All-Inclusive Hiking Essentials Guide

If you are planning on getting high in the front range, the “Hiking Essentials” Guide can be your best friend. In less than five minutes, you can learn how to build your body, prepare for hiking, my tested list of gadgets and recommendations on what to do after the hike.  Whether you are a beginner or an avid hiker, you will find a few good tips.

So, let’s go!

How Did a City Kid Wind Up In  A Rural Colorado Ski Mountain Town?
Long Lake
Long Lake Brainard Recreation Area, Colorado

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity

John Muir

I’ve spent most of my life in cities and never been an outdoor kid. Hiking was not a part of our family or social culture.  Tashkent, Uzbekistan was my birth place. I lived in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Bukhara, Dushanbe, and New York cities. My folks were cultural people. We often ventured out to museums, restaurants, and Sochi beaches.

When I turned 22, I ventured out on my first hike. Why? Because I saw an article about Alicia Silverstone in the fitness magazine. She looked so fit and happy hiking with her dog. I wanted to be her! However, none of my friends were outdoorsy types.  Finally, I met one dude who was into hiking. And he took me on my first hiking trip. I was out of shape (about 35 pounds from my current weight). Not to mention, I was still smoking and drinking. And, I didn’t have enough water, I wore tennis shoes. We got lost. In other words, it was love at the first sight.

Grand Canyon Adventures
Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon

At 26, I met my future husband. He took me on my first camping trip to Grand Canyon. At the same time, my husband introduced me to the beat generation. As I delved into “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac, I wanted to explore America. So, we ventured out on road trips through Hawaii, Arizona, and California. We hiked through the Seira Nevada mountains, camped at Grand Canyon, explored the weird roads of Sedona, hugged Sequoia and Redwood trees, breathed in the big sir air, and ventured out to the hidden shores of Hawaii.

At 32, I attended a therapeutic Yoga Jornal conference at Estes Park in Colorado. Over the next five years, I dreamed of moving away from hustle and bustle of New York City. Finally, my hubby and I took a leap and moved to the Rockies in 2012.

Over the last 5 years, I’ve logged about 2,000 miles or about 900 hikes. Some really short and sweet. With the longest hike at 12 miles so far. I’ve hiked with professional guides and friends. But lately, I’ve been hiking solo or with my dog, Rocky.

So, in the following article, I would like to share a few hacks I’ve learned in my years of hiking.

What is hiking?

Blue Lake, Colorado

Keep close to Nature’s heart and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.

John Muir

To me, hiking trip is just like life. You prepare, learn, research, take action, overcome your fears and go, go, go.

If you stay present on the journey, you will take in the glamor of every step of the way; you will forget about the summit. When you at the peak, you will take in the beauty, give yourself some credit and let it go. 

Hiking developed in the 18th-century. It arose because of changing attitudes to the landscape and nature, associated with the Romantic movement. Before that, walking generally indicated poverty. In fact, I’ve never heard of hiking until I came to New York.

So, Hiking is an outdoor activity where you walk on hiking trails. Hiking is typically grouped into three categories:

  • Day hiking
  • Multi-day hikes
  • Backpacking or a multi-day hiking expedition

In the following guide, I am going to talk here about day hikes in higher altitude (8,000ft+).

-Part I –

Prepare

Get Fit For Hiking.

Get Fit For Hiking
Get Fit For Hiking

Commit to the fitness regime daily. You can build strength, flexibility and get fit for hiking in just 30 minutes per day. Do it the first thing in the morning.  Find a place where you won’t be interrupted. Disconnect your phone and put your mind fully into it. Work on your breathing, build strength and flexibility gradually over the course of months to come [plan on 3 to 6 months for the best results].  Keep it simple.  Increase your intensity in training by 4% daily. 

1. Breathing Exercises (5 minutes).

Whether you are planning a relaxing day of wandering in the forest or an adrenaline-pumping adventure (especially in high altitudes), you need to work on your breathing.

