If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I am a voracious hiker. I love inspiring you to get out on your local trails, but I often hear the idea of hiking is intimidating, and you’re not sure where to start. In this episode, my friend and outdoor adventurist Kristen Bor of Bearfoot Theory will walk you through your next hike start to finish, based on the way I plan and prepare for a day on the trail. We’ll cover finding the right trail for your hiking goals, how to dress, how to pack, what to eat, basic safety and trail etiquette, how to handle animals on the trail, and tips for hiking alone. She also shares the basics behind the “leave no trace” principles, to ensure we are all good stewards of the land.
Connect with Melissa
Bearfoot Theory: bearfoottheory.com
Download the AllTrails App (and consider going Pro)
Bearfoot Theory Wildlife Safety Tips
Bearfoot Theory Leave No Trace
Bearfoot Theory’s FREE 50-video Van Life Road Map course
Diversity in the Outdoors
All sponsorship income for the remainder of Season 2 will be extended to the Movement for Black Lives.
LMNT Electrolytes: drinklmnt.com/dothething (free shipping on their variety pack)
Serenity Kids veggie packs: myserenitykids.com, use code URBAN for 15% off your entire order
Hi, my name is Melissa Urban and you’re listening to Do the Thing, a podcast where we explore what’s been missing every time you’ve tried to make a change and make it stick.
If you’ve been following me for even five minutes, you’ll know I’m an avid hiker. I hike year round, usually in the mountains here in Utah, but I often travel to different States or even other countries, specifically to hike. I love hiking to lakes and summits through deserts or canyons in summer and winter. There’s a reason I call the mountains, my church, and today more than ever, I find nature the most grounding, calming, centering presence in an otherwise stressful time. I also want to acknowledge the immense amount of privilege that comes with feeling like I can hit any trail in any state and feel welcomed and included and safe while I hike. It is not that same experience for everybody. And it’s important to acknowledge that my guests today, Kristen and I are both white cisgendered straight able- bodied thin bodied people. That means that we have an immense amount of privilege out in the world.
And that applies exactly the same way on a hiking trail. I mentioned this because I’ve been talking about privilege a lot through the extent of this podcast from day one. And I’m going to keep talking about it as a means of reminding you that not everyone has the same experiences that you do. And by recognizing this, we’re able to better advocate for others on the trail to use our privilege for good and seek out voices and experiences that share what it’s like for other people walking around this world. And in this case, hiking on our trails, I’ll list some resources for fantastic voices in diversity, in the outdoors, in my show notes. And you will hear more of this in a future episode. I do get a ton of DMs from you saying I took my first hike because of you. I got one just yesterday and it made me so happy.
I love the idea that the trails that I share and the joy that I share when I’m out at my church is inspiring you to get outside and take your first hike. But more often I hear, I want to start hiking, but I’m kind of intimidated. And I don’t know where to start today. My friend Kristen Bor and I are going to hook you up with everything you need to know to lace up your trail runners and hit your very first day hike. I came into this interview armed with a full page of topics. I wanted to make sure we covered everything from finding trails to evaluating how difficult they are. What’s in your bag. What am I wearing? Hiking safety, hiking, alone, outdoor ethics, and Kristen over-delivered. As I knew she would, whether you’re brand new to the outdoors or a seasoned hiker like me, I guarantee you’ll find some strategies in this episode to make your trail adventures safer, funner and even more rewarding.
Kristen left her Washington DC career in 2014 and founded the outdoor adventure blog Bearfoot Theory. Her mission is to help people feel more empowered on the trail and to inspire a movement around responsible outdoor recreation. She currently spends half of the year living here at the base of the mountains in salt Lake city and the other half exploring dusty dirt roads in her four by four sprinter van chances are, if you’ve asked me a question about hiking, kayaking, backpacking, or van life, I’ve sent you to her site to explore. I’m so happy to share this guide to summer hiking today, sponsored by my favorite trail accessory LMNT electrolytes. I’ll tell you more about element later, but I want to remind you that all sponsorship proceeds from the remainder of season two of do the thing will be extended to
the Movement for Black Lives. Learn more at m4bl.org and thank you for supporting our partners and DEI commitments. Now onto the episode.
All right. So Kristen Bor my friend, my local Salt Lake city friend. And we are unfortunately doing this remotely because of social distancing, but welcome to Do the Thing. Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited. I’m excited too. So I met you, was it five years ago with the GoPro Mountain games for, yeah, I think it was 2015, maybe 2016. I don’t remember that. We spent a lot of time together at the GoPro mountain games doing some influencing stuff for them. I think you had just started your blog barefoot theory. Is that right? Yeah, but I think I was about a year in and your stuff has exploded since then. I can’t tell you how many times I send people to your website and your social media feeds, because I don’t think there’s a single thing related to outdoors thing that you haven’t shared about freely.
All. Thanks. So I really appreciate that. Yeah. I mean, we work pretty hard at it, so. All right. So today we’re here to talk about all things hiking. I am, as you are an avid outdoors person. I love hiking. And the question I get all the time is how do I start hiking? Like it seems intimidating. I don’t know what to bring. I don’t know how to be safe. So we’re going to cover all of this today. But before we get started, the first question that I ask, all of my guests is Kristen, what’s your thing. My thing is to empower everyday people to get outside and to do so responsibly. I love it. And that is exactly what we’re going to talk about today. So when I was thinking about how to prep for this episode, I thought there’s so much I want to cover because you know, hiking is, uh, especially summer hiking.
