Extreme Day Hiking Tips
Go Early: One key to a successful long and satisfying day hike is to start in the night. Lose some sleep. Deal with it. It’s OK. Think about it. Would you rather start out in the dark or end in the dark. You can always sleep after the hike is over. Getting on the trail at 3 or 4 in the morning sounds extreme, but it really makes sense. High altitude hikes can be prone to afternoon thunderstorms. It’s much better to reach the summit by 10-11am and be well on the way back down during vulnerable afternoon hours. Another benefit of heading out at or before dawn is cooler weather. Less heat means less sweating, therefore less water needed and a lighter load.
Go Light: It’s simple: carry less, go further. A minimalist approach is suggested to food, clothing, and other items. Each hike should be planned considering the risks involved. One advantage to extreme day hiking on well-established trails is the reduced need for survival items since its harder to get lost or hurt yourself.
Go Fast: Actually don’t go fast. The goal is to minimize time on the trail by developing a consistent pace with a minimum of rest stops.
Go Far and Go High: Early+Light+Fast enables one to go Far+High in one day and return to the creature comforts of a roof and indoor plumbing. A marathon-like distance with large elevation changes are made possible by this thinking. The personal challenge is to go as far and high as you can.
Food:Trail Mix may not be the best food on the trail for a hike that has high levels of aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Nuts and other oily, fatty foods are harder to digest when your body is using your oxygen elsewhere. Also, fruit in excess can cause digestive distress. I have found that the best foods on the trail are sport bars like Clif Bar, Promax and Gus/Sport Beans also, for a sandwich that travels well and always seems to taste good: PB&J.
Water:By studying the weather, the water sources, the trail, one can carry the minimum amount of water, which is probably the heaviest thing one carries on a day hike. An interesting idea is to stash water bottles on the way up, to be retrieved on the way down. A water filter may be an efficient way to go to minimize weight of carried water. The disadvantage is the time it takes to find water, stop and pump.
Clothing:If you have cotton or wool clothes don’t even think about hiking with them. Burn them, or give them to homeless street people who are cold and don’t move fast. This may be tax deductible. Consult your tax attorney.
There are many high tech fibers that wick (transport your sweat into the air) and are warm (since not wet it feels warmer) and are incredibly light. By layering these materials it is possible to hike with incredibly light clothing, even in freezing weather.
Hats: This is easy. Wear the largest, lightest brim hat you can stomach. Yes, it’s dorky looking but do it anyway. It keeps you cooler and lessens the chance for wrinkles and skin cancer.
Sunscreen:See the part of the last sentence on hats. High altitude and summer time are brutal to the skin. Low altitude and any sun are brutal to the skin. Put on sunscreen on all days, cloudy or not, preferably a moisturizing sunscreen to provide extra relief against the damaging UV Rays. Consult your local dermatologist.
Shoes:The success or failure of an extreme day hike is tied to shoe selection. Heavy, stiff hiking boots are at a decided disadvantage to a light, flexible, comfortable shoe. Every pound of shoe is equivalent to carrying 7-9 pounds on your back. Minimize shoe weight by selecting a cross-trainer with ankle support, a trail-running shoe, or one of the lighter hiking shoes that are readily available.
Socks:It’s amazing how important sock selection is when engaged in an long day hike of many hours. The coarse threads of hiking socks will eventually begin to dig into your skin causing much discomfort and blisters. Avoid this by wearing a thin nylon sock, a liner, as a first layer, or just on pair of light ones. Bring an extra pair for replacement half way. There is something really refreshing about putting on a pair of socks half-way through a killer hike. Note: don’t wear brand new boots on one of these hikes.
Trekking Poles: This is the best-kept secret for success on the extreme day hike. Trekking poles give an advantage, which most people don’t understand until they try them. It is estimated the use of trekking poles can add up to 20% efficiency to the body by transferring some of the load to your arms. Even more significant is the stability the poles provide, greatly reducing the need for leg muscles to continually provide balance. The chances of a sprained or broken ankle, is greatly reduced by the use of poles. Stream crossings, wet rocks or logs, ice, loose rocks, and steep areas are made safer.
Excerpt from dayhiker