Saturday, November 11, 2017

Muscle Cramps

Exercise related muscle cramps or spasms all refer to the pain that happens when a muscle contracts and doesn’t release. The feeling can present all over your body. Think of how creaky your calves feel towards the end of a half marathon. Or how your legs have no lift in the last miles of a long race.
Exercise related muscle cramps or spasms all refer to the pain that happens when a muscle contracts and doesn’t release. Illustration: Oliver Baker

Symptoms of Muscles Cramps

Exercise-induced muscle cramps usually hit suddenly and seemingly without warning. You may notice twinges in the affected muscle groups before a full-on cramp begins. The pain tends to be sharp, localized and in specific groups of muscles, like the calf or hamstring. Your muscle may also be hard and contracted under the skin.

Causes of Muscle Cramps

The outdated theory heard by cramped and contorted runners was to eat salt, have a banana and hydrate. That’s because the long-held belief was that dehydration or low electrolytes were the cause of cramping. However, research done by the South African doctor Martin Schwellnus suggests another possible answer. What Schwellnus found was that there was no electrolyte differences between those who cramped and those who didn’t. Additionally, there were features of cramping—for example, the fact that many people relieve it through stretching—that couldn’t be explained by dehydration.
Schwellnus also hypothesized that cramps might be caused by misfiring of the neural signals that tell your muscles to contract. When fatigued, those signals become hyperactive and the muscle won’t relax.
While salt loss and dehydration can certainly cause problems and generalized cramping throughout the body, it hasn’t been shown to cause specialized exercise-induced cramping, such as one would experience in a calf.
One common factor is muscle fatigue, both from sustained activity and holding one position for an extended period of time. As we move our arms and legs, muscles contract and release to make the movement happen. As muscles lose the ability to contract and fire properly, they start to twinge and cramp.
Cramping tends to occur when runners experience exercise fatigue, push harder than usual or are beyond the scope of their fitness and training. While the exact reason may not be clear, there are some things you can do to lessen the incidence of cramping.

Treatment of Muscle Cramps

The good news with muscle cramps is that they only last for a couple of minutes. However, those minutes can feel like hours when a finish line is looming ahead. But with a bit of self-care, you’ll be on your way.
Once a cramp strikes, you really can only do one thing: “Take a deep breath, stop, and stretch,” says Chris Harnish, an assistant professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance at Virginia Commonwealth University. Static stretching has been shown to stop cramps, because it inhibits muscle contraction. Then, start slow and build your speed up.
“If you back off early enough, you can usually prevent it,” says Dr. Gabe Mirkin. Once a cramp comes on, it can be debilitating and impossible to continue, then “the only choice is to back off.”
When muscle groups start to twinge, targeted massage and stretching may cue engaged muscles to relax and release