It’s time to prepare for the Sun Lakes Hiking season

Sun Lakes hikers taking a break in South Mountain Park

Sun Lakes hikers taking a break in South Mountain Park

Roberta Arpan

Hike leaders for the Sun Lakes Hiking Club are planning great hikes for the 2014-2015 season, and those wishing to participate in these adventures need to prepare. Having essential gear is a must for an enjoyable hiking season.

When gearing up, first-time hikers may want to discuss their hiking goals with a knowledgeable salesperson in a specialty outdoor or sporting goods store. On a recent trip to REI, a store specializing in recreational equipment, I asked two salespersons what advice they would give a customer wanting to be outfitted with hiking gear. The first sales person responded, “A back pack with a bladder – especially important for hiking in the desert because you will drink more water when it is easily accessible through a tube.” Employee number two said, “Socks! Buy wool, silk or good quality synthetic.” More information about these items follows, but let’s start with the foundation and work upward.

Be kind to your feet in choosing proper footwear. Many hikers prefer boots that cover the ankle while others feel more comfortable in lighter, lower cut footwear. Boots covering your ankle will give your foot more support and will help keep small pebbles and other trail debris out of your boot. Whatever style is chosen, be certain that your boots have good tread and fit comfortably with your chosen socks. Socks provide a buffer between your boots and skin and they assist in blister protection. It is important to buy socks made out of one of the materials recommended above. Some hikers prefer heavy wool socks while others feel more comfortable in lighter, double lined socks. A third possibility is a wool sock with a light sock liner.

Well-dressed hikers layer clothing so their apparel can be adjusted as weather conditions change throughout the day. All clothing should be made of breathable fabrics. Cotton is not recommended because when it is wet, it won’t dry quickly. Pants with zip-off legs are very popular as are a lightweight windbreaker and a disposable poncho. A good sun hat and sunglasses complete the essential apparel for hiking in the sunshine.

Sturdy, light-weight hiking poles are a good idea for several reasons: they help provide a better upper body workout; they aid in better circulation in your arms and hands; they provide support and help with balance; and they can hold back vegetation that is crowding the trail as well as push trail debris, such as rocks, out of the way. Poles should be fitted to your height.

Hikers also need to be fitted with a backpack. Packs come in many styles and sizes. The pack chosen must fit your body as well as your hiking goals. A knowledgeable salesperson can help you with a proper fit by adjusting the straps so the pack rides on your hips and, when filled with water and other necessary items, feels comfortable to wear. Some packs have the capacity to hold a water bladder. Drinking from a bladder by a spigot at the end of a tube is definitely easier than retrieving your water bottle from your pack each time you want to drink, but bladders have been known to leak and spigots can malfunction.

Once you have all of the above items, you will need a few more accouterments to keep in your pack. Staples for your pack should include first aid items such as blister dressing or moleskin; comb and/or tweezers for extracting cactus spines; head lamp or small flashlight; whistle (some packs have a whistle built into their strap snap); powder electrolytes to add to your water; pocket knife; duct tape; gloves; sun screen; insect repellant; emergency contact information; and a mirror (for emergencies, not for grooming); and make sure there is ample room for your water, snacks and a tasty lunch.

Be sure to check out the Sun Lakes Hiking Club booth at one of the October Open Houses. The dates are as follows: Sun Lakes Country Club on October 4, Cottonwood/Palo Verde on October 11 and IronOaks on October 25. Scheduled hikes will begin in November. Get the schedule of Monday and Wednesday hikes by attending the SLHC fall picnic and meeting on November 7 at Oasis Park in Sun Lakes Country Club. The schedule of hikes will also be printed in the Splash each month. For more information on the Sun Lakes Hiking Club contact club President Brian Hill at 480-802-1050 or [email protected] You can also visit the club’s website at http://www.meetup.com/Sun-Lakes-Hiking-Club.