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The definition of experienced may take many forms. To one, it might be having many years under one’s belt. To another, it could be hiking many peaks in a short amount of time, increasing hours spent on the trails, but not longevity in the activity. An experienced hiker constitutes both of these, both longevity and peaks covered. In any activity, repetition means experience and practice, and hiking is no different. To hike, one must follow an almost religious regiment, keeping calorie intake in the 3000’s, and fitness at optimum level. One also must keep a steady level of hydration if one wishes to combat the heat of the Arizona sun. Even if not in heat, the amount of energy one is expending during a hike is on the order of magnitudes, and the hiker must be wary of overexertion. Knowing one’s limits when hiking comes with experience, and experience is gained through repetition of the activity.
Proper hydration, or lack of it, is another important factor in experienced hiking. Symptoms of dehydration that one should be wary of whilst out on the trails or backpacking includes a dry mouth, dizziness or lightheadedness, and a headache. The amount of water needed per person varies from individual to individual, but from personal experience, carrying a 2 liter bladder of water for a 3-4 hour morning hike is acceptable. Time of day is also an important factor in water consumption as well. Out in Arizona heat, it would be optimal to consume more water in midday or early afternoon than it would be in early morning or late afternoon, where temperatures are much cooler. If I were to exercise for 60 minutes, based off of my body weight (130lbs) and environmental conditions (hot and dry), it would be wise for me to consume about three liters of water over the course of the day to replace what I have lost. But, in the morning when it is a lot cooler, based off the same variables, I should only drink around 2 liters. An effect that one must be wary of though is a condition called hyponatremia. Hyponatremia is “an illness that mimics the early symptoms of heat exhaustion. It is the result of low sodium in the blood caused by drinking too much water and losing too much salt through sweating.” Although this can cross over with nutrition, one should be careful to also eat whilst hiking, as eating salty foods on the trail is equally important.
Just like getting a car from point A to point B takes a specific amount of energy (provided by gas), one’s body requires a specific amount of energy to get from point A to point B. “Using some physics and math, we could actually calculate how much energy it would take to get you, a 150 pound hiker with a 15 pound backpack, from the trailhead of Mount Whitney at 8,360 feet, to the summit at 14,494 feet… and venture at a reasonable 1800 calories required for this feat.” Although it may have only taken 1800 calories to get up that mountain, one actually burns a lot more energy during that hike. Each person has “Basal Metabolic Rate.” This is the energy needed to keep your body alive. Your heart needs energy to pump, the brain needs energy to keep those brain cells going, and muscles need energy to continue performing. “A 26 year-old male who weighs 155 pounds and is 6’2? tall, my Basal Metabolic Rate is approximately 1700 calories. If all I did was sit on the couch watching TV all day long, I would still burn 1700 calories!”. Added to the 1800 calories burned whilst hiking up that mountain, one can burn around 3500 calories per hike. Avoiding foods that contain water is a plus before your hike, or during. Although water is a necessity, it provides zero calories and is something that can be acquired when one fills up again or from the reservoir one carries with them on the trails. This constitutes as nutritional hiking, and plays a vital role in the hike of any trail or rock face.
Proper planning is the one thing that can make or break a hike. One should check the weather before planning to go out, and pack everything you might need. Gear should include clothing that is suitable to terrain, ample water, some salty snacks, a map of the trail you are on, cell phone, watch, and small flashlight if one plans to be out after dark. For my hikes in the mornings, I usually like to pack on two layers of clothing: compression shorts or compression pants, a compression shirt, sweat pants, an overshirt, and a light jacket. I also include hiking boots, a wide brimmed hat (I forego this in favor of a warmer hat and sunglasses, as I hike when the sun is low in the sky), gloves, and sunglasses since I enjoy going off trail and onto the mountains. Hiking boots can easily be replaced with sturdy tennis shoes, but for more rugged hikes, the tennis shoes are undesirable, as they don’t offer as much protection or traction as hiking shoes do. For a mid day hike, one can forego the compression articles of clothing, as in the Arizona heat, you’ll want as light of gear as possible. A pair of sunglasses and hat are almost always a must, as sunglasses protect your eyes and may give you slightly better visibility instead of having to squint into the sun, and the hat provides shade and head protection on mid day hikes. Before one goes out, one must check, double check, and even triple check gear to make sure one has everything. Out on a trail, there is no such thing as too prepared, and one may find themself wishing for that extra liter of water, or that pair of sunglasses forgotten at home. Preparation and planning is vital to a hike, and encompasses everything that one may do whilst out on the trails.
In total, hiking is a serious business, and must be treated as such. It is not for the ill prepared family of seven who brings along their grandmother, who happens to be wearing heels, or the man that is out with his sons on a trail in the Grand Canyon, without water, and throwing up from dehydration. It is things like that can get you into serious danger, and may even become life-threatening. Proper nutrition, hydration, and planning are what makes a successful hike. Each successful hike counts towards becoming an experienced hiker, and knowing your limits and what you can accomplish are part of experience. But, in accomplishing a hike, one must also be prepared. Three thousand plus calories must be consumed, salty foods along the trail must also be consumed. Two to three liters of water on any hike is an absolute necessity, as are electrolyte drinks. Proper gear, such as time and terrain conditional clothing, hats, sunglasses, water packs, and proper footwear are required to do anything in Arizona’s trails. Planning everything down to the route you will take up a mountain, to how you will get to that route, and how long you spend on that route are vital. From experience comes preparedness, and from preparedness comes experience.
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