Once the snow melts and we start to get more dry days than rainy days, I love to head to the mountains and the forest as much as I can. It’s kind of why I moved from my little island in the cold ocean (aka Great Britain) to the west coast of Canada in the first place. We are surrounded by the rainforest and mountains in North Vancouver and that truly makes my heart smile.
I used to teach my little yogis in class that trees are our breathing buddies and seriously it is true. They take our dirty air and give us back clean air but I think we have all felt how much more they give us than just oxygen. I dare you to head into a forest and not start taking nice deep breaths and feel lost in their grandeur. A few years ago I came across the saying ‘forest bathing’, referring to spending time in the trees and it hit home because that’s really what it feels like to me. Nature makes me feel held and safe. Immersive days in nature are what nurture our souls. I think it’s partly because nature has a tendency to make us feel small in comparison to its vastness and therefore it makes our problems even smaller. We are forced to focus and be in the present moment which is a powerful feeling and one laced with gratitude.
Mother Nature isn’t to be taken for granted though. She can be all calm and nurturing but she can also be a tough cookie if you aren’t prepared. When I head for a walk or a hike I like to be a little too prepared however I’m often grateful that I have too much, rather than too little.
To make life easier and not get the obligatory eye rolls from the peanut gallery every time we head for the hills, I have a lot of the items already prepped in my bag This prevents me forgetting things and I don’t have to go through a huge procedure every time we leave the house. These are some of my suggestions below, especially if your hike or trail is new to you, over an hour in length or you just want to be prepared to all occasions.
• Water – there is nothing worse than being dehydrated and then stuck somewhere up a mountain with no water source in sight. Add to that a little too much sun exposure and you are looking at a dose of sun stroke or heat exhaustion. Seriously it’s not nice! And if you haven’t experienced it yet I suggest you don’t try. I’ve been there numerous times and have the t-shirt in a couple of shades and would rather not take a visit there again. So depending on the length of the hike, think about taking either a water bladder or a big one litre stainless thermos so that I can enjoy cool fresh water without undue stress. Plus the extra weight will help you burn a few more calories.
• Snacks – this might seem obvious but you just never know when you are going to get hungry or tired while expending calories on a hike. Healthy snacks are a better option that chips and candy because we don’t want a quick surge of energy , only to then to crash (although I have been known to coax my kids on hikes with chocolate and break it out when all the other snacks are gone and the car is still too far to carry them) Some of my favourites are fruit especially bananas, blue berries, oranges and apples. Trail mix and nuts are easy to carry, munch and share plus they are packed with lots of great protein and fats. Granola bars and power bars make great portable energy providers. You could also try veggie sticks and dried fruit. Light, portable and packed with goodness is the key here.
• Sunscreen – even if you only have a little bit of skin showing and it’s raining at the start of the hike, it’s not worth chancing it. I have started a hike in a rain jacket and pants and ended the same hike in shorts and a tee. You can always decant your bigger bottle into a travel size bottle to lighten the load. I like to make sure it’s a 30spf or higher so that all the family can use it.
• Hat/Cap – it doesn’t take up much room and even less if it is already on your head. Great for both sun and rain protection. I tend to clip my cap to the outside of my backpack when I’m not using it.
• Sunglasses – squinting on a beautiful hike isn’t really conducive with a peaceful journey plus it doesn’t really help you avoid tripping up when you can’t see properly. Protecting our eyes is as important as protecting our skin.
• Hiking boots or shoes – good footwear is a must especially when dealing with inclines, mud, soil, rocks and roots. I have seen too many people trying to scale a hillside in flip flops and then having to be helped down with a twisted ankle or bruised toes. I am not sure your safety is worth trading in to be a fashionista. If you aren’t wearing a boot that protects your ankle, make sure your shoes have a firmer base for hiking.
• Take a map or a phone or both. Make sure your phone is fully charged. This might seem like a really obvious plan but sometimes the obvious is what gets missed. If you don’t have a map for the route you are doing because there are trail headers to follow, at least look at the route in full before you leave your home. I like to check it out on my phone and screenshot the map so that if I lose reception I still have the map available.
• Check the conditions before you head out. Be prepared as the scouts motto goes. If it’s on a mountain or in a national park there will often be up to date details on local websites about the conditions. Check the weather too as it can change quickly.
• If you are hiking on your own be sure to let someone know where you are, when you are leaving and when you intend to be back.
• Dress in layers if you can. Layers are better than one huge item because as you get hot or cold, adding a layer or taking one away is easier and more manageable. My suggestion would be a tank or tee to begin with, then a mid-layer a fleece or long sleeve lighter item, followed by a jacket. Try to avoid cotton as it is great at absorbing sweat but not wicking away. It will stay wet for hours, which isn’t ideal when you start to get cold. This is one occasion that natural is not always best.
• Some little extras: a pack of Kleenex, a lipbalm preferably with spf, a few band aids because blisters are not nice mid hike, gloves, a bell/or whistle to let the animals know you are there and also if you need to signal for help, a multi-tool/knife, compass and bandana to protect your neck from the sun.
Now we have covered the basics, it’s time to move our attention to our wonderful essential oils. Yes before you ask I do take my oils everywhere that I go including hiking and trail running. I do suggest that, to prevent your bag from feeling overwhelmingly full and heavy, you fill up some small 2ml sampler roller glass bottles or 1ml sample vials to bring with you instead of full 15ml bottles.
Here are some of my favourites to use. They are safe for the whole family to use. For kids, extra dilution may be needed. We love using fractionated coconut oil with our oils.
Lavender for skin issues and bites.
Purify for stings and bites.
Terrashield for bug repelling
Onguard spray for hand sanitizing
Breathe/Easy air to help open up your airways and make inclines easier
Deep blue for aches and pains
Tea tree for cuts and scraps
Triease capsules for allergy support
Zengest/Digest zen for car sickness and tummy issues
So all that is left to add is enjoy the great outdoors but also respect that mother nature has a mind of her own.
Be safe and have fun!