Do the breathing exercises in the beginning or at the end of your workout routine. You will be breathing through your nose for most of the exercises. Deep nasal breathing technique is also known as “the breathing exercises of yoga” (pranayama).

Think of the time when you were stressed or agitated; your breathing becomes short and shallow.  On the other hand, when you at rest, your breath becomes more full.  In other words, your state of mind is linked to the quality of your breath.

So, the purpose of focused breathing is to 1) increase your lung capacity and 2) to bring your mind into a state of equanimity on-demand.  As a result, you will be able to enjoy your hikes instead of being pre-occupied with gasping for air and will learn how to manage your fears.

Exercise:
  1. Find a comfortable position. You can be standing, sitting on the chair or lying down.
  2. There are only two requirements for this exercise: 1) no distractions 2) keep the spine soft and straight. 
  3. Observe your breathing for a few seconds.
  4. Notice where your inhales and exhales initiate.
  5. Next, inhale on the count of 4, hold for 1 second, exhale for the count of 4, hold for 1 second, repeat 12 times.
  6. Only progress when there is no effort and your breaths are smooth and even.
  7. When increasing the ratio, always start with exhalation: inhale for the count of 4, next exhale for the count of 5, etc.

Watch 10-minutes sequence on Youtube:

2. Release (5 – 10 minutes)

You can do this before and after the hike. There is a school of thought against foam rolling.  I am on the other branch of that tree. I release my muscles daily, and it makes things better for me on and off the trail. Do your research, experiment and find what’s best for you.

You can use a foam roller, massage stick or ball to place pressure on tight spots within your muscles. This exercise helps to release tension and restore the muscles length. Consequently, your recovery time becomes shorter. You can roll-out your entire body. Use a deep-breathing technique (#1) as you roll. Don’t hold your breath.

Personally, I love TP therapy box-set. But, it comes with a high price tag. However, I’ve been using it daily for two years.  So, it was a great investment and I highly recommend.

If you never used a foam roller, I would recommend purchasing a foam roller and a tennis ball to start with.

3. Warm-Up (5 minutes).

You can take a 5-minute walk or ride a stationary bike. Another option is to put on your favorite tunes and dance.  Remember to coordinate breath with movement, keep your core (belly and back muscles) engaged.

  1. Arms up: inhale & take your arms up, exhale as you engaging your core, bring your arms down.
  2. High kicks: inhale & bring your arms up, exhale & engage your core and bring your legs towards your chest.
  3. Squats: inhale bring your arms up, exhale engage your core and bring your butt towards imaginary chair (don’t go too low during warm up).
  4. Pushups: you can do them on the wall or chair to start with.

4. Build Strength (5 – 10 minutes)

Strength training not only makes you physically stronger but it helps to build confidence. You need strong muscles to hike longer and not to use your joints. Upper body strength helps with your posture and to carry a bit more weight for longer hikes. You can pick any variety of strength-training exercise and perform a circuit or a series of exercises in a row, with short rest periods. A few options to chose from.

Firstly, you can use a timer. Perform repetitions for 40 seconds with 20 seconds of rest, repeating 2 to 3 times.

Secondly, you can count your reps (10-15 reps with breaks repeat 2 to 3 times). 

You have a well-designed circuit which targets every major muscle. Also, you might find “Healing Busted Knees.” It has PDF and lots of useful info on how to build core and legs muscles necessary for hiking. Here is a sample circuit:

  1. Squats: inhale fill your lungs with air, exhale and lower your butt towards imaginary chair (keep your core engaged).
  2. Squat jumps: repeat 1 and add a jump (progression: one legged squat).
  3. Burpees
  4. Lunges.
  5. Upper body: chest press, biceps, triceps.
  6. Supermen.

 5. Practice Balance (5 minutes).

Balance is essential when you crossing the river and balancing on the rocks. Just like strength-training, it gives a boost for your hiking confidence. So, prepare “off the trail” as much as you can. Learn to trust yourself by cultivating balance.

