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man with backpack on hike looking at horizon

Hiking Tips For Beginners | What You Need To Know

girl with backpack hiking in woods
Hiking in elevation and with obstacles is much more strenuous than simply walking on a flat surface. Don’t push yourself too hard if you are a beginner.

Hiking is a great way for people to get some exercise while leaving behind the stresses of life. Whether it’s work or school or relationship problems, hitting a scenic hiking trail can help you forget everything.

However, unlike walking on a paved path, hiking is often more demanding and unpredictable. Hence it’s important that you know what to bring along (a walkie talkie, navigation tools, plenty of food and water…etc.) and the dos and don’ts while you’re traversing the trail.

So without further ado, here are 13 essential hiking tips for beginners:

1. Don’t Challenge Yourself Too Much

Make no mistake, just because you can walk 10 miles straight on a paved surface, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to do the same on a hiking trail. The latter is usually more challenging with elevations, descents, twists and even obstacles on the way. As a result it may take more time and energy.

In order to estimate how much time you’ll be spending on the trail, find the total distance and divide it by a speed of 2 miles per hour. Then, you’ll have to figure in an additional hour for every 1,000 feet you gain in altitude.

2. Get To Know The Hiking Trail

Experienced hikers always examine the trail before they set-out, and so should you. Once you’ve got a trail selected, get hold of a map and search online for any reviews and hazard reports concerning it. This will allow you to figure out things like whether the trail loops back or whether you’ll be required to backtrack through it.

You should also try to mark out the safest path on the map and perhaps pick out a scenic location or two that’ll make for great lunch spots.

3. Pack The Right Gear

man hiking in mountains with gear
Whether you are a hiking beginner or experience hiker, be sure you take the proper gear for every situation.

There are so many potential dangers you may come across while hiking. It could be a sudden, extreme turn in the weather. You could even lose your way. Having the right tools can help you effectively counter these dangers.

It’s more helpful to think in terms of systems instead of individual items when you’re packing. For instance, a navigation system that includes all the essential tools for finding your bearings.

Here are the mandatory hiking gear systems you need to take with you on any trail:

  • Navigation – this includes a GPS, a physical map and a compass. Don’t just rely on smartphone apps!
  • Food and Hydration – bring enough food and water to last for an unexpected overnight stay.
  • Shelter – make sure you bring along a small tent in case you have to camp out for a while before you backtrack. Be sure you have appropriate gear to stay warm in it.
  • First-aid – this includes things like bandages, gauze, band-aids…etc.
  • Light – bring along an LED lamp or a flashlight so you can still find your way around if you’re walking through the night.
  • Insulation – It’s going to get colder the higher you climb, so it’s important to try and retain your body heat.
  • Communication – a reliable two-way radio for hiking is a must-have. It can help you reach emergency rescue services in a pinch and be alerted to oncoming weather changes.
  • Campfire tools – if you plan on camping out, you’ll need a campfire to keep warm and even cook your food. This means that waterproof matches, and a fire starter or a lighter can come in handy.
  • Sun protection – sunburn is a serious risk if you’re hiking in the summer. So make sure you bring along a bottle of sunscreen and maybe a pair of sunglasses too.

4. Travel Light

beginner hiker looking out over mountains
Try to have everything you need for your hike, while also packing as lightly as possible.

Long, high-altitude treks can sap your energy fast. Hence, it’s best not to stuff your backpack with too many heavy items. Whenever possible, always pack travel-sized items.

5. Pay Attention To The Weather Forecast

Always stay up to date with the weather, even just a few hours before you set out on your hike. This will let you know what kind of clothes to pack and what extra items you may need to bring along. If the weather is going to be particularly terrible, you should strongly consider changing your plans.

6. Inform Someone Before You Go

It’s very important to share your hiking itinerary with a close friend or family member.

Make sure you establish a ‘worry time’, which is the maximum hours of radio silence that a person should tolerate before he/she alerts the proper authorities.

This way, you can still expect help to arrive if you find yourself in danger with no way to reach anyone.

7. Start Your Hike At The Right Time

person hiking in foggy mountains
If you like to hike alone, it’s best to start your trek early, before the hiking trail becomes more crowded.

If you like hiking alone, then the best thing to do is to start as early as possible. The later you start, the more likely the trail is going to end up crowded.

On the other hand, if you like hiking with other people, check what time is most popular for the trail, and plan to arrive at this time.

Just remember, you might have trouble finding a parking spot if you arrive too late!

8. Dress Properly

You want to dress for comfort, warmth and optimal movement, not to impress other hikers you meet on the way.

That means, first of all, swapping out the sneakers for a good pair of hiking shoes. And don’t forget socks!

