Petrified new hiker needs your help
June 7, 2009 1:47 AM   Subscribe

I'm a female in my early 20s and am going on a company hike to to the juan de fuca marine trail in a few weeks. We're hiking like 23 miles in two days and carrying 20-30lb packs. The trail has been described as "moderate to difficult." I am not overweight but I am NOT in shape. I do not work out. I am afraid this ordeal might just kill me. I am an indoor girl. I'm seriously regretting my decision to do this. But it's too late to go back now.

I need to go buy some hiking boots tomorrow (San Francisco area) as well as some clothing for the hike. The backpacks, tents, stove stuff, etc. will be provided for us. I just need to buy boots and clothes. Any tips on which boots I should buy? I know we will be hiking through rainforest and streams. I know breaking boots in takes time (how do I do that?) but I only have until the end of the month. I also have fairly small feet, 6.5-7 if that makes any difference. Also where should I look to buy this stuff? Are there less expensive places than REI? I really do not anticipate hiking much after this ordeal is over. Thank you in advance.
posted by anthropomorphic to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (40 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
I can't give specific advice on boots in your area because I'm in the UK, but one thing I know is that you do NOT want to skimp on the boots. Be careful to make sure they properly support up around your ankles. Breaking them in will probably require a couple of weeks.

12 miles a day even on rough terrain isn't really that tough even for an out of shape person, so long as you're not overweight. The difficult part will be the packs. Go for long walks on your weekends with a heavy bag, not necessarily the full 30lb one though. Start at 5 miles, then try 8 or so. You'll end up being quite capable of the trip even if you're more winded than the others by the end of it.
posted by fearnothing at 2:05 AM on June 7, 2009


You absolutely need to have good shoes and socks. Thin socks are better than bulky cotton. You want the kind of socks that dry fast. Make sure you wear the boots a lot before you go. And make sure you bring moleskin, salve, and other blister preventors and covers (check at a drugstore). Go to a good sporting goods store for the boots, and don't skimp. The rest should be easy. but I am concerned about the weight of the pack. If you are out of shape it may be hard on you. So start walking now to help build up your endurance.
posted by fifilaru at 2:42 AM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would talk to the people in the outdoor pursuits shop as well, tell them how much you have to spend and what you are going to be doing. When you come back from the shop, work out a plan for the next month on how you can build up and address the things you're worried about.

Apart from what I can only guess at perceived embarrassment - if you really don't want to do this, you don't have to.

If you do, then spending the month building up to this might need to become number 1 priority. Also it'll help with the shoes.
posted by Augenblick at 2:50 AM on June 7, 2009


I really do not anticipate hiking much after this ordeal is over

Hiking is great exercise and hiking boots are good for ankle support on the steep SF streets, too (hiking from Japan Town to Russian Hill to the Pacific Heights mansions via the Marina District is one of my favorite hikes but it is a killer).

Here's REI's Merrell options. Dunno where to get quality footwear cheaper but 23 miles is a serious hike and while there are easy blister treatments it's better to avoid them if possible.

Make sure they'll provide camping eating utensils and plate thing. It would be bad to lack that.

As for getting ready, go get your boots tomorrow and start hiking in them as much as you can. Make sure you've hiked at least 23 miles in total by the time of your event, including at least one 10 mile loop! Also get some quality hiking socks which will help keep your feet dry and reduce the blistering.

This might be fun, no? Life wouldn't be worth living if *I* couldn't go hiking.
posted by @troy at 2:51 AM on June 7, 2009


Best answer: First of all, don't freak out. Yes, you have set yourself a challenge that is difficult, but even with a few weeks to prepare, you can get yourself in much better shape than you think. Also, echoing what others have said above, 12 miles a day isn't too bad. In the city you could walk that in 3-4 hours, and even on tougher terrain that's not going to kill you, even if you're out of shape. Second of all, I am so jealous. That's a beautiful trail and you'll have a great time. No regrets!

First, the boots. The best thing you can do is go to a good store that specializes in outdoor pursuits, including hiking, as opposed to a more general sporting goods store or shoe store. If you were in Vancouver I would suggest you go to Mountain Equipment Co-op or Europe Bound - I'm not sure what the American equivalent would be. Looking on the REI website, they seem to have what you'll need, though, and they seem to know what they're doing, so I would go there. You want a fairly serious pair of leather hiking boots, because the rigidity of a leather boot will help prevent you from rolling your ankle if you place your foot wrong. Remember to tie up your laces tight every day so that you get that ankle locked from any sideways motion. A boot with a good stiff sole will make going up and down steep sections a lot easier. And nice thick leather means you don't feel any bumps from rocks.