  1. One-legged stand: inhale and fill your lungs with air, exhale and engage the code and bring one leg up, stand on the other leg for 40 seconds.
  2. Warrior III: engage your core, bring one leg up while balancing on one leg. Click below to watch on youtube.

6. Cultivate Flexibility (10 minutes).

Stretching can help to reduce chances of injury. Also,  it can prevent muscle imbalances. Stretch all big muscle groups by holding a stretch for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. 

  • Calfs
  • Hamstring
  • Quads
  • Inner thigh

7. Hiking Essentials Gear

Over the course of the last five years, I’ve invested into the excellent gear.

If you are just starting out, don’t go crazy with gear. Make sure to invest in good hiking shoes and socks. You can buy cheap poles on eBay. After you put some mileage, you can upgrade your gear. 

Here is My Gadget List: 
  • KEEN Voyageur Mid Hiking Boots – break them out by wearing them on walks. You must buy good hiking boots! I have funky feet and I’ve been buying a new pair of the same hiking boots every two years. My shoes last about two years. I would recommend going to REI store and trying on different boots. Always test your boots before heading out on a longer hike. Never go on a hike with brand new shoes.
  • Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tec Trekking Pole– my first pair cost about $15. They were OK. But, I think it is worth to invest into good hiking poles.
  • Gregory J38 Pack Backpack – I loosen all straps first before putting it on. First, I tighten the hip belt right on my hips (also helps to engage the core). Secondly. Secondly, tighten the shoulder straps (beware of boobs). Thirdly, adjust the shoulder lifters (by your shoulders). The sternum strap shouldn’t be super tight.
  • Sawyer water filter – the best thing that ever happened to me. I drink a ton on the trail. This water filter is easy to use and very light. Always check your filter before you head out.  Make sure to clean it and store in a place with temperate above freezing.  Running out of water (happened to me) is one of the worst things on the trail.  Also, have a few some water filtration back-up.
  • Whistle – I’ve never used it so far. But, just in case if I see a bear.
  • Bear Spray – I’ve never used on the trail [yet]. But, I tried it by in the backyard. This one is super strong. I hope I never have to use it. However, we have lots of bears here. Typically, they just ran away from me. However, I feel safer carrying it with me just in case.
  • I carry Spikes most of the time. I hate slipping and sliding. 
  • Personal Beacon 
  • Topographical map and compass. Click here for an online course on how to use the map.  
  • GPS –  click here for REI guide on how-to choose GPS. I am saving up for the GPS with a beacon. The Garmin GPS is about $450.00 plus monthly fees. I might just end up getting a beacon.
  •  AllTrails App – easy to use with more than 50,000 trails across North America! I look for the trail the day before, read the review, mileage, etc. On the hike, I select the trail, hit the record button and it tells me how far am I from the top or if I am off-trail.
  • First Aid Kit – hiking essentials. 
  • Shades.

8. What to Wear?

Hiking Wear
Hiking Isn’t a Beauty Sport

Never wear cotton. If you sweat, cotton doesn’t absorb moisture well. So, you can get sick. Instead, wear breathable synthetic and wool fabrics.

Add Layers:

9. Do Your Research.

Look at the map, plan your hike. Check the whether.  Have an exit point.  

Treat outdoors with uttermost respect.

You can get lost, you can get hurt, you can die. Always have an exit plan. For instance, what would you do If you get lost? Know your physiology. For example, I don’t have the greatest sense of direction.  If I get lost, I track back immediately. I always head out early in the morning before the thunderstorms. But, if the wind is blowing at 40 miles per hour, I would not risk it. 

As far as timing goes, it typically takes me one hour to hike 2.5 miles. I add one hour for 1,300 ft elevation climb. 

What would you do if you encounter wild life?

9. Fuel

Fuel for Hiking
Soul Sprout Nut Bar

I eat whole-food plant based diet. For me, it is better to eat a bit less before I head out and add more food as I progress into the hike. Otherwise, I feel too stuffed and it is hard to hike and use my core with a full stomach. So, I typically prepare my meals the day before and buy in bulk.

