Hiking

Hiking is a great way to improve your health, fitness and experience weight loss. Hiking can destress and detox you.

Q&A: How do I stay safe and cool when hiking in the summer heat?

Q: I am aching to go hiking and get out of the house, but it’s hot out. How do I stay safe and cool when hiking in the summer heat?

A: Exercising outdoors has multiple health benefits including a 30% increase in calorie burn (compared to the same exercise and exertion indoors), a lowering of the stress hormone cortisol, and brain bathing of our “feel-good” neurotransmitters: dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. However, if we are used to a temperature and humidity controlled environment (gym or home), we need to incorporate some care before launching ourselves into mother nature’s arms as heat exhaustion or worse, heatstroke, can be dangerous and debilitating. Consider these tips:

Pre-hike:

  • Check the forecast and choose your days and activities when there is cloud cover and the UV index is lower. Be especially careful if going out on days when the UV index is 7 or higher.
  • Avoid mid-day sun, when UV rays are the strongest. Plan your hike for earlier in the day (early bird gets the worm!) or later to catch a sunset (bring a headlamp in this case).
  • If the humidity is high, lower your workout intensity to avoid overheating. Sweating, our body’s cooling mechanism, is more difficult when it is humid.
  • Make sure to hydrate and eat before heading out. Beyond energy requirements, proper nutrition will help with hydration.
  • Take a high-quality electrolyte 1-2 hours before going out on the trail (we use Vega products, which don’t have added sugar, making them much healthier than an alternative electrolyte drink like Gatorade). Electrolytes help your body retain moisture.
  • Wear the proper clothing for hot weather hiking. A wide-brimmed hat will keep the sun off of your face and neck. Light colors will reflect the sun. Loose, breathable clothing will allow ventilation. And a neck cover, such as a bandana, will come in handy. We typically recommend wool, but it’s a hot fabric, so for really hot weather, opt for thin cotton or a synthetic fabric. However, always wear a high-quality pair of wool socks, no matter what the temperature. Proper foot care is critical!

During-hike:

  • Make sure to stay hydrated on the trail. At Mountain Trek, we have a few sayings to help guests remember to drink water while hiking. “See water, hear water, drink water” is a favorite if you’re hiking along a creek or in the alpine amongst lakes. Another tip is to use a water bladder (one that holds at least 3 liters). If positioned correctly, the hose can be a constant reminder to hydrate, and to do so without stopping! You should aim to drink half of a liter per hour, but when it’s hot, you may need to increase that amount.
  • Look for shade to protect your skin. Stop in the shade for your longer water and snack breaks.
  • Wet your hat or bandanna in a cool stream or with your water bottle to keep your head and neck cool, two areas that significantly dictate our overall body temperature.
  • Acclimatize to the heat by incrementally increasing your exercise intensity over a few days. This will get your body used to the experience of exercising in the heat and will help you practice for longer days out on the trail.
  • Go with a friend for support and safety. It’s always a good idea to hike with a buddy.
  • Be aware of early warning signs of heat exhaustion: muscle cramping, lightheadedness, dizziness, headache, excessive sweating, confusion or irritability, increased heart rate, vision problems. If sensing any of these, stop in a shaded area, hydrate, and cool off.

Post-hike:

  • Continue to hydrate for the remainder of the day.
  • Keep a cooler in your car with icepacks, cold drinks and a cold washcloth. When you return, place the cool washcloth on your head or neck and enjoy your cold beverage, allowing your core temperature to lower again before driving home.

We hope these tips and tricks help you enjoy the summer heat safely. Enjoy your time on the trail.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: What are the best hiking shoes and hiking poles?

Hiking-in-British-Columbia

Q: What are the best hiking shoes and hiking poles?

A: Hiking Footwear is all about function and fit. Since we all have wildly different feet, there is no one best brand, but there are ideal shoe types for what we aim to get into. If you are hiking on smooth trail surfaces (gravel) and have reasonably strong ankles, a very light “trail-runner” would be fine. As their name suggest, trail-runners are a hybrid between street running shoe and hiking boots. They offer great traction and are lightweight, but aren’t as stable as a hiking boot. Here are some trail-runners we recommend. If your trails are more technical and have loose rock, roots, rock steps, are quite narrow, and your ankles are prone to rolling, an over the ankle light to medium-weight hiking boot will best serve your needs. If you are planning a multi-day backpacking excursion on the Appalachian or Pacific Crest trails, a well broken-in, heavier-duty, stiffer over-the-ankle hiking boot will over the traction and support you need for a long journey.

