Debunking the Debunkers
First, I need to say a few things about some of the debunking I have seen on the internet:
Your body will tell you when you need hydration
You may read that the concern over dehydration is overdone and that your body will tell you when to drink. In my view this is dangerous thinking. This theory may be true at rest, but when you are on an active hike or climb, you may be so focused on route-finding, balancing on rocks or getting up a steep pitch that you ignore subtle signs of dehydration. It is much better to get into a habit of taking periodic sips – and this is much easier from a bladder than a bottle you need to dig out of your pack.
High-ankle boots aren’t necessary
Many sites will say you don’t need boots: they just add expense and weight. That may be true for a 30-year-old with strong leg fitness and balance, but for many, the high ankles and sturdiness of boots helps, especially on uneven, rocky trails. Also, on descents of any steepness and duration, tightening the laces on the top two lugs of high-ankle boots helps greatly by pulling your toes back from the front of your boots. My boots add about 1 ¼ pounds on each foot– but I have never experienced leg fatigue caused by my boots. Remember, running shoes weigh something too.
GPS is not enough, bring a compass
I don’t disagree with this, but the majority of articles are talking about a GPS that shows you where you are. I don’t see anyone arguing against what I advocate, which is that even more important is an “emergency GPS.” That is a satellite communicator reporting where you are to others including emergency communication with the local Search and Rescue.
Now for Some Real Myths
The easiest distance between two points is a straight line
No, stay on the trail. If there were a better, more direct route, it would be the defined trail. The trail-makers were not stupid. In most terrain, you can’t see all the barriers between where you are and a distant point. In-between there can be scraggly bushes with no way through, a water feature too deep or fast-moving to cross, a portion that is too steep or loose to navigate safely, or even a cliff you can’t see. Those are just some of the reasons the trail may not go in a direct line. Then there are reasons that protect sensitive flora or prevent erosion. Shortcuts can be harmful to the environment and harmful to you.
You need to be super fit to hike
That is undoubtedly true if we are talking about climbing, scrambling or all-day hiking in the wild. However, one of the benefits of hiking is that you can adjust a hike to meet your fitness level: you can decide when to turn around, you can walk at your own comfortable speed, and at any time you can stop, catch your breath and rest before continuing on. Hiking helps improve fitness, so start small and build up as you go.
Blue jeans are great rugged wear for hiking
They may be rugged, but they are not good for longer hikes. They are made of cotton, which absorbs water and sweat. They are also often tighter than ideal, which can cause abrasions or constricted performance. Pants that are designed for hiking and climbing are looser and made of artificial materials that can offer a variety of benefits including being quick-drying, easy to wear long-johns underneath, easy to roll up when crossing a stream, and won’t keep sweat close to your body.
If you hike with a buddy, you may run out of things to talk about
You won’t. Firstly, there is plenty to talk about with the hike itself – where you are headed, how long the hike is, how great it feels. Then there are the things you observe along the way – notice, look at and comment on the beauty, unusual natural features, plant life, animal behavior, cloud formations and weather signs. More importantly, you don’t have to feel pressure to be talking all the time. One of the many benefits of hiking is that it gives time for conversation to go beyond the shallow topics of a phone chat or a text and allows for (and even encourages) deeper subjects to surface. That is what makes hiking a great activity to deepen a relationship with a friend or family member – and that is what can make a hike truly memorable.
In my book there is a tale of a hike I did with my sister during which we talked about some things for the first time ever – and we were well beyond 50-years old.
Garlic repels mosquitoes
There was a scientific study done by the University of Connecticut Health Center that debunked this one. The biggest lure for mosquitos is body heat, which is why some people with slightly elevated skin-surface temperatures attract mosquitos while someone standing next to them doesn’t. When you are hiking hard in hot weather, your sweat is a mosquito magnet if you have no repellant. So don’t lather on or chow down on the garlic—you will only scare away your hiking buddies but not the mosquitoes! DEET works, hands down.