I would go for a boot from their listing of either "waterproof backpacking boots" or "backpacking boots" - avoid the lightweight hiking boots they have available, and don't worry about whether a boot is on the waterproof list or not - if you get one that isn't, you'll waterproof it before you go with a sealant that you can pick up in the store for a few dollars for a little tube that will last you a long time. Ask them about it if they don't volunteer the information when you're buying the boot. A good pair of boots will last for years, and you never know, maybe you'll end up hiking again before too long after you get your confidence boosted by this trip.

As for the exact pair, no one can tell you that online because each different brand will fit your foot somewhat differently. Ideally, the store will have a small, steep inclined board that you walk up and down to test how the boots feel - but if they don't then if they have some stairs try using those to get a sense of what the boot is like when you're flexing your foot - does it slip at the back, if you're going down steeply do your toes slide to the front? These are the things to avoid because in the store they might be only marginally noticeable, but on a week-long hike they'll be painful. Don't go to a store where the prices are a bit lower if it means you don't get to thoroughly test out the boots in the store - a good pair of boots is the most important thing on a hike, and it's worth getting the right pair.

When you're buying the boots, also get two or three pairs of liners and socks. You need to buy a set of liners - thin, light, they go between your feet and the socks to wick moisture away from your skin to avoid blisters. Then get a some good wool hiking socks. Doesn't matter if you're allergic to wool, these won't be touching your feet anyway. No cotton! (Incidentally, the no cotton rule applies to everything you're taking on this trip, including underwear. Cotton holds 20 times its weight in water and will cool your body right down when it gets wet. Get some sports bras, non-cotton underwear, and other outdoorsy outerwear.) Get two pairs of each of the liners and socks, and you're golden.

Now, to break in the boots. You'll want to do this for sure, as fresh boots can cause blisters, and that's definitely something you want to deal with at home and not on the trail. You've got a few weeks to do this, which is plenty of time. The key here is that you just need to wear your boots everywhere (except in the car, if you drive - don't drive wearing boots because you can't feel the pedals properly). Do you walk to work? Start walking in your boots. Do you work on the fifth floor? Take the stairs every time, even on your breaks. Try to take a walk at lunch in your boot. Walk home. Do you usually just get home and flop down? Instead, go for a walk every evening - doesn't have to be a long one, just get that half-hour or hour extra every evening, and it will really make a difference to making the boots flex around your feet and feel just right. Just basically integrate your boots as much as possible into your day. Don't wear them around the office when you're just toodling between your desk and the washroom, but wear them everywhere else (except the car, see above). Hey, they'll make a great conversation-starter for the next few weeks. Also, don't leave it to a day before your trip to treat the boots with the waterproofing agent, or with whatever other agent they recommend. Leather boots need to be treated, or they dry out. New boots will need a couple of applications, and they usually take a day or two to absorb, so that's best done sooner.

Now, as for freaking out about not being in shape: I was once told by an Outward Bound instructor about a kid he had on one of his courses who, for three weeks prior to arriving in the mountains, walked everywhere he went with a 60-pound pack on his back. He said the kid was always at the front of the group, because he'd gotten used to carrying a load. I wouldn't suggest you walk around with that much weight, because you might hurt your back if you're not used to it, but consider buying a decent day pack at REI, one that has a waist strap. Looks like they will show you how to adjust a backpack too, which is good. Put 20 pounds in it and carry it wherever you go. The second week, up it to 30 pounds. If you're feeling up to it the next week, make it 40 so that when you're on the trail, you've got a lighter load than you're used to. I know this sounds crazy, and you may get some crazy looks, but if it's feasible, consider it. Maybe walk to work with your work blouse and jacket tucked in the top, and change when you get to the office so you're not sweaty? People might wonder what you're doing (actually, since this is a work trip, they should all understand), but the best preparation for carrying a load is carrying a load, and if you can do this for a few weeks, and go on walks in the evening with a pack, and go on longer walks on weekends, then it'll make a huge difference on the trail - you'll be used to heavy boots on your feet and a heavy load on your back. (Do try to go on one long walk each weekend between now and then, so you're used to walking 10 or more miles in a day.) Instead of regretting your decision you'll realize that you're enjoying something that a month ago you thought was impossible.

