Can you survive hiking and backpacking?

John Miller

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Hiking and backpacking are great ways to enjoy the outdoors. But from bears to blisters, there are a lot of things that can make hiking difficult or even dangerous. Could you survive hiking and backpacking?

If you've lived a sedentary lifestyle, what should you do before you start hiking or backpacking?

You don't have to train like you're preparing for marathon. Just get some regular exercise, and while you're at it, load up a small pack and carry it around once in a while, because running or jogging isn't the same as lugging a pack up a steep hill.

Of course, you need a map when you go hiking. But you also need _____.

Maps are useless if you don't know how to read them. Know a few map basics -- like how to pinpoint your location -- before you head out into the boonies.

Long hikes often expose people to varying temperatures and weather conditions, so how should you dress?

Dress in layers. You can shed or add layers as needed. And don't forget a waterproof layer so that you can shrug off that unexpected rain shower.

What's the first thing you should do before setting off into the backcountry?

It's the cardinal rule of backcountry hiking -- tell someone where you're going and when you expect to be back. That way, if there's an emergency, people will have an idea of how to find you.

If you're going hiking for the first time, how should you choose a trail?

Do some research before you go. There are great apps (like AllTrails) that will help you select a trail that's easy and flat for your first outing. Save the hard trails for another day.

What's a very important piece of gear for hiking?

Have you ever seen people hiking in flip-flops? Yeah, they're dumb. Get a quality pair of hiking boots or trail shoes and break them in before you go on a long hike.

How should you hydrate during your hike?

Your body needs a lot of water while you're hiking. Sip water often. It will keep your body working properly and even ward off premature fatigue.

Why should you avoid cotton clothing for hiking?

Once it's exposed to moisture (either sweat or rain) cotton tends to hold moisture next to your skin instead of wicking it away. Moist skin is always bad news -- it can quickly drop your body temperature, even when you don't want it to.

What is hypothermia?

Hypothermia is a condition in which the body's temperature drops below normal. It's also one of the most common killers of people -- novices and experts -- who venture into the backcountry.

True or false: Hypothermia only occurs during days when the temperature drops below freezing.

Hypothermia can occur even when the temperature is in the 50s. You must layer your clothing so that you're warm ... and also dry. Damp clothing, either from rain or sweat, quickly causes your body temperature to plummet.

If you're backpacking and you see signs of rain, what should you do with your sleeping bag?

You do not want to sleep in a wet sleeping bag. If there's any sign of precipitation, make sure your sleeping bag is in a place where it won't get wet.

True or false: If you're hiking in the mountains and you're thirsty, it is OK to drink water from a clear stream.

That cold, clear water will look refreshing, but in many cases, it's loaded with microorganisms that can make you very, very sick. Just because "your friend did it once" doesn't make it a good idea.

If you're hiking in a high-altitude area, how should you adjust your plans?

There's less oxygen in high-altitude areas, meaning that most people tire much more easily. Maintain realistic expectations for the activities you can accomplish when you're in the mountains.

If you're on a long day hike and you feel really tired, what should you do?

You wanted to reach that highest peak by noon, right? But you're really tired. Don't mindlessly press onward. Stop and evaluate your options. If you exhaust yourself on the climb up, you might tire yourself right into an emergency situation.

True or false, do you have to go at least three miles in order to call it "hiking"?

Don't listen to the elitists. Distance doesn't matter. Just get out there, enjoy the outdoors and get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life for a while.

What's the purpose of hiking sock liners?

Lightweight sock liners are a great addition to your normal hiking socks. They wick away moisture and reduce the chances of blisters.

Take a whistle in case of emergency. To summon help, how do you use the whistle?

The universal distress call is three short whistle blasts. Then pause and repeat. It beats screaming for hours on end.

What is NOT one of the "big 3" items necessary for backpacking?

No, your smartphone is not an essential item for backpacking. The "big 3" are your backpack, shelter and sleeping bag.

What's one indispensable item if you're hiking high in the mountains?

The higher you go, the brighter the UV rays that damage your eyes and skin. Slather on that sunscreen and wear quality sunglasses to protect yourself.

When it comes to food and water, how much should you pack?

Always pack more food and water than you need. You need more calories and water than you think when you hike, and in the event of delays, you'll need the extra amount.

As you hike in unfamiliar areas, keep your eyes on _____.

It's easy to get turned around or even lost in unfamiliar areas. Note landmarks in the area as you travel so that you can backtrack if necessary.

If you get lost while hiking, what should you do?

If you get lost while hiking, stop. Take a deep breath. Realize that stumbling around aimlessly is likely to make things worse. If you're on a trail, stay on the trail. Look up the STOP recommendations written by the National Forest Service before you ever even leave home.

Quality hiking socks are imperative in part because you will walk about _____ steps per mile.

Most people walk about 2,000 steps per mile. Good footwear and socks are the difference between enjoying your hike and winding up in blister-plagued misery.

What's one major advantage of a hydration bladder as opposed to an old-school water bottle?

It sucks lugging around a water bottle, either in your hands or in a pack. A hydration bladder is easy to carry in your backpack, and thanks to its long tube, you can sip at will without stoppping.

Ultralight hiking socks are meant for what sort of conditions?

Ultralight hiking socks are wonderful for hot conditions. They'll protect your feet and prevent them from getting disgustingly sweaty.

What is the No. 1 factor you should consider before going hiking or backpacking?

Let's face it -- hiking and backpacking are physical challenges. You need to be in at least fair physical condition if you want to pursue these activities. The more challenging the hike, the better shape your body should be in.

If you decide to go backpacking in the boonies, how should you pack?

It's a rookie mistake -- packing everything you might possibly need or want during a trip to the backcountry. But overloading your pack means you'll be tired before you even get out of the parking lot.

What sort of wildlife should keep you from venturing out into the backcountry?

In the vast majority of situations, North American wildlife shouldn't keep you from going hiking, even into the wilderness. But do take the time to research common sense approaches to snakes, bears and other potentially dangerous animals.

Packing light helps you to prevent _____.

Always pack light, for day hikes or for overnight trips. Doing so has multiple benefits. Here's one: It will cut down on the chances that you develop debilitating blisters.

If you have to drink creek water in the wilderness, how long should you boil it?

If you have to drink water from that creek in the wild, boil it first. Bring it to a full, rolling boil to make sure that the nasty bacteria are dead. And of course, let it cool down first. In place of boiling, you can also opt for survival filters or chemical treatment packets.

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