While cotton is okay for everyday use, it’s certainly not cut out for hiking. Unlike wool or synthetic fibers, cotton tends to absorb a lot of body heat so you definitely want to avoid wearing cotton socks.

The same goes for clothes too: skip wearing anything cotton. If you’re hiking in cold weather, you’ll want to dress in layers. Base layers are very important, but make sure that they’re not so tight that they cut off blood circulation!

In high altitudes, a windbreaker or a fleece hoodie is most appropriate. You should bring along a warm beanie as well, because we tend to lose most of our body heat through our heads.

9. Watch Where You’re Going

Sprained ankles are the most common injuries with hikers. It’s very easy to get distracted by breath-taking scenery on the way, possibly causing you to step in the wrong spot and twist your ankle. Therefore, always watch your feet, especially if there are tons of trip hazards like rocks or roots.

10. Take Your Time

hiker looking over rock ledge
Be sure to pace yourself. You want to have enough energy to finish your hike and see what you came for.

A lot of first-timers start their hike at a really explosive pace and have all of their energy drained halfway through the trail. If you hike this way, you’ll lose tons of body heat very quickly which can make things really uncomfortable.

Always remember: hiking isn’t a race. Take your time, take in the scenery and most importantly: conserve your energy.

11. Don’t Litter

Hiking trails are for everyone to enjoy, so make sure you don’t dump things like candy wrappers or other waste on the way. Some trails will have garbage bins, but you should still bring your own trash bag for the trip.

12. Learn Proper Hiking Etiquette

Hiking etiquette can prevent you from making a total fool out of yourself or annoying other hikers. Here are a few important things that you should know:

  • · Always make way for those who are going uphill
  • Greet other hikers with a simple “hello.” You may want to have a quick chat with back trackers to find out what lies ahead.
  • Avoid talking too loudly to your friends or on the cellphones.
  • If you’re going to be listening to music, put on a pair of headphones.
  • Avoid taking unofficial short cuts; stick to designated paths
  • Make way for bikers.

13. Don’t Panic If You Get Lost

Getting lost on a hike is a fairly common thing, especially if you’re on your own.

If you feel like you’re lost, the first thing you need to do is to stop and consult your map. If you figure out where you are, start backtracking until you come across a familiar spot.

Backtracking almost always works, but on the off chance it doesn’t, try yelling out ‘HELP’. If no one answers, it’s time to take out your phone and call emergency services. If you’re out of cellphone range, then your long-range walkie-talkie should help you reach someone.

Conclusion

When the hiking season comes around, it can be quite tempting to throw a few things into your backpack and hit a trail. However, hiking is more than just walking and needs proper preparation. The above tips should help you make the most of your experience and keep you safe on your trek.

Happy hiking!

ester lavandyan
Ester Lavandyan
tent in snow

9 Smart Hacks To Stay Warm In Your Tent

Camping is no fun at all if it’s freezing and/or wet inside your tent the entire time. You’ll be quite uncomfortable and you could even end up catching a nasty cold!

If you’re a camper or even a backpacking hunter, you need to know how to stay warm in a tent. To do so, you need to know how to retain heat and dry off fast. This will allow you to have a pleasant outdoors experience any time of the year. So, in this article, we’re going to be going over some hacks for keeping your tent warm.

camping man with warm clothes
Once it’s time to get in the tent, a warm hat can make all the difference in staying warm.

1. Bring Along Warm, Comfortable Sleeping Clothes

When camping, it’s best to bring along a separate set of clothes for sleeping and store them in a stuff sack so that they’re always kept dry.

This should ideally include warm socks, base layers and a hat that can cover your ears. Make sure that none of the base layers are so tight that they prevent your blood from circulating properly!

When picking clothes, you’ll definitely want to go with those made of synthetic fibers and wool instead of cotton. This is because cotton is notorious for absorbing heat from your body, leaving you shivering when the temperatures drop.

2. Choose An Appropriate Sleeping Bag

sleeping bags in tent
Be sure that the sleeping bags you choose have a rating that is acceptable for the temperatures you will be camping in.

All sleeping bags will have a ‘lowest recommended temperature’ limit on their labels, which should help you determine whether it’s worth bringing along to the particular campsite you’re heading to.

For instance, if a sleeping bag’s limit is 45 degrees Fahrenheit, then it wouldn’t be ideal for camping in high altitudes, where temperatures may drop below freezing.

Just like with your pajamas, it’s important to keep your sleeping bag completely dry. When your body comes into contact with moisture, it can lose heat pretty quickly. Therefore, make sure you keep it stored in a stuff sack during the day.

3. Waterproof Your Tent

You’re never going to be able to keep warm if you’re constantly battered by raindrops leaking in through the roof of your tent. Hence, it’s absolutely necessary to learn how to waterproof your tent.