Anyway, mefi-mail me if you have any other questions. You can do this! Good luck!
posted by Dasein at 3:00 AM on June 7, 2009 [24 favorites]


You should definitely get your muscle soreness out of the way beforehand. Go on a seriously steep walk; when you think you can't go anymore, go a bit further. Afterwards you will feel pain in your ass, quads and calves that keeps getting worse over a period of 3-4 days. When it goes away, go out and walk even further and steeper. This time the pain will probably peak around the middle of the second day. After the third time you should have no real problems. You definitely do not want the first bout of soreness to happen on the second day of a hike with all your co-workers...at least I wouldn't.

I know this wasn't your question, but since you're worried about dying I thought I should mention it. As long as you don't feel like you're dying, the trip will probably be a lot of fun.
posted by creasy boy at 3:06 AM on June 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


While you're buying the boots get a decent pair of walking socks from the same kind of specialist shop. The socks will make a big difference for a relatively small amount of money.
posted by selton at 3:06 AM on June 7, 2009


Oh, one more thing - get those liners and wool socks first, because you want to be wearing them when you're trying on the boots to get a good fit.

Also, ignore that bit in the middle of my comment about a one-week hike - I started imagining the West Coast Trail (hey, at least you're not doing that, right?).
posted by Dasein at 3:07 AM on June 7, 2009


Your question is about boots, but you prefaced it with a bunch of panic about being out of shape, which has nothing whatsoever to do with boots. So I'll address the first part -- you'll be fine. Hiking is just walking, you know. People go on hikes to enjoy themselves, not as a competition. If you get out of breath, just say, "I need a second to catch my breath," no one will judge you. Chances are your team won't even set a pace that requires that, especially if it's some company team building crap where everyone else is as out of shape as you are. Just calm down and have fun.
posted by cj_ at 3:17 AM on June 7, 2009


To break in your shoes, wear them some every day (walking, not sitting). Do it in the afternoon or evening, not morning, as your feet swell slightly as the day goes on. It's pretty critical -- I cut a vacation short one year due to my boots not being broken it. If your feet hurt and get blisters, after a while it's all you can think about.

If after a few weeks, they still feel uncomfortable, take them to a shoe store and have them stretched. Point out to them exactly where the boots rub, so they can work on that specific area.

Good socks are critical. Upthread, someone suggested thin cotton socks. My advice goes counter to that. I suggest wool hiking socks. Wool is warmer, but it keeps your feet from being sweaty. The sock is bulkier at the toes and heels, which protects your feet. My favorite hiking socks are Fox River's Fairweather socks, which have elastic-like stuff right at the arch of your foot -- the sock doesn't slip down your foot, and the elastic stuff feels fantastic. They are lightweight and don't itch. Perfect sock. They aren't listed on REI's website, but I bought them there. I've also seen them at Academy and other sports stores.

REI is expensive, but they've got a very good selection and generally knowledgeable staff (compared to other sporting goods stores). At least, shop there and talk with the people who work there about what makes a good boot and such for you, then take that knowledge with you when you go to other stores to compare brands and prices. Be upfront: These are your first boots, you may or may not do other hikes in the future (so you don't want to spend lots of money), and you're not sure what to get. They can talk to you about what's best for the hiking you're going to do and for your foot.

For clothes: Layers are your friend. Something very light and wicking, with something slightly warmer over it if you think the weather warrants it, and something to protect you from rain (like a rain poncho) in your pack.
posted by Houstonian at 3:24 AM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have done some backpacking off and on since the 1970's, and am probably in worse shape than you, but would still love to go on that trip. The advice above is good, and I have a few other thoughts. First of all, absolutely take the advice to wear your boots as much as you can for at least a week; nothing ruins a hike like blisters. Talk to the folks where you buy your shoes about socks; I tend to avoid thin socks in favor of thicker wool blends such as Smartwool but you will find that silk, polypropylene, and other materials have their fans. Your break-in period will also give you a chance to try out different socks. A 20-30 pound pack is not too bad and I have generally found that trails tend to be over-rated in terms of difficulty. 23 miles in 2 days is a lot, but if you are having some of your supplies packed in for you that will make it a lot easier.