Once you have determined your function needs, we suggest you try on as many different brands of that style of footwear as possible (with your moisture-wicking wool hiking socks, of course—we highly recommend Darn Tough). Every brand uses a different size and shaped sole and footbed, and since each of us has differently shaped feet and toes, it’s paramount that you try your shoes on to find the right fit. A poorly fit boot and low quality sock is a guaranteed recipe for blisters. Here are the critical things to look for when trying on your shoes:
  1. Ensure the fit is snug when laced. You want to lace your boots firm, but not tight—somewhere around an 7 or 8 out of 10 on the pressure scale. Ideally the shoe will have even pressure across your entire foot once laced and not have “hot spots”, or places where your boot will rub excessively when hiking, causing a blister.
  2. The right size will need to find a good middle-ground. It needs to have a bit of room in front of your toes so they don’t hit against the shoe/boot when going downhill, but not so roomy that the heel lifts when walking uphill. Read our full guide on how to properly select a hiking shoe.

Most larger retailers (MEC, REI) will have fake rock ramps for you to demo your fit on. Make sure you use this, so you can see how the boot performs on all angles. After choosing the best fitting shoe, ensure that you can take them home to wear around the house for a couple of days to ensure the fit is optimal (and still return them if not).

Trekking poles are a fantastic addition to your hiking gear arsenal. They distribute workload and force, allowing you to hike farther and faster while providing additional stability and protecting your joints. They propel you forward on flat and uphill terrain, and become a brake, or shock absorber on downhills, unloading our knees from upper body weight. 30% of your effort should be distributed to your arms when using trekking poles, so they provide a full-body workout while hiking.

Choosing a hiking pole is less personal than choosing hiking shoes or boot. When choosing your poles, follow these tips:

  1. Ensure that when they are extended, your arm can be bent at 90 degrees while holding the handle.
  2. Look for poles that have built-in shock-absorbing springs or cushion. This addition will keep the jarring out of your shoulders, elbows, and wrists when the poles make contact with the ground and is well worth the small cost increase.
  3. Carbon poles are nice, but not necessary. While these poles save weight, which is great if you are doing a multi-day backpacking trip, their increased price tag isn’t usually worth.
  4. Choose a cork grip if available. Cork is a great, and natural, material for hiking poles that offers both good grip, breathability, and traction when wet.
  5. If you want the full-body workout when you go for your evening walk around the neighborhood, choose a set that comes with rubber tips that you can put on for urban fitness hiking.
We hope these tips help you find the right footwear and poles for your hiking needs. Nordic trekking, which is what hiking with poles is called, just like it’s winter counterpart, Nordic Skiing (Cross-Country skiing to most of us), is one of the best full-body, cardiovascular endurance exercises out there. Couple these physical benefits with the mental benefits of nature immersion, and it is arguably the most overall healthy exercise option possible. Proper footwear and trekking poles will only heighten your experience.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Guide To Hiking The Blue Ridge Appalachian Mountains

If you’re unable to join us for one of our health retreats to the Appalachian Mountains, where we hike the best trails of the Blue Ridge mountain range, eat light, healthy cuisine, and rejuvenate at night at the spa, we’ve created a guide to help you explore the area for yourself. In the guide, you will learn:

  • Where to Stay
  • How to Travel to the Blue Ridge Area
  • The 6 Best Hikes in The Blue Ridge Mountain Range
  • What else to do in the Asheville, NC and Greenville, SC area

We hope the guide helps pique your curiosity about the area, about hiking, and about living a balanced, healthy life. Enjoy

Mountain Trek’s Guide To The Blue Ridge Mountains

The Amalfi Coast’s 4 Best Hikes

First things first, when you’re hiking the Amalfi Coast, you’re not just putting one foot in front of the other on some variety of unpaved flooring. Rather, you’re hiking historic trails, some of which connect charming villages, a large number of which cling to the mountains above the deep blue Mediterranean, and all of which make you want to high-five every passerby.

Hiking the Amalfi Coast epitomizes living “la dolce vita,” and while we’ve got it going on here in British Columbia with our dramatic mountains and clear lakes, there’s something truly magical about exploring Italy by foot. With a few trips under our belt, and many exuberant Adventure Trekkers who attest to the Amalfi Coast’s spellbinding quality, we’re ready, nay incredibly excited, to share our favorite local hikes.

