My shoulders hurt from carrying this backpacks” and “I don’t understand why I am feeling cold most of the time” are refrains that are often heard on hikes. While there are multiple factors that affect one’s comfort and sense of wellbeing in the outdoors, one of the key factors is the choice of ‘equipment/gear’ and the manner in which it is used. With reference to the two statements above, the reason for hurting shoulders may well lie with the choice of the hiker’s backpack and/or the way they are using it, and the choice of clothing material for the various layers and way the hiker has been using them vis-à-vis external conditions may be affecting the hiker’s ability to stay warm in cold conditions.
‘Risk management’ helps us understand such factors and how they affect us in the outdoors. Today the field of ‘risk management’ adopts a comprehensive and systemic approach that helps examine origins of risk at a much broader and deeper level than just the causal factors behind an immediate incident or problem. This approach helps in being preventive when managing risk, and influences our functioning right from the stage of planning an adventure. Speaking only about personal gear, today there is a confusing range of merchandise to tempt the outdoorsperson. And with options in multitudes comes the challenge of making the decision of what to buy.
To guide our decision making, I think it is important to have a basic level of conceptual clarity on points like the following:
- How do environmental elements affect us? How do our bodies respond?
Examples: cold, heat, moisture, wind, increased level of activity, different diet, etc.
- What kind of support do I need to extend to my body that is adjusting to challenging circumstances?
(A few examples: appropriate diet and water intake, correct way of layering, effective use of items like boots, sleeping bag and tent, etc.)
- What are some ‘skills’ that tend to get overlooked but are crucial for comfort and efficiency?
(A few examples: packing a backpack and using it appropriately, preventing blisters, using layers to stay warm in different conditions, efficient use of a sleeping bag, etc.)
- How are all of these linked to each other and, hence, to one’s comfort and safety in the outdoors?
(A few examples: what food will help me keep warm and what do I eat during the different meals? Why do I sometimes feel cold when everyone else says they are comfortable? Is it normal to sleep cold at altitude? What should I do to ensure that my backpack does not hurt my shoulders? Etc.)
Needless to say, we have maximum fun in the outdoors when we feel warm and comfortable, and of course when we know we are safe. It is important that we take informed decisions to support our goals of enjoying outdoor activities. Comprehension about the why and how of various factors affecting our performance leads to better judgment at various points of time, and this in turn will help us take appropriate decisions and actions, both prior to and during a venture.
Visit AdventureWorx for all your Trekking and Hiking needs. It’s a one stop shop for all your hiking needs from Rucksacks to apparel and other accessories. These products are made in India and are made keeping in mind the needs of the hikers. There are various Rucksacks and Backpacks that you can choose from based on your needs. The most popular are the Xplore series, which come in different sizes and colors!
– Shantanu Pandit