As for brands of boots, I have a 30 year old pair of Vasques that are still usable but weigh a ton (I also take one trip every few years for the last 20 years or so, so it's not like I have spent months through-hiking the Appalachian Trail); I recently got a pair of their walking shoes that are much lighter and very nice. My current hiking boots are Asolos that are much lighter and more care-free, since they are gore-tex rather than leather. There are other brands out there that are good too, those are the one I have experience with. Have fun; I am jealous of you!
posted by TedW at 3:24 AM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Location specific answer: Don't stress too much about the Juan De Fuca! I've never been super fit or particularly a hiker, but the Mother definitely is. I spent my teen years being repeatedly dragged away from my lovely books and forced to do fair chunks of the JdF. It's totally manageable (not at all like the epic west-coast trail) and there are some ridiculously beautiful beaches along the way.

(Bonus: if you get in trouble, the Mother's in the search and rescue team that's coming to get you out... say hi from me.)
posted by rhinny at 4:20 AM on June 7, 2009


Why is it too late to back out? Give any excuse you like. "My old high school track injury is acting up. My aunt has fallen deathly sick and wants to see me one last time."
Making a poor decision about the hike can be corrected. Don't go!
posted by boby at 4:25 AM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I lead outdoor teambuilding programs for a living. No one should ever feel like they have participate or lose favor at work. It should be voluntary, if it isn't it might not be a great place to work. Talk to your coworkers about your concerns. If you choose to go, they might carry some of your weight. As far as footware goes, I wouldn't buy boots, but rather lightweight trail shoes by Nike or Asics that you might use again after the trip. Good socks are a must. I second smartwool. Don't buy anything you won't use again. If you do go, try to frame it as an an adventure/learning experience rather than a jail sentence.
posted by Xurando at 4:46 AM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


A few points from a lapsed, but quite experienced, backpacker:
1. Lighter boots are generally better. Ankle support is mostly a myth (boots don't really provide support to your ankles- your foot does), but the weight on your feet is not. Personally, I would use trail runners rather than boots (unless you have a tendency to roll your ankles).

2. 20-30lbs is quite a range. Make it 20. Better still, make is 18 if you can; only bring things you absolutely need. A rolled-up fleece makes a great pillow.

3. Socks are NOT the place to skimp. Wool socks (many swear by sock liners, but I stopped using them for warm weather when I switched to trail runner) are a must. Cotton is very bad. It's also remarkably uncomfortable.

4. For clothing- go with layers. Several lightweight layers can provide significant warmth. No cotton!

5. This need not be horribly intense. You'll probably be a bit tired/slightly sore, but this is not some sort of death march. Certainly start walking/hiking now, especially with a bit of weight. Make sure your pack fits well.

Good luck, and have fun! (Or, back out if you're really not comfortable. It is, in fact, always an option).
posted by JMOZ at 5:18 AM on June 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Another thought is that if this is put on by a professional guide company, you might want to remember that they make their money by making sure customers enjoy their trip. They will probably work with you to make sure you are not too stressed.
posted by TedW at 5:37 AM on June 7, 2009


Buy this!

It's small enough that you won't regret taking it if you don't use it, but you'll be really grateful to have it if you do use it. Twenty-three miles with a bleeding blister would be no fun at all.

You can do it--try to treat it step by step, moment by moment, instead of thinking of it as a huge monolithic physically torturous task you have to accomplish all at once. And have fun. It sounds awesome!
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:43 AM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Best answer: If you really want to go on this trip I would recommend that you start doing situps now. You will need that stomach support to help you carry the pack. I consider this one of the most challenging parts of hiking/backpacking, probably because I don't have that core strength.

I'm going to disagree with many of the above posters and say that 12 miles is quite a lot for a day, especially for someone who isn't experienced. So please don't allow someone to bypass your concerns. You are better off voicing them now rather than 1/2 way down the path.
posted by aetg at 6:28 AM on June 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you've got until the end of the month, the you've got time to burly up a little bit before you go. Absolutely take the advice that's been offered on taking long walks with loads so you can get used to it and get your soreness out of the way. I'd recommend a course of squats and lunges leg presses and so on to add some strength as well. Work yourself to your limit in the early weeks, then dial it down as the hike approaches so you won't be achy. Also - STRETCH A LOT between now and then. If you don't exercise a lot, your first few stretching sessions will be tough at first but eventually so, so awesome and worth it. You might not even know how stiff you are!

