Outdoor Backpack Hiking - Bugs, Bears And Blisters; No Thank You!

Outdoor backpack hiking has its share of inconveniences and annoying consequences, but there are solutions to the problems. Are you armed with information of how to handle things that buzz, growl and hurt? Dealing with issues in nature are not nearly as defeating if you prepare in advance. If you could have incredible journeys in the outdoors with no fears of what's out there, would that be a game changer for you or a loved one? The best way to meet a challenge or fear is to face it with knowledge, preparation and foresight, so let's explore that.


Outdoor Backpack - Here's Some Armor

Backpack hiking trips will always have bugs. They live in nature and they multiply by the millions, so there is no way to eliminate them. Your best friend is a good waterproof bug spray that you won't easily sweat off. If you are opposed to Deet, there are repellents that contain 30% lemon eucalypus oil that is efficient in warding off flying insects.  If you have ultra sensitive skin, this may not be for you. You may need to reapply every few hours.

Deet can be harmful to synthetic materials, so it's best to spot test your fabrics before spraying the entire item.

Repellants containing DEET are the most effective. Yes, it's a harsh chemical,  but it does NOT need to go on your skin. Spray 95%-100%  DEET on the top and bottom of your hat brim, your backpack shoulder straps or the neck and shoulders of your shirt and socks. Long sleeved shirts and pants help your skin, a hat with an insect screen works great if bugs are heavy. 

Certain times of the year, bugs are worse depending on your hiking location. Look for a high and dry camping area away from a heavy tree line. Throw a sage stick into your campfire. Its scent is subtle but highly effective at clearing the mosquitoes away.  Avoid products with heavy scents like soap, deodorants or perfumes. Scent free is the way to go.  

If bugs are a really big issue, there are locations that aren't as buggy as others. Check the internet for information in the area you will be hiking.

Outdoor backpack hikers can also use another option of treating their clothing with Permethrin to keep bugs from biting through fabric. This treatment also works after your hiking clothes go through several washings.

 Bears, Lions And Tigers, Oh My!

It's fairly safe to say we here in the United States we don't have to worry about the lions and tigers, but bears are a different story. Hikers must take precautions to avoid attracting bears to their campsites and encounters with them by practicing certain preventative measures.

As beautiful as it is to hike at dawn or at dusk, if you are in bear country, you should avoid it. It's best to hike during daylight hours. Bears are naturally afraid of humans.  Hike in a group of four or more and stay close together. Be noisy, shout, sing, whatever you feel like doing as long as it's noise. This will make bears want to avoid an encounter with you. It is advisable for hikers to carry bear spray.


Avoid going near and dead or injured wildlife.  That is bear food. If you smell something dead or see birds circling overhead, avoid that area. If a bear feels you are a threat to their food source, the encounter could go in a bad direction


Despite movie portrayals of bears always attacking for a human meal, they are more interested in your food than in you. A bear’s sense of smell is seven times better than a bloodhound and 2100 times better than humans. For that reason, do not cook where you camp, nor should you sleep in the clothing you wore while preparing your food.


Outdoor backpack trekkers should always bear-proof their campsite. If you are in a heavily populated bear area, you may want to eliminate cooking altogether and stick to prepared items. You will want to store your food in a bear canister that you bring or sometimes can be rented via forest ranger stations. It may seem odd to you, but things like toothpaste, chapstick and sunscreen are targets for bear interest, so in the canister they should go.

Bear canisters are usually designed to be large enough that a bear cannot carry them easily in their jaws. The lid should be very secure with a locking-type mechanism.

Wipe the bear canister down with a disinfectant wipe to remove odor transfer from your hands. If your bear canister is clear, cover it with an opaque stuff sack or dry bag to prevent bears from seeing your food items. Select a brightly-colored stuff sack to make it easy to see your canister from a distance. It should be placed on level ground (so that it doesn't roll down to water or wind carrying it far away making it difficult to find.)


Place your bear canister approximately 20-100 feet from your campsite. Hikers differ in opinions on how far away you should keep it. Follow your comfort level but before you travel to any wilderness area, it’s smart to contact their ranger or land manager in advance to learn if any food-storage regulations are in place.


Outdoor Backpack - Bear Encounters

If you encounter a bear while hiking, fight the urge to turn and run. When you run, you could trigger the bear’s predatory response to chase.  You are not going to out-run a bear. Instead, stand calmly and assess the situation. If you haven't been seen by the bear, leave the area quietly. Don't take the time to take a photo or make eye contact. Slowly back away in the opposite direction from the situation. Talk loudly to the bear (say whatever comes to mind) and wave your arms as you retreat.

slowly back away from the bear in the opposite direction from which he went or just away from the situation. Continue to talk and move your arms as you retreat.

Before you embark on a hiking trip in bear country, it is wise to check internet instructions on how to handle a bear if it charges at you. There are many tips available and several circumstances that you could encounter, but it's best to be prepared with knowledge.


Outdoor Backpack Hikes - Blisters Can Be Avoided

A blister is formed from damaged skin that is a result of rubbing and friction, by heat, cold or dampness. If your sock or shoe rubs up against the skin of your feet for an extended period, that becomes the culprit.  It will break the skin down. Having sweaty or wet feet exacerbates the situation.


Most commonly with backpackers, your sock or boots rubbing against your skin for a prolonged period of hiking, can result in a blister or "hot spot" which is a reddened area that forms just before a full-fledged blister appears. This can be prevented by making sure your boots are well "broken in" before hiking in them.

If your footwear is either be too loose or too tight blisters are inevitable on a hike, therefore it is crucial that you  have good fitting socks and boots. Stay away from cotton socks and choose merino wool. Slipping and bunching in your socks is a no-no you can prevent.

 Outdoor backpack hikers should trim toenails and allow sweaty feet to dry and air out. You may want to apply foot powder. Dry your boots by the campfire each night before wearing them again. Remove your shoes when you are on a hiking break and air out your feet and boots for awhile. If you wade in a creek, be sure to dry your feet thoroughly before resuming your hike. If your socks feel damp, put on a dry pair before heading back out.

Beginner hikers, I just gave you some ideas on how to avoid things that may concern you, therefore you now have three less reasons to avoid hiking out of fear.  I hope you will get out there and enjoy nature in hiking and backpacking. There is so much to learn and observe, after awhile, your experiences and exposure to the wild will give you confidence.  Happy hiking!

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