By Marci Dye
Summer is coming, which means hiking time in the Beartooths! Are you ready? Mentally, I think we're all ready! Physically?and gearwise?maybe we need a little work...
Many people don't think about getting in shape to go hiking, but boy-oh-boy does it make a difference! Most people tend to head to the golf course or the garden once ski season ends, and the cardiovascular system just starts spiraling down the tubes pretty quickly. So, get out there and start some walking, anywhere, around the neighborhood, up and down the street, hit the treadmill, etc. Try out a yoga or Pilates class. The flexibility and muscle control is a huge plus for your summer hiking! Get your body ready to go!
Pull out your boots and check their condition. Put new laces in, give them a good cleaning and re-waterproofing, check out the inside footbeds to see if they need replaced, and then put them on and wear them. And wear them and wear them some more. Make sure everything is good, especially before leaving on a hike, or you will be sorry. Most people think they need new boots after their first hike due to issues that can be solved by just a bit of maintenance on the front end.
Find your pack and make sure it is still adjusted correctly for you. Maybe someone borrowed it and changed the adjustment, maybe it got stuffed in the closet for the winter and something heavy was set on top of it (this causes the frame and/or stays to be ALL out of whack), and maybe you left last year's granola bars and string cheese in the top pocket (yuk!).
After cleaning it out, start finding your hiking supplies that you usually have with you. It's much easier to round them up over time and put them in a central location, such as your pack, rather than the morning of the hike, when you WILL forget something. Find your raingear, find extra hiking socks and find a lightweight pair of gloves and a light hat (always a great surprise to find in your pack during those unexpected summer snowstorms!).
Find your water filter and pull it apart to check the filter situation. If it was stored away last fall with the filter still in it, chances are the filter has mildewed and needs replacing. If it's good, put it in your pack.
Find your medical kit, and pull everything out. Pull out the trash, the old band-aid wrappers, old moleskin backing, and so on, and re-fill with fresh supplies. Everyone seems to personalize their own medical kit with different items, so don't feel like you have to stay with just the items that came in the kit originally. It's a good idea even to stick in extra sunscreen, extra ibuprofen, and even an extra energy bar in your choice of flavor.
If your first excursion will be an overnight adventure, you have a little more gear to get organized. Find your stove, check your fuel supply and fire it up. It's a lot easier to figure out a stove issue at home rather than the first night out. If it is a white gas stove, dump any remaining fuel and fill it with fresh. The big gallon sizes of white gas doesn't store all that well either, so if you still insist on using it, grab a coffee filter and pour the gas through the filter into the bottle. Hopefully this will remove most of the gook so it doesn't gunk up your stove, after which you will spend hours, and lots of cussing time, cleaning your stove jets. The best thing is to buy fuel in small quantities and use it within 2 months.
Pull out your tent and set it up. Make sure you have enough tent stakes (I don't know how many tent stakes we've loaned out to sagging tents in the backcountry!). Check for broken clips, broken zipper pulls, items needing repaired, and get them fixed. Now is the time, not after the first trip, when you say, "Oh yeah, I forgot to do that!"
Pull out your sleeping bag. Hopefully it wasn't stored in its little stuff sack all winter. The best storage is in the big cotton bags that come with most higher-end bags, or even in a HUGE pillow case. Stick your bag in your dryer on Fluff or No Heat setting, and just let it go around for 10 or 15 minutes or so to rejuvenate the loft. If it looks and smells really grubby, this might be the time to take on the washing process. Down is a bit trickier to wash, but just ask for hints from your friendly staff at your local gear shop, or check the website of the bag manufacturer for washing hints.
Go have some fun now! You are set, prepared, and ready to go! Don't forget that a little maintenance and planning saves a lot of time and makes your trip that much nicer. Enjoy those mountain trails, and don't forget your camera!
Have some other ideas? Pull up this article on LocalRag.com and add your own comments to the end. And if you get some really good pictures, send them in to us. Don't forget to take your copy of the Local Rag out on the trail and get some good shots for our "Where do you read your Local Rag" features.
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