So, yeah, limber up, grab what additional muscle mass you can and dial your workouts way back about half a week or so before the day of departure. Pace yourself and have a lot of fun!
posted by EatTheWeek at 6:29 AM on June 7, 2009


Regarding blister prevention and treatment, several companies make gel pads that are great when applied to either hot spots (blisters in the making) or full blown wounds. Two I know about are 2nd Skin and Skin-on-Skin. They keep the area sterile and prevent it from drying out. Once applied, leave them on until the end of the hike; you can use water to recharge their moisture holding properties. As an out-of-shape hiker in new boots, I never would have made it down, across and up the Grand Canyon without them!

Speaking of water, bring along a good water bottle and use it. Oh and when you need a break, you can always pause to "rehydrate" or "admire the view."
posted by carmicha at 6:48 AM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I strongly agree with JMOZ that lightweight boots are the key here--both to not slowing you down and avoiding blisters. A traditional pair of leather boots will feel like huge blocks of concrete. Get the kind with nylon uppers and a goretex liner. Buy them at REI. Have fun.
posted by LarryC at 7:45 AM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


REI is a good place to go for what you want, and I also think trail runners or low hikers would be fine. I also think go for a couple pairs of Smartwool socks (which feel very soft) rather than old fashioned liners and heavy wool socks. This is more comfortable, cooler, and more likely to be worn again.

Moleskin is the most important thing you'll bring! (Along with a small knife with scissors to cut it.) Put the moleskin on any part of your feet as soon as it feels even a little bit uncomfortable.

For clothes: get a sports bra that's comfortable. You'll want a different fit than you'd get for short, high intensity sports like running, because you won't have as much impact and you'll want it to be comfortable enough to wear all day.

Wear shorts that will be comfortable (ie non-chafing) for all day walking. You don't need to spend a ton of money on hardcore gear. Yes, cotton is the death fabric, but a cotton t-shirt isn't the worst thing you could wear, as long as you have a dry shirt and warmer jacket for cool evenings.

It's pretty easy, I think, to get dehydrated when you're hiking, if you haven't done it before. Make sure to drink LOTS of water--some women in particular don't drink enough because they don't like peeing in the woods, but nothing feels worse than being dehydrated on the trail.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:48 AM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you're uncomfortable about wanting a rest, one convenient excuse is to stop to take pictures. But I bet there are other people in your company who will want to rest more than you.

A little detail about the boots - your feet will swell slightly when you're walking all day, and your feet will tend to slide forward when you're walking downhill. You will want boots with a little extra room at the toe, maybe 1/2 size larger than your normal shoe size. Then you have to tie them snugly to keep your feet from sliding around too much. I have had good results from looping the laces around behind my ankle just before the top lacing rings.
posted by one at 7:48 AM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hike 10 miles a day in my Pumas (though without much of a pack). Unless the trail involves snakes or a lot of wet, slippery rocks, I'd think lightweight hiking shoes are probably fine.

fwiw, 10 miles is a morning hike- it doesn't take all day. So 12 miles a day should be completely possible.
posted by small_ruminant at 7:58 AM on June 7, 2009


If you decide to go on this trip, go to REI and consult with someone in their footwear department. They're usually quite knowledgable, and will be able to give you much better advice than an internet forum, simply by virtue of speaking to you face to face, and having you try on several pairs of boots.

If you are not sure about this trip, it is not too late to back out.

You say you are out of shape. Depending on your level of fitness you might be OK on this trip, but then again you might find yourself 10 miles from help and unable to walk. Your muscles aren't conditioned for this activity, and you may or may not end up with sufficiently broken-in footwear.

Please have a contingency plan if you go on this trip. JDF looks like an awesome trail, but backcountry hiking is no joke and can be extremely "tough" even for conditioned individuals, in spite of some other opinions offered here.
posted by brassafrax at 8:06 AM on June 7, 2009


Best answer: Also, a lot of people in here seem to be vey excited to show off their hiking knowledge. This poor girl doesn't even want to go on the trip. She doesn't need the fire hose of knowledge aimed at her.

Don't spend $500 gearing up for this trip if you're being pressured into going and never expect to hike again. Just get a good pair of boots and bring some regular t-shirts and light, comfortable pants. Don't spend this month killing yourself trying to get in shape, because you'll just be wiped out before the hike. Do some light walking with your boots, carry the pack to get used to it, and don't do anything the week before the hike.