How does one even begin to whittle down the list of best hikes on the Amalfi Coast? The process was not easy–each trail deserves an honorable mention–but we managed to select just four stand-out hikes based on their views, starting and ending points, history, technicality and duration. We considered the whole gamut. Our list has strong legs.  

Straight from the mouths of those who have walked the walk, here are Mountain Trek’s 4 best hikes on the Amalfi Coast.         


Path of the Gods

In particular, hiking from Praiano to Nocelle, above Positano.  

Why Best Hike on Amalfi Coast: Outstanding views of the Mediterranean and the two Amalfi Coast towns. The Path of the Gods is a hike that recalls the incredible landscapes of Greek mythology.

Note: Because of its popularity, it can be packed with tourists, at times making it seem somewhat dangerous. It’s technical, and has lots of exposure on cliffs.

Hike Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation gain/loss: -400m/-1200ft

Distance: 8 km/5 mi.

Path of the Gods is one of the best hiking trails on the Amalfi Coast, according to Mountain Trek


Il Vallone delle Ferriere

Also known as: Iron Foundry Valley or Paper Mills Valley hike.

Why Best Hike on Amalfi Coast: It starts in the quaint seaside town of Ravello, which was founded in the 5th century, and runs back into the mountains, descending to the coastal town of Amalfi. The hike follows a cascading creek, and is dotted with 12-14th century remains of iron factories and paper mills.

Note: Beautiful, tall chestnut trees and rare, long leaved ferns.

Hike Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation gain/loss: -400m/-1,200ft

Distance: 6 km/3.7 mi.

Valle delle Ferriere Papermill Iron Foundry Hike is one of the best hiking trails on the Amalfi Coast, according to Mountain Trek


The Path of the Two Provinces

Also known as: Santa Maria del Castello

Why Best Hike on Amalfi Coast: It’s the longest and steepest climb, but a favorite because it’s barely used, and has epic views of the azure blue sea far below the limestone cliffs it sits on. The trail climbs straight up the mountain above Positano for 1800’, and descends to the village of Arola, above Sorrento.

The first section of this trail has an elevation gain of about 800 meters to get to the Hamlet of Santa Maria del Castello.

Note: Allow for 5-6 hours of walking, as the path is steep and rocky in places.

Hike Difficulty: Challenging

Elevation gain/loss: +900m/2,900ft

Distance: 13.5 km/8.4 mi.

The Path of the Two Provinces or Santa Maria del Castello hike above Positano Amalfi Coast is one of the best hikes on the Amalfi Coast as voted by Mountain Trek


The Path of the Sirens

Why Best Hike on Amalfi Coast: It climbs through traditional garden farms growing artichokes, broccolini and olives, to a peak that gives the area’s best vantage point of the Sirens, the Greek mythological islands that housed singing divas dangerous to sailors. It is a unique walk surrounded by the Mediterranean nature, rich of historical and mythological references and breathtaking views of the two gulfs (Gulf of Naples and Gulf of Salerno).

Note: The trail is a 4-hour hike that tops out in a pine forest before descending to the village of Torca.

Hike Difficulty: Easy

Elevation gain/loss: 300m/900ft

Distance: 8.5 km/5.2 mi.

Path of the Sirenuse / Path of the Sirens is one of the best hiking trails on the Amalfi Coast, according to Mountain Trek


Our final vote for “Bests of the Amalfi Coast” is for Lucy, the hiking guide who showed us the ropes. She is energetic, friendly, and eager to impart her knowledge of the Amalfi Coast. To add depth to your hiking experience, we recommend bringing her along for at least one of your hiking adventures.

 

Mountain Trek offers all-inclusive, culture-rich, luxury hiking vacations to some of the most exotic locations in the world. Be sure to join us on our next adventure as we hike to places like New Zealand, Bhutan, Japan, Patagonia, Spain, and more.

Contact us to learn more.

2019 Mountain Trek Schedule Updates

As Sir Isaac Newton taught us, a body in motion stays in motion. At Mountain Trek, we believe this not only applies to the human body, but our program as well. We must constantly seek novel methods to improve the offering—that’s the only way we will continue to help you improve your health. While this often means reading hours of scientific journals, attending conferences, or consulting with some of the best doctors and practitioners in health, this also means listening intently to our previous guests. And thanks to your feedback, we’re excited to announce that the award-winning Mountain Trek program is getting even better for 2019.

