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301 Hiking Skills - Efficient Systems 2010-11-01

Hydration System

Amy with her hydration system on her pack.

On a recent hike, one person in our group did not use a hydration system nor did he carry an accessible water bottle. When he needed a drink of water he had to stop, take off his pack, fish for a water bottle, take a big gulp, close his pack, re-shoulder his pack, and finally resume his walking. On a short hike, the issue of how you get your water might not be a problem but, on a strenuous all day hike, each break takes extra time, breaks your rhythm, and wastes precious energy. Our hiking partner needed water. He had to have water! The problem was, he did not have a system available so that he could drink water while he was moving. He was inefficient.

Our objective is to move efficiently but we still have to drink, eat, and regulate our temperature. We have to develop systems so that we can do things while we are still moving.

The system is the gear and our procedures for using the gear to meet our needs. Systems might change depending on the pack you are carrying or the gear you brought or forgot to bring.

I have a small, simplistic, Black Diamond day pack. It doesn't have any outside pockets or compartments. I have to add a water bottle holster or pocket to the belt of the pack if I want to drink while walking. While using that pack, I would also use my pants or jacket pockets to store food and extra clothing.

I also have an Osprey Talon, a lightweight day/overnight pack that has many pockets, hydration bladder holders, and compartments. With the Talon, I can carry water bottles in the outside mesh pockets, a hydration kit, or any combination of the two. There are pockets available to store more items than you want to carry.

Examples of our systems using the modern Osprey Talons...

Hydration - We carry a hydration bladder and a small collapsible water container. Our system is to sip while we are walking and to gulp from the handheld container, such as a Platypus, when we take major breaks. We guess how much water we need to carry for the hike or climb and whether or not we need to add a water filtering system.

Food - We differ slightly in our food requirements while hiking. I do not eat while hiking. I might carry a few pieces of hard candy in the small zip pocket on my waist belt. Amy eats GU, Hammer Gel, or a similar product. She keeps a flask handy and takes a gulp of gel regularly. She stores the flask on her shoulder strap. Our systems are to have food available to eat if we get low on energy but wait until a break to eat real food.

Clothing - Depending on the season and the predicted weather, clothing requirements would change. In colder weather, we would start out wearing a hat, gloves, and insulated jacket. You almost have to take your pack off to take off or put on the jacket - but we plan ahead to make that initial clothing adjustment stop. Once moving again, we regulate our body heat by unzipping or zipping our wind jacket and adding or removing gloves and hat. We make sure that we have specific places in our packs to stow the accessory clothing and keep it in reach. You know there are gremlins on the trail that attack packs and remove items not properly secured!

Our needs while hiking are probably different than yours. But, whatever your needs are, devise systems to do as much as possible while you are still moving. By developing systems you will be able to arrive at your destination sooner and without walking any faster - you are just more efficient.

Mileage, balance, pace, stride, rhythm, efficient movement, and efficient systems - all help you become a better hiker.

Happy just keep moving on the trails.




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