Good luck.
posted by brassafrax at 8:23 AM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Best answer: don't want to burst anyone's bubble, but 12 miles (almost 20 km) on the JDF trail is a long way. it's not nearly as developed as the west coast trail, and there are a lot of low but steep, muddy trails to navigate. you'll go, at best, half the speed you would on level ground.

but it's not hard as coast trails go, and there'll be plenty of places to rest and look at the scenery.

depending on the weather, the trail may be bone-dry or knee-deep mud. it's been hot and dry for the last week, so much of the mud may be gone. depends on how much it rains from now until your trip.

if it's wet, your feet will get wet and there's basically nothing you can do about it. i'd get some not-too-expensive lightweight hikers and just be vigilant about where you step. a 20-30 lb pack is very light (some on the WCT will pack 50-80lbs), and you, being young, shouldn't have too much trouble.
posted by klanawa at 8:51 AM on June 7, 2009


Best answer: Former REI footwear employee here. Expect to pay between $120 and $160 for a good midrange boot. (Last time I checked, anyway). You don't need massive hiking boots that you can strap crampons to, but I don't personally know anyone who regretted buying a mid-ankle hiking boot instead of a lightweight trail runner for a big hiking trip.

Full leather boots will last you longer, but those nylon mesh/partial leather/gore-tex blends are lighter weight and will probably be a little easier to break in. Wherever you go, make sure the employee starts off by sizing your foot properly ... people don't stay at their same foot size forever, you know. As you age and gain weight, people generally lose a bit of arch and their foot starts to flatten and get 1/2 a size longer (or more.)

Oh, and if you decide to go somewhere less expensive than REI, whatever you do, avoid the brand Hi-Tech. Sure, they have $45 boots but you'll be lucky if those boots last you 12 miles.

I swear by Smartwool. If your feat get very hot, I would avoid Thorlo socks at all costs, and the same with the REI brand socks. I don't like liners (my feet get too hot) but for a lot of people they're a lifesaver. Fox River makes a really nice pair of liners for about 6 bucks.

You should also consider buying an aftermarket insert for the boot such as Superfeet. They run about $30 and have about 6 different sizes (the employee measures your foot, figures out where the insert hits your arch and then cuts the insert down to the exact size of the boot you buy.) I probably sold Superfeet to about 70 % of the people who bought boots from me at REI. Almost everyone loved them, except for those rare people who don't have an arch at all. The flatfooted do not enjoy Superfeet.

I think you'll have a really good time on this trip. Make sure to wear whatever boot you buy for a few weeks before the trip starts.
posted by Happydaz at 9:02 AM on June 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


I live in BC and hike in the Lower Mainland and on the West Coast of BC.

First of all, go to Flickr and do a search on photos of the "Juan de Fuca" trail (or JDF for short). You will see that it's a gorgeous gorgeous trail, with gentle terrain, some suspension bridges, some rocky bits, some ups and downs. Begin to visually prepare your beautiful journey with the help of photographs. Here is the PDF of the map of the trail

From your description and distance (esp if it's an out and back hike), it appears you are doing the easier and moderate parts only, and that is what they are - moderate.

You will be walking on very well traveled terrain. This is ***NOT*** the West Coast trail, which is further North, but it's also not a walk in the park.

Suggestion Two: get hiking poles. If you are not used to hiking, then they will be a godsend for you. I've been hiking in BC for close to two decades, and my poles are still a godsend. Four feet are better than two! Poles help you navigate more challenging terrain (say, crossing a little creek) or get up a hill. Think of them as your handrail on a trail. Many many people use them, you will not be alone with them. You don't need an expensive pair - and if budget is an issue, then bring a friend's ski poles.

Suggestion Three: your socks. I swear by injinji socks - they are available at REI. They are high-tech toe socks. They do not have any seams in them. They will prevent your feet from blistering. Also, they are the lightest sock that you can buy. This will not be a sunk cost after your hike - you can continue to use these socks well after your hike is over.

Your feet are the most important component for this hike. Others have given you good advice about the boots, but don't forget the socks. And don't forget to take care of your feet every night during your hike. Clean them, massage them, watch (and patch) any blisters.

Suggestion Four: bring a rain jacket, rain pants if you have them, and a set of clothes that you will only wear inside of the tent. When it rains over there, it pours. It doesn't last long however. A dry set of clothes to change into (if only dry undies, shorts and a tshirt) will be a great morale boost in rough weather. Keep these dry at all times, wrap into a plastic bag and tuck them deep into your pack.

This is a gorgeous, wild, accessible area of the West Coast of Canada. You will meet families, people of all ages on the trail. It's a big experience, but one that regular people can do. This is why it's very popular.

Look at the pictures, visualize your journey, buy good gear, take care of your feet. And when you return, share your pictures.

