“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
– John Muir
Ah, hiking! There’s nothing like exploring the wilderness and getting in touch with mother earth. Whatever your experience is, hiking can be intense. To prevent pain and enjoy your trek, preparation is important. You’ll want to protect your back, knees, and ankles from any predictable or unpredictable terrain. Here are four important things to keep in mind when planning your next hike to keep injuries at bay:
Many people have misconceptions about hiking poles. Most people think that you have to be old to use these! Trekking poles are actually beneficial in many ways:
- Reduce the load to the knee by offsetting force through the upper body and core.
- Improve balance and stability particularly when going downhill or over unstable terrain
- Improve forward lean when going uphill which helps recruit the back extensors, glutes
There are many options available; a pair of poles can be fixed or collapsible. For proper height, your elbow should be close to a 90-degree angle at your side while you hold the poles, which may vary slightly if you’re going uphills or downhills. Lastly, keep your grip light.
There are many backpacks out there- don’t try to find the “perfect” pack. The ideal pack will vary depending on the length and difficulty of your hike. Here are a few things to consider when deciding what pack will best suit your needs:
The size of the backpack will look different for a day hike versus a 5-day overnight hike and how much additional weight you’ll want/need to carry.
- Weekend trip: 1-3 nights requires a 30-50 liter backpack. Aim to keep it light, it’s harder than you think!
- Multi-day: 3-5 nights requires a 50-80 liter pack
- Extended-trips: 5+ nights requires a pack of 70 liters or larger.
- Internal frames are a common pack design because the load-support technologies can help transfer load to the hips
- External-frame backpacks are recommended if you plan on carrying heavy gear like an inflatable kayak.
- Frameless backpacks are for the fast and light hiker. You’ll be able to carry a small bottle, a handful of snacks and a jacket (trading weight for lack of support)
The fit should take into account your torso length and waist, not height! Test out multiple packs with load to give you a realistic feel. A store should let you try on the packs, put some weight in them, and walk around the store for a bit.
Different brands will offer different features – waist belts, chest straps, attachment points, rain cover, additional zipper access, etc. Depending on the duration and amount of supplies you will be bringing, these additional features may be helpful.
Foot wear is incredibly important regardless of a short day-trip or a multi day trip. A durable shoe can be a game changer, but you have to make sure they fit well. No one wants to deal with blisters and cramped toes at the start of the trip.
Wear appropriate socks and spend some time in the boots before taking them on a trail. Walk up and down stairs, ramps, uneven surfaces. If you wear orthotics, try your boots with them in prior to taking them out on the mountain.
Regardless of the distance you’re planning on going during your hike, DO NOT forget water! The quantity of water you should consume will depend on the type of activity, intensity, duration, sweat rate, etc. A good general recommendation is about a one-half liter of water per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures. A wearable hydration pack is a great option or you can fill up a water bottle and stash it in your backpack as well.
What if I Have Pain?
Whether you are currently experiencing pain or have previous injuries, a physical therapist can assess your joint mobility, strength, and mechanics. Your PT can also provide strengthening exercises to help reduce the risk of injury!