And that’s what we’re going to focus on here. There’s a lot to think about, but before we get into that, I want to say just one thing. And I would love to hear your on this. As far as I’m concerned, hiking should not be intimidating. Hiking is basically just walking. You don’t have to climb a 14,000 foot peak. You don’t have to Trek 10 miles to be a hiker. What do you think about what hiking is and what it’s not?
Yeah, I think that’s a really great point. You know, if you think that hiking is climbing a 14,000 foot peak, of course it’s going to be intimidating and food just starting out. So I think hiking can be whatever you want, but yeah, it’s just walking in nature. So it can be, you know, walk on a local trail in your neighborhood or it can be climbing a mountain.
So it’s kind of whatever you want it to be. And I think it’s important to kind of start where you’re comfortable. I love that. That’s brilliant. So when I was thinking about, okay, how do I want to go through this? I think what I’m going to do is just give you prompts as to how I prep for a hike and ask what advice you can give people to get started kind of in this order. So the first thing I do when I think about going out for a hike is I find a trail. So whether I’m home or whether I’m doing a road trip or in other times of vacation, and I’m looking for a trail in my area, how do you think about finding a trail to get started with your hike? Sure. So, I use the app AllTrails, as a starting point, uh, they have a free version or a paid version, but the free version is more than sufficient if you’re just starting out.
And, yeah, so I go on there, you can search by location near your house. you can search by difficulty or trail length and, that’s a very easy way to find a local trail without having to do too much research. I love all trails and we’re going to talk about all trails a lot because I find it so handy for so many aspects of hiking, including finding a trail safety, making sure you’re prepared for the trail conditions. One of the things I’ve noticed about all trails, if you pull up all trails in salt Lake city and it pulls up the most popular or most referenced hike, it’s certainly not the ones I would consider recommending to someone who was new to the area. What are some of the things you’re looking for as you scroll through trails to find one that you think is going to give you the right experience?
Sure. So as a beginner, I would probably pick something that’s under five miles. If you like, if you’re going on your first hike, I would pick something under five miles that doesn’t have an enormous amount of elevation gain. So, you know, maybe under a thousand feet, if you feel like you’re in decent shape to begin with the ones that have a ton of reviews, the reviews are great because it helps you kind of narrow down on what you’re looking for. People can talk about current trail conditions. Like right now, there’s still snow in the high mountains here in salt Lake. So you can go on there and you can kind of see who’s hyped at recently, what the conditions are. So that’s a really useful feature, but if you pick the one that has, you know, 600 reviews, it’s probably going to be really popular, which means that there’s going to be a ton of people on the trail.
So that’s also something that I kind of look for is, you know, yes. So super popular trails are popular for a reason because they probably have beautiful views or a high payoff for the effort. But if you’re looking for solitude, then maybe pick something that’s maybe not the first one on the list. But with that said, as a beginner, it’s not bad to hike on a crowded trail because it also means that, you know, if you need help or you have to ask, you have questions that you want to ask somebody, you know, you’re not going to be out there all by yourself. That’s true. And the more popular trails tend to be really well-defined. So you don’t have to worry as much about going off trail. Yes. Are getting lost. Can you talk about the relationship between the length of the trail and the elevation gain?
That ratio is something I always look at because to me it’s an indicator of how steep it’s going to be or how much I’m going to climb. Yeah. So basically you could find an average. So if the hike is, say four miles in and you’re climbing a total of 2000 feet, that’s 500 feet per mile, and that’s a pretty good elevation gain. It’s not super steep, but that’s sort of the, as a beginner, you probably wouldn’t want to do something much more than that. if you start to get into 600, 700 feet per mile, that is a hearty climb and, uh, it’s gonna require a lot more effort. That’s perfect. I often say anything that gains a thousand feet per mile has my attention. That’s a steep climb. Yes. And that’s a lot of work. So something else I like to do, especially when I’m going to a newer area is just do a Google search, you know, top summer hikes in salt Lake city or top kid friendly hikes in salt Lake city.
What I often find in Google is that you’ll find blog posts with people who go into a lot of detail about the trail. Things like parking things like how crowded it was, things like you’re going to hit a fork and it’s not signed, but go left. do you ever Google and just look at kind of other people’s notes when you’re looking for a trail? Uh, yes, definitely. so we travel a lot in the summer. Typically we live out of our camper van,
so we’re constantly going to new areas. And, so that’s usually the first thing I’ll do is best hikes in wherever we are. And and then I’ll combine that with information that I might find on all trails and sort of plan that way. The only thing to keep in mind is it’s easy to get kind of lost in the abundance of information out there.
So I try not to go too deep into the Google search cause otherwise I end up wasting time researching versus just going out there and doing it. Yeah. That’s really smart. And you also have eight ton. Like if I’m looking to hike in a new area, I literally go to your blog first because there’s a really good chance that you’ve got an extensive review of specific areas. Can you talk about some of the areas in which you’ve provided, outlines of trails and where to stay and that kind of information? Sure. Gosh, I have been blogging for a long time, but, yeah, we’ve, we’ve focus on the Western United States. Mostly we have some stuff on the East coast, but because I am West coast based, that sort of my specialty and expertise, but, I’ve written a lot about Utah. I have a, blog post called the best hikes at Utah.