The bare minimum you could do is to spray water repellent on the roof of the tent and on the rainfly as well.

Since most leaks occur at the tent’s seams, you may want to invest in a good seam sealer as well. Keep in mind that not just any sealer will work on your tent’s fabric, so it’s best to do your research on what kind you need to buy.

Tents typically contain urethane coating which acts as a sealant against moisture. However, the coating tends to wear off over time. So, if your tent is a bit old, we recommend applying a brand new coat before setting out on your trip.

4. Get Yourself A Good Sleeping Mat

man carrying sleeping mat
Be sure that your sleeping mat has an appropriate “R-value” so that your body heat loss will be minimal in a cold tent.

If you’re going camping during cold weather, keep in mind that the ground you’ll be sleeping on will be cold as well. While a sleeping bag will keep you elevated, it’s not going to be enough to keep you warm, certainly not as much as a good sleeping mat.

When buying a sleeping mat, it’s very important to pay attention to its ‘R-value’ which indicates how good it is at retaining heat.

A high R-value means you’ll lose less body heat when you’re lying on top of the sleeping pad. We recommend going for one with an R-value of at least 5.

5. Dress In Layers

Most campers only put on warm clothing when they start to feel cold. This is a huge mistake, because by then you’ve already lost a significant amount of body heat (hence why you’re feeling so cold in the first place).

So, the best thing to do is to put on the extra layers before night falls.

Thermal attire is absolutely essential when you’re camping in cold weather. So, bring along a fleece hoodie or a warm windbreaker and make sure to keep them dry at all times.

6. Cover Your Head And Feet

Did you know that most of your body heat is lost through your head? That’s why you should always cover your head with a warm beanie before you go to sleep inside the tent.

Similarly, we tend to lose a lot of heat through our feet as well. Hence, thick socks are a must to bring with you. It’s especially helpful to have a long pair that extends beyond your ankles.

hot water bottle to stay warm in a tent
Keeping a hot water bottle close to your body can help you stay warm in a tent.

7. Snuggle A Hot Water Bottle

An effective way to keep yourself warm at night is to fill a hot water bottle and hug it close to a cold spot on your body while you sleep. Make sure the water bottle is a secure one and that the lid can be closed tightly, so that you don’t end up burning yourself!

In addition, we recommend choosing a bottle that is BPA-free so that you can safely drink from it if you wake up thirsty in the middle of the night.

8. Help Yourself To A High-Fat Dinner

This is like stuffing as much wood into the fire as you can before you go to sleep. A high-fat dinner or snack will give your body tons of fuel with which to generate heat, allowing you to sleep comfortably for longer.

9. Drink Enough Water

hot dog roasting on campfire
Eating food with high fat content can help you stay warm on cold camping nights.

You won’t feel as thirsty when you’re camping out in cold weather. However, this doesn’t mean that your body needs less water!

Hot coffee is certainly enjoyable and cozy when camping, but you’ll still need to drink enough water to keep regular body functions like digestion and blood circulation running smoothly. At the same time, make sure you don’t go overboard with hydration. Otherwise, you’ll have to go outside several times in the middle of the night for bathroom breaks.

Conclusion

In this article, we’ve covered several different ways to retain heat and keep dry, from waterproofing your tent to staying hydrated.

If you plan to camp out in cold or rainy weather, be sure that you’ve got everything you need to keep your tent warm and dry. Staying warm will make for a very pleasant camping experience and more importantly, it will keep you from getting sick.

ester lavandyan
Ester Lavandyan
man sighting in a riflescope

Bullseye | How To Sight In A Riflescope

If you’re ready to invest a little money in upgrading your rifle, one of the best things you can buy that will totally transform the way you shoot is a scope.

Not only will a scope improve your range and accuracy, but it will make our beloved sport more competitive and much safer.

But buyer beware.

Not all scopes are created equal! Some scopes are just poorly made, and other scopes are made for various purposes.

For example, the scopes I recommend in my 6.5 Creedmoor guide are solely dedicated for long range shooting.

Do You Need A Riflescope?

But before you buy a riflescope, learn why you should even buy a riflescope in the first place.

Some are built for tactical purposes while other sniper/hunting scopes specialize in longer-range targets. A quick pro-tip here is that it’s generally better to have too much scope than not enough. So, if you must err on the side of caution, err in favor of the scope.

I Have A Riflescope… Now What?

mounting a riflescope
Purchasing a riflescope is only the beginning. You should properly mount and sight in your scope before you ever think about shooting it.

Okay, so you’re happy with the scope you’ve purchased, and now you want to get out and shoot, right?

Wrong.

Only after you have properly mounted your riflescope can you sight it. This component is just as important as anything else because it is how you customize the rifle to your own anatomy and mechanics.

