It’s Friday night, you work clothes are strewn across the bedroom and your rucksack is near-full and ready for the weekend. You’re going hiking! And as a seasoned hiker you already know exactly what kind of gear you’ll need out on the trails and tracks. Or have you?
For the past 35 years, or so, I’ve spent the vast majority of my spare time out and about in the wilds of the world. From the time I was 14 years old to my current age of cough 39 cough, I’ve had the pleasure to visit and travel through regions such as the Sahara Desert, the jungles of South East Asia, the North Pole, Greenland, South America… it’s a big list and one not to brag about.
Let’s just say I’ve been fortunate to be able to explore so many places in the world.
During the course of my many travels, I’ve built a sizeable list of items every hiker should consider finding a space for in their backpack. These include gadgets like the Garmin InReach, a decent hiking watch or finding a decent down jacket, like one of these.
But today we’re going to explore some of the more unusual pieces of gear that have found their way into my backpack.
Let’s see what weirdness I recommend finds a home in your ruck.
First Field Dressing
The First Field Dressing (FFD) is the big daddy of bandages and is a leftover from my time in the British Army. The U.S equivalent is called a First-Aid dressing.
But what makes it so useful?
For a start, it can soak up a lot of blood. I mean a lot. The FFD can absorb one pint before you need to apply a second dressing. But let’s hope you never need to test this theory.
The FFD has many more, less gruesome uses. Here are a few:
· Pull out the wadding and use to start an emergency fire (the bandage burns great).
· The tourniquet can be used as a… tourniquet. Or as a quick way to repair a broken boot.
· An emergency pillow. It works, trust me.
This one probably doesn’t surprise seasoned hikers, but anyone hitting the trail for the first time should consider packing superglue into their ruck.
Repairing damaged shoes is probably the first thought that comes to mind when you consider why we take glue on the trails, but there are more uses.
Here are a few ways you can put superglue to use:
· Like an FFD, superglue can used to start a fire as it’s made from highly flammable materials. Caution: burning superglue emits noxious gases so only use a small amount to start a fire.
· Closing large wounds. Superglue was used during the Vietnam war to seal some of the larger injuries sustained by servicemen.
· Tent repairs become simple although they might not hold up to a force 10 gale.
I don’t mean rotten, flyblown supplies that aren’t fit for a wild animal. Unclean food means the dirty stuff – something like of high calorie, high fat cheese.
Some hikers have dedicated their lives to eating clean and there’s nothing wrong with that. But sometimes, dirty is good.
· On a long hike your body is going to need all the fats and proteins it can be get, especially on those arduous climbs, and the fats you eat will soon be burnt off.
· It tastes good. Personal opinion, but nothing beats a bit of filthy food when your stomach starts to grumble. Most of my crossing of Greenland was fuelled by cheese and salmi, yet I still lost weight.
· Your brain craves sugars and fats and will thank you by releasing a hit of dopamine.
Hiking trends come and go in the same way that fashion shifts and sways. But I’ve never been one to follow the cult of ‘minimal underwear’ due to the chafing that comes from hiking long distances.
Big underwear, the type that doesn’t cling to all those ‘intimate places’ has some real advantages. Note: I don’t advocate wearing a pair of Victorian-era bloomers on the trail as you might look, and feel, somewhat out of place
My reasons for wearing larger underwear when hiking:
· Longer leg sections prevent chafing of the inner thighs.
· A thick waistband keeps the underwear in place and less likely to bunch up or find its way into the nooks and crannies of your body. I’m sorry, it had to be said and that was the most eloquent description I could find.
· Large underwear, like these Saxx that I reviewed on my blog, tend to be designed with comfort in mind and to give the wearer added support and space to move.
A Tub of Vaseline
AKA petroleum jelly. I’ve been using this since way back in the mid-19080s when first started running. Some people might find the feeling of Vaseline on their skin uncomfortable, especially when it heats up and starts to run.
But there’s no denying that this lubricant definitely has a place on your packing list.
Here are a few ways it can be used:
· If you forgot to pack your big underwear and are experiencing some chafing then a blob of Vaseline will reduce friction on your inner thighs and prevent the otherwise pain that comes of flesh rubbing against flesh.
· Vaseline can be rubbed onto hot spots to help prevent blisters forming (check out this blister prevention guide for more details).
· Waterproofing your feet when hiking in wet conditions is easy. Smear each foot with Vaseline in order to reduce the risk of the dreaded ‘trench foot’!
Lots of Garlic
Fortunately, we live in an age where the myth of vampires has been debunked, so why garlic? Well, for a start, I love garlic as it adds flavour to your meals.
You may not like the taste. Or even the texture, but garlic has some additional properties that make it the must-have addition to your food supplies.
Here’s a few:
· Garlic has antibiotic properties and has for many thousands of years been used to treat various ailments and is believed to enhance our immune response to bacteria.
· A dab of garlic on exposed skin will help to keep mosquitos at bay. A smelly, but effective way to stay bite-free.
· Treating athletes’ foot, a condition that can occur if your foot hygiene is poor.
A Large Beard
No modern hiker could ever be taken seriously unless they are sporting a luxurious covering of facial hair. That includes ladies too!
In fact, research by Professor Robert S. Beard of Oxford University, England has identified the beard as being a major influence in the feats of endurance athletes and world record holders.
Take the following examples:
Edmund Hillary, first known ascent of Mount Everest without oxygen, but with a beard.
James Harden, basketball player and owner of an iconic beard.
Lionel Messi, arguably one of the greatest soccer players of our time, probably because he has an awesome beard.
And this guy:
Me. I’m no record holder (well, I was for four days… but that’s another story), but I do travel to extreme locations and push myself hard.
And Now You’re Packed for Your Multi-day Hiking Trip, Let’s Wrap Up
I hope this rather unusual packing list has been helpful. Any way we can reduce the pain and risk that comes with hiking is essential and I highly recommend you give at least one of the above examples a try.
Now get hiking and enjoy the trails.
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