That’s based on my personal experience. I’ve done a lot in Idaho. That’s where I grew up. So we have a number of itineraries and, trail info for Idaho. Uh, I spent last summer in Colorado. I haven’t had a chance to write up too much of it, which has been almost a year now. So I just need to get on that, I guess. But, yeah, the Western us is kind of where we focus. Yeah. I have, uh, an entire itinerary from Norway from four years ago that I keep saying, I’m going to write up and I haven’t finished it yet. So I get it. Another thing I like to do sometimes, and this is hit or miss, but sometimes I’ll plug a location and to Instagram and I’ll look at the recent photos. This is especially helpful. If you want to know how much snow is still on a trail or what the conditions are.
Yes, definitely. It’s tough though. Cause people post latergrams all the time and sometimes they’re out of sequential order. We went to go out to the salt flats to do some stuff, not too long ago. And I looked and I was like, it’s going to be totally dry. It’s going to be amazing. And we got there and it was under like a foot of water, so same, same exact experience for me. I’ve only been out there once and it was flooded and it’s beautiful. It’s just different. We plan on campaign and then we can, couldn’t drive out there. So we had to come up with a plan B, but I think that’s another really important thing is you want to make sure you’re, you know, what you’re getting into when it comes to the trail. So I always look at the reviews on all trails, especially if you’re hiking at elevation.
It is 80 degrees right now in the Valley. And there is still snow up in the mountains on some of these trails. Yes, definitely. We went hiking yesterday at big Cottonwood Canyon and there was a ton of snow on the North facing aspects. So generally North facing is one of the last ones to melt out. So, uh, luckily I wore my waterproof hiking boots and I brought my trekking poles, which gave me a little extra stability. But yeah, I think, uh, especially like at the change of seasons too, it’s important to read the reviews to kind of know what the current conditions are. Otherwise you could get up there, maybe be disappointed or not be able to complete the hike because the trail is too muddy or wet or whatnot. Absolutely. And then the last thing I want to mention is that I always look at this may sound obvious, but I always look at the weather.
I look at the weather, not in this city, but in the area where I’m hiking for the day that I’m going to hike because we can have very different weather in the Valley than we do in the mountains. And I want to know if an afternoon shower is coming or like in Colorado afternoon, thunderstorms are really typical. And I want to know that before I head out on the trail. Yes, definitely. So I think, you know, the most important thing as a hiker is to be prepared. So that means bringing layers for any kind of weather you might encounter. And if you don’t look at the weather, you don’t know what that weather could be. we were in Colorado last summer in Rocky mountain national park and yeah, thunder afternoon, thunder showers are really common. And so by looking at the weather, we knew that and we got up earlier and got our hikes done early in the morning.
So we were back at our car by the time the thunder showers supposed to hit. Yes. You know, people can look at you like you’re bananas, cause you’re packing a shell when it’s 85 degrees and, you know totally sunny, but I was caught out in Lake Blanche. I swear the test, the temperature dropped 20 degrees in a matter of 10 minutes. And all of a sudden it started dumping and I was so glad I had it. Definitely. So that brings me to, okay, you’ve found your trail, you’ve done your planning and prep. You know, how long it’s going to be, you know, about how steep or the elevation gain. You’ve looked at the trail conditions. Now I’m getting dressed for my hike. What am I wearing for a summertime hike? Sure. So, I think the first thing to keep in mind is you can go spend a bunch of money on like hiking clothes that are the right materials.
typically hiking clothes are not cotton, cotton retains moisture and it doesn’t dry well. So if you were to get caught in some sort of weather and you were wearing cotton, you’re going to stay wet and probably cold where some of these more quick, dry athletic materials tend to, they wick moisture. And so you dry quick and also they wick your sweat. So your sweat doesn’t make you cold when you’re hiking with that said, you don’t need to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe just to go hiking. I think that if you want to start hiking and you don’t have the budget to go buy those hiking clothes, just wear what you would wear to work out and bring extra layers like a rain jacket or, a fleece of some sort to layer in case you get cold and just go, you don’t need to overthink it with that said, if you start to get more serious about hiking and you want to expand, you know, the types of trails and how difficult and far you’re hiking, or maybe you want to get into backpacking, then it’s worth investing in some hiking pieces to keep you comfortable and dry.
And so you don’t feel overly sweaty when you’re hiking, cause that can make you kind of uncomfortable. So typically I hike in, these quick dry shirts. The, my favorite band is Patagonia because they are environmentally friendly company and I think they make really quality apparel. so they have a cool capilene shirt, which is my favorite. I typically like to hike in long sleeves. I am, as I get older, I’m really concerned about protecting my skin and I don’t want to have to put a bunch of sunscreen on. So they make these really lightweight light, long sleeve shirts that sort of my go to when I hike. But you know, of course you can hike in short sleeves or even a tank top. If that’s what you prefer, on the bottoms I wear leggings, but you know, you can wear your favorite, favorite pair of shorts or your favorite pair of hiking pants.
I would just avoid jeans. These are the thing to avoid. In addition, I usually bring some sort of, depending on the weather, I’ll bring either a light, a windbreaker or rain jacket or some sort of warmer coat. If I’m going to be gaining a lot of elevation where I might experience some difference in temperatures from the bottom to the top. So I’m prepared for that. And then always the hat to protect my face from the sun and sunglasses and a good pair of hiking shoes. Yes. Perfect. That’s where I was going to go next. I tend to be really casual about what I wear. Like I’m just wearing a sports bra. I’m wearing any old leggings, any old shorts, but where I really pay attention are socks and my hiking shoes. Yes. So I usually wear tall socks because I find that it protects me against like thorns and brambles.