It is always better to bring more food on the hike. 

-Part II –

Let’s Go Hiking

Day of the Hike

Mt. Audubon
Mt. Audubon, Colorado
If you never hiked before, start with smaller hikes. Gradually increase your distance. Make sure you wear a comfortable clothing and appropriate footwear.
Most importantly, have fun!

I’ve been building my skills and endurance in incremental steps. I workout daily to improve my time outdoors. I see hiking as lifetime fun activity. I am hoping to be able to hike when I am 90 [if I live]. So, little by little from year to year, from mini-hikes to longer more challenging hikes.

Also, I like to hike the same trail over and over. To get familiar with it. Not to mention, I am still working on my navigational skills.

Of course, there is nothing like challenging myself to higher altitudes and an unknown terrain.

10. Never Push Too Much.

There were quite a few times when I was prepping for a hike for a few days. I would get to the trail but didn’t feel the love. I used to push through until I busted my knee skiing. Always listen to your gut, your intuition. Learn to discern between fear of unknown and real intuition.  Also, if you are hurt or the weather isn’t cooperating, turn around. Do it next time.  It is always best to be to wait rather than to push it and die or get hurt. Remember it is a real possibility!

11. Tell someone where you going.

I typically send a text to my husband including my departure time, a picture of the hiking trail and estimated return time (always add 2 hours to what I think it would be).

12. Stay present on a hike.

Diamond Lake
Diamond Lake

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.  Nature’s peace will flow into you as the sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like falling leaves.”

–   John Muir

Sometimes I have to write “present” in ink on my arm. Seriously, focus on the trip, don’t worry about how far the top or down is. Breath in the beauty around you. Nature is amazing. A hike will end soon. So, don’t worry about reaching the top.

Notice flowers, trees, the sky above, the ground below. That’s the beauty of hiking the same trails multiple times. Once I know the timing, the route, I can really be one with the world, get lost in the wilderness.

My hike becomes very meditative.  Also, one of the reasons why I love going solo. It is a perfect time to reflect and enjoy.

Take it all in!

13. Never feed or take close-up pictures of wildlife.

Colorado Moose
Colorado Moose

The moose from this picture actually got too close to our house. During the huge winter storm, our fence got much lower and this babe just jumped over. 

Sounds like a common sense. But, I am surprised how many people try to take an up close picture of a moose! Seriously, stay away. They are not friendly. Wildlife is wild.

Of course, human food is not only bad for animals but dangerous. We really don’t want bears to be our pets.

14. Uphill hikers get the right of way.

My rule is if someone is going faster regardless of up or down, I let them go ahead. I get it, we all love taking pictures. But, don’t stand in the middle of the stream on the only available log to pass while people gathering behind you. 

15. Don’t Leave trace.

I carry little compostable or plastic bags to carry all of my trash. Also, use a rubber band to tie it. Otherwise, your trash will be all over your bag.

16. Be Quiet Please!

Shouting isn’t meant for trails. I don’t ever listen to music, and I don’t recommend it for you either. Instead, watch your breath, listen to nature. Also, you should always pay attention to sounds [bear noise, thunder, etc.].

-Part III –

After The Hike

17. Roll & Strech

I love rolling out after my hike. In fact, this is the first thing I do when I get home. Next, stretch calfs, hamstrings, and belly (upward facing dog).

18. Take Epsom Salt Bath

It really helps with tight muscles.

19. Eat Well

I typically like to eat a light meal including cherries, turmeric, and ginger.

20. Rest

Sleep, read and allow yourself some time off.

18. Share Pictures and Memories.

Share your photos with us.

What did you find the most helpful?

 

Disclaimer:
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. The entire contents of this website are based upon the opinions of Anna Sheinman. They are not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, and they are not intended as medical advice. They are intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from my own research and experience. I encourage you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.

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