Get On Your Boots

23 09 2009

Today, I want to talk about one of my favorite subjects.

Shoes.

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Okay, not that kind (sigh).  This kind:

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Hiking boots.  A must for any hiker.  Hiking in sneakers is okay for a loop around Walden Pond, but for more serious hikes, you need the grip, stability, and sturdiness of a good boot.  I mean, you wouldn’t go running in those little blue stilettos, right?  You wouldn’t try strapping sneakers to a pair of skis.  (You wouldn’t would you?  If you would, you should probably start your own blog.)  Having the right footwear will make your hiking safer and more enjoyable.

Figuring out what kind of boot to get can be intimidating, particularly since they can cost a chunk of change.  First of all, here is what you’re looking for:

  • A sturdy yet flexible sole, so you are protected from the rocks and sharp edges but can still move around with ease;
  • Sufficient toughness and padding around the foot so that if you scrape against rocks, trees, or get poked by a twig (happens a lot, actually), your foot will be protected;
  • The right fit: the boot should fit with thick socks, the kind you would wear while hiking (imagine that), they should be snug but not tight, they should not slip at the heel, and there should be a little room around the ankle;
  • Waterproof boots, or boots that can be waterproofed;
  • The right heaviness: there are lightweight, medium, and heavyweight boots…I like medium because they are a compromise between sturdiness and…well, weight;
  • Appropriate ankle support: hiking shoes have a low ankle, but I prefer boots with a higher ankle because I’ve had numerous sprains and need the support…the higher ankle is much better unless you’re hiking only flat trails.

In choosing your boot, you should try on as many as possible, because they are all slightly different and may have very different fits.  You’ll find the most options at specialty outdoors stores like REI and EMS.  These types of stores also have knowledgeable salespeople who can help you find what you need.

My favorite place to try on hiking boots is the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport, Maine, because they have all sorts of fake rocks and inclines that you can climb around on while trying on your boots.  But if that’s not an option, just walk around the store, crouch down, stand up, and flex and bend your foot around the way you might while hiking.  Bring/wear your hiking socks.  There’s just no way to guess at how the boot will fit otherwise.

You can find good hiking boots in the $120-250 range.  While cheaper and more expensive options are out there, those in this range are most likely to be high enough quality and suit your needs as a casual hiker.

Once you are the proud owner of new boots, please please please don’t tie them on and immediately go on a ten mile hike.  Spend some time walking around in them — in your house, to work, to the grocery store, wherever — to break them in.  You will probably get some blisters when you first wear them, and it’s better to get those while home — not hours from civilization.

PS: Any guesses at the title reference?

(c) Her Side of the Mountain, 2009.

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Isn’t It Dangerous?

9 09 2009

warning-sign

So let’s get this out of the way. The number one question anyone has about camping and hiking as a solo female is:

“Isn’t it dangerous?”

The simple answer is yes. Solo camping and hiking is always dangerous, whether you’re a man or a woman. Some people think it’s crazy to hike alone and should never be done. Solo travel of any kind has its risks — solo travelers, women in particular, are targets for thieves, con artists, and other unsavory characters — but when hiking the uncertainties of nature must be factored into the equation.

What can happen while solo camping and hiking? Anything that can happen while camping and hiking with others — except that there’s no one around to help. If you fall and hurt yourself, you could be stuck until someone comes along and finds you. If you get bitten by a snake, or encounter a wild animal, you’re on your own. And, of course, there are always stories like this to strike fear in the hearts of anyone — male or female — wanting to hike alone.

If it’s so dangerous, then, why take that risk? Why do it at all?

That’s a question you have to answer for yourself. For me, being on my own while hiking is serene, giving me time — time I don’t often make for myself — to think. Being on my own while camping makes me feel capable and accomplished. See? I can pitch a tent. I can cook a meal outside. I can fend for myself and take care of myself. It’s invigorating.

Despite the risks, solo camping and hiking can be done safely, if you know the risks and take preparations and precautions. That brings us to Rule Number One…

(c) Her Side of the Mountain, 2009.