Some of our trails get really overgrown and green and they things can like scratch you. It also protects you against ticks. Yep. As you’re going through the trails. and I like a light compression sock because I find it just gives me like a little bit more energy in my legs. Yeah, definitely. I, I wear, yes. You want to wear a sock. That’s not made of cotton. Cotton socks are a recipe for blisters. So, cause they don’t dry when your foot starts to sweat and they can create rubbing that’s gets very uncomfortable. So if you’re worried about blisters, it’s worth investing in a good pair of wool socks, some brands are Smartwool or darn tough is my favorite. They’re great socks. And I haven’t had a blister with those kinds of socks. I think just get a good pair of socks and you’ll be good.
Yeah. And then I want to hear your opinion. I’ve talked about this before hiking boots versus like a trail runner for date hikes. I’m a really big fan of trail runners, but I would love to hear what your thoughts are on what, whether someone should decide to go boot versus shoe. Sure. So it kind of depends on the terrain and the type of trail you’re going to hike. And also what you’re most comfortable in. I mean, I think your hiking shoe first and foremost needs to be comfortable and you need to feel confident in it. So if we’re in a high ankle, hiking, boot is going to make you feel more confident on the trail, then that’s what you should wear. I think a lot of people, they might wear a, uh, a lightweight hiker and maybe they don’t feel as sturdy. So, you know, it kinda just depends what, where you’re feeling more confident.
There’s not one that’s better than the other. the only time I would say to wear like a more sturdy hiking boot would be, you know, if the trail is super Rocky, maybe you are on something really steep where you need a little bit of extra support and also like, uh, some better grip on the bottom of the shoe. Some of the lightweight shoes like trail runners don’t have as grippy of a soul as like a formal hiking boot. And then if I was going to backpack or have a lot of weight on my back then I would also want a hiking boot. But if you’re just going on a three mile stroll on a fairly easy trail, then a trail hiker is more than sufficient. I like that. That’s a really good, there was one hike. I did Norway that was both really Rocky and really muddy.
And that was one place where I was very, very glad that I have my boots for the rest of the hikes I do around here. My on trail runners work really, really well. What do you think about people who, you know, are going out to do their hikes in their Nike frees or their converse all stars? Like on one hand you don’t have to spend a lot of money on fancy equipment, but on the other, I do get a little worried sometimes about safety and hiking and shoes that are really not supportive. Well, I try not to judge, you
know, but, uh, you know, I think like I definitely have friends who are experienced outdoors, people who would go out in a pair of converse because they’ve hiked their whole lives and they’re very comfortable in that and that’s fine. but as a beginner, if you’re like looking to build your skill set, I think that having some proper gear can help prevent injury and, you know, contribute to a better experience.
Overall, if you have the right equipment that’s going to make you feel comfortable. Yeah. I will say that my seven year old hiked a pretty long trail in Canyonlands and his Batman flip flops and I’m sure we got a lot of looks, but I couldn’t get him back in his hiking shoes. So I was like, you know what, let’s do it. He did a great job. Awesome. Okay. So that covers what to over the other thing, I just want to go back to you really quick. You mentioned bringing like a light jacket or a windbreaker. I bring a windbreaker with me on every single hike. I love my Cotopaxi windbreakers they are local salt Lake city based company with a great philanthropic arm. They’re super duper light. They shove into the smallest part of your bag, but a really good windbreaker is going to help you so much if it’s windier at the top, if it’s colder at the top and even provide you with some light rain protection.
Yeah. And can also help if there’s bugs, if there’s a lot of insects having the, a light windbreaker that doesn’t make you too hot, can keep the bugs off your arms. Yes. I didn’t even think of that. That’s a great, that’s another great one. All right. So where we picked our trail, we’ve dressed for our hike. What are we taking in our bag? And also what kind of bag are we using? Sure. So again, it’s like, you know, hiking doesn’t need to be this super expensive sport to get into. So any old backpack works. the difference between like a school backpack and a hiking backpack is a hiking backpack has a better suspension that allows you to pull the load closer to your back. And it usually has a waist belt that allows you to carry most of the weight on your hips rather than on your shoulders.
So for long distances, you’re definitely going to be more comfortable with a traditional hiking backpack over like a Jan sport or something that you would use in school. Yeah. That makes sense. And for size, I almost all my day hikes, I’m not taking anything bigger than like a 15 liter in the summertime. Yeah. I think 15, 20 liter is pretty adequate unless you’re going on like an all day, like, you know, 10, 12 mile hike and you need to bring a lot of different layers and a lot of snacks, you know, 15 layer, 15 liters is usually adequate. Yeah, that makes sense. Okay. So now that we’ve talked about bags, what’s going in the bag and let’s start with water. How much water are you taking on a hike? at least two liters, uh, generally three. So I have a Camelback, which is basically a hydration reservoir that you could put your water into and then you can drink out of a hose, which makes it a hands free operation to get water to your mouth.
