Stay Prepped for Your Hike During COVID-19

You may be sitting at home right now wondering what to do with yourself now that you’ve had to cancel or postpone your lifelong dream of thru-hiking a long trail. Once you’ve finished rewatching The Office, here are some things you can do (or continue doing) to stay prepped for your thru-hike. While you might not know when you’ll be able to hit the trail again, it never hurts to keep your outdoor skills sharp and to use this time to continue refining your gear.

1. Keep Testing Your Gear

Is it ever a bad idea to keep testing your gear? That fluffy new quilt is rated to 0 degrees, but what does that mean? Will it keep you warm at 0 degrees or just keep you alive? And how well ventilated is your tent? Have you tried it in 80% humidity? Try your sleep system in a variety of temperatures and conditions to see how it holds up and what to prepare for.

2. Clean Out and Update Your Gear Closet

Running your gear through multiple tests will help you determine what you do and don’t need. Peak hiking season during a normal, non-pandemic year is the perfect time to buy gear as sales and deals abound, so keep your eyes peeled, and check out used-gear forums and Craigslist. Do some digging! You’ve got time.

3. Stay Active

We all know how important it is to get into shape before starting a thru-hike, but what if you’re faced with waiting one more year? Hiking 15 miles a day or hitting the gym for three to four hours feels excessive now. And it is. But you can incorporate your fitness into a daily routine that you can maintain once you get back to work (or whatever it was you were doing before you planned your hike). If you’re quarantined, now is a good time to test-drive some new routines at home. If you were hiking before, start running a few days a week around the neighborhood to mix it up, being sure to follow all social-distancing standards at home and on local trails. Most CrossFit gyms are posting WODS online to do at home, and YouTube is loaded with great guided workouts in yoga, HIIT, no-equipment cardio, and more.

4. Get Techy

Use this downtime to learn more about how you want to document your hike. Even if you’re just using your cellphone, there are plenty of ways you can improve your photos and videos. Do a little research and practice at home.

If you plan to blog your adventure, start doing it now. Build your blog and start writing practice posts. Try posting when Wi-Fi is sketchy and see what happens. Will you lose your work if something crashes? That’d be good to know before you lose a whole hiking day’s worth of notes! Can you edit and save your work offline? Do you have a built-in spelling and grammar checker? These are the kind of things you’ll want to know ahead of time so you’re not dealing with these frustrations on the trail or wasting an entire zero day on your phone.

5. Start Researching Alternative Future Hikes

Photo by Jon Christopher Meyers

We all know about the AT, the PCT, and the CDT, but what about the Foothills Trail, the Great Divide Trail, or the new Centennial Trail? I’m just barely scratching the surface of the potential long hikes out there, and there’s never been a better time to start researching. Go beyond trail research and find out more about the country and towns it passes. My friends and I are planning to hike the Camino de Santiago in 2021 and we just learned that we’ll be hiking during a Holy Year, a time when the Camino is the busiest. Good to know when you’re planning to stay mostly in hostels and hotels.

6. Support Trail Towns

A lot of these small towns rely on tourism and passing hikers to keep their economy going, so why not contact them and see about buying a gift card or certificate in advance? You’ll be supporting them now in a time of need and investing in your future hike at the same time. We’ll be publishing a resource guide for buying online gift cards to hostels and trail town stores, so keep your eyes peeled.

7. Create a Bug-Out Bag

This one is more pandemic related, but you’ve already got most of the gear you’ll need, so why not? Having a bag ready with survival essentials isn’t just something preppers do. It’s actually kind of fun to put together and it’s good to have in case you need to flee your home in a hurry (think fire, flood, or tornado more than anything else).

A bug-out bag will look just like your hiking pack ( I recommend using the same pack or at least a similar) but with a few key additions like a passport, cash, and copies of important documents like Social Security cards and birth certificates. If you have kids, consider putting together backpacks for them with changes of clothes and snacks. If you have a dog, make sure you have their food, any medicines, and a leash and collar for them in your own bag. Your bug-out bag will be heavier than your hiking pack—that’s OK. You’re probably not going to be traversing the country with it or trying to crush 20-40 miles in a single day.

What are you doing to stay prepped for your big hike once the trails finally open up again?

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Comments 1

  • Avatar
    hillslug98239 : Apr 22nd

    I’m doing Section K in August – assuming USFS re-opens the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest by then – and I keep telling myself to start doing my meal planning & creating my backpacking meals now. I also keep thinking I’ll hang my hammock in the backyard & try out my new underquilt — it’s rated to 20F, and our overnight lows are in the 40s so I’ll be toasty warm! — but the last time I tried that I couldn’t sleep because it’s too noisy. I’m hopeful there’ll be less traffic because it seems like there are a lot fewer cars on the road.

    Mostly though, I’m pretending to work from home, going for a run now & then, playing with my cat, and watching a lot of British murder mysteries.

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