Your arm length, eye spacing, and the unique way you hold the rifle are slightly different from everybody else, and these subtle differences can make a big difference downrange.

You might find it is easiest to sight your rifle at a local shooting range. However, if you live far from one but have a lot of land nearby, just make sure you’re shooting in a safe direction where there is no chance of passing hikers, campers, etc.

Make sure you use the same exact brand and weight of bullets that you’ll be using on the hunt. Even the slightest variation can have a significant effect on how the round fires.

The basic idea of sighting is to make sure the bullet hits exactly where you’re aiming. If this doesn’t happen, it is either because of two things:

  1. You need a refresher on the fundamentals of marksmanship.
  2. Or the scope isn’t properly sighted.

Assuming it’s number 2, you might be wondering:

How do I properly sight my scope? Keep reading to find out!

Step 1: Focus the Reticle

The first thing you need to do is make sure your reticle is in focus.

The reticle is the shape (crosshairs, a singular dot or circle, a triangle, etc.) you see when you look through the scope, and its function is to indicate scale or location of an object.

view through riflescope and reticle
Step 1 of sighting in your riflescope is to be sure you focus the reticle.

Look through the scope to ensure the whole picture is sharp. If it’s blurry, twist the diopter adjustment on the scope, which is typically going to be the end of the scope closest to your eye.

Something to keep in mind is that when shooting is that you will be focusing your naked eyes way downrange, scanning for targets or game, and then you’ll quickly switch to the scope right in your face.

Your eyes take a little time to adjust, so the view through the scope can be a little blurry for a few seconds.

To eliminate this lag, look away from the scope and let your eyes focus on something else at a distance. Stare at it for a few moments, then quickly look through the scope and in the brief moments before your eyes adjust, determine if the picture appears blurry. Keep doing this until the image is sharp and in focus immediately upon looking through the scope.

Step 2: Boresighting

view while sighting in riflescope view
When boresighting your riflescope, be sure that what you’re aiming at down the barrel is the same thing your reticle is aimed at.

Boresighting your rifle first will save a lot of time and ammo.

This will take just a few minutes and will ready your weapon for the fine-tuning we are about to do.

First, securely mount the rifle to aim downrange at a highly visible target 25 yards away. Then, remove the bolt so you can see straight down the barrel at the target.

Look through and aim the barrel center mass. Next, look through the scope to ensure the reticle also lands center mass. You will likely need to adjust the scope’s turrets to achieve this. The turret on top adjusts the scope’s elevation (up and down) and the one on the side adjusts its windage (to the left and right).

Once your reticle is adjusted center mass, replace the bolt and get ready to start shooting.

Pro-tip: There are even specialized zero targets you can use that are gridded to help precisely determine the adjustments you need to make. You’ll see why that might be useful later.

Step 3: Fine Tuning

Sighting requires great precision, so make sure the rifle is either mounted or thoroughly supported for this step.

Replace the bolt, insert your high-quality ear protection, and fire three rounds directly at the bullseye of your target at 25 yards. You will probably not hit the bullseye, so focus more at the consistency of the shot group.

scope turrets for sighting in riflescope
Use your scope turrets to fine tune your riflescope. 1 click typically changes shot location by 1/4 of an inch at 100 yards.

If your three shots are really close to each other, but the whole group is about 1 inch south and 2 inches west of the bullseye, you need to adjust the elevation for 1 inch and the windage for 2. It looks complicated, but it’s really simple. The turrets we were playing with earlier in the article are what we will now use to fine-tune your scope.

But before I go in-depth, here’s a quick primer on elevation and windage adjustments:

Usually one click changes the location of the bullet’s impact by ¼ inch at a target 100 yards away. The way we represent that is “1/4 MOA,” where MOA stands for Minute Of Angle. Four clicks will move the bullethole one inch in the direction indicated.

But, if the target is only 25 yards away, we need to move the dial 4x as many clicks to move the bullethole the same 1 inch. If the target is 200 yards away, conversely, 2 clicks move it 1 inch. Four hundred yards away, 1 click for 1 inch.

So for the example above, we need to rotate the turret 16 times to elevate 1 inch and another 32 clicks to the right. The turret itself will indicate which direction to turn and the MOA (although most are ¼).

Once your scope is sighted for the target at 25 yards, it is time to extend the range to 100.

Fire another three rounds for your shot group, then determine how far off the bullseye the group is located.

Measure the deviation and adjust your elevation and windage in the same way we just did, bearing in mind that 4 clicks at this distance will equal 1 inch.

Fire another shot group at your 100-yard target, and if they hit where you wanted them to, you have successfully sighted your scope.

Happy Hunting!

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