Embracing the benefits of hiking in a pandemic and how to prepare

Experts say you should avoid cotton clothing when hiking.
Experts say you should avoid cotton clothing when hiking.

We live on a beautiful planet, and hiking is the epitome of being able to experience and enjoy it fully. Being raised in Alaska, the outdoors is something that I grew up in. It's a great activity to do with friends and keeps you active. Plus, there are so many trails around for you to check out! All it takes is a little preparation.

Emily Bowen, an associate at REI, has a lot of helpful advice for people curious about how to get started hiking, and what to bring.

"Think about where you're going and for how long," Bowen says. "Backpack, water, snacks and a standard first-aid kit with gauze, Band-Aids and painkillers are the fundamentals."

When it comes to what to wear, there's a golden rule.

"Cotton kills," Bowen says. "That's what we say in our industry. You need a better material in terms of handling moisture. Instead, look for moisture-wicking clothing."

I kept Bowen's advice in mind when preparing for a hike with my friends. It's an easy enough list to think about even when you're not hiking. Snacks, water, first aid — check. It was hot, so we were all wearing airy clothing that would help us not sweat, plus some sturdy shoes that gave us good traction on the descending trail. Also, I go by the unspoken rule about always hiking with partners. I feel much safer and have a more fulfilling experience when others are around, which could be very important if it's your first time going on a hike.

My friends and I drove to North Idaho to Evans Landing, one of the trails in Farragut State Park by Careywood. It's a 4-mile hike that takes you all the way down to a lake and has some nice scenery on the way. It reminds me a lot of why I like hiking.

Hiking can be as intense as you like. It's a hobby that's as old as dirt for a reason. For me, my life has been a bit more sedentary with social distancing, making me a little more out of shape than I'd like. Even if someone isn't fit, a few Google searches will find you the trail that is right for you. Getting myself active was much needed, but it was also important for me to get a healthy dose of real human interaction.

As we began our journey and descended toward Lake Pend Oreille, we talked about all sorts of topics, reminding me how much I enjoy the social aspect of hiking. We caught up on each other's lives and enjoyed the company. The distraction of technology was no longer around. It was just an amazing view and us, too busy watching where we step to dig our phones out. This is pretty groundbreaking for us millennials, but also for everyone else trying to find social interactions that are intentional and full.

As I get older, I realize how important it is to be able to find some time to be completely stress-free. We found that time as we got to the end of the trail and sat by the shore, eating our granola bars and apples while lobbing some rocks into the still water. I like hiking because it's a simple, no-pressure time for you and whoever comes along. Bowen would agree.

"Just enjoy the journey. Don't think so much about the distance you want to go or the altitude you want to reach. Just think about the enjoyment you'll get," Bowen says.

We made our way back up the trail, our chosen shoes really coming into play as they helped us make sure we didn't slip. We took breaks whenever we wanted to on the way up, embracing the journey. We stopped, enjoyed the view, then continued up back to the car. Evans Landing was a rewarding hike that hit all the reasons why I enjoy hiking. ♦

  • or

About The Author

Jeremey Randrup

Jeremey is a summer 2020 intern from Whitworth University majoring in journalism. He enjoys all things movies and music and appreciates the world's beauty through photography.