Q. My troop is going on a 25-mile hike soon. What is the best way to prepare for it?
A. We went straight to an expert for this question: Joe Koehly, director and guide for Backwoods Adventures, which takes people hiking and backpacking all over the world. Here are his top tips:
1. Make sure your boots are well fitted, are waterproof and provide ample ankle support when carrying a heavy load. Break them in before embarking on a hike.
2. Do shorter training hikes wearing all the gear you’ll use on the trip. Make sure boots, socks, hiking shorts or pants, shirts and pack all work well together. This will help you avoid chafing, blisters and general discomfort on the trail.
3. Place lightweight gear on the bottom and toward the outside of your pack for ideal balance. Concentrate heavy gear close to your shoulder blades and high in the center of your back.
4. Minimize the amount of equipment lashed to the outside of your pack, which can get caught on branches, rocks and brush. It will hurt gear, affect balance and diminish hiking efficiency.
5. Always know the area and obstacles that might occur during your trip. Study maps, guidebooks and trip reports to prepare for any and all scenarios. Always have a plan.
6. Be smart. Respect nature and fellow hikers. Accidents tend to occur due to careless behavior.
Another important thing to remember is that you need to stay hydrated during the hike! Don’t skip water breaks, even if you don’t feel thirsty that very moment. For extra energy and to help your muscles recover ASAP, bring a sports drink powder pack to add to your water bottle. The electrolytes will help keep you feeling fresh.
You can find out more in chapter 15 of the BSA’s Fieldbook.