So yeah, generally between two and three liters, even for shorter hikes, I would recommend taking that much. Right. Yeah. I mean, you never know if something might go wrong, you know, it’s just better to be prepared. You know, water is the one thing that you really, really need. And I think also sometimes you get more thirsty than you expect if you’re hiking uphill and it’s, you live in a dry climate, like you’re going to be thirsty and it’s better to have more, more than you need than not enough. Yes. And I will tell you that my secret weapon for hiking, cause I also have a reservoir that’s really easy to clean because it flips
inside out and you can just kind of clean it and dry it that way. But my secret weapon is that I add a package of LMNT electrolytes to my hiking water.
I find that getting dehydrated, especially if you’re active, especially if it’s summertime will make you feel like junk and just that extra little step of adding some electrolytes to your hiking water can help so much. Definitely. And it also can help with like cramps. Yes. Thank you. Yes, exactly. So just one packet it’s really sodium based and that’s kinda my, my favorite plus it makes my water taste delicious flavors. I love them. I’ll have to make sure you get some of those fatigues. I haven’t tried those. Oh, they’re awesome. They’re my, they’re my go to, okay. So we’re talking, we’ve talked about water. You obviously want to bring snacks too. You want to make sure that you’ve got some fuel with you. What are you thinking about in terms of snacks? And there’s one thing I’m thinking of that you absolutely should never bring. And I want to know if you have something like that too.
yeah, so we bring trail mix knots, dried fruit. if it’s not a long hike and we’re not worried about our packs getting heavy, I might bring normal fruit wraps. I mean, pretty much anything that you’d like to eat at home. You can eat on the trail. but we try to bring things that are high enough calories. So they actually provide energy, things that have a lot of protein are great. and yeah, we just try to keep it healthy and simple and stuff. That’s kind of easy to eat. So bars are another great option. but yeah, stuff that doesn’t require too much preparation. Like if you’re going to bring a sandwich, it’s better to make it at home than to bring the fixings and then try to make it on the trail. Absolutely. absolutely. I tend to bring, I know you’re you’re vegan, right?
Yeah. Yeah. So I tend to bring a lot of meat sticks. Cause for me, those are really protein dense and they don’t get swished in my bag. I wouldn’t, I, I, one time I tried to bring a banana that didn’t go well. So I haven’t done that in a while, but apples are really good. Baby food veggie packs. I very often bring the Serenity Kids, veggie packs. They’re a hundred percent vegetable with a little bit of like good added fat. Those are totally portable and a really good source of carbs on the go. So I love those. That’s great. Yeah. I, beef jerky used to be my favorite before I became vegan, but uh, pistachios are a great option. They’re a complete protein, so that’s sort of my newest thing. but yeah, just trail mix and fruits and anything tasty really. I would say bring more snacks than you think you might need just in case.
Cause you just don’t know your hunger levels. And also if you meet someone else on the trail, who’s like looking hurt. You can always swing them a snack. I’ve done that before. Yes. We always bring extra. My boyfriend is actually type one diabetic. So I bring all the snacks because you know, we can’t risk running out on the trail. Of course. I also bring all this next for my seven year old. Cause that’s how I get him from point to point. If you can just get to that point, we’ll pull out a snack. Yeah. The only thing I’ll say you should never bring on a hike to eat is something you’ve never had before. Yes. The last thing you want is a digestive distress on the trail. Yeah. Alright. So that covers food and snacks. What else is in your pack? I feel like, you know, there should be some basic safety things in your pack just in case things don’t go well.
Like what do you take on every single hike? Sure. So, I always bring extra layers no matter what, yeah, you don’t want to be caught in any weather. Uh, I like to bring some sort of some protection. So usually hat a sunscreen. I like to wear a buff around my neck. you know, we already kind of talked about apparel, but that is a good way to a good thing to pack. Uh, you always want to have a map and some sort of navigational tool. So you want to know where you’re going, whether that’s your phone or paper map, make sure you have that downloaded to your phone and that you have access to it when you’re not in service. Do you take like, do you have a multi-tool with you? Do you have matches or like a lighter, like God forbid something should happen and you find yourself stuck out there.
I, I never know how paranoid to be with some things and I tend to go more on the casual side and I’m not sure if that serves me. Yeah. I mean, I think it depends where you’re going again. If you’re going to a popular trail, that’s close to home and it’s not that far, then I think you can kind of be a little bit more relaxed, but if you’re going to be going somewhere, that’s really isolated and maybe more challenging than I think it’s better to err on the side of caution. So if I’m going to go on a hike in the Wasatch here, I’m not usually bringing a multi-tool that’s more, if I’m going on a bigger hike or a multi-day trip, I think bringing a lighter or matches or something like that is a good idea. It’s also a good idea to have some basic first aid supplies, for people who are starting out, if you Google, uh, the 10 day hiking essentials, there’s tons of information out there, but there’s 10 essentials that you should consider bringing in and then you can kind of adjust based on the hike that you’re doing.
Yeah, I think that’s great. Okay. A few more things I want to talk about that are always in my pack. Number one, toilet paper. I bring a little bit of TP because if I have to pee on the trail, I’m to pull off, I’m going to pee. I have a little plastic baggy and I always pack it in and pack it out. But like it makes it a little bit easier for people who cannot stand up and pee, then drip drying the yes and actually there’s so I bring, I call it my pee rag. it’s a small, quick dry towel and I throw in the washing machine when I get home. there’s also one called Kula cloth, the Kula cloth. Yeah. I have one of those. They’re awesome.
