Okay, perhaps this is the retired soldier in me, but I think routines are a wonderful thing. I’m not a slave to them, but if something works why not repeat it? With that in mind I’ve refined my hike routine over the years. Here are a few comments:
- Sleep falls just below water and just above food on my priority list. Unfortunately, it takes until the third night before I am able to fully recharge overnight. I also carry a few more ounces than necessary to ensure I have a thick and durable sleeping pad and I shoot for eight hours, every night.
- I’ve written about my preference for early starts before. I like getting up before the coldest part of the day (which, all things being equal, occurs AFTER sunrise) and I love being on the move as the wilderness wakes up. If there is little or no moonlight a headlamp is necessary, but I carry one anyway.
- If someone were to ask me what my favorite part of thru-hiking the JMT is, I would have to say: the breaks! I often plan them out with great care in order to pick the best spots. I do NOT hurry through them. In fact, lunch usually takes a couple of hours (or slightly more) and includes a nap. Sometimes I’ll take an additional break in the morning for thirty minutes or so.
- One of the benefits of starting early is that I don’t have to hike late. By around 5 pm I am looking for a campsite. Occasionally, if I’ve made better time that day than expected, it could be closer to 3:30 pm.
- Once my campsite is set up (I always do that first) I top off my water, wander around and take some photos, and talk to other hikers if I’ve camped near them. (About a third of the time I seek out places where other campers are unlikely to be spending the night.) My only hot meal of the day is usually dinner, and I always eat with a view.
- Once I’m snug in my tent (if I set up one) I finish entering notes into my hike journal for the day. Then I spend a few minutes familiarizing myself with the next day’s hike. Last, after an entire day in the wilderness, I escape back to civilization for a while by reading. Unlike many, I never select “outdoorsy” books. Give me a good mystery!
I understand that this will not be everyone’s cup of tea. What I do hope you take away is this: decide why you are out there on the trail and make sure your hike routine reflects those priorities.
Good hiking, Ray