Hiking: Health Benefits and Helping You Prepare For A Crisis

Jiking Benefits

Once the SHTF you will be doing a lot of walking, and in most cases, you will be carrying extra weight. You may have to carry firewood, carry emergency supplies back home from an aid station, carry a child, or carry any number of things to include a backpack loaded with essential supplies during a crisis. You need to be in relatively good shape to meet the physical demands required of you during any type of survival situation.

Remember, you might not be able to drive, so any transporting of supplies will have to be done by you, and one of the best ways to carry supplies, of course, is in a backpack. Quality counts, but larger is not always better in some cases. Just because the pack can hold 80 pounds does not mean you want to carry 80 pounds around on your back.

We are not necessarily talking about bug-out bags here. What we want to convey to everyone is the need to get in shape, or to get in better shape, and hiking right now with a pack is a very good start, so you are ready when something happens. You will need your body during a crisis and it will have to do more because you will not have power tools and vehicles to do all the heavy work.

Hiking up hills or mountainsides is strenuous work that engages multiple muscle groups all while burning a serious amount of calories. The number of calories you can burn hiking depends on your body weight and the terrain. For instance a 160 lb. hiker can burn between 430 – 440 calories an hour, add a 5% to 10% incline and you can increase your calorie burn by 30 to 40 percent.

Hiking is not only a powerful cardio workout but it can also:

  • Improve your core strength
  • Improve balance
  • Improve blood pressure 
  • Help you lose weight
  • Build strength and muscles in your hips and legs
  • Reduce stress

There are many things to consider but an important consideration is elevation when hiking. Have you ever hiked at a higher elevation? It’s different and it taxes the body much more than people imagine if they have never experienced it. Hiking at high altitudes can cause problems for those that have never trained above 6,000 feet, for example. Those that are contemplating or already have a bug-out location in the mountains need to train and prepare their bodies for higher altitudes.

You have to train with a pack even if you cannot train at the elevation in which you expect to be hiking or surviving. You do need to hike almost daily to get your body accustomed to carrying a loaded pack. You have to learn to pack light, however. For those that think they can set off for the hills with a 50 or 60-pound pack without any conditioning are in for a rude awakening.

It takes months if not years of training and conditioning to be able to hump a pack with this kind of weight all day every day. Not many can do it without conditioning given the sedentary lifestyles of some people today. A few hours a week on the treadmill or walking track will not make the grade.

Air becomes less saturated with oxygen at higher elevations, and thus the amount of oxygen your body is able to consume is reduced. In the United States, 8,000 to 13,000 feet above sea level is considered high altitude, which is very common in the Western states. Higher altitudes mean less oxygen and less moisture in the air, so dehydration becomes a significant factor as well. Those hiking at these elevations require more water, and so, a significant amount of the weight in your pack will be taken up by water.

Altitude sickness is very real and in some cases can be fatal. The warning signs include nausea, lack of hunger or thirst, headache, dizziness, difficulty breathing, and a lack of coordination.

The best way to acclimatize is to get a good night’s sleep at the higher elevation and start your hike the next morning. This gives you all night to somewhat adjust.

At 12,000 feet, for example, you are only getting roughly 2/3 of the oxygen you would get at sea level. You will take more breaths, and a lack of oxygen will cause muscle burn. Pace yourself and do not let your ego get in the way of survival. Too many people start out and act as if it is some type of competition or race. If it takes you longer to hike a marked trail, accept it. Pushing yourself is dangerous. Mother nature cares nothing of your ego. Leave it at home.

Pace yourself, rest and drink plenty of water. Lacking a feeling of thirst is common at higher elevations so you must drink whether you feel thirsty or not.

Making Assumptions

Cooking at higher altitudes is different as well. A propane bottle may not work at certain elevations leaving the only option wood or liquid fuels. Pressurized canisters can lose their pressure at high elevations, which means you would not be able to light a small propane heater or stove.

You cannot make an informed decision without doing some research. Novice hikers often times assume that just because they will be hiking in a heavily wooded or mountainous region that majestic waterfalls are around every bend.

If you do not study a topographical map of the area in which you plan to hike, and identify water sources before starting out, you may find yourself in a survival situation. Leave with enough water to survive 72 hours and know likely water sources before starting out. Always top off your water before moving on from a water source so if you do get lost or stranded, you always have 72 hours worth of water. Make sure you have purification tablets or drops and/or the means to purify water by boiling, and remember water boils at a lower temperature at higher elevations.

With each 500-feet increase in elevation, the boiling point of water is lowered by slightly less than 1 °F. At 7,500 feet, for example, water boils at approximately 198 °F. Because water boils at a lower temperature you would have to boil it longer to kill any bacteria and parasites present. Up to 10 minutes in some cases, is needed.

Certain watches will notate your altitude, compass heading, and barometric pressure. This is a wise investment. You cannot count on Smartphone apps, so carry a device to check your elevation.

Food is a concern, of course, but you cannot carry 20 pounds of canned goods and expect to get very far because you will also be carrying 20 pounds or more of water. Water bladders are a good way of carrying water because of the weight distribution.

Protein bars, trail mixes, peanut butter, and MRE’s are ideal foods and the weight is less significant than canned goods.

Higher elevations are colder. The air temperature drops roughly 3.5 degrees for every 1,000 feet of elevation.

What To Carry

Before starting out mark your home or trailhead location on the map. When you stop for your break or for the night, mark your current location, and map a route back to the start point. Mark your current location every time you stop and map a route back to the last known location to help keep you from getting lost.

  • Fixed Bladed Knife And Multi-Tool
  • 50 Feet Of Paracord And Climbing Rope And Gear If Traveling In A Mountainous Area
  • Light Weight Tarps
  • Poncho And Poncho Liner
  • Cold Weather Sleeping Bag (Optional Depending On Season and Area)
  • Food And Water For 72-Hours
  • Fire Starting Materials
  • Signaling Devices, Such As A Mirror, Strobe Light, Colored Material
  • Carry A Personal Locator Beacon
  • Extra Socks
  • First Aid Kit and Include Lip Balm, and Sunscreen
  • Hat, Gloves, Bandanas, Sunglasses
  • Purification Tablets
  • Insect Repellent
  • Cold Weather Clothing As Needed
  • Flashlight and Headlamp

Optional Gear

Trekking poles, lightweight one-person tent, and small cook stove with liquid fuel, sleeping mat.