Yeah. So that’s a nice way of, you know, cause then you don’t have to worry about having a bag for the toilet paper and you know, you’re obviously going to pack out your toilet paper.
If you do have toilet paper, that’s, you know, a central part of leave, no trace, but the cooler cloth or a quick dry towel is a great alternative. Yeah. I love that. I think that’s great. I also want to go back. You mentioned making sure you always have a map and this is another thing that I absolutely love all trails for. So when I go to all trails, even if I don’t find the trail on all trails, like if someone tells me about it, I always look it up. I go to the map and I download the map because if you have downloaded the map, even when you leave lose service, you’ll still be able to see you as the little blue dot on the trail and where the trail is. And this has saved my butt from getting lost so many times.
Yes, same. So I use that feature. I think that’s I’m with the pro version, which I don’t know exactly how much it costs. I think it’s like $39 a year or something like that. Reasonable for the amount of safety it provides. Yeah. Yeah. And if you use it all the time, but yeah, I definitely think downloading the map to your phone before is the right move. so that way, when you’re out there, if you come to a weird junction, if you don’t have your map, you’re kind of like, Oh, which way do we go? And then you’re
guessing, and then that’s how you get lost. So a map is super important. Yes. And that happens a lot. So it happens a lot here, like at elevation in the snow where you might lose the trail in the snow. And then I’ve also been on some trails in Colorado that had a lot of water crossings.
And I didn’t know that the trail continued across the river and I’m wandering around on my side looking for the trail. And finally, I look at my map and I’m like, Oh, I have to cross here. So it can be really helpful. Definitely. Okay. So our bag is packed. We’re about to hit the trail. Let’s talk a little bit about hiking safety, making sure that, you know, when we’re out there, people know where we are that we feel like we’re safe. Maybe that we have done some research into what to expect in the wilderness, like what animals you might encounter, what kind of safety things or tips can you provide? Sure. So something I always bring on my hikes, I have a garment in reach. It’s a little bit of an investment. Again, like you don’t need to buy it just to go hiking, but if you’re going to become a, a serious hiker, it’s a great tool to have.
It basically allows you to send custom test text messages. even if you don’t have any cell service and it also allows you to call for help in case of an emergency. So that’s something I always bring on my hikes, is just an extra safety measure that, basics are, you know, always let somebody know that you’re going hiking, whether it’s a roommate or a friend or a spouse, let them know where you’re going and what time you’re expected to be home. so that way, if you don’t show up, when you say you’re going to be, then they can start to pay attention and maybe something happened. You know, I think a lot of safety comes from just being prepared. I think a lot of emergencies happen from just not having the right layers, not having the right clothing. not checking the weather beforehand, not having a map.
So if you have all the 10 essentials with you and you’re prepared, your chances of having an emergency are much more slim and then, you know, wildlife, I think it’s good to get familiar with the local wildlife in your area. So if you live in a place where there’s moose, for instance, you should know what to do when you encounter a moose. We have a ton of moose here in the Wasatch. So that’s something that, you know, we’re always aware of when we go hiking that we might see a moose and you know, things that you don’t want to get close to them. You don’t want to approach them for photo. you know, and so I think having a basic understanding of your local wildlife is really important. I agree with that wholeheartedly, we have a lot of rattlesnakes in our trails. So just knowing and like being aware of that, I’ve done a lot of hiking by myself in Jackson and bears are really prevalent.
So I did a lot of research. I watched a video, I bought my bear spray. You know, I take that very, very seriously. It can make you feel a lot more comfortable. Yeah, definitely. And if anybody’s interested, we do have a blog post on our site about wildlife safety with sort of the basics for different types of animals. I think that’s great. We want to learn more, super helpful. Another thing that I always recommend in terms of safety, and I know a lot of people disregard this, but if you’re new to hiking and you really want to make sure that you’re taking all of your precautions, I don’t like the idea of hiking with headphones on. No, I never do. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt you. I just wanted to hear whether, you know, what you thought the music can be nice, but you know, you really are losing so much of the input.
Yeah. I mean, I think that if you do want to hike with headphones, there are certain ones, maybe the ones that don’t go in your ear, they have, uh, some that kind of go over your ear. So you can still hear noises around you, or maybe you only hiking with one in one of your ears versus having both, uh, both headphones on. you know, I know music’s motivating. It can certainly help inspire you if you’re feeling, feeling the burn and want to keep going, the music and kind of help you get into a groove. But I think that it’s important to hear what’s going on around you, whether it’s a person or an animal, like you want to make sure you’re not caught off guard. Yeah. I mean, some trails that we share trails here all the time with mountain bikers and I have almost been plowed down a couple of times cause on their downhill, they’re going fast.
