Tips for the Hiker

Tips for the Hiker




Each outing is generally referred to as a hike, but a hike can include biking, canoe/kayaking, cross country skiing/snowshoeing, etc. Safety is our primary concern, but fun is our overall objective, so for the safety and enjoyment of all, hikers should not take off at the start of a hike until the leader gives the go ahead. Hikers should not venture away from the group without informing the leader. Leaders will stop periodically to regroup, take a water break, and wait at all intersections to provide directions. Co-leaders will stay at the end as sweep to assure that the last person is doing okay. Dogs are not allowed on hikes. Have fun but be alert!

Even though we hike as a group with a leader and co-leader, it’s good practice to get in the habit of carrying the following essential items on all hikes whether hiking alone or in a group. As we explore mountains, valleys, lakes, streams, beaver meadows, bogs, vlys and cols, etc., weather conditions can change drastically throughout the day so as the Boy Scouts say, “Be Prepared.” A little preparation before you go can make your day much more enjoyable. It is recommended that on all hikes you carry ID and a copy of your medical insurance – just in case of an emergency. The following are “The Big Seven” items to carry on all hikes plus additional suggested item. Winter hikes will refer to the “Critical Six” items to carry.

  • 1) Map/Compass/GPS
  • 2) Water – Water treatment kit/filter
  • 3) Lunch/Extra food
  • 4) Extra Clothing – i.e. Lightweight wool hiking socks/Dry Top
  • 5) First Aid Kit – Different sizes of band aids, butterfly closures, adhesive tape, appropriate pain killers, triple antibiotic cream, alcohol pads, 4 or 6” elastic bandage, tweezers, sewing needle, moleskin, triangular bandage, and a compact first aid guide.
  • 6) Pocket Knife
  • 7) Lighter/Fire starter/Waterproof matches
  • Medications – Inhalers, etc.
  • Glasses
  • Layered Clothing to adjust to changing weather conditions and, to keep you warm and dry, fleece top.
  • Extra Energy Snacks – candy bars, energy bars, trail mix etc.
  • Insect Repellant/Bite Stick
  • Headlamp or Flashlight – extra batteries/bulbs
  • Whistle
  • Sun Protection – hat, glasses and sunscreen
  • Duct tape – small amount for many emergencies
  • Storage Bag / Heavy Duty Zip Lock Bag – To keep may of the essential items organized and readily available.
  • Rain/Wind Gear – Rain covers for back packs help keep these items dry. Jacket and pants should be waterproof and breathable. Ponchos sometimes work well.
  • Gloves or Lightweight Liners for cooler hiking days
  • Hiking Pants/Tops – There is a saying on the trail “Cotton Kills,” Denim provides no warmth especially when wet.
  • Hiking Boots – Proper fit is important and should be well broken in before serious hiking. A boot for mountain hiking should be high enough to protect the ankle. Sneakers worn on the trail can cause blisters.
  • Gaiters – To prevent dirt, stones, water, etc., from getting into your boot.
  • Day Pack to carry above, usually around 1000 cubic inches.
  • Emergency DEC phone number – Store in cell phone the Adirondacks DEC emergency hotline, 518-891-0235 or check for number at trailhead sign in.
  • Toilet Paper

We must obey the biking “Rules of The Road” and use extreme caution during our bike outings. “Drive” your bike like a car and obey all traffic laws, i.e. traffic signs, signals, and markings, just as a car would. Helmets are required and should fit snugly and low on the forehead. Light or bright colored clothing with some reflective stripes are recommended. “Single file please” and keep a safe distance from the other bikers. Signal when turning, stopping, or passing another biker and pass on the left only.

Each biker should carry a primary kit that contains the following on any ride that takes them farther than they would care to return on foot.

  • Frame Pump – The pump should fit snugly along the seat or top tube, or have a clamp on bracket. Make sure the pump head fits the valve on your tubes.
  • Spare Tube – Buy the correct size and valve.
  • Patch Kit – Should include a small tube of glue and patches of various sizes.
  • Tire Levers – It’s nearly impossible to remove a high pressure clincher without this tool.
  • Allen Keys – Carry a kit or at least one for each size bolt head on the bike. Usually 4, 5, 6, and 7mm. Check your bike to be sure
  • Small Adjustable Wrench – A 4” wrench will fit nearly all size small nuts and bolts that might require adjustments during your ride.
  • Folding Knife, Small – A 1 3/4” blade for cutting strapping tape or loose handlebar tape.
  • Small Screw Driver – Either a Philips head or flat head screw driver will work fine,( small kits containing both are available), to adjust derailleur, computer mount etc.
  • Miscellaneous – A presta –to-Schrader valve adapter, in case your pump breaks, food, money, ID card and a copy of your medical coverage.
  • Saddle Pouch – Under seat bag to carry the above.
  • Water Bottle
  • Biking Gloves
  • Rain/Wind Gear
  • Snacks

On all canoe/kayak outings, a PFD (personal flotation device), U.S.C.G. – approved type I, II or III must be worn. Expect to capsize and swim occasionally when paddling a canoe or kayak – it’s all part of the sport. Not only will your PFD keep you afloat and allow you to execute a self rescue, but it will also keep you warm in cooler weather and provide some warmth in cold water. Dress appropriately for protection from sun, heat, rain and cold. Short vests can provide the best fit for kayaking because they won’t interfere with a spray skirt or seating. Some additional items you may want to consider, assuming you already have a kayak or canoe, are the following:

