A while ago I got a recommendation from Amazon about inspiring travel books to read. And one of them was Wild. And it did have some inspiring qualities. I still don’t want to hike across America. But it made me move my ass to the top of the nearest hill. While reading the book, I must admit, there were times when I would laugh out loud or just stare, amazed at the main characters lack of hiking skills.
I have seen a few hills top to bottom, some for work and some for pleasure. And some just to get from my parents’ house on top of the quite high hill to the town and in at the time the hippest bar in the valley. So here are some my Cheryl inspired hiking and packing tips.
1. Get in shape before starting crazy long hikes.
It helps. It is usually not a good idea to go from zero exercise to 100%. In any sport. It usually hurts the next day and it does a lot of unnecessary damage to your body. So maybe shorter hikes every weekend before starting would make Cheryl’s hike less of a torture.
2. Know your gear.
Movie starts with Cheryl unpacking her brand new gear in the motel before starting the trail next morning. A bad idea. Soon after that she is in the middle of nothing and notices that her cooker and the gas for it don’t really work together.
Normally we test new gear in safe conditions. I would put the tent up in the garden in front of the house first day after buying it. And check how things go together, what I bought wrong or what the nice lady at the counter didn’t put in the bag, so I could take it back in time and change it.
3. Pack only what you can carry.
I try to always pack as light as possible. A car trip excluded. Then I take too much. You don’t need to look good in the middle of the forest, so pack no makeup except sunscreen. You don’t need to impress the bears. More stuff, more energy you need to carry it around. Cheryl had a chair to sit on in front of a tent. You need food, water, shelter, map, dry clothes and first aid kit. If it is possible to live without it, carrying it around is just unnecessary torture.
4. Books are awesome to read, not to carry.
And she had lots of books. It is the same on backpacking trips. I love e-readers. Unlike other electronic devices, I have to charge my basic old model of Kindle every few weeks and it carries whole library of books in a very small package. I guess I am a bit behind the times, this is the new model:
And if you are more old school: books on the road, no hording. Read them and exchange them on the next stop. I am sometimes pleasantly surprised with books in hostels – they get me to read authors I have never heard of before.
5. Are you a newbie? Learn from the masters. And internet.
Don’t try to prepare for hike across America by reading an old book. Asking people that had done it more recently helps more. Roads change, political situations on out trip change, forests burn down, roads are closed because of avalanches, floods, volcano eruptions or more often rail workers strike. Internet is a good source for up to date information on a current situation. I traveled through Bosnia after the war. I used a 30 years old map. Villages were not on the same places they were before. Last year a friend visited my country with 30 years old paperback travel guide. It was fun to see photographs of old houses that were torn down and changed to banks or hotels a long time ago.
6. Snow in the high mountains is dangerous. Don’t be an idiot.
I will not even try to be smart on this topic. Unless you are an experienced mountaineer with a right gear you know how to use and an equally experienced buddy hiking with you, you are just giving mountain rescue team extra work.
7. Sexy lady alone in the woods. Not a good idea.
Hmmm. Sadly, we ladies have more than just snow avalanches and hungry bears to worry about in the woods. And rape whistle is not of much use if there is no one around to hear it. Cheryl was lucky a few times in the book. Sadly, hoping nothing bad will happen is often not enough. A pepper spray or a flip knife in a pocket you can reach can be helpful. And avoiding situations like being sexy blond alone in the woods. I have noticed that I had far less unpleasant experiences with men while hitchhiking with short hair and wearing baggy clothes. Hiking with a friend was even safer. And two people hiking the trail together could carry smaller backpacks, since they could share the tent, gas cooker and some other equipmen
Of course, improvising can help you build new skills and planning less can bring more adventures into your life. Cheryl found herself again on the mountain and years later wrote a bestseller about it, but if you are not as lost as she was, maybe staying alive and safe should also be somewhere on your packing list.
You haven’t read the book and have no idea what I am writing about? You can buy it on Amazon.
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