Whether you are just starting out hiking or if you have been hiking for some time, it is critical to ensure that you have the right hiking gear to meet all your hiking needs to ensure you have not only a comfortable but, more importantly, a safe hike. Now, I say that a lot across this site but today I thought, for fun, I'd share a personal story to help illustrate this.
One key part of your kit is of course your hiking boots and this short tale relates to an experience I had many, many moons ago where I totally had the wrong footwear!.
Once Upon a Time …
I remember when I was a kid, maybe nine or ten years old and my brother took me out on what was probably one of my first hiking trips with him and his new girlfriend. It was winter and bitterly cold outside and he told me to wear my leather hiking boots. I told him I would but sneakily put my running shoes on instead. If I recall correctly, I had just got a new pair of running shoes and thought they were the coolest thing on the planet, way cooler that an old pair of black leather hiking boots!
So, we got to the car park and started to walk up the mountain. There was snow and ice everywhere. My brother didn’t notice what I was wearing at the beginning as he was too busy trying to impress his new lady. However I soon noticed, and in pretty quick time I might add, that my idea to wear my running shoes was not only flawed but a very bad idea indeed.
My shoes and feet started to get very wet and very, very, cold. Whether it was just denial, pride of not wanting to accept I was wrong or I simply didn’t want to say anything in case I got into trouble as I hadn’t brought my hiking boots, I soldiered on up the mountain through the snow. All the time ignoring the ice cubes forming at the bottom of my legs!
Time ticked on and within a relatively short time, said ice cubes were now where my feet used to be.
Suddenly, and even though this is a long time ago I still remember it like yesterday, I felt burning pain in my feet. My running shoes were drenched through and my feet were ice cold numb and stinging like crazy. This was the initial onset of frostbite, not a good thing. I simply couldn’t cover it, pretend or whatever I was trying to do any longer and started balling my eyes out!
My brother immediately came over to me asking what was wrong. When he realized what I was actually wearing he was totally freaked out. He was a medical student at the time and when he looked at my feet he was definitely concerned.
He knew he had to get the running shoes off my feet and get me back down to the car as soon as possible. However, we had a problem. We’d already walked an hour up the mountain and as my feet were now ice cubes and my only shoes were ice cold and soaked through, I had nothing to wear back down the mountain!
Time to Improvise!
So, time for some improvisation. The shoes and socks were removed and my feet dried with various items of clothing. They were then wrapped in hats, scarves, gloves and any other available dry warm clothing my brother and his girlfriend could spare. He had some hot soup in a flask and I started sipping on it. Oh man, I’ll never forget how my mum’s homemade vegetable soup tasted that day, was like wine from the Gods! That had the double effect of both warming and cheering me up and I gradually started to feel my feet come back to life.
Feeling human again and with the immediate crisis situation averted, the next thing was to get me back down the mountain in the only shoes available. Again, my brother improvised and created some kind of temporary sock with bits of clothing and then wrapped the sock in airtight plastic bags. This was needed as while I wouldn’t be putting the socks on again, I had little choice with the running shoes, they would have to go back on until I got back down the mountain.
The improvised socks worked pretty well and were more than enough to get me to safety. I thought my brother would be mad but as I remember he was just relieved. I think he was just genuinely grateful that something potentially very bad was avoided.
So, why the long winded tale above? Well, simply put, this is a real life personal example, albeit an extreme one, to help illustrate the importance of wearing the correct hiking gear when heading out on your treks and adventures. Whether it’s ensuring you have adequate waterproof hiking boots or hiking shoes, similar to my story above, or a suitable waterproof hiking jacket, always take the time to consider what kind of environments you will be hiking in, the demands of those environments and whether your kit meets those demands.
To experienced hikers, this might be stating the obvious but to people just starting out, simple mistakes can be costly to your enjoyment, health and possibly, in extreme circumstances, even your life.
There is nothing quite like first-hand experience to indelibly put something in your mind forever and this experience certainly did that for me. Remember, always be sure you have the right gear when going out hiking. Never make assumptions about the weather, terrain, etc. A little bit of preparation in advance will save a whole lot of hassle and pain down the road and will also help ensure your hiking experience is as positive and enjoyable a one as possible.