  • Whistle – Mandatory in New York State.
  • Spray Skirts – To keep water out of a kayak.
  • Carrier Cart for Canoe Kayak – Wheels to make portages easier.
  • Tow Lines – A length of buoyant rope with carbiners at both ends for emergency use.
  • Dry Bags – Waterproof sack for protecting extra clothing, food, camera and equipment.
  • Flotation Bags – Provides extra flotation for your Kayak
  • Bilge Pump/Sponge
  • Strobe Light
  • Sunscreen
  • Waterproof Flashlight
  • Water Bottle
  • Flares
  • Spare Paddles
  • Horn
  • First Aid Kit
  • Insect Repellant
  • Hat
  • Special Footwear – To protect your feet in shallow water – you never know where that broken bottle might be.

Once you have acquired your appropriate snowshoes or cross country skis from a reputable outdoor supplier, the following items will help make your hike more enjoyable. Some hikes are longer than other so use good judgment in determining what additional items to bring. The first “Critical Six” should be carried on any winter outing whether with the club or on your own outing. The additional items may insure your comfort by day and perhaps survival at night.

  • 1) Emergency Space Blanket
  • 2) Map/Compass/GPS
  • 3) Flashlight/Headlamp (spare batteries and bulbs)
  • 4) Knife
  • 5) Lighter/Waterproof matches
  • 6) Whistle
  • Food for the day and more
  • Water/Snacks
  • Poncho/Rain Gear
  • Wool or Fleece Top
  • Hooded anorak or parka
  • Wool Blanket 3’ x4’
  • Wool/polypro knit hat
  • Mittens or Gloves
  • Toilet Paper
  • Poles
  • Gaiters
  • Headband
  • Hand warmers
  • Sunglasses or Goggles
  • Sunscreen
  • Water
  • Backpack
  • First Aid Kit
  • Extra Clothing/Socks, two plastic bags to put over dry socks and back into wet boots (feet sometimes get wet)
  • Piece of closed cell foam pad (appropriate to sit on)

Better Safe Than Sorry!
How many times have you thought something wasn’t a good idea, but did it anyway? Or maybe you never gave it a thought at all. If we look at all the negative consequences of our actions we might be so paralyzed with fear that we never leave our homes. But, when we keep in mind that only about 10% of what we worry about actually happens we can feel pretty confident that if we are informed and prepared we can make good choices, be relatively safe and be ready to respond appropriately if something does go wrong.

So, what do we mean by being informed and prepared when it comes to outdoor activities like hiking, biking, watersports, skiing and snowshoeing? Here are a few tips to remember to make your adventure a safer and a more pleasant one.

  • Check the weather forecast in the area where the activity is taking place. Remember that a beautiful, sunny morning can become a windy, rainy afternoon. Also, if the temperature is going to go from 20-50 degrees, it isn’t going to get to 50 until around 4 o’clock! We have often finished the activity well before then, so dress in layers that you can shed as it warms up, but have enough on to keep you warm at the beginning of the outing. Bring rain gear – at least a poncho – just in case. It will cut the wind if nothing else!
  • Check your equipment before you go out. Is the sole starting to come loose on your boots/Are the laces in good shape; Do you have a map, enough water? How are the brakes on your bike – have you ever had it tuned-up; Does your tire need air/look checked? Will your PFD keep you afloat (is it the right weight capacity and still buoyant); Does your kayak have a leak? How about your snowshoes or x-country skis – are the bindings in good shape; Did you remember to bring the right boots to use with them? Do you have spare water, clothes, bike tube, paddle, etc. Have you tried new equipment to make sure all the pieces are there, you know how to use it and it functions properly? By taking care of problems before you are out of reach of supplies and help, you can save yourself a lot of headaches and possibly save your life!
  • Know some simple first aid concepts. See “First Aid Do’s and Don’ts” in a later section
  • Be responsible for your own safety and well-being. We all make mistakes and forget water, poles, snacks, extra clothes, first aid supplies, etc. sometimes, but to rely on someone else to have them all the time isn’t good practice. The person you are relying on may not be on the outing this time, and if everyone is relying on the same person, not only might they be disappointed, but that isn’t fair to the person! Also, make sure if you have specific needs for diet or medications you are prepared if you get stuck on the trail due to someone else’s emergency situation. Getting a wounded person out to where rescuers can reach them can take hours-don’t be caught short!
  • Know your limits (and the limits of everyone in your group)! Turn around if it looks like you won’t finish a hike before dark or if conditions become unsafe. Lightning strikes kill around 50 people each year – get off the trail if a thunderstorm is imminent. Ice makes footing very tricky-don’t continue unless you have the proper micro-spikes or crampons. If someone seems to be having a problem keeping up with the group, or is in obvious distress from dehydration or hypothermia, turn the whole group around or have at least two people go back with them. Two people are advisable in case the person collapses – one can stay with them, while the second goes for help! The mountain, trail, lake, etc. will still be there for you to visit another time.
  • Most of all come with an attitude of gratitude for the leaders willing to take responsibility for making sure they know the terrain, the company of like – minded people, and the beauty of the surroundings. Take time to take in the scenery and note the flora and fauna of the area. Who knows when you might spot a moose, bear or other wildlife or be surprised by a wild orchid, pitcher plant in bloom or blue flag iris.