If you read “almost any” of the wilderness survival books, you’ll find that they tell you to carry a good fixed-blade knife. The experts recommend the fixed-blade design because they believe it offers a smaller chance of injury — it won’t clamp shut on your fingers. Personally, when I need to travel light on one-day long-distance endurance hikes, I carry a folding multi-tool knife (a Swiss Army knife), but when I’m camping or backpacking, I take along a lightweight fixed-blade tactical knife.
On Friday December 11, 2009, I phoned the equipment rentals desk in the Grand Canyon’s South Rim General Store (Canyon Village Marketplace), which is located in the Market Plaza, Grand Canyon Village. Arizona’s north country had a huge snowfall last week, and I was wondering about trail conditions.
The employee at the equipment rental desk said the snow extends down 3300 feet below the South Rim, with ice covering the last few hundred feet (of the 3300 total). He said that the snow can be knee deep in spots on the maintained trails and that he would take poles and crampons on hikes. (He went on to say that the the non-maintained Grandview and Tanner trails require snowshoes: the snow is over seven feet deep in some areas.)
If you join a hiking group you will, of course, meet people from a variety of places and backgrounds. And you will usually meet them early in the morning and then carpool to the trailhead, which is fine when your fellow passengers are courteous enough to refrain from riding along when they have bad colds or bacterial bronchitis. The morning doesn’t seem quite right when the stranger in the backseat shakes your hand, coughs repeatedly, talks about the antibiotics he’s taking and about how his live-in girlfriend died last month after a very prolonged illness that required multiple hospitalizations, how he is looking for a job because he has spent his savings after buying a 2700-square-foot foreclosed home and because his dead girlfriend’s social security checks have stopped coming.
[August 2010 Update: Last fall I bought a pair of Vasque Mantra hiking shoes on clearance at REI for $20. The Vasque Mantras are now my favorites, and I’ll keep on buying them (but if you have high arches the Vasque Breeze Low hiking shoes will probably fit you better). Last spring I bought a pair of North Face Hedgehog low-top waterproof hikers. I find that after 4 hours of hiking the Hedgehogs hurt my feet, especially where my foot meets my ankle. The Hedgehog tongues and metal eyelets seem poorly designed.]
If you join a Meetup.com activity, let’s say a hiking group, and you hear the members giving out impromptu advice regarding survival, health, injury, etc., make sure you consult a professional, too, or at least do some reading.
You might find that at a monthly hikers’ meeting, an attractive know-it-all is showing you a stretching exercise for your sore knee. But if you go to a good physiotherapist, you might learn that the stretching will only exacerbate your knee or hip injury, that what you really need to do is build muscle strength in the injured area.
In a previous post I talked about wearing cotton in hot deserts (see Cotton for the Grand Canyon). Now I would like to point out that in the Arizona desert beginning in September, you should carry a survival blanket and a lightweight polyester fleece shirt or jacket (and maybe even some silk-weight long underwear) if you expect the nights to be cool or if you are hiking to higher elevations. Then if you are unexpectedly delayed or caught out after dark, you can switch out of your cotton shirt and/or wrap yourself in the emergency blanket. Or you might want to dispense with the cotton and wear nylon shorts or pants and a short-sleeve polyester shirt, but when you expect the nights to be cool always carry an emergency blanket and an extra layer of clothing.
As I have said numerous times, I take supplements (see the disclaimers and warnings listed at the bottom of Spinach, Greens, and Eye Health). Rather than listing the supplements in my posts, I have listed them in the sidebar on the far right. I do not expect you to buy these items, but the Amazon links do provide handy summaries, price comparisons, and reviews.
I have also mentioned that walking, running, and hiking are very good for the health (including respiratory, cardiac, and digestive health), so in this post I am going to list some of the gear I use on hikes. I am listing the Amazon links. You can follow the links to detailed descriptions, prices, and reviews. I own all of the following gear:
I recently returned from the Grand Canyon, where I hiked for a week and noticed that most of the otherwise well-equipped hikers were wearing synthetic clothing that wicked moisture away from their bodies–and that’s fine in humid climates and when it is cold, but in hot dry areas such as the Grand Canyon during spring, summer, and early fall, hikers should wear cotton clothing: the cotton absorbs sweat and keeps the moisture on your body, thereby cooling your body and slowing dehydration. All the desert survival books tell us to wear cotton during hot conditions in dry regions such as deserts.