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As the weather continues to improve, my daily hikes get longer. I am so blessed to live in an area with miles of hiking trails, many just a few footsteps outside my front door. Even if that were not the case, hiking is something I adore so rain or shine, I am out there with my hiking boots and my dog, Tucker.
You might be thinking that this is easy for me to say, living as I do in Western Washington, land of Subarus, down vests and hiking boots. To be honest, though, even when I lived in the city, and downtown at that, I still made it a point to hike at the local parks and around town, taking in the sights and the sounds along the way.
Over the weekend, as I was enjoying a hike, I thought about all of the ways that hiking can make you a better prepper. Whether you can hike a mile or ten, here are 10 ways that hiking can help you be better prepared.
10 Ways the Hiking Can Make You a Better Prepper
1. Become accustomed to carrying a pack on your back
The first time I loaded up my emergency pack and put it on I almost fell over. It was heavy and it was uncomfortable. Lesson learned. I needed a pack that was ergonomically suited to walking some distances and the albatross I had put together was a fail.
I finally settled on what I feel is the perfect pack (Rothco Medium Transport Pack) and learned through experience that 20 pounds was the max I could carry. Hiking gives you an opportunity to become accustomed to carrying a pack on your back and allows you to adapt to its feel as you travel over a distance with you hands completely free.
2. Get practical experience using items in you emergency kit
I don’t care how experienced you are, stuff happens and you need to be prepared. This is especially true when you are in the middle of nowhere. Stumble and trip? You need to learn how to get yourself back up on your feet with any scrapes and sprains dealt with. Need to go potty? Learn to squat in woods. Need help? Learn to signal.
Disoriented or not sure where you are? Read a map and use your compass.
3. Break in hiking boots or other footwear
A short hike gives you an opportunity to gradually break in new hiking boots. Be aware that good socks are important too.
4. Learn to observe your surroundings and increase your awareness of dangers
Whether the danger is a brewing squall or a wild animal, you need to be ever-alert to potential dangers while out on the trail or in the bush. After spending time outdoors, you become more attuned to the nuances of sound and the physical cues of nature.
Where I live, the predators are mostly in the form of bald eagles who will swoop down and make a meal of your small pet. Because of the time I spend outdoors and on the trails, I have developed a sixth sense for danger and keeping a look out has become automatic, requiring no special thought.
5. Practice reading a map and using a compass
These days we rely upon a GPS to get us from point A to point B. Not that many years ago, we had maps with compass rose plus a compass. If you are lost, will you be able to find you way home without using electronics? Hiking provides you with ample opportunities for learning to read a topographical map and to read a compass.
6. Learn to read the skies and predict weather conditions
As someone who boated for 20 years in the waters of Puget Sound and the Canadian Gulf Islands, I know how quickly the weather can change. There are some rules and some tricks to reading the weather, but once you figure them out, it becomes easy to look at the sky and determine the likelihood of a storm.
7. Deal with changing elements with aplomb
You only need to be stuck unprepared in a sudden thunderstorm once. After that first time, you will know to include a poncho, emergency blanket, or tarp to use to protect you from the elements.
8. Recognizing local edible foliage and berries
Foraging for food is another skill that needs to be practiced and honed. While hiking, you can observe local edibles and even snap photos or take samples. Once home, you can research what they are and determine whether they are safe to eat.
9. Stay in good physical shape and build stamina
It goes without saying that being in reasonable if not excellent physical shape will enhance your ability to survive following a devastating disruptive event. There is more to being in good shape, though, than height and weight in proportion.
By increasing the length and difficulty of your hikes, you can build up stamina and endurance far beyond what you can do with almost any other type of activity except perhaps swimming.
10. De-stress and clear your mind of cobwebs
Getting out on the trails and spending some time with nature will make you more relaxed and less anxious. Being a prepper with the endless list of things to do can take its toll, and for me at least, hiking gives me an opportunity to de-compress and de-stress.
This is the number one reason I hike at least a mile daily, and often three miles or more. Rain or shine. And always with my dog.
Items to Take On A Hike
While the purpose, if this article was to point out ways hiking, can help you prepare, I feel that it is useful to point out some items you should take with you when you hit the trails. Including these items will help ensure your safety while enjoying the outdoors and learning to become a better prepper!
Compass (I have this one)
First Aid Kit
Signaling Device ( prefer this Windstorm whistle)
Paracord or other Cordage
LifeStraw Water Filter
Emergency Blanket (this one is fantastic!)
Flashlight (these Mini-Crees work great; I carry two)
Mobile Phone or Two Way Radio
The Final Word
When you think about it, hiking and camping share many of the same skill-building attributes. The advantage of hiking, however, is that you don’t have to set aside a huge block of time to reaps its benefits. You do not have to make camp or cook meals. A single hour or two is all you need along with some basic gear that you most likely already own.
One piece of advice: when hiking with others, set the pace to accommodate the person with the least stamina and lowest capabilities. Save the marathon hike for another time. Being a good prepper means helping those that may not be as strong as you achieve what they can without endangering themselves.
