Priceless lessons for the outdoors (Part two)


In part one, we learned that a compass, hot water and a hiking stick are great outdoor companions. It is easy to rely on cellphones or be complacent because we are near a McDonald’s but being outside still requires knowing what to bring and how it works. A study of why people get into trouble in U.S. National Parks is educational. When they are disoriented or lost, they climb higher for better cellphone service. This increases risk and is why lessons from our past will help.

Let’s discuss footwear. There are many styles and designs but do not buy based on appearance. Just because they look like hiking boots doesn’t make them so. Trail runner sneakers are popular but the treads fall off like Lego pieces and the low profile invites sprained ankles. Mountaineering-style boots are popular. The classic silhouette is recognizable in the Dolomites but thick leather and ripple soles are too heavy for local hiking.

Early hikers wore high, laced boots with rigid but unforgiving support. These resembled motorcycle police boots. Moccasins were also used, for a barefoot sensation. In 1962, forest ranger W. K. Merrill wrote about the benefits of moccasins in All About Camping. A friend from the 10th Mountain Division sent me two pairs of boots designed by Nike for U.S. Special Forces. They are light as slippers but sturdy and, importantly, lace above the ankle. A combination of flexible and strong is desired. I am still on my first pair.

Here’s a tip. Know the tread pattern of your boots. Trails intersect, bisect, run parallel, and loop. You can be led astray by others’ boot prints. If you need to backtrack, the best way is to follow your own tracks in snow and earth. Over the years, I have come across funny ideas. A 1966 Boy Scouts guide suggested having a dime on hand to make a payphone call. One manual showed how to turn your pants into a knapsack. Another guide advised, “Talk to your dog or horse – they are just as lonely as you are”.

Let’s talk utensils. A knife is essential. This doesn’t mean you are going to fight off a bear. Knives are used for food preparation, harvesting kindling wood, and cutting rope or fabric. I recommend a Swiss Army knife for the extra tools and the fact that it’s a folding knife. Fixed blade knives are more dangerous. I carry a military knife but so far, it has only sliced cheese. Another option is the spork. The fork, spoon and knife combination is beloved by alpinists.

When it comes to clothing, I trek in sweaters like early adventurers. Our ancestors would partially unwind them to darn socks. My Roots cardigan and HBC sweater are ripped, pilled and broken in. In other words, they are perfect. Our gear starts off shiny and clothes are bright but then come the journeys. The rocks and branches. The sun and the rain. The things that last become memorable keepsakes. And what works in the gym or yoga studio doesn’t necessarily work in the woods.

Wool was once itchy, but today’s wool is not. Merino wool is soft, breathable, moisturewicking and quick to dry. When it comes to clothes, focus on function, not fashion. Factor in changing weather, layer, and strive for comfort. Early hikers preferred two woolen lumber shirts instead of a jacket as a layering technique.

One item always to have is a Space Blanket, which is extremely light and takes little space. The reflective sheet reduces heat loss and for those who are lost, the shiny surface acts as a distress beacon. I never hike without one. This helped a trail runner I came across who had broken his arm and was in shock.

Get a chance to win a hiking stick

 These were more priceless lessons from the past. Look for the third in the series. Meanwhile, answer this question to win a hiking stick. On a trail, who has the right of way, the person going up or the person going down? Send your answer through the Tremblant Express website. Be safe, have fun.


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Jeff Swystun


Jeff Swystun34 Posts

Conférencier prolifique et écrivain, Jeff a donné plus de 115 conférences dans 25 pays. L'expertise de Jeff en matière de stratégie d'entreprise, de stratégie de marque et de marketing a mené à l'ouverture de Swystun Communications en 2012. / A prolific speaker and writer, Jeff has appeared at over 115 conferences in over 25 countries. Jeff’s expertise in business strategy, branding and marketing led to the opening of Swystun Communications in 2012. SC is a boutique agency focused on the intersection of business and brand strategy.


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