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By Matt Payne, 

This is the third and final installment of my tips to hiking in Colorado series. You can go back and see my beginner tips and my intermediate tips for a refresher course. These tips are for the advanced hiker, someone that is experienced with hiking and backpacking, and clearly understands the basics outlined in the other two articles.

1. Blister avoidance

If you’ve ever been on a long hike, you have probably had a few blisters in your day. Avoiding blisters is not as hard as it may seem. A lot of hikers swear by putting duct tape over their heels before putting on their boots. Some claim this will prevent blistering. Try it out  – you might be surprised. Secondly, wear liner socks. These help wick moisture away from your feet, making it harder for blisters to form. Lastly, wear good boots and make sure to break them in before you go hiking. This may seem like a beginner lesson but I’m always surprised to see people wearing flip-flops or tennis shoes on long and arduous hikes. Good boots provide ankle support and keep your feet dry. Additionally, Moleskin is a great product to use in the field if a blister should begin.

2. Research your hike before you go. Again, this may seem elementary, but you would be surprised at how many people just go hiking up into the mountains before actually familiarizing themselves with a map of the area. If you’re planning a long hike, take the time to look at the routes and trails and any escape routes you may need to use if the weather gets bad.

3. Avoid hiking in the afternoon above treeline. Lightning does not kill a lot of people in Colorado, but it does have the potential to. Lightning safety is very important and its also really simple. If you can, start your hikes as early as possible, even before sunrise. This will ensure that you are down from treeline before the afternoon thunderstorms. Granted, there is always the possibility for morning storms, so be sure to research the weather report before you begin hiking.

4. Pace yourself. The key to a long and steep hike is to keep an even and slow pace. A lot of difficult hikes are accomplished simply through mental endurance. A slow pace will ensure that your mental attitude is positive.

5. Learn wilderness first aid and bring a first aid kit with you. Wilderness first aid is a different type of first aid class that teaches you first aid techniques for wilderness situations. For example, you might learn how to create a sling out of materials found in the woods. You will also learn about how to recognize the signs of altitude sickness and how to treat and prevent it.

By Matt Payne, 

I read far too many stories of beginner and experienced hikers alike getting lost or dying in the mountains. Usually the circumstances are all the same: the hiker was not fully prepared. These guides will give you the basic knowledge to prevent this from happening to you. Staying with the same format, this article will highlight three important tips to hiking in Colorado.

1. Wear layers!

Dressing in multiple layers is very important, regardless of the season. Your clothing should be made of a synthetic material, never cotton. If you’re like me and go for very long hikes, you may start hiking very early in the day and finish in the afternoon. Having a nice warm pair of gloves or mittens and a stocking hat becomes even more important if you’re planning on hiking at higher altitudes, irregardless of the season. Even in July and August, the temperatures above 12,000 ft. can be life-threatening due to the wind chill. Wearing layers and coming prepared can prevent and / or mitigate this.

2. Know your location!

Anyone interested in survival (which should be everyone) should make sure that they have the appropriate maps of where they will be hiking, especially if you are hiking in the wilderness, at high elevations, or far away from a large metropolitan area. My personal preference is to carry a GPS with me that has TOPO! maps loaded on it. I also would highly recommend that you learn how to use a compass and how to apply it to a Topo map.

3. Tell people where you are going to hike at!

It may sound simple, but letting your friends and loved ones know where you are going to be hiking and sticking to that plan is very important in the event that you get lost or injured. If people know where you are at and you do not come home on time, they can properly notify search and rescue teams of your general location. A friend of mine even goes so far as to send those people a full page email on his blood-type, allergies, medications, expected date of return, and search and rescue contact information for where he is hiking in case he does not return when he says he will. These steps will hopefully ensure that if you were to become lost or injured that you will be found and rescued in a timely fashion.

By Matt Payne,

In my travels, I’ve noticed that many people are unprepared for the rigors and particulars of hiking in Colorado. Having led many backpacking trips at Colvig Silver Camps, I taught the importance of what I call “the big three.”

1. Water!

Make sure you bring enough water for your hike. People often take far too little water on their hikes. I typically bring about 10 oz / mile of hiking. So if you are hiking 10 miles total, 100 oz. should be good. My preference is to bring a 100 oz. Camelbak and keep another 32 oz. Nalgene of Gatorade. If you are planning on hiking for longer distances or over multiple days, it is essential to bring a high-quality water filter. I used to rely on the emergency iodine water tablets, but I’ve learned that they do not properly kill Cryptosporidium, a parasite that can live in the intestine of humans and animals which is passed in the stool of an infected person or animal. Both the disease and the parasite are commonly known as “Crytpo.” It is also possible to drink too much water, known as water intoxication. As a general rule of thumb, the human body can typically only process about 8 oz. of water every 15 minutes. Additionally, if you are hiking at high altitudes and are not acclimated to that altitude, you will want to drink even more water than normal in order to prevent Acute Mountain Sickness or “AMS.”

2. Sunscreen!

Even in the winter months, the sun’s UV rays are extremely damaging to your skin. These UV rays can result in severe sunburns and possibly skin cancer, otherwise known as melanoma. It is therefore very important to ensure that you are properly applying a high quality sunscreen (SPF 30) at regular intervals during your hike.

3. Raincoat!

It is vitally important to make sure you bring a very nice nylon “shell.” A nice lightweight shell can stop the wind, keep you dry, and keep you warm, or even be used as a shelter during an emergency. Staying dry is one of the most important components to survival in the wilderness. My personal brand preference is North Face, Marmot, or Columbia. I also like to wear a shell that allows for a fleece lining to be zipped into it.

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