There is nothing like a big hiking trip with a looming deadline to motivate me to get back into prime hiking shape. To be honest, I really slacked off during the holidays and once I realized my trip to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon in Utah was a few short weeks away, I knew it was time to get serious. I needed to consult experts to help me update my equipment and plan my training schedule.
I was so pleased when Summit Hut Tucson, one of my favorite hiking stores, reached out to me and offered to let me tour their store, plan some training hikes and offer their expert advice. I arrived at the Tucson, Arizona store with a list of questions and couldn’t have been more pleased with my visit. I left with some new hiking trail suggestions and a list of new and better equipment ideas to help me while I train.
Here are the answers to some of the questions I had:
1. Footwear is so important, what is the best way to determine what type of hiking boots or shoes is right for you?
The most important thing about footwear is “fit”. Getting the correct size in length, width, heel cup and volume of the boot. Having room in front of the toes is crucial. We usually look for about a finger’s width of space in front of the longest toe. The boot/shoe should be snug but not tight.
2. How do you know when it is time to replace hiking boots?
Looking over the boot, it’s important to observe tread wear, stitching along the sides & top of the boot, inside the boot for signs of wear and keeping an eye on the midsoles for signs of collapse or too much compression.
3. For simple day hikes, what is the best kind of backpack to use?
The two items we talk about proper “fit” are boots and packs. Even for a simple day pack, torso length is very important. Most people have no idea what their torso length is (it may seem surprising to you) and a good day pack will come in various sizes for different fits.
4. When hiking in the hotter months, what advice would you give for staying hydrated?
The easiest way to tell if you are hydrated in hotter months is, if you’re not having to pee while you are hiking, you are not hydrated enough! Clear & copious amounts of urine are the only way to tell. If you wait until you’re thirsty it’s too late! People die every year in the desert. Don’t be a statistic!
5. What type of clothing is really best for hiking in the hot desert? Layers? Type of fabric? SPF protection built into clothing?
For desert hiking you want long sleeves & long pants. They should fit loosely, but cover completely. Look for a quality manufacturer and UPF ratings of 40 and above. The UPF (Ultra- violet Protection Factor) should come from the weave of the fabric not from an added coating. A ventilated wide brim hat with full coverage should complete your desert hiking attire. Finally, if you don’t like sunscreen on your hands there are many fine sun-gloves for extra protection.
6. Are there any other special tips you can offer to help kick start my 7-week training plan?
When people start training for a trip, they tend to concentrate on a good gym routine. That’s awesome! But the thing I recommend is to spend time walking. Do 3 to 5 miles walking at least 3 times a week. You can make one of those days longer but keep up that every other day routine. The thing I hear most in the fields is “wow! My feet are so beaten.” Put in those miles! You won’t be sorry.
It’s amazing how having the right shoes and equipment can make all the difference. When I started hiking last year, I really didn’t know what I was doing or how to choose the right backpack. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way, This year, I am determined to go about my training the smart way and check with the experts first!
The best advice I can give you is to find a store near you like Summit Hut. They are usually staffed with people who really know what they are doing and take the time to help you get what works for your body and your ability level.
Happy Hiking my friends! See you on the trail.