Regardless of where you live, hiking can be an uplifting physical and mental experience. There is something about getting out for an hour or two, or even for an entire weekend that will nurture the soul and give you a renewed focus to keep on doing what you do.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Below you will find the items related to today’s article. If you want to check out some top sellers.
Rothco Medium Transport Pack: What I really like about these Rothco packs is the narrow profile. As you can see in the picture, it is only as wide as my body. Sure, it sticks out a bit in back but at least I do not bump into things. There are lots of compartments and pouches and it by far, the most comfortable pack I have ever worn. I actually own 3 Rothco packs, 2 in the medium size and one large. I keep one pack permanently in my vehicle.
Kershaw OSO Sweet Knife: This “oh so sweet” knife is solidly built, stainless steel knife that comes razor sharp right out of the package. It will pretty much cut through anything the price is amazing.
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter: The LifeStraw is considered the most advanced, compact, ultralight personal water filter available. It contains no chemicals or iodinated resin, no batteries and no moving parts to break or wear out. It weighs only 2oz. making it perfect for the prepper. For more information, see my LifeStraw review.
Paracord Planet Type III Nylon Paracord: An ideal all-around utility cord in the field, paracord is tough and long-lasting. It is made from 550-pound test nylon and features a seven-strand core for maximum strength. Also, it is manufactured in the United States. Note that some colors may be more expensive than others. Need ideas? See 44 Really Cool Uses of Paracord for Survival.
Windstorm Safety Whistle: This particular whistle can be heard a long distance away and above howling wind and other competing sounds.
Military Prismatic Sighting Compass w/ Pouch: You need a compass and you also need to know how to use it. This is a great option for your first compass. Practice in you neighborhood, at the local park and on the trails so you know how to use it and to find your way back home (or to camp).
Grabber Outdoors Original Space Brand All Weather Blanket: I was interested in a re-usable emergency blanket so I purchased one of these based upon the excellent reviews. This space blanket is definitely “heavy duty” compared to the cheapies (not that they don[t have their place. A Backdoor Survival reader passed on this tip:
We place one of these blankets silver side up on our mattress underneath the fitted sheet or mattress cover. It reflects body heat like you wouldn’t believe, instead of the heat being absorbed into the mattress.
12 Color Pack Bandana – Assorted Colors: This is the #1 seller in the bandana category. I love these bandanas and you will often see me wearing them in photos here on the website. Be sure to read How to Use a Bandana to Save the Day.
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7 Responses to “10 Ways Hiking Can Help You Be Better Prepared”
Back in December 2015, my wife and I decided to commit to going on at least one hike a week for a year. Well, we’re still at it and just went on our 72nd hike since we began keeping track. Most have been in the 4-6 mile range. Our longest was 28 miles (single day, too) and our shortest was less than a mile. For us, it is never a matter of distance or time. We just treasure the time spent outdoors and with one another. We’ve found that no matter how crappy the day/week has been, our moods are invariably lifted by the end of our hike.
Hiking is my zen land! Although the pack I take with me is a 45 lb 3 year old, lol. So I guess my max carry is that much. I loved your comment about good socks too. Often the socks are overlooked in favor of good boots but the socks are just as important. Loved the pic of you snuggled up in the emergency blanket, cute, lol!
It you decide upon the Cree flashlight (which I’m a big fan of too) then you should use the 14500 batteries and ever mistake them as AA batteries. You will blow out your other flashlight bulbs if you do because the voltage is not 1.5 volts per cell but those are 3.7 volts/cell. Sorry if this sounds like common sense for some of you.
Amen brother. Even New Jersey offers great opportunities. The north west corner of NJ is beautiful and the AP trail cut right thru. Great post that rings true for me.
I too agree very much. Also, if you are responsible for kids, get them started early. You would be amazed at how much energy they have and could probably out hike many adults. the thing to remember is that kids are like hummingbirds in many ways. they have bursts of incredible energy but ‘play out’ very quickly and frequently. They will need to stop and recharge much more frequently but can soon get right back at it. If you ever think there would be a time you would need to evacuate or relocate by foot with youngsters, you should practice now to better judge the time frame needed for your journey. And as I’ve said before, kids should have some sort of floatation device because you never know when crossing water will be necessary and/or unexpected. Most kids I’ve encountered think that ‘adventure hikes’ are just plain fun, they don’t always realize they are learning things that could save their life one day.
With spring here and summer on its way, this is a timely article. We will be combining hiking with foraging. Thanks for the great list of benefits. It is very motivational.
I agree wholeheartedly. I had some things happen a few years back and realized that I was out of shape and probably unable to take care of my family in case of emergency. I decided to eat clean, cut out the processed foods and sugar and start walking daily. I now job/run 45 to 60 minutes a day and try to do a 2 to 3 hour hike twice a month. I have dropped over 50 pounds and while I am not where I’d like to be I am so much more prepared!