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Hiking is an activity we can all take part in. But to make it a pleasant experience for everyone involved, it’s important that certain fundamental rules be respected so that your outing is enjoyable from start to finish. The following are some basic guidelines.
Most of the trails in the Eastern Townships are on private land. Landowners have signed right-of-way agreements with the trails’ managers. Staying on the trails shows you respect property rights – an easy way to help ensure the continued existence of our trails and maintain goodwill between all parties.
Seeing garbage discarded in nature can ruin the enjoyment of hikers who simply want to enjoy the natural surroundings, which are sometimes spoiled by other hikers. Picking up your garbage is acting responsibly and helping protect the environment.
Hunting season often varies from one location to the next, so, for your own safety, be sure to respect the dates during which hiking on certain trails is banned. Trail information sheets include the relevant details about hunting season.
Safety requires… planning
• Plan food and water quantity based on the distance you’re hiking and the weather. Remember that it’s just as important to stay hydrated in winter. Bring about 1.5 litres of water per person. Don’t drink water directly from non-approved natural springs as this can lead to severe stomachaches.
• Don’t hike alone. Your hiking companions will be a big help should you run into problems. If you do go alone, tell a friend or family member about your destination and your itinerary. Please sign in at the reception station, when there is one, and indicate the time you expect to return.
• Bring a first-aid kit for the group, in addition to survival tools (rope, knife, matches, etc.) for long forest or mountain hikes.
• Start with your feet
To enjoy a hike, a good pair of boots or shoes adapted to the type of trail you’ll be taking are a must. Get advice from experts at a specialized store to help you select the best shoe for your type of hiking.
Layering your clothing is strongly suggested for hiking. The layering principle (ideally three layers) lets you adapt appropriately and quickly to temperature changes by combining clothing selected for different properties. Each layer has a specific function.
1. The first layer should keep the skin dry by wicking perspiration to the outside. Underwear made with synthetic fibres will do the job nicely.
2. The second layer allows humidity to escape while preventing the loss of body heat. Polar fleece is very effective.
3. The third layer is non-insulated outerwear that provides protection against the weather. A good windproof and waterproof jacket in breathable microfibre such as Gore-Tex will protect you in summer or winter.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! A dreamy setting, beautiful winter light… but also cold that forces hikers to be more careful in their choice of equipment, clothing, and food. Here are a few tips to make life easier.
Winter poses a particular challenge for hikers. Warm and comfortable clothing would be effective when you stop but inappropriate during major exertion, such as breaking trail on snowshoes or climbing a steep slope. Similarly, clothing that’s appropriate for walking won’t be sufficient during stops at wind-exposed summits. The advice about layering your clothing becomes all the more important here.
No cotton or leather, bring on the polar fleece Cotton clothing is to be avoided at all costs in winter. Cotton absorbs sweat and loses all its insulating properties. Wearing cotton is like playing hide-and-seek with hypothermia. Normally you lose and it can even be fatal. Leather, often used to cover mittens and gloves, keeps moisture in and should be avoided. As with cotton, it takes a long time to dry. Polar fleece is the ideal material for winter activities. It maintains its insulating properties and stays comfortable even when wet. Polar fleece sweaters are well-known, but this fabric also works miracles in gloves, mittens, and tuques.
To avoid overheating, wear underwear made from synthetic materials and then one, two, or three layers of mid-weight polar fleece. You can remove a layer when you’re working hard, and add one when you stop. This system, without a windbreaker, enables you to walk quickly and exert considerable effort while staying dry. You’ll notice your clothing getting white. This is your sweat, which gets absorbed by the polar fleece and then beads on the outside of your sweater and freezes on contact with the cold air.
Wear a windbreaker if the wind is cutting through your layers of clothing and you can’t maintain your body heat. This is when it’s time to slow down because your body’s ability to aerate itself won’t be as efficient. Never leave home without a windbreaker!
Your backpack must contain additional clothing. If you’re wearing all your clothes, you haven’t properly planned your outing. If the weather turns bad, you’ll be sorry if you don’t have a change of clothes. An extra tuque will make the end of a rainy day much more enjoyable.
Two pairs of gloves and a pair of mittens is not overdoing it. Mittens are better at keeping the heat in than gloves. If you plan on handling snow or wet objects, bring an extra pair of gloves and keep them for these activities. Once you’re finished, take them off right away, wring them out well and keep them in a warm spot on your body, close to your stomach for example.
A thin pair of gloves (silk, polypropylene) will give you the necessary dexterity for eating or tying up your boots without using your bare hands. You can keep them on and layer another pair of gloves or mittens on top. A pair of waterproof mittens will keep your hands dry in the rain. Once again, polypropylene and polar fleece are the best materials for retaining heat. They’ll keep your hands warm even if they get wet.
If, in spite of this, your hands are still cold, move your arms by doing arm circles; drink hot liquid with your mittens on, or put your bare hands under your sweater, close to your chest or torso. As a last resort, use hand warmers. If you put them in a Ziploc-type bag you can reuse them.
Proper hydration helps your body better assimilate the food that gives you the needed fuel to exert yourself and resist the cold. So it’s important to drink, drink, and drink some more! Some hikers claim that you should drink less in winter so that you sweat less and urinate less frequently. The first belief is false and the second one probably is too. When it’s hot, your body sweats and this isn’t because your body contains too much water. If you want to sweat less, slow down or peel off a layer of clothing during exertion. Sweating in the cold isn’t dangerous if you’re properly dressed.
Don’t hesitate to urinate when you need to go. From a strictly thermodynamic point of view, it’s not at all clear that you should maintain an inert mass of liquid in the bladder rather than getting rid of it. By urinating you’re getting rid of hot liquid but not letting the cold in. By holding it in, you have to continue to provide the energy required to keep this liquid at body temperature. Regardless, in terms of comfort, the choice is clear. Hydrate yourself properly and urinate when you feel the need, you’ll be more comfortable.
Keep your hot liquids… hot
In very cold weather, hot beverages are recommended. A half-litre of hot chocolate, hot ginger tea with honey, or slightly sweetened herbal tea in a thermos are all very good at warming you up during snack or meal time. However, coffee should be avoided. And there’s nothing better than a thermos to keep the contents of your backpack warm!
Put your juice and water bottles in an insulated pouch, or even in a sock inside a pouch. The water bottle you keep within reach needs to be protected, especially if it’s outside your backpack. In very cold weather you can also heat the water in your bottle before putting it in your bag.
Tip: To prevent the water spout on your bottle from freezing
Place your water bottle upside down, with the spout on the bottom, after making sure that it’s properly closed. Ice will form on the surface of the water – at the bottom of the bottle – and not on the spout.
Suggestions for winter snacks
• Prepare a meal that’s easy to eat while wearing mittens or gloves.
• Bring food that won’t get too hard when it’s cold.
• Peel fruits in advance.
• Bring a meal that’s higher in calories than what you would bring in summer.
• Don’t stop too long if it’s very cold. Eat less but more frequently.