Please go, you will not regret this. All the best to you.
posted by seawallrunner at 10:38 AM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Who knew the hivemind was so outdoorsy! Thank you all so much for your input. I wrote out a list of points to remember and am about to go to REI to place myself and credit card in their hands. I think I'm going to be more comfortable in fabric as opposed to leather boots, it seems like I should be trying to minimize the weight I'll have to carry.

I am shamefaced about all of the complaining in my original question. I am thankful to be getting this opportunity, especially since the company will be paying for our flight, much of the gear, and a hotel for the last night of the trip. I am sure that it will be beautiful and I don't think I've ever been to a forest like the one we'll go to. I just don't want to be a burden on more experienced hikers having a good time and I don't want to look a fool in front of people I want to hire me at the end of the summer.

A few more questions: someone noted the importance of stretching in the (only two!) weeks before the hike, are there any particular stretches you'd recommend for hiking? And also what kinds of food should I bring? When I'm done working out (not a common occurrence), I'm usually not very hungry but I can see that this will be a massive calorie expenditure and I'll need/want to eat more than normal.
posted by anthropomorphic at 11:07 AM on June 7, 2009


Since everyone's said everything I was going to say about boots and socks, my advice about food - is this food for snacking on, or are you expected to bring dinner/lunch food as well? - is to hie thee to Trader Joe's and stock up on gorp. Or you can make your own - almonds, dried cranberries, and dark chocolate chips are a favorite. Gorp is lightweight and calorie-dense, with sugar, carbs, and protein. And deliciousness.
posted by rtha at 11:34 AM on June 7, 2009


Why hasn't a San Francisco native mentioned Sports Basement? The REI in SF is really small and never seems to have clothing stocked in my size. The Sports Basement in the Presidio is humongous and carries the gear you're looking for. It might also be cheaper. I've never been to the one on Bryant.
posted by strangecargo at 12:20 PM on June 7, 2009


You are absolutely right about going with fabric instead of heavy leather boots. You don't need hiking boots for this trail. You might even be more comfortable in regular athletic shoes or cross trainers that you would wear around town. Hiking boots will make your legs sore just lifting them for 23 miles. I do most of my hiking in just running shoes.

It sounds like you will have just one overnight stop on the trail. You will need two pairs of socks -- Smartwool is good. Put on one pair at the start of the trail. Your feet and running shoes may get wet but so what. This isn't winter and you will hardly notice.

At the first night camp, take off your wet socks and put on dry ones. Then put on a pair of Gortex oversocks and put your wet shoes back on. The Gortex oversocks keep your undersocks dry from the wet shoes and your feet toasty warm. In the morning, remove the Gortex oversocks and just wear your dry socks. This method is much more comfortable and less effort than heavy, energy draining hiking boots that are generally unnecessary.
posted by JackFlash at 3:10 PM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anthropomorphic, it looks like you've gotten tons of footwear advice and are probably going to be fine in that department.

I'm going to root you on and say, even if you feel out of shape now, I'll bet you'll be able to do it.

My suggestion (as a great big out of shape lady who ran my first 5K this morning, woot!) is to make a plan for how to get used to the challenge ahead of you, and stick to it as best you can. Do something every other day, and stretch yourself just a little bit more at each session. Take it easy on the day between.

Like maybe this, based on a relaxed pace of 3 miles and hour:

Monday: 1 hour/3 mile walk with empty pack on your back
Wednesday: 1.3 hour/4 mile walk with 5 lbs in pack
Friday: 1.6 hour/5 mile walk with 10 lbs in pack
Sunday: two iterations 1 hour/3 mile walk w/10 lbs in pack, with lunch break between
Tuesday: two iterations of 1.3 hour/4 mile walk w/10 lbs in pack, w/rest break
Thursday: two iterations of 1.3 hour/4 mile walk w/ 15 lbs in pack, w/rest break
Saturday: two iterations of 1.6 hour/5 mile walk w/15 lbs in pack, w/rest break

Know ahead of time that you will get tired and you will get sore, *but* you will find yourself a whole lot stronger as you go along and you will notice!

Good luck--it sounds like it will be a great trip. You can do it!
posted by Sublimity at 3:12 PM on June 7, 2009


I'm glad you asked about stretching as I was about to post about it anyway. What works for me is the yoga Sun Salutation series, followed by a few standing poses like warrior pose and the triangle pose. Makes all the difference. And stretch again later in the day, maybe after lunch before hitting the trail.

