly in this requirement. (Part goes with you, part stays behind with a responsible person.)
A topographic map shows the contours of the land. These tell the map reader where hills are, and how steep they are. They also show where you can expect to find water (which you will filter before drinking, right?) or interesting scenery (such as water falls and overlooks). A good topographical map will also show roads and trails - essential information for planning a hike! Many of the topographical maps made for hikers will also indicate distances between trail intersections for easy distance calculations (just add them up).
More details for reading a topographic map can be found in the answers to the Orienteering honor.
A 5-mile hike can be done either in the morning or in the afternoon. It is an excellent Sabbath afternoon activity. One way to do this is to plan to hike around the neighborhood after church. If you schedule it to coincide with a church potluck you won't have to worry about feeding the troops. You will want to plan the route ahead of time though, and be sure it is at least five miles.
Again, a five mile hike can be done in half a day, either in the morning or in the afternoon. However, unless your church is located near a wilderness trail, this will involve some travel to reach the trailhead. Your Pathfinders may be able to eat a sack lunch in the car either on the way there, or on the way back.
A 10-mile hike will generally take all day, so plan to set out early in the morning and return in the evening. Everyone should bring a lunch.
Fifteen miles is a long hike, and should not be attempted in a single day except by people in excellent physical condition. If you can, plan an overnight hike, going at least 7.5 miles into the wilderness, and then hiking back out the next day. Note that this will meet a major requirement for the Backpacking and Pioneering honors.
This hiking record can be incorporated into the regular Pathfinder program so that any Pathfinder who has fully participated in club events will meet this requirement in a two-year period. Plan a 5-mile hike every fall - alternating every year between rural/town hikes and wilderness trail hikes. Have your Rangers plan a 10-mile hike each year. The 15-mile hike can be done every other year, perhaps during the summer. Plan an evaluation session during the meeting after each hike, and have each Pathfinder turn in the report.