Unnecessary But Important Hiking Rituals
I said last week that I don’t bring anything with me on a backpacking trip that isn’t absolutely necessary, but that isn’t entirely true. Sorry, I got carried away in the moment of writing. Denying yourself the comfort of familiar objects is part of the appeal of being on the trail, but I don’t know any hiker who doesn’t have at least one ritual that exists purely for pleasure.
Chris, pictured here, uses the return hike to the car as an opportunity to gather water from the glacial lakes or rivers we pass along the way. He then transfers the water to a glass bottle at home and labels it with the coordinates of its source.
I like to change into my sleeping clothes just after I set up the tent, sending signals my brain that it’s time to wind down. I drink chamomile tea while looking at the stars, and wipe down my face with an Herban Essential Lavender towelette. I bring a few blank pieces of paper and a pen and write things down before I go to bed, like: "most of the things you worry about are not actually real." It always sounds profound at the time, and then at home it seems quaint.
I asked some of my internet friends about their hiking rituals, and here are some of their responses:
“I always lay out the stuff inside my tent in exactly the same place. A bit of OCD, but it helped me out one night the head torch battery went.”
“I make a cup of hot chicken broth.”
“I always bring at least a few joints.”
“I carry a flask of whiskey to take a sip at top of passes and peaks.”
“I wake up extra early and have a cup of coffee (or two) and enjoy the pre dawn.”
“I take 2 ibuprofen upon arriving at camp after a long day.”
“I write with coffee while sitting up in my bag in the morning.”
“I always carve spoons for my children when I'm away. Widdle them down and use a hot ash for the bowl.”
“Miso soup before dinner.”
“I bring a lacrosse ball to massage my feet and hips. Every morning and before I crawl into my bivy.”
“I bring a Platypus of everclear.”
“I did laundry every day on the JMT (except one) using a sea to summit silnylon basin and unscented Dr Bronners (at least a couple hundred feet from the water source), then scattered the wash water. Having clean clothes every day was wonderful.”
"I find spots to meditate."
“Yoga before dinner after everything is set up.”
“I like to get to camp and multi task. Set up my kitchen start my boil while I'm setting up my tent. As I am finishing my tent my boil is done. While I am rehydrating my food I am setting up my bedding and putting things away. As I am finishing that my food is ready.”
“If it's a couple days hike, I carry a pack of Oreos and I eat them at the end of the hike.”
“I was gifted a small vial of lavender oil to use on scratches. I got in the habit of opening it and smelling it at bedtime and that became its main purpose.”
"It's when I'm on-ascent. I like to get into a poly-rhythm of breathing and steps, (4 steps per breath; 3 steps per breath; 2 steps per breath - depending on how close I am to bonking) to try to keep my pace disciplined and consistent. Anyway, that's just my weird hiking ritual."
"When I'm walking up a pass, I get a Werthers hard candy every 500 vertical feet."
"Definitely nighttime and morning tea! And always immediately change into my camp shoes."
Tell me about your unnecessary but important rituals!