Nthing the recommendations for hiking poles. Very very helpful.

Trade massages with a friend at the end of the day. Really helps work out the lactic acid in the muscles.
posted by conrad53 at 3:46 PM on June 7, 2009


Adding on to Sublimity's suggestion- I would do these practice hikes in the clothes you'll be wearing. It'll be nice to know ahead of time if your shorts are going to ride up, or the seams in your pants are going to give you a thigh rash or something.

Personally, I found out the hard way that a couple of my bras that chafe my skin when I sweat.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:58 PM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


OK, lots of good ideas here. But no real mention of getting used to the demands of walking over rough ground. Try to do some of your practice walking on surfaces that are not level and paved. Maybe get some work friends to come with you on a weekend afternoon's walk somewhere rocky with a few ups and downs? Try to find somewhere similar you can walk evenings.

I think some of the advice above about exercise is very off-putting, but if you can't strengthen your ankles and knees by walking on real rough surfaces then look up skiing exercises, which are intended for office potatoes about to try leg-wrenchingly demanding exercise! And even if you walk miles on the flat you need a bit of hill-climbing or stair-climbing to build that kind of stamina.
posted by Idcoytco at 4:14 PM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm gonna come at this from the non-hiker's perspective, which is what you are. I am not overweight but not in shape/don't work out.

I grew up in Manhattan: the farthest I ever walked at one time was maybe ten blocks on flat ground or up a flight of stairs in the subway. I went to high school in Santa Barbara where we had mandatory camping trips each year with mandatory hikes (Half Dome, Clouds Rest, and others that I don't remember). I HATED them. I still look back and hate them. I really tried, but I was always in the back group, my muscles hurt, I was tired, I was thirsty, I was hot and sweaty, my feet hurt, and I was concentrating so much on "keeping up" and "being a good sport" that I hardly got to appreciate anything around me (and I am definitely outdoorsy in a "sit outside for hours and look at the clouds/grass/trees/bugs" way). I don't enjoy exercise for exercise's sake. I don't think physical exertion is fun. I never "got into it," I never got used to carrying huge bags on my back.

You didn't describe the rest of your company -- are they hikers? If they are all gung-ho about "bagging the peak" or whatever, you'll feel out of place. Many people will probably be good-natured and helpful and understanding (most were with me), but some might be irritated that you're a "whiner" or are holding up the pace. It might have been my own insecurities, but I felt a lot of pressure to keep up with the group and keep my mouth shut about needing a rest.

Hiking in hard. Hiking does not equal walking. Talk to someone at your office that you trust or someone that you know who is a hiker, someone who knows you and your level of fitness, and ask them if it's doable. You might love it, and that would be so awesome for you. But I wanted to give a counterpoint to the "hiking is awesome, dude" posts upthread.

And if you do go, definitely bring moleskin.
posted by thebazilist at 7:21 PM on June 7, 2009


I went on a similar two-day hike last year, something like 12-13 miles each day with steep terrain. I like hiking but do it very infrequently, and I was really out of shape, and the rest of the hikers were experienced so the pace was fast. People were nice, I survived and had fun, and it wasn't so bad until I got home. For the couple days after that I had pretty bad knee joint pain, stiffness, leg swelling, etc, but the views on the trail made all the suffering worth it.

In retrospect, I was really glad I did the following two things:
(1) I took some ibuprofen with me, which proved very helpful when my legs got really sore (on the night of Day 1 and on the morning of Day 2).
(2) On the night of Day 1, at the campsite, my experienced-hiker-friend (EHF) saw that I was in quite a lot of pain. She suggested that I fill up one of my water bottles with very hot water (prepped on the camp stove) and take it with me to bed. I put the Nalgene under my legs inside my sleeping bag and it was just heavenly... I don't think I would have been able to sleep otherwise.

About food. Strenuous hiking is obviously very energy consuming, but it was especially so for me, and I felt much better when I started munching on stuff occasionally WHILE walking (yet another pro tip from the EHF). I really wished I had packed a lot more of the granola bar / chocolate candy bar type snacks, which I could simply pull from the side pockets of my pack without slowing my pace.
posted by nemutdero at 11:35 PM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


In the case the OP is checking this thread still, I'd be curious to know how the hike went.

did my own much shorter and easier first hike a couple months ago, I feel for ya . . .
posted by booksherpa at 5:15 PM on July 6, 2009


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