What Do You Need to Get Started with Hiking and Backpacking?

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There are two parts to the answer to the question of how to get started with hiking and backpacking:

  1. Where can I learn the basic skills to be safe and comfortable in the outdoors?
  2. What equipment and gear do I need?

The answer to the first part is to start local and the answer to the second is to use equipment you already have.

Go for a day hike.

You don’t need anything more than a good pair of shoes, a trail map (which you can typically find on the park web site), and a backpack to carry your essentials.

Wear the clothes that you normally would wear to the gym or when working in the yard. Something that breathes well and allows you to move.

Get a good pair of shoes. Start with a pair of cross-trainers if you are dipping your shoe in the water (yup, that was a pun).

Bring your normal allergy friendly snack and/or lunch and a bottle of water.

Have an insulated bag, similar to one you take for lunch or school, to keep in your backpack to carry your epi-pen, medication, and food at a stable temperature.

Once you’ve gotten a taste of day hikes, you can graduate to overnight and multi-day itineraries which can take you to more remote and scenic places.

Above all, just get started.

Enjoy the fresh air, the wind blowing through the trees, and the sound of running water. You will not want to stop!

SafeBites » Travel

Every state in the U.S. has a wonderful set of State Parks and one of them is sure to be near you. The America's State Parks web site provides a quick and easy way to look up local parks by State. This is how many people, including us, got started with hiking and backpacking.

» The American Hiking Society has more information to get you comfortable and informed about hiking and backpacking.

» Need some goals to aim for as you start out?  Michael Lanza, at The Big Outside, has a listing of 5 classic (age-appropriate) National Park Adventures for Families.

» You still need to get to the trailhead to begin your journey. Sometimes, that trailhead may be in an entirely different city. Allergic Living magazine's Comparison of Airlines’ Allergy Policies is a very useful resource to get you there safely.

SafeBites » Food

The owner of one of our favorite restaurants, Maureen at One Dish Cuisine, in her recent newsletter has a great article on the 3 types of food reactions:

  1. Auto-immune response; celiac disease
  2. Type I immediate IgE hypersensitivity immune response; commonly known as a food allergy
  3. Non-immediate (delayed) IgG & IgA response; commonly known as a food intolerance or food sensitivity.

» Backpacker magazine has an article on how to convince your friends to go winter camping. An additional benefit, for those with food allergies, is that the nature provided refrigeration comes in pretty handy when it comes to keeping food safe and edible!

SafeBites » Gear

There are often free and nearly free resources to learn new outdoor skills or to upgrade your skills. Your local state parks are a good place to start as they often have guided hikes and classes offered by park rangers or naturalists.

» You can also look into taking some "Outdoors 101" hiking and camping classes through outdoor schools from REI or Eastern Mountain Sports.  Or check to see if you can join a local hiking club who can connect you with local resources.

» In watching the frenzy that surrounded the recent Consumer Electronic Show, an item that caught our eye was a device called a "molecular spectrometer" from a company called Scio. Basically it is a device that allows you to scan anything — foods, drinks, pills, plants, and more — and get detailed information on the object’s chemical makeup. The science and applicability of this type of technology in detecting the top 8 food allergens on the go is TBD.

Hope you enjoyed this journal entry...

Anil John
Founder and Curator

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