Introducing Restorative Wednesday

After three full days of the Mountain Trek program, you’ve earned some well-earned R&R. Wednesday’s schedule will focus on taking the necessary time to restore, both inside and out. With a newly built bridge by Program Director (and former Park Ranger), Kirk, we will hike a wonderful trail directly from the lodge, affording ample time the rest of the day to relax, recover, recalibrate, and reflect.

New Hiking Trail—Cedar Creek Historical Trail

Hiking British Columbia

Mountain Trek has built a new bridge, opening up the Cedar Creek Historical Trail

After a bridge replacement last autumn over the cascading waters of Cedar Creek, and a reopening of the original Miner’s Trail, we are happy to offer a commute-less fitness hike direct from the lodge. Some alumni may well remember the old trail, but an additional section has been added to offer stellar views of the Purcell Mountains and shimmering Kootenay Lake. Not only is it an excellent workout for cardio improvement and fat burn, but the mining relics and expansive views make it a new winner!

Mountain Trek Hikes British columbia Fitness Retreat

Hike directly from the lodge to this vista overlooking beautiful Kootenay Lake

Cooking Classes with Chef Simon

Healthy cooking chef

Learn to cook like Chef Simon Vine

Join Chef Simon to learn new culinary skills and Mountain Trek recipes. Growing up in a mainly vegetarian household in Vancouver, Simon was exposed to a wide range of cuisines and ingredients. At Mountain Trek, Chef Simon has developed a style of his own, blending different ethnic influences while maintaining a distinctively West Coast flavor. His food is at once balanced and bold, light and intensely flavourful.

 

Mindfulness Grass Walk

Mindfulness Grass Walk for Stress Reduction

Reduce stress and increase focus by doing a mindfulness grass walk at Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat & Health Spa in British Columbia, Canada

Walking Meditation is a common tool in the Buddhist tradition, where practitioners walk barefoot on the grass, bringing the mind’s attention to the mechanical placement of the foot and the sensations felt by reawakening the millions of nerves on the bottom of the feet—which have been turned off by decades of imprisonment in shoes. Brain science has shown that going barefoot fires more neurons in the brain and this practice can even reverse early onset of dementia and improve libido…not to mention help us feel like a wild child again! Join Program Director Kirk for approximately 15 minutes to explore this optional exercise.

Sensoral Integration (Nature Bathing) Session

Sensoral Integration (Nature Bathing) at Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat & Health Spa in British Columbia, Canada

Sensoral Integration (Nature Bathing) can reduce stress and increase happiness

Sensoral Integration is the practice of sitting in deep nature and bringing one’s mental focus to each of the 5 senses, noticing as much information as possible. For example, what do we see close, far, peripherally, in the shadows and shapes and the various hues?… then what do we smell? This ‘dropping’ deeply into our senses is an effective practice to control stress levels when we are over stimulated through constant bombardment in our urban setting. The result is the enrichment of the ‘feel good’ hormones and lowering of our stress hormones. Join Program Director Kirk for approximately 15 minutes to explore this optional exercise.

Experience the New Schedule

If you feel like it’s not only your body composition that you’re constantly battling, but your stress levels too, it’s time you experienced the updated Mountain Trek Program. Rediscover and redefine your health.

We’d love to have you join us this year. Email us (info@mountaintrek.com) to receive an updated program schedule or to start planning your visit.

5 Reasons You Need to Start Hiking Right Now

female hiker standing in front of waterfall

We’re meant to be outside. The terrible thing is, most of us spend over 2,000 hours at our desks yearly. That’s like watching The Titanic 616 times in a row. The stress, the long hours, the sedentary nature of our chair-bound lives—it’s all sucking the life out of us.

This year, take it outside. More specifically, go hiking. Immerse in nature. Forest bathe. Time spent hiking doesn’t just burn calories, it helps cell health, lowers stress levels, balances hormones, improves immunity, and deepens sleep. How? It all boils down to ditching your devices and immersing in nature.

Heal Your Cells

By simply trading your iPhone, iPad, iPod, i-you-name-it for a walk amongst the trees, you’ll immediately notice a sort of cellular exfoliation. You’ll feel alive. Truly alive. This is because, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, in nature, you’re exposed to terpenes, a naturally-occurring hydrocarbon in plants and animals that are neuro-protective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumorigenic. Don’t ask us exactly how they work—all we know is they do the body good.

