Recreational hiker, novice trip report writer, nature lover.
Comfort Hacks for Long Hikes
Throughout the last five years, I've gone on around thirty-five different hikes in the Adirondacks of Upstate, New York on my journey to becoming an Adirondack 46'er, Saranac 6'er, Tupper Lake Triad'er, and Fire Tower Challenger. These hikes range from five to twenty miles in length and three to twelve hours in duration.
I want to discuss some of the issues that have arisen on the longer hikes and some simple hacks that can help prevent those from becoming uncomfortable or dangerous.
3 HIking Discomforts to Avoid
- Muscle Cramping
One of the most common scenarios that can develop when you go on a longer hike is that you can get blisters. This happened to me in my first season of doing some longer hikes and really made the end of the hike uncomfortable.
Someone was talking about blisters online at our hiking page on Facebook and another hiker suggested wearing a thin pair of sock liners and how that helps prevent blisters by reducing the friction between the wool of the socks and the skin of the foot.
I tried them out and haven't looked back. I rarely get blisters anymore, and only after my feet get soaked from an unintended misstep. The ones from Fox River work pretty well and they are really lightweight.
2. Muscle Cramping
On those longer hikes, there can be a lot of ups and downs as you gain and lose elevation on multi-mountain climbs. In my case, that takes a toll on my quadriceps muscles, the long muscle in the upper leg, usually just above the knee.
It first happened to me when we did a 16-mile hike across a range consisting of five different mountains. I managed the first four, but the last, and biggest one, put me in a state where I thought my right quad was going to seize up on me.
There are a few solutions that I've been given to this issue and the first was to carry some Tums ant-acid with me on the hike and pop one of those bad boys before start a grueling climb later in a hike. The ant-acid would help break up the lactic acid and delay oncoming cramping.
A second solution, and one I've tried, was to carry some pickles. Pickles, and pickle juice, is natural anti-cramping food. On top of that, as a wet vegetable, it goes down nicely on a hike when you could be suffering from some dry mouth. One suggestion here is to ensure the container is sealed so that all your hiking gear and hiking bag do not smell like pickles during the hike and drive home.
Bonking is when your body is lacking in glycogen during sustained exercise or activity. It's often seen in marathoners and triathletes but can hit hikers when they have burned through their stores as well.
Bonking is a sudden and overwhelming feeling of running out of energy. You were hiking, running, or riding along at what seemed like a manageable pace, then seemingly without warning your legs turned to cement. With heavy legs, a body-wide feeling of fatigue and sometimes dizziness hits you.
This happened to me a few times during hikes and I've seen it in others who bit off a bit more than they can chew. When reading about hikers talk about this, I immediately recognized the instances where it had happened to me.
The simple solution was to get some added electrolytes into one's system. Some hikers carry a Gatorade in their pack and mix it with their water supply, but that can also create some cleaning issues for a water bladder.
One idea I heard, was to carry an emergency water bottle and then add some Nuun tablets to the pack. Nuun provides some healthy electrolytes and the tablets dissolve into water fairly quickly. I also found that these tablets have a lot less sugar and are easier to drink on the trail than Gatorade, which seemed very heavy by comparison. With various tablet flavors, there was no sacrifice in taste.
I carry a tube of the tablets on any hike over ten miles now and it gives me an added sense of confidence that I can manage some longer distances if necessary.
The Pain of Being an Inexperienced Hiker
Many inexperienced hikers will end up in one of the three situations described above at some point during a long hike. For me, I've run into each one on multiple occasions and made the changes needed to be able to prevent these situations from ruining further hikes. I hope these ideas help you and thanks for reading!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.