One obvious commonality RVers everywhere seem to share is our urge to explore. We all have that “itch” to get out and be adventurous and see the world…which is why we bought our homes on wheels in the first place. But there’s only so much exploring we can do from our captain’s chairs as we cruise down North America’s highways. So it isn’t surprising that hiking is a popular pastime for RVers.
James and I are no exception to this, and we try to do a little hiking on every RV trip we take. Hiking’s a terrific excuse to get ourselves out of the RV, connect with nature, and push our limits. Unlike our other favorite pastime, bicycling, hiking is a cheaper, low-maintenance hobby, and doesn’t require lots of equipment to lug around. You can almost just open up the RV doors and go. ALMOST.
Hiking, like any outdoor activity, comes with its share of dangers: wild animals, weather, poisonous plants, etc. So being safe on your hikes is a big deal, and not to be taken for granted. But that’s not all. You also want to be comfortable and make any hiking adventure as pleasant as possible. Here are a few tips to make your next hike not only safer, but much more enjoyable.
The most important hiking supply you’ll ever need is water. How much you’ll need gets tricky depending on your distance, the trail’s intensity, the weather, etc. For an 8-12 mile day hike, you’ll want to carry at least 2 liters of water per person…maybe even more if it’s blazing hot out and the trail’s a tough one.
While drinking water on hikes is important, maintaining a mineral balance in your body is the real key to hydration. In an attempt to replace the minerals we lose through sweating and exertion, many people add Gatorade powder to their water. It’s a good thought, but consider this: a 32 ounce Gatorade contains a staggering 14 teaspoons of sugar! A better idea is to use a supplement that contains the essential minerals and electrolytes necessary to replenish our bodies during physical activity, without all the sugar and chemicals. There are several products out there – the one we’ve been using lately is Bioplasma Sport, made by Hyland’s. It comes in individual packets, which make it convenient for hiking. But electrolyte replacement should be priority for any and all endurance sports…jogging, biking, whatever. Without keeping proper mineral balance during physical activity, our cells can’t function properly, and signs of dehydration will set in (and that’s no fun at all).
If your feet aren’t happy, you aren’t going to be happy. Never underestimate the importance of good socks and hiking shoes. Hiking footwear comes in a range of styles, from day hiking shoes all the way to bullet-proof mountaineering boots; but we suspect that most (but not all!) RVers would be better suited with something toward the hiking shoe end of the spectrum. James and I are both currently rocking Vasque hiking shoes, because we like to travel with a hiking shoe as opposed to a boot. (They take up a lot less room in a small RV!) Vasque seems to build a lot of the features into their shoes that you’d normally have to move up to a boot or backpacking gear to find. One example here is Vibram soles: I especially love a grippy sole on my hiking shoes, and my Vasques make me feel like my feet will stick to anything. They give me a little extra confidence when the terrain gets challenging. I’ve got a little problem with heights, so any extra advantage I can get out there helps.
But while Vasques work great for us, you’ve got to do your own matchmaking. Hit a store like REI, try a bunch on, talk to the helpful sales associates, and find a shoe that matches your hiking ambitions. There’s no underestimating the importance of a good fit, so once you’ve settled on a style of shoe or boot, start trying them on. Allow yourself plenty of time here – don’t rush the process. You’re going to be spending a lot more time in the shoes than you ever will in the store, so make sure you get this right.
Socks are just as important. If you do that stick-hand-in-sock-drawer-and-pull-out-the-top-pair thing, you could be setting yourself up for a miserable hike. Cotton socks aren’t ideal for long hikes, since they retain moisture, aren’t as smooth as other materials, and could lead to blisters. Look for hiking-specific socks… a good pair of hiking socks will regulate temperature, wick moisture, absorb shock and help prevent blisters. There’s nothing worse than soaking wet feet miles away from the trailhead.
Smart Safety Accessories:
Besides plenty of water, you’ll need a few other things in your daypack. Here’s what we carry, and what we recommend you should consider carrying, too.
- Pocket knife
- Protein bars and/or trail mix (one serving for every hour of hiking you’ll do)
- Compass & Map (make sure you know how to use them!)
- Small first-aid kit
- Waterproof matches
- Small flashlight
- Small Headlamp
- Water purification tablets and/or water bottle integrated with filter
- Electrolyte Replenishment
- Emergency foil blanket
Yes, I know, that’s a pretty extensive list. Luckily, all the items are pretty small and pack down nicely.
While 99% of the time hiking goes off without a hitch, it’s always smart to plan for that 1%. But don’t let the fear of the unknown deter you. Hiking is healthy, energizing, simple, cheap, exciting, challenging…it delivers such immense rewards. And besides, you fellow RVers, admit it. Hiking calls to your adventurous side, the part of you that lusts for exploring and wandering. That’s why you read this whole article and that’s why your wheels are already turning about your next hike. Yep, mine are, too.