Lower Pulse Rate

That’s just the beginning. According to the School of Forestry and Resource Conservation, forest bathing, by which they mean spending at least two hours in nature, is a meaningful way to significantly lower pulse rate, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Calm Your Mind

The School of Forestry and Resource Conservation’s study also found short bouts in nature to be “an effective psychological relaxation strategy.” Turns out the forest engages all of your senses—your mind stills, and you reconnect to your soul.

Lose Weight, Sleep Better & Reduce Stress

Going on a three to four hour hike can burn serious calories—over 1,500 if you really get after it. Beyond the obvious benefit of burning fat and losing weight, this type of medium-intensity, extended-duration exercise does two things. First, it elongates our deep-sleep stage, which is the most restorative stage of sleep that sees the release of growth hormones. Second, it reduces our levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is directly linked with memory loss, poor immune function, decreased bone density, increased weight gain, cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease, and the list goes on. It’s a no-brainer that cortisol wreaks havoc.

OK, you caught us—that’s six reasons, but hey, what’s wrong with being healthier?

This is why we say now is the time to boot up—the benefits are too compelling not to. John Muir, the “Father of the National Parks,” once said, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” No matter what you’re seeking right now, make sure you look outside first.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

What You’ll See Throughout The Seasons Hiking In British Columbia

Spring Hiking in British Columbia

At Mountain Trek, we spend the bulk of each day outside, immersing ourselves in the unbelievably pristine mountains and lakes, and reveling in Mother Nature’s seasonal splendor. Our British Columbia program runs late April through late October and depending on which season you choose to join us, you’ll see slightly different sides of our beloved Kootenay Mountains. The guide below describes what natural beauty you’ll encounter — from temperature and greenery to the different hikes we take depending on the season. From temperate rainforests in the spring to the alpine rainbow meadows in summer, there is something to love each month at Mountain Trek.

May through June: An Explosion of Spring

In spring and early summer, Nelson, BC is warm, and we bear witness to the first blossoms in the forest. During this time, we hike mostly along the lakeshore and deep river canyons, and marvel as the melting snow off the mountain rushes down the valley, filling all the creeks to the brim. Spring explodes around us; a cacophony of birdsong, willful flowers bursting through the ground, and the rushing water off the mountain jolts everything to life.

Hiking in British Columbia in spring

July to mid-August: High Summer and a Spring Redux

As we approach high summer, the receding snows beckon us to hike higher into the alpine. For those dying to explore an alpine meadow, now is your time to come to Mountain Trek. In the mountains, we aren’t beholden to one climate — the range of altitudes provides changes in temperature. So in high summer, while we have low-humidity heat down at the Lodge, we relive spring when we hike into the mountains: alpine meadows covered in wildflowers provide a vibrant rainbow of flora, and mild temperatures imbue the area with a sense of spring. Moving from lakeshore hikes to alpine hikes, we constantly experience a state of spring-like coolness — perfect for those looking to escape the oppressive heat of summer.

Summer hiking in British Columbia

Summe hiking in British Columbia

Mid-August to September: Golden Indian Summer

As summer gives way to fall, the days are warm but not hot. July through September, we hike past tarns — alpine lakes formed through the melting of glaciers — and revel in the glacial views, as we bear witness to the last remnants of the ice age. This time of year is when the foliage begins to come alive — the perfect time for avid leaf peepers to come to Mountain Trek! We hike in the high country, where the meadows are now dotted with gold and needled trees take prominence in the forests.

Autumn hiking in British Columbia

October: Autumnal Vibrance  

In October, the growing snows chase us out of the alpines, and in these weeks we watch the deciduous forests — maple, birch, aspen, cedar, hemlocks, and conifers — turn a vibrant, stunning gold, creating a glorious green- and gold quilted panorama. The shapes and smells of autumn take root, as the nights become cooler and fall mushrooms pop up on the forest floor.

Hiking in British Columbia in Autumn.

 

The all-encompassing beauty of the Kootenays makes for a truly sublime experience. Come bask in the natural glory, as you breathe in the aromatics of the seasons and revel in the natural world as it reinvigorates your sense of vitality, rebalances your hormones, and brings you total peace and gratitude. Come to Mountain Trek to detox, relax, and completely revive your spirit. Click here to view all available dates.

