Simple, must-have accessories to tackle hiking agony
I recently travelled to Mallorca with a friend to slay their magnificent and yet probably largely unknown mountain ranges to the west of the Spanish island. While I succeeded on my quest, the journey was strewn with obstacles (and not all being physical) that simple and yet crucial accessories could have helped me overcome.
- Written on 16th May 2018
- Advice and Tips Category
The worst thing you can do on a hike is be unprepared, and boy did I pass that test with flying colours. I’m not a completely dopey, inexperienced walker - my fault in Mallorca was not understanding the route to my destination (the top of the Puig dels Tossals Verd mountains), which ultimately led to many diversions and a painstaking 9 hour, 5 mile trek, off the beaten track, and on a harsh terrain. It was only supposed to be a two hour adventure, tops.
By the end I was limp, exhausted, dehydrated, starving and in immense physical pain. I never wanted to give up and curl up in a ball so much in my life. I didn’t plan to do so much hiking, but that’s no excuse - I should always pack for any situation, as should you.
(Truth be told, my friend and I never made it to the summit on that particular hike, but overcome with pride and determination, we went back a few days later better prepared and did it (in just under 2 hours no less)).
I’ve updated my hiking inventory since the trip, and can safely say I’ve learned from that awful experience in Mallorca. Here are a few new additions to my backpack to ensure I never make the same mistake again.
Thick hiking socks
I wasn’t suited and booted for the environment on my mountain hike, and if I could choose one item of clothing that would’ve changed everything, it would’ve been the socks.
I wore ordinary, thin, off-the-peg ankle socks in some trainers, and about 6 hours into the zig-zagging, up-and-down trail, my toes were killing me. With every painful step, my toes bashed against the front of my trainers.
On our second attempt, my friend loaned me a pair of his hiking socks. They were tough, breathable and purpose-made. Teamed with the same trainers as before (as I had no other pair), it was a totally different experience. My toes were still battered and bruised, yet the socks acted like a marshmallow pillow, and allowed me to comfortably hike free of pain.
Back-up water bottle
This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s worth a mention. As I previously stated, following the failed hike I was dehydrated. I’d brought fluids along with me, but not enough to cover such unplanned circumstances. A back-up bottle, in hindsight, was vital.
Despite the awful stock photo I chose above, we’re not talking about a 500ml bottle of Evian, or even two. We’re talking about a single-purpose, auxiliary sports bottle to accompany your two bottles of Evian. It is potentially the single most important item in your backpack when heading into the unknown.
Portable USB charger
We hikers, in this day and age, are fortunate enough to venture outside with the assistance of our smartphones. For GPS, photos, maps, web access, and so on. It’s a telecommunications device turned hiking asset as invaluable as they come… except when your battery totally dies.
Surprise, surprise - this happened on the first mountain climb effort. Not anticipating such a day, I exhausted much of my phone’s battery life in the earlier hours with photos and looking up the correct trails (to total failure). It didn’t take long before my phone had enough of the hike, let alone myself.
I needed a portable phone charger, and so do you. Since the trip, I’ve invested in an Anker PowerCore 5000 Charger, and it’s brilliant. It takes little time to fully charge and provides hours upon hours of juice when you need it. It could, potentially, save your life if one of your hikes goes really badly.
The trail around Puig dels Tossals Verds was a blend of easy to follow and brutal on the knees. Just when we thought we were making progress going up a steep stairway to heaven made of massive rocks, the path would take us right back down. Going down, let me tell you, was the worst.
My knees were almost non-functional by the ninth and final hour. Heading down a path, they were having to cushion the full force of my broken body after each step. What would’ve helped in this situation? Walking poles.
I’ve invested in some anti-shock poles to assist with such technology to cope with any surprise downhill adventures in the future.
We reached the end of the nine hour trail of doom and gloom just as the sun was starting to set on the beautiful island, and while additional light wasn’t required to complete it, the exhausting hike could’ve easily carried us into the night.
Camping torches are incredibly versatile. Following that trip, I picked up a Vansky LED Pocket Torch, and it’s marvellous. It's a blinding, lightweight torch built from tough aluminium, and featuring multiple flashing modes and a zoom option. I almost can’t wait to get lost in unfamiliar territory with no natural light source.
First aid kit
Even though my head, my throat, my thighs, my knees, my toes and basically my will to live had suffered greatly, I can’t say I got injured, thankfully. Despite that, a small first aid kit would’ve been wise.
I bought an Outdoor Activities first aid kit packed with key survival items to cope with any unfortunate incidents on the dangerous hikes that I apparently find myself caught up in! Safety first, right?