Real Talk Thursday: unpleasant side effects of frequent hiking

I used to hike. A lot. In fact, in 2015 I tracked my hiking and I ended up covering something ridiculous like 1200 km of trail.  I hiked every weekend and many weekdays, and many of these days were 30+ kilometres. There’s so many good things that come from this type of, dare I say, obsessive hiking.  I have stunning pictures and memories, I was the fittest I’d ever been, and I had an overwhelmingly positive outlook on life (which, as we’ve seen in this space, is not my natural state of being). Hiking is wonderful.

But it’s not all sunshine and roses. There is a dark side to frequent hiking that no one tells you about. Before you choose to embark on the path of obsessive hiking, I feel compelled to warn you about these unpleasant side effects of hiking. If you’ve already proven yourself an obsessive hiker, perhaps you can identify with some of these very real risks.

Really chapped lips:  I own roughly 9000 chapsticks and yet I never seem to actually put one in my backpack. Hiking is dehydrating. Heat is dehydrating. Sun is dehydrating.  It’s a triad of dehydration that is disastrous for your lips. I won’t even describe the horror show of peeling and chapping that my lips have experienced after weeks of hiking. Suffice it to say that they have been, at time, nothing other than repugnant.

Comical tan lines: Sunscreen will only do so much. It will keep you from burning but you will still tan with a vengeance and, when that happens, you will amass a collection of ghastly tan lines that will haunt you for the entire season.  If you wear hiking boots, get ready for an awkward mid-calf tan line that will make dress-wearing season an embarrassment. Even if you wear trail runners, like I’m prone to doing, you cannot avoid the tank top/backpack patch tan. There are no clean tan lines happening here. It will look like a crochet pattern on your back and shoulders. Own it.

Sweat Rash: All the breathable, sweat-wicking clothing in the world is not going to keep your back dry when you’re hiking for eight hours straight, with a backpack, in 30 degree weather. That back of yours is going to stay…moist (sorry, there’s no other word for it). And with prolonged moisture comes the dreaded sweat rash. Normally this itchy and unpleasant rash clears up in just a day or two. That is, unless you insist on hiking day after day after day (after day).  Obsessive hikers note, you may find yourself suffering from a perpetually mild and irritatingly itchy rash on your back, and sometimes even under the lower band of a sports bra. This is real life y’all. You need to know the potential risks of excessive hiking.

Hiker’s feet: This is my affectionate term for a condition that’s anything other than affectionate. No good can come from having your feet stuffed inside insulated hiking boots for 8 hours at a time.  The smell is the least of your problems. I never had dainty feet to start with, but I can promise you that excessive hiking made them ten times worse.  There were callouses, blisters, rough patches, places where skin was rubbed raw, and so, so much more. I swear my feet got wider and flatter, too. And, thanks to the sheer volume of my hiking, my feet never saw the light of day and were approximately 20 shades whiter than any other part of my leg, which is saying a lot since I’m ghastly pale at the best of times.  Flip flops will be your worst enemy. Avoid them at all costs.

If this has made me sound like a hideous monster, I assure you that I’m relatively normal looking in day to day life. But hiking season will take its toll on you. As much as I’m a huge proponent of hiking, I also want you to know what you’re walking into.  Consider yourselves warned.


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