Happy Hikes: Choosing and fitting your backpack

Fitting the right backpack for youOne of the keys to a happy hike is a having a well-fitting backpack. Its hard to enjoy breath-taking views and outdoor activity if you feel like you’re hunched over giving a piggyback ride, or at all in pain. Storing your water, healthy snack, an extra layer or the room to store that extra layer, and maybe even a guide book of flora or bird life in the area, among other things, a good pack is absolutely essential hiking gear. And as the spring and summer season are gearing up, so should we be with all the right gear for our outdoor pursuits.

But the choices for this essential bit of kit can be absolutely overwhelming. How do we choose what size, design and suspension system of pack, and how do we ensure it fits correctly? In beginning this important deciding process, consider what terrain you’ll be visiting, your activity, the volume of what you’ll be carrying, and approximate weight. Here is a guide to help out when selecting your travel partner for the trails.

Sizes of Pack

Different volumes (measured in Litres) of pack are available for different activities and body sizes.

The day pack (15-35 Litres) as the name suggests, is perfect for the small outing or day hike. With little structure or frame if any, your load is supported by shoulder straps. A waist belt helps to keep everything centered. The alpine pack (35-55 Litres) is the perfect size for overnight jaunts, or day trips where you may need a little more equipment. Weight here is beared a little more on the hipbelt. A backpacking pack (55 – 75 Litres) is designed for multi-day trips, these packs have an internal structure to help with support, and do take some of the weight off the shoulders/back and onto the hips. The expedition packs (75 Litres +) are again, as the name suggests, designed for serious expeditions.

Pack Construction

Your backpacks take a lot of abuse on the trail, being thrown down, hoisted up, and possibly even being used as a seat. You need to make sure your pack will stand up to the stress and will last a long while. Check for durable material, especially in high use areas on the pack; chunky, good quality zippers; and tightly stitched seams that are bar-tacked at stress points.

Suspension

The purpose of pack suspension is to comfortably transfer weight to the hips, and is comprised of several aspects of the pack. Shoulder straps should be designed to bear around 30% of your pack weight, and should be relatively firm, yet padded. In no way should the shoulder straps pinch or chafe. Your hipbelt stabilizes the whole weight of your pack by keeping it in place, and for larger packs is the main weight bearing area. Adjusting the suspension system to your body is imperative for a good fit. So how to fit your pack?

How to fit your pack

The first step to fitting your pack is determining your back or torso length. The size of pack is based, on this, and not the overall size or height of the person. Find your c7 vertebra, or the bump at the top of the spine/back of the neck. Tilting your head forward will allow you to find your c7 more easily. This is the top point of your measurement. Next, place your hands on your hips, fingers forward and thumbs back. This is the shelf upon which your pack will rest. Measure between these two points for your torso length, thereby determining your pack size; XS, S, M, L, etc. Keep in mind that each manufacturer’s sizing is different, so you want to use your torso length, not pack size after one measurement.

After determining your size of pack, put a bit of weight in the pack for sizing, maybe 10 – 20 pounds. Putting the straps on, settle the pack on your back, then secure the hipbelt directly over your hip ‘shelf’. The hipbelt pads should be snug enough that they are secure over the hip bones. Next, adjust your shoulder straps so that they are not touching your armpits, and are not pinching your neck. Secure your sternum strap. Last, have a walk around with your pack and adjust anything that feels unbalanced. A well-fitted pack will feel simply like you are a little heavier, like an extension of your own body, rather than something ‘on’ you. Keep in mind, if it doesn’t feel good in the initial stages, it definitely won’t feel good after hours on the trail. If in doubt; feel free to use the help of the knowledgeable staff at your local outdoor store!

How to pack your pack

Where weight is distributed in your pack will be huge for your body’s overall comfort and ability to last on the trail. Heaviest items should be placed closest to the back, with bulkier, lighter items on the bottom, outside, and top of the pack. Having a bottom-heavy pack will make you feel like you’re being dragged down, and a top heavy pack may make you feel like you’re about to topple over. Having those heavier items the closest to you will feel the most natural for your centre of gravity. Distributing weight evenly over the right and left sides will help a lot with your comfort too.

With these tips in mind, we hope you’ve found it helpful and motivating to get out there and hit the trail with your most important piece of equipment. Happy fitting and happy packing!

Trekking Poles: How to choose the right poles for you

hiking pools

Days are getting longer, sunnier and warmer, buds are shooting up from the Earth, the smell of Spring is in the air – it’s time to dust off your day pack, get the bikes out of the garage, buy some sunscreen…and get ready for the warm weather activities that spring and summer bring!

