Hiking? Don’t Dress to Impress!
Traditional camp programs offer a lot of things for kids and families to do —incredible field trips, creek beds to explore, daily swims, an occasional pie fight, or a popular favorite- – the simple hike. The best part is that you don’t have to wait until summer camp to set off and discover – so here are some helpful tips to know before you head down the trail.
While you’re not dressing to impress the out-of-doors, you do need to pay attention to what you have on- from head to toe, so here are some functional fashion statements:
- Socks are super important – though thick, insulated hiking socks exist for a reason, most hikers prefer lighter options without coarse threads that can dig into your feet, and cause blisters. Instead opt for a thin, nylon layer and bring an extra pair to change into halfway through your hike — especially when exploring far distances.
- Shoes are the next step – when hiking over several days, make sure you have ample foot and ankle support, especially when carrying a 60+ pound pack. For shorter day hikes, opt for a lighter option like a hiking/trail-running sneaker. It will provide the structure that your foot needs without adding extra weight. Consider using trail poles for additional ankle support (tree limbs will work too)! Whatever you do, don’t try breaking in a new pair of shoes on a hike – it will only lead to sore feet and blisters. Live by the old hiker adage – old shoes, new socks.
- In terms of clothes, don’t dress to impress! Dress for the season – winter hiking calls for long underwear and layers. The air that is trapped between your clothes maintains your body temperature, so lots of light layers will keep you warmer than bulky coats and sweatshirts. For spring and fall hikes, pants that can be easily shortened to shorts can help with rising temperatures throughout the day.
Avoid natural fibers like wool and cotton since they will absorb sweat and make it harder to stay warm. Instead opt for new high-tech fibers that wick moisture away from the body and help maintain a proper body temp. And of course, a stow-and-go rain coat is always appropriate to keep in your pack for any season.
- A nice beanie can keep you warm as long as it has the same moisture wicking properties as the rest of your clothes – like a wool hat with a smart-fiber lining. In addition to a healthy dose of sunscreen, a brimmed hat will help prevent sunburn and too much exposure to the elements.
Now that you are dressed for outdoor success, there are a few more things to consider before exploring all that nature has to offer.
Water is a must . . . so make sure you pack enough. While there are water filtering options out there, they can be a bit tricky and could cost you precious trail-time.
In Pennsylvania, there are two significant factors to consider. The state tree is the Eastern Hemlock and while they provide ample shade around creeks and streams, they tend to lose their needles, which impart the water with a higher than normal acidity rating and poisonous sap. If that wasn’t enough to make you wary of natural water sources, our streams and creeks tend to grow downwind from beaver dens. Beaver excrement, besides gross, contains a single-celled organism which can cause giardiasis or “beaver fever” – an infection resulting in the WORST STOMACH FLU IMAGINABLE. So if you are not an experienced outdoorsmen, best to pack your own.
Keeping your energy on a hike is key, so pack a snack – trail mix with raisins, nuts, chocolate and grains seems like it’s made for this type of activity, but there are actually better energy choices like protein bars, sports bars, beef jerky and the old standby, PB&J.
Remember to start your hike early, especially if you are headed on a longer trek to avoid climbing difficult portions of a trail in the full heat of the day. Take it slow and remember — this is not a race; a slow steady pace is best when navigating rough and varied terrain.
Avoid all woodland creatures. Do not approach wildlife, no matter how tempting and cute. Instead, stay quiet and still, so you can better observe just how awesome they are in their natural habitat!
Look for signs – well, actually the trail markers. Trail-specific marks found on trees, rocks and posts are meant to show you the way to go. Some are simply color-coded while others use color and shape. Either way, memorize the signs you should be following and never continue on the trail if you can’t see the next marker. If in doubt, backtrack to the last mark you saw and reassess.
Tell someone – whether it’s a short trip, a full-day excursion or an extended camp-out, always make sure that someone knows where you are going, what trail you are taking and when you will return. Cell phones are nice, but you can’t always rely on accessing service in the woods. Play it safe and make sure someone knows where you are headed.
Now that we’ve given you some rules to hike by – we can’t wait to see you out on the trail, but where to start? Local state parks like French Creek, Evansburg, Norristown Farm Park and Nockamixon all offer miles of amazing trails. You can also explore sections of the Schuylkill River Trail and tons of county parks in your area. If you are looking for a longer day trip, Beltzville State Park and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in the Poconos can’t be beat.
Alright, happy hiking. On behalf of all our campers at the Y, we hope to see you out on the trail this year!