Trekking Tech - A Hoopla for Hiking

in #steemstem5 years ago (edited)

Few things are more peaceful than strolling through the striking glow of yellow as a young maple grove prepares for the long Northern winter.

With significant absences, my desire to write and preach passions to the masses is continually increasing. That is to say, though the intermediate time between my posts are occasionally longer than I prefer, the time away is never wasted! The sizable gap since my last post was due to some late summer travels followed by a 'dream job' getting paid to spend time in the wilderness with a good friend, hiking a several-hundred-mile long trail and collecting spatial data.

Many shades of color delight as autumn kicks in to gear along a pristine mountain river.

Although the details of this job and the story behind acquiring the position may be revisited in a future post, this article will serve as the introduction to a series of posts examining the technology of backpacking. In this series, we will take a objective and comprehensive look at the variety of gadgets, tools, and downright essential gear that is required to comfortably spend prolonged amounts of time surviving in nature. While dissecting the different options, we will evaluate the pros and cons of each and allow you (the reader) to determine what is best suited for your personal outdoor lifestyle.

Breathtaking views like this are not too hard to come by on a good backcountry trail. Though they may be strenuous at times, these trails are often designed to showcase natural beauty.

Before diving too deep into the gritty details of the gear used for walking among trees, following footpaths, and sleeping on the ground, it is only fair to give the concept of backpacking itself an objective evaluation and discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages. Because I am somewhat partial to the hobby, let's begin with a few reasons why you should be too!

Woodland victories come in many shapes and sizes. Here, a moment of gratitude is felt by an exhausted hiker on a foggy and soggy day along the banks of a gorgeous alpine glacial lake.

Advantages of Backpacking

  • Cardiovascular Health - A favorable advantage of hiking long distances across terrain with weight on your back is that it is an incredible workout! Backpacking is a great form of exercise that accelerates caloric consumption and improves cardiovascular health by increasing the heart rate for prolonged periods of time.
  • Muscular Strength - Nearly all of the muscles of the body are used and strengthened by backpacking. When a pack is worn and poles are used, the hands, arms, shoulders, back, abs, legs, and feet are all utilized.
  • Air & Sun - The quality of air tends to be better in remote wildernesses than in urban environments. Just being outdoors anywhere is beneficial for most people as the body produces vitamin D when the skin is exposed to solar radiation.
  • Exploration - The process of exploration is critically important for many humans. Personally, I find treading on new terrain extremely exciting, never knowing what treasures are hiding behind the next bend in the trail!
  • Exposure - One of the reliable benefits of wandering in the woods is that you are exposed to a wide variety of trees, plants, animals, rocks, fungi, and other natural occurrences. These broaden the entire experience and allow unrealized passions and interests to be discovered.
  • Self-Sufficiency - Through challenging yourself to step outside of your comfort zone and survive in the wilderness, you are ensuring that you have the skills required to be somewhat self-reliant. This is very practical knowledge to possess and I have found that the experience can help boost confidence and overall happiness.
  • Social Interactions - This one may not be as intuitive as the others, but it is important even for those who hike solo. When you encounter another wanderer in the woods, a conversation often ensues where useful information and interesting stories are exchanged. When wandering with a partner or group, you are forced to become adept in communication, tolerance, stoicism, trust, and patience. Fortunately, almost everyone I have met who enjoys spending significant time in the wilderness is a genuinely good person (as well as a glutton for punishment), and acts of trail magic are common!
A large group of friends and strangers socialize and keep warm around a communal campsite fire.

Standing on the edge of a slippery, rocky cliff on a wet and foggy day is one way to increase the chances of something going wrong while backpacking...but the thrill is often worth it!

