Posts written by Anita Chan

Interesting read on hiking and backpack weigh

In recent decades, research shows that by the end of their teen years, close to 60 percent of youths experience at least one low-back pain episode. This may be because of the improper use and weight of the backpacks. Here’s an interesting read we came across that may help you plan your summer hiking trips with friends and children. The article asks this important question: How much should your backpack weigh?

Please note there are lots of determining factors for pack weight. It is tough to give an exact weight recommendation for every hiker. Talk to your physicians to explore your personal options. According to the original article, below are some general guidelines when determining your pack weight:

  • A loaded backpacking pack should not weigh more than about 20 percent of your body weight. (If you weigh 150 pounds, your pack should not exceed 30 pounds for backpacking.)
  • A loaded day hiking pack should not weigh more than about 10 percent of your body weight. (If you weigh 150 pounds, your pack should not exceed 15 pounds for hiking.)

Following these guidelines will keep your pack at a manageable weight. However, the weight ratio may not work for everyone. The following excerpt includes factors that may affect the overall weight of your pack:

  • Trip duration: The longer your trip, the more food, water and fuel you’ll need to carry, which, of course, adds weight to your pack. Even on multiday adventures, you’ll still want your pack close to 20 percent of your body weight, so you’ll need to be extra thoughtful about the gear and clothing you’re carrying to compensate for all that extra gear.
  • Season/weather: If you’re heading out in frigid temps, you’ll need to have warmer, heavier clothing and gear than if you’re trekking in sunny summer weather.
  • Personal preference: Some people value comfort at camp and are willing to accept the inherent weight that comes with hauling in luxuries like a hammock, extra clothes and a thick, cushy sleeping pad. Others are OK with wearing the same clothes for days on end and sleeping on a lightweight pad.

Tips for reducing backpack weight

  1. Know your base weight (how much your loaded pack weighs, minus “consumables,” such as food, water, and fuel). The base weight includes items with a consistent weight that do not change from trip to trip.
  2. Weigh your gear to determine what to bring or remove from your pack. Keeping a spreadsheet is helpful for comparing items and planning your adventure.
  3. Replace old gear with lighter and smart gear. For example, bring a packable down jacket, clothing with SPF and UV protection, or emergency freeze-dried food.
  4. Eliminate unnecessary items (i.e., cellphone charger, selfie sticks).
  5. Repackage items or use travel-sized items (i.e., take granola bars out of boxes, pack nuts into small bags).
  6. Share the weight between your hiking buddies or take turns carrying heavier items.

Exercising to reduce your risk of falling

Everyone is at risk for falls, no matter what your age is. Falls can happen at home, in the community, or while you are walking or doing other activities. The best activities to reduce falls include those that improve muscle strength in the legs and improve balance, posture, and stamina. Muscles tend to get weaker and balance becomes harder if we don’t continue to remain active.

Below is an excerpt from Vancouver Coastal Health’s “Prevent falls: Stay on your feet!” brochure on how to improve muscle strength and balance:

Check your leg strength:

  • Can you get out of a chair safely without using your arms?
  • Can you do it three times in a row?

Check your balance:

  • For safety, try this test while standing near the kitchen counter. Can you safely stand on one leg for 5-12 seconds without holding on to anything or anyone?

What you can do:

  • Get up from a chair three times in a row, without using your arms, whenever you can.
  • Go up and down stairs to keep your legs strong. Make sure you use the hand rail.
  • Walk as much as you can. If you become tired quickly or feel unsteady, a four-wheeled walker with a seat and a basket is a great idea. Have a professional help you buy the right one.
  • Bend and straighten your legs when you are watching TV. Add small weights to your ankles.
  • Mark out a walking path in your house if the weather is bad. Imagine you are walking to Hawaii.
  • Call your community centre, seniors centre, or church to find out what activity programs are offered.
  • Do a few exercises when you make yourself a cup of tea or get a glass of water.
  • See the Strength and Balance Exercises on the next page.
  • Make your activities fun.

Exercises

These simple exercises can help improve your strength and balance. Only do the exercises you feel safe and comfortable doing. It may be safer and easier to do just a couple of exercises at a time. If you have increased pain or a significant increase in shortness of breath, stop exercising immediately. Stand up straight. Hold onto the edge of the kitchen counter if you need to for safety. As this gets easier, try to hold on less.

Infographic showing exercises you can do at your desk

Here are some of the recommended physical activity programs, often found at your local community center:

  • Balance training, e.g., Tai Chi
  • Strength training – using weights or resistance
  • Walking
  • Water fitness
  • Dancing

Remember: Strength and balance can reduce your risk of falling by 50%.

Speak with your doctor or health care provider about any medical condition which may affect your ability to do these exercises.

Infographic showing exercises you can do at your desk

Please click here to read the full brochure or visit Vancouver Coastal Health Fall and Injury Prevention online at www.fallprevention.vch.ca.

The power of a walk in Indigenous communities

According to Leanne Simpson, a scholar and storyteller from the Alderville First Nation on Rice Lake, about 150 kilometres northeast of Toronto, Indigenous communities are filled with tales of people who walked great distances to bring about some kind of change.

Walking is a way to socialize, strengthen family bonds and engage in diplomacy. In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Peter Kulchyski, a native studies professor at the University of Manitoba, says, “These walks tie into non-violent, passive civil disobedience. They can be traced back to Gandhi.”

Simpson added that the walks can forge links that at times cross cultural boundaries, offering “an opportunity for all Canadians to join in and walk alongside. This type of relationship isn’t mediated by the mainstream press or politics. And that’s one of the ultimate goals: connection.”

Traditionally, walking is a mode of transportation – it’s accessible, you don’t need a lot of equipment, you can do it throughout the year, and you don’t have to cover great distances. Research studies show that walking boosts endorphins and improves balance. Participants of these long walks have even vowed to reduce their alcohol consumption and be more active.

Whether you are walking out of necessity or for a cause, we have one thing to say: Happy National Indigenous Peoples Day!