And sometimes they sneak up on you and had I had both my headphones in, I might’ve been run over. Yeah. the Jaybirds that I use, the Jaybird vistas, you can only have one in. And so if you’re going to do that, that’s what I’d recommend. But you know, even for things like rattlesnakes, like I want to hear that coming. So yeah, definitely. Yeah. That makes total sense. So we kind of are now in the area of like we’re on our hike, we’re prepared, we’re safe. Let’s talk a little bit about hiking etiquette and being a good steward of the land. I think we could probably spend an entire podcast on this, but what are some basic tips for people? Sure. Yeah. So there’s, you know, some basic, uh, the, there are unspoken rules about what proper trail etiquette looks like. but I think the first step is just bringing the best version of yourself to the trail and having a good attitude, realizing that there’s other people out there too, and everybody has a right to be out there and showing up with that mindset is the first step.
you know, there’s rules about who has the right of way, you know, bikers versus hikers versus horses and that’s all important, but I think it’s also just common courtesy and common sense. So, typically hikers have the right of way, but sometimes it’s harder for a biker to get off a trail. And so, you know, if you, if you see somebody at biker riding up behind you on the trail, even though you have the right of way, this nice thing to do is just move over and let them pass. and you know, don’t sneak up on people kind of let them know that you’re there. And, yeah, I have a blog post on that too. On my website. We’re going to link to all of this stuff in the show notes, for sure. When you’re passing someone on the trail, I believe technically the person going uphill, how’s the right of way.
Yes. That too, because it’s, you have momentum as an uphill hiker, you are in your groove, you’re going and like it takes energy to stop and start again. So generally the person going uphill has the right of way and the person going downhill should step to the side. And I think now in the current times, it’s even more important than people kind of bring their common courtesy to the trail because we especially now need to give people their distance when we’re passing. Absolutely. Yeah. You know, and what I’ll also find is that if there are a lot of people going uphill who are more than happy for the break as well. So again, it’s just being aware and common courtesy. If you’re about to pass someone and they step off for you and give you an indicator, just thank them, graciously, let them catch their breath.
You can kind of keep going on down. but you know, I think it, if someone’s trail running, for example, they’re faster than me. And so I have a little bit more, you know, what’s the word I’m looking for?
Flexibility in how I get out of their way. Yeah. I think communication is key. Yeah. You know, just communicate with the people that you encounter on the trail and that makes it really easy. Are you like me where I say hello to every single person I pass on the trail? Uh, yeah. I mean, I try to be pretty friendly. Yeah. I love, I find that you don’t see that as much on the touristy trails, but here our local trails, it’s really nice to pass everyone with, you know, a smile and a good morning. And I found, especially in the days of, in the times of COVID where you are giving people social distancing, and everyone’s like a little bit leery, you know, a smile and a good morning can go a long way to making someone feel comfortable. Definitely.
What about leave no trace. You mentioned it earlier. It’s a huge principle for spending any amount of time outdoors. What does that mean and what kind of actions are you taking to ensure that you’re respectful? Sure. So yeah, leave no trace. really at the core of all of the messaging that we share on our blog, and it’s basically to leave places better than you found them and to really do your best to minimize the impact that you have as an outdoor enthusiast when you’re on the trail. So, you know, there’s some basics, about going to the bathroom and all that. I can go into details if you’d like, but, yeah, basically just some basics are, you know, don’t cut the trail. So, you know, you want to follow the trail, stay on the trail, don’t get off and trampled the vegetation because you see a shortcut.
so that’s one, another would be, you want to go 200 feet from rivers lakes, or a body of water if you’re going to the bathroom and then you want to pack out your toilet paper and all of your trash, obviously. and that includes things like orange peels and banana peels and, uh, any sort of nutshells that you might have. that’s all considered garbage. So those are some of the basics. again, leave no trace. They’re a nonprofit organization and they have a ton of resources on their website. So I’d encourage anybody.
Who’s getting into the outdoors to go to their website and learn the seven principles. I love that my son and I actually have a little game where we pick up trash on the trail and we get like points for every piece of trash that we pick up and you can bring a little glove, you know, you can bring a little baggy to put it in.
but that’s another nice thing to do is if you happen to notice something, just take it out with you. Definitely. Yeah. I think, you know, and as more and more people are getting outside, which is fantastic because I think the more people who are outside the better a world we will live in, but as more people are using the trails, it’s even more important that people do their part to, maintain the trail. And also, you know, if you see trash, it might not be yours, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pick it up. Yeah. And then I’m going to say one more thing and you and I have talked about this before, and I know we feel the same and I know we feel very strongly, please be respectful of the rules of the trail. If the trail says no dogs, please don’t bring your dog.
Yeah. I mean, I think, here, the rules are for are pretty strict. but yeah, I mean, I think it’s just important that people do their part to maintain a positive atmosphere on the trail and the rules are there for a reason. And so it’s important that people follow them. Yeah. And ultra is really great too. Cause they’ll say whether a trail is dog friendly or not. So that allows you here in the Wasatch, you’ve got a couple canyons where you can’t bring dogs in at all, not even in the car because it’s watershed. And then there
are other areas where you’ll have dogs that like even have off-leash days. So just doing a little research ahead of time is helpful. Yeah. Def definitely. The last thing I want to cover is this, I hike alone a lot and I love hiking by myself.
And a lot of people, particularly women have asked me, you know, I really think that that outdoor solo time would be so good for my mental health, but I’m a little bit nervous. What kind of tips can you offer to people who want to try hiking alone? Yeah. So I think a lot of the same tips that we’ve already talked about apply, but it’s even more important that you’re prepared for a wide range of scenarios. If you’re going to hike alone because you have to be completely self sufficient and you can’t rely on anybody else. So, but I think choosing the right trail is the first step. So I would say if I was going to start hiking, I mean, I have done plenty of solo hiking, but when I was first starting out with my solo hiking, I would choose a trail that I knew that there were going to be some other people on maybe not a huge number of people, but enough to where I didn’t feel like it was just me on my own with nobody else around.
that way, you know, if something happened, I felt comfortable that someone would, you know, I would encounter somebody that might be able to help me. And, just gave me a little bit more confidence. You know, I think when you hike solo, you maybe don’t need to pick like the most challenging trail the first time around. You can maybe, you know, you want to pick something that’s well within your capabilities. So maybe a solo hike, isn’t the time to go back that peak that you’ve been dreaming of, you know, something that’s a little bit more well-maintained and where you’re less likely to have any sort of incidents. Yeah. I call it hiking alone together because I’m alone, but I know I’m going to pass a bunch of people on the trail. And if I get in, you know, if I get to the top, there are going to be people up there.