Potential Disadvantages of Backpacking

  • Animal Attacks - There are many animals in the wilderness that have the ability to kill or seriously hurt humans. Fortunately, most of these animals do not attack unless they feel threatened or provoked, often when protecting their young.
  • Hypothermia - A serious threat to people who spend time in cold wildernesses is hypothermia, a dangerously low core body temperature. While this will only occur in some climates and weather conditions, it has been the demise of many wanderers.
  • Dehydration - This is mostly a risk for people walking in arid regions, but could also be a concern if inadequate water treatment is utilized. Dehydration can kill a person in a matter of days.
  • Starvation - The lack of food is mostly only a risk for hikers who are trapped or lost in a desolate environment. It takes much longer for starvation to occur than dehydration.
  • Physical Injury - When hiking on complex and dangerous terrain, it is not uncommon to incur physical injuries. These can be simple sprains and blisters, or more serious breaks and open flesh wounds. A well-stocked first aid kit and a trusted hiking partner are your two best protections against a physical injury resulting in your demise.
  • Physical Illness - Physical infections such as Giardia can arise from consuming tainted food or not properly treating water. This is generally temporary and not life-threatening. You have a higher chance of catching a 'superbug' in an urban environment.
  • Primitive Lifestyle - Spending time in the wilderness often requires living without some modern conveniences. A few lacking amenities include plumbing, conditioned shelters, electricity, and internet!

  • In the deep wilderness, amenities as simple as a bench or a latrine are quite the luxury!
    As with most things in life, there are both good and potentially negative outcomes that could arise from spending time in the wilderness. This list is by no means comprehensive, as there are undoubtedly many other arguments both for and against backpacking. It is up to you to decide if the benefits outweigh the potential risks! Let us continue the discussion in the comments - for what reasons do you (or don't you) spend time hiking and camping in the wilderness?

Thank you for reading my article! If you like quality original science, technology, engineering, and math writing and a great community of others with the same passions, be sure to check out SteemSTEM!

All photos by the author. Some of the information in this post is based on the personal experiences of the author. See links to external references and additional reading as hyperlinks embedded within the text. Stay tuned for more discussions on the technology of backpacking!


Missed this one.

I feel like I'm breathing fresher air just looking at these pics! They're inspiring. We don't have such colors in Cyprus due to our seasons being binary rather than quaternary.

Do phones get a signal up there?

Thanks for checking it out! That must be tough to not have the colors of autumn, but I am sure there are other benefits. You can occasionally get signal at high points near towns, but there are more areas without reception. This definitely adds to the experience!

Where were you? Your photos look like "home"...that is, my home, when I was growing up. We lived in the Hudson River Valley. I wandered with my brothers through the forest on a daily basis, but never acquired any "skills", just a love of nature. The kind of love that makes me catch my breath when I look at your photos. Your second photo reminds me of the stream that ran behind our house. Whenever we went up into the mountains we had to cross the stream. Perhaps my one skill was learning how to hop on rocks and use them as stepping stones on my way yonder.
I enjoyed your essay very much.

Thanks for sharing your memories and enjoying my writing! I plan to reveal more information about the trail and the hike in a future post, but let's just say it is more Midwestern than Hudson but undoubtedly formed by the same glacial processes.

The love for nature that you mention is the critical component. Backpacking skills can be picked up at any point, you just have to be committed to the cause.

I am familiar with the area where you grew up, it is beautiful there! Hopping on stones is a skill that comes in handy more than you might think. I appreciate your response and hope you like the upcoming articles in the series!

Thank you for that lovely reply. I will of course look for your follow-up blogs. The adventure continues...
And you're right. Hopping across stones in a stream is a skill. Getting that wrong can be a chilling 😄 experience.

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What a lovely surprise it is to see a new post from you. Your absence was noted :)

I love a good hike, but have unfortunately never been able to do an overnight one. During my geology related field trips, it is always nicer to have a vehicle. Otherwise I would not know how to carry all those wonderful samples I want to collect. But recreationally I really would love to do a trip like that. Probably only one or two nights for the start. There are a lot of locations near Ottawa that are a possibility, summer just always passes too quickly.

Doing a survey and getting paid for an amazing summer must be an awesome experience. I'm looking forward to the next few posts. Gear involved in a semi-long to long hiking trip is something I'd really like to see. Are you taking a super minimalistic approach, or are you carrying that extra kg for a little luxury? I will stay tuned ^^

Thanks for the comment and input! I have to agree, when visiting particularly good rockhounding areas, it is always nice to have a car. I had to make some really difficult decisions on what rocks to carry with me on the hike, and ended up mailing a few pounds back.

I think starting with a simple overnight and a short hike in is a good introduction, then extend that as you get more comfortable. Summer may pass quickly, but those northern summer days are so long!

There will likely be a little bit of luxury gear discussed in the series, but I plan to also consider what a minimalist approach would look like. My hike certainly was not minimalist, but I had a lot less gear than I started with by the end of the hike!

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