As we enter the upcoming hiking season, it’s important to have all the right gear to support you in having the most fun, safe, and effective workout possible. At Mountain Trek, we include trekking poles in necessary hiking gear, as do many avid hikers around the world. But like any good gear, it is so important to find what works best for you. Here, we’ll help you to choose the best hiking pole for you, by covering what features to look for in a good hiking pole. But first; why bother using them?

 

Why use hiking poles?

Why use hiking poles?

Using walking/hiking poles offers several benefits:

  • Poles provide better balance and footing, especially over slippery or uneven terrain, like when crossing streams, over loose rocks, etc.
  • During ascent, poles can add thrust, while taking pressure off the lower body, and onto the shoulders and upper back.
  • During descent, poles can significantly reduce the amount of stress on legs, hips, and joints, and reduce the possibility of injury by adding stability. Although this is particularly beneficial to those with weaker or compromised knees/ankles, reducing stress and impact to the body is certainly beneficial for everyone.
  • Poles can be used to clear away loose hanging vegetation, or can be used to scope out swampy patches or possible holes before venturing forwards.
  • In the unlikely event of an injury, a pole can be used in wilderness first aid as a splint or crutch.
  • And last but not least, using hiking poles not only reduces your perceived exertion rate by taking strain off the legs and into the arms, but increases calories burned. In a study by the Cooper Institute of Dallas, they found that using trekking poles burned up to 20% more calories compared to the same walk or hike without poles.

What to look for in hiking poles?

What features should I look for in a hiking pole?

When shopping for a hiking pole, consider the kind of terrain you will be traversing, how much weight you will have in your pack, as well as the health of your knees, ankles, hips, and joints. With this determined, you can decide if you would like to get ‘regular’ or ‘anti-shock’ poles. Anti-shock poles have a shaft that contains an anti-shock spring mechanism, softening any impact while travelling downhill. Anti-shock technology is particularly beneficial for those with sensitive knees, ankles, joints, etc., and the anti-shock mechanism can be turned off when it is not needed (for example when traveling uphill). Regular or standard poles have a simple shaft, and are a little bit lighter than antishock poles since they do not contain that mechanism. They of course are unable to provide the same level of shock absorption as an anti-shock model, but do provide the same stability.

The parts of a pole include the tip, basket, shaft (which includes or does not include the anti-shock device), locking mechanism, grip, and wrist strap. When choosing a hiking pole, consider each of these components.

The shaft’s make up will likely be either high-grade aluminum or carbon fibre. A pair of high-grade aluminum poles will weigh around 20 ounces, and are very durable and flexible, only breaking very rarely. Carbon fibre poles will weigh less on average, about 15 ounces, and are also very durable, but when under extreme stress, can shatter. Keep in mind that both the length and the circumference of the shaft varies as well.

Pole tips are usually made out of carbide or steel, and additionally, one has the option of getting a rubber tip cover. These protect the life of the tips, as well as protecting your pack when the poles are stowed, and are better for harder surfaces, like pavement.

Locking mechanisms allow you to determine the length of your pole, whether you’re using them out on the trail, or have them stowed in your luggage en route to your hiking destination. Two or three interlocking sections make up your pole, and if you’re very tall or short, it’s important to check the full extension /compression length of the pole. Most poles have a ‘twist and lock’ system, like a form of clamp. Whatever the mechanism, ensure it’s durable and dependable – you’d hate to have this fail on you at a critical moment. Regular maintenance through cleaning and drying of the separate components of your hiking poles can help with your locking mechanism’s life span and reliability.

Both the grip shape and material vary, so this is a very important reason to test drive your poles before buying, and see what angle and density is most comfortable to you. Grips can be angled forward or completely upright, and some can even extend down the shaft, known as an ‘extended grip’, useful for brief uphill portions. Materials for the grip can include but are not limited to: cork (absorbs vibration well, doesn’t slip with sweat, conforms well to hand shape), foam (absorbs sweat, most malleable) and rubber (can chafe hands in warm weather but insulates from cold, good shock absorption).

Now that you’ve chosen your hiking poles, please ensure you have the correct technique to keep you safe and supported (or come to Mountain Trek and we’ll show you how! You’ll also get lots of practice!) Have fun out there on the trail – supported, less prone to injury, and burning more calories – with your new hiking poles!

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