Posted on October 10, 2021
Hiking over normal terrain means being able to keep up a steady pace for several hours, with just short rest breaks of ten minutes or so about once per hour. But steep or slippery slopes, crossing creeks and hiking at high altitudes can make that almost impossible. In short, you need to tailor your technique to different conditions.
Don’t get stuck in a rut. Try hiking over different terrain and in different weather conditions and learn to tailor your hiking style to the terrain and conditions.
You’ll find this makes hiking far more enjoyable and also allows you to cope much better with the unexpected.
Ordinary walking speed on level ground is between 2-4 miles per hour. At that pace a person will burn about 50-150 calories per hours. Compare that with the amount of calories burned simply by sitting, which is at the lower end of that scale. Also, for every hour of hiking you’ll lose about a liter of fluid (more in hot conditions) that will need to be replenished.
But when conditions, as they frequently are, become more hilly or at higher elevations, the strain becomes much greater. As you walk up steeper slopes you’re doing much more work against gravity to stay upright and rise up the hill. And, as oxygen concentration levels drop, the heart has to work harder to pump more blood through the body to re-oxygenate tissues.
Kaito Anti-shock Hiking Pole with Compass and Thermometer, HP9
Keep those facts firmly in mind when you begin to tackle tougher terrain. Those more challenging environments are often more beautiful and exciting. Hiking up a heavily forested mountainside at 5,000 feet is definitely more interesting than a stroll around the brush in foothills.
But the conditions require much more of a hiker.
Monitor your heart rate to ensure it isn’t pounding away in your chest with every step. The resting rate is about 70 per minute, a hard workout will produce 120 per minute for short periods. Try to stay on the lower end most of the time. The figures can vary quite a lot from person to person, these are just averages.
If you do that, you can avoid the symptoms of something called variously: High Altitude Syndrome or Acute Mountain Sickness, and by other terms.
It’s extremely important to keep an eye on your health and that of your hiking companions.
Novice hikers will often try to push themselves too hard too fast and this is a recipe for disaster.
Just as steep slopes and high altitudes present special difficulties, so crossing creeks, rivers and lakes can introduce challenges. Though sheer strength can be very helpful, technique and experience count for a lot as well.
Selecting good boots is the first step. High-top, waterproof boots help keep feet dry. That’s essential for avoiding foot problems. They also provide a little bit better traction on slippery surfaces. Other waterproof gear, like a well-flapped backpack made of waterproof synthetic, is helpful, as well.
But the best weapons are inside your head – intelligence and experience.
Avoid the temptation of fording a river when you can avoid it. Cold temperatures, slippery bottoms, undercurrents and other potential dangers are hard to judge. Step on rocks in a creek rather than walking through it, if you can do so safely. Walk around a lake rather than swimming through it whenever possible.
Take a bridge or alternative route. You’ll actually experience less fatigue with a slightly longer walk than a relatively short, cold temperature swim.
Above all, exercise your common sense. The outdoors can be a huge, exciting adventure. But getting injured or even grossly uncomfortable shouldn’t be part of it.