6 Things You Didn’t Think to Google About Backpacking

woman hiking in the mountains in california
woman hiking in the mountains in california

Let’s think about something for a second… how many people do you know that Google different diets and weight loss processes, but never see any actual weight loss results?


There is an overload of information online, all telling you to try different things. You jump from one resource to another, hoping that this one will be it. This will be the solution to help you lose those pesky 15 pounds. But nothing changes. If anything, you usually end up gaining weight.


Haven’t we all been there time and time again?!


Most of the time, you just end up so overwhelmed at the endless information, that you don’t even know where to start. Not to mention, these online resources rarely show you the bigger picture or give you all of the information.


They usually give you a snip of information just to make you feel like you’re learning something and making progress. 


That’s because you can’t Google your way up the mountain.


If you could just Google everything, wouldn’t you already have solved it, wouldn’t you have Googled yourself more backpacking confidence, and wouldn’t you already be out there hiking and backpacking?


Just like wouldn’t you already have lost the weight you wanted to lose?


Because what is the #1 thing Google won’t tell you?


What you’re missing!


There are things you don’t even know to look for, questions you don’t even know you need to ask! Until you’re out there in the wilderness and realize there’s something you don’t know. Then it’s too late and you have no cell reception to Google it. Do you really want to put yourself in that situation?


Which is why in this blog post, I’m going to cover several things that I can guarantee that you didn’t even think to Google about backpacking.


Always Have a Turn Around Time

If you’re day hiking, you’re going to want to have a turn around time. Whether or not to make it to your destination, this is the time you turn around and start hiking back to your car. This is so you’re not stuck hiking back in the dark. Now it’s important to always have a headlamp with you, but it’s just generally good practice, especially since you’re going to be more tired at night.


If you’re backpacking, you’re going to want to plan your days so you’re out of camp and hiking early enough to make it to your campground the coming night.


Also a rule to follow, you need to be off of high mountain passes and peaks (really anything about 11,000 feet or higher) by 11am to 1pm, so you don’t get stuck up there during a storm.


Always Factor In the Altitude

On that note about altitude, let’s talk about factoring in altitude into your hikes. If you’re hiking at altitude, you MUST give yourself a few days to acclimate. Altitude sickness is a real deal, and yes people die from it. I don’t want that to happen to you, so please pay attention here.


Generally sleep at 10,000 feet or below for your first few nights at altitude. You’re going to have a miserable night otherwise. Climb high, sleep low.


For more on altitude, read through this full blog post.


Cold Weather Drains Battery Life

Did you know that when it’s cold out, it drains your electronics battery life faster? You might be someone who takes the bare minimum with them on a backpacking trip in terms of electronics, or you might be more like me where you have your phone, your Garmin, your power bank, several camera batteries, etc.


It’s true, I backpack with quite a lot of electronics. Some of them, like the Garmin and my phone, are for safety. While others, like the camera, camera batteries, and my phone, so I can take the beautiful photos you see, create content, and share the experience to help you get outdoors. Either way, you want to do what you can to extend your battery life out there. It’s not like you can just plug your phone into a tree.


Otherwise, you’re also just carrying dead weight around, and who does that help?


So, sleep with all of your electronics in your sleeping bag. Put everything into a beanie so you’re not looking for it all over the place in the morning, stick it by your feet and call it a day. Also add in your iso propane fuel. Especially on longer trips because it can depressurize when it’s cold out and then you’ll be stuck out there with no fuel eating cold soaked freeze dried meals.

Lost a Toenail While Hiking?

If you’ve ever lost a toenail on a hike, the solution is simple… your shoes are too small.


And before you start telling me that they’re not, hear me out.


I actually had this conversation with a friend. He was telling me that he lost his toenail on some hike, and it fell off and it’s been a while and it hasn’t grown back. Well first of all, if you lose a toenail, don’t panic, it usually takes a year or longer to grow back. I’ve lost a few toe nails before I learned my lesson about sizing up in shoes.


But the first thing I said was that his hiking shoes were too small. And he starts arguing with me, telling me they’re not, and back and forth we went for a bit.


This is a common mistake, so it’s cool if you didn’t know, but most of us wear our street shoe size when hiking. But when you’re going downhill, your toes keep touching the front (even if you don’t notice) and do that for miles, eventually you will lose a toenail or two.


So the solution? Size up your hiking boots!


Always get half a size to a full size bigger. I wear a womens 8.5 in street shoes and a 9.5 in my hiking boots. If you’re sizing up and your toes still touch the front when you’re going downhill (try doing this at the store or at home), then you need a different pair. There are a million different types and brands and models to choose from, your perfect shoe is out there.


Before I did the John Muir Trail, I was desperately trying to find a shoe that was sturdy enough but had cushion. I tried on the Altra trail runners every single thru-hiker raves about and gosh they were soft. But it didn’t matter how much I sized up or how I laced them, my toes always touched the front vs I have a friend who wears them, with no issues.


Footwear is such a personal choice, but the key here is… size up your shoes and don’t let your toes touch the front.


It’s Not Just About Pain Management

If you’re like most, you’ve been in the business of pain management when it comes to backpacking. I know I was there too.


Instead of getting to the root cause of my knees, I would do pain management. I would wear KT tape, take endless Advil, try different supplements, and so forth. Those things help, but they’re not the solution.


Because gear is not the solution. Strength training is.


Now, there’s nothing wrong with taking supplements and using KT tape when needed. But by only relying on those things, you’re never dealing with the root of the problem.


It’s like when you have a cold and you take cold medication. You still have the cold, you’re not healthy and recovered, you’re just managing the symptoms so you can go to work and try to be a semi-functioning adult.


By not training correctly to prevent pain, you’re leaving your body weak to what could turn into a bigger injury.


I did that with my knees. I kept pain managing, pushing myself to harder trails, until my body reached a breaking point and my knees basically gave out. Which after I learned that I needed to use strength training not just for the sake of it, or to try and have abs, but to actually make my body strong and prepare it for hiking and backpacking.


Basically… you want to train your weakness.


It’s not just about strength training, it’s about being mindful about what exercises you’re doing that are going to help your body get stronger.


Now, this is a bigger conversation that we just don’t have the ability to cover in this blog post. Which I go in depth in my course, Limitless Hiker Academy and actually teach you how to train correctly and do strength training correctly. Join the waitlist below to be the first to know when I open the doors.


For now, I’ll leave you with two blog posts. The first is a general breakdown of training for hiking (we get into more detail inside LHA) and my blog on what I learned to prevent knee pain.


  • Armida Seifert

    July 13, 2021

    enjoying learning. Love the outdoors.


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