And if I get into trouble, somebody is going to come by pretty quickly. So it is, it’s a nice, almost safe way to explore this idea of like, you’re a little you’re by yourself, but you’re not really by yourself. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s so good for your mental health to get outside. And I think, uh, my first solo hike was back in 2014. I hiked the subway in Zion national park from, from the bottom. There’s a few different ways to hike that trail, but, that’s the nontechnical route and it was amazing. I saw, you know, enough people to where I felt comfortable and I realized everybody out there was so friendly and I realized that there really wasn’t anything for me to be afraid of. And I felt so empowered at the end of the day, coming back to my car and knowing that I had just hiked that trail alone and that I didn’t have to wait for somebody to go hiking with.
So I was single at the time and I wanted to go hiking and that was fine. I was going to go hiking. I didn’t need a partner or a friend to go with. I love that. One of the things I like the most about hiking so low is that I can do anything I want, if I want to stop for a half hour, you know, to take in the view or have a snack, if I want to go super duper slow or hike as fast as I can and turn it into a fitness thing. If I want to spend a half an hour at the top or three hours at the top, I can. And that’s such a really awesome form of self care. Yeah, definitely. I think for me, it was being able to take my time with my photography. So, I started solo hiking basically, right when I started my blog and I was learning photography.
And you know, that requires some time on the trail that, uh, you know, maybe you’re not going to do that when you’re with somebody else. So it was an easy way for me to, to make time for my creative pursuit while I was hiking. Yeah. I have a whole Instagram post about how I get photos while I’m hiking by myself. And it involves a lot of iPhones propped up against rocks, but it can be really fun. Or I love go pro stick with the tripod at the bottom, the GoPro with the three way. That’s my best friend. I still like are you can have all the other mounts in the world, but the little selfie stick tripod thing is my best.
Yeah, same. So I think we’ve covered everything I wanted to cover in terms of how to get started with hiking top to bottom, start to finish.
Do you think I missed anything? I don’t think so. I mean, I think that, yeah, just don’t overthink it. You know, just, if you want to go hiking, just go hiking and uh, you know, it doesn’t need to be this scary thing. And I think once you get out there on the trails, like the heart, just like going to the gym, the hardest part is showing up, right? So once you’re out there, you realize, wow, this is amazing. And I want to do more of it. And you start to realize, you know, the mental and physical benefits of hiking are enormous and you know, I think you’ll be hooked. I love it. The last question I ask all my guests and also you totally just answered it and nailed it. No, it was perfect. I usually ask, like, what’s one thing you could recommend to someone who was ready to do the thing and you just said, don’t overthink it.
They, you know, start with showing up. Yeah. I think go download all trails, pick a trail that’s nearby your house and make a commitment to go in the next week and see how it goes and then take a picture of your hike and then tag both of us. Yeah. All right. Kristen, where can people find more about you? And let me tell you, you have a million incredibly generous, totally free resources for people who are interested in all things outdoors. Tell us where to find you. Sure. Thanks. so my website is BearfootTheory.com, but it’s a bear like the animal. So B E A R bearfoottheory.com. And I’m also Bearfoot Theory on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, anywhere that you can find me. That’s what my name is. And tell people where the name came from Bearfoot. Like the bear. Oh yeah. I have a grateful, dead dancing bear tattoo on my foot. I love it. It’s so cute. I love it. When people are like, you spelled your own name wrong and you’re like, I didn’t speak actually. And tell us what you have coming up.
What are some kind of exciting things? I know you have two projects in the works.
Yeah. So, we are undergoing a full redesign on our website, which is super exciting. We’ve been working on it for over a year now, so I can’t wait for it to be done. But, yeah. So in about two months, you’ll see a whole new version. It’s going to be a lot easier to find all these beginner hiking resources that you might be looking for. so that’s going to be exciting. And then the other thing is it’s not really related to hiking, but it is related to the outdoors for those of you who are interested in van life. So I live in my van half the year and we have a free online course called the van life roadmap that just launched on our website. And we’re slowly dripping out the lessons over the next six months. And it’s going to basically walk people through the entire process from start to finish from like getting a van and building it out all the way to like living on the road, working from the road. And, yeah, so we’re really excited about that. So people are interested in van life. I would love to help them out.
That is so cool. We’re going to link to all of this in the show notes too, because I know you’re going to have a ton of interest for that. Thanks, Kristen Bearfoot Theory. Thank you so much. This was probably one of my favorite conversations and it’s one of my favorite topics and I knew that you were the right person for the job. So thanks for joining me. Thanks. I can’t wait till we can actually go hiking together. No, I know I can’t wait to meet you on the trail as soon as we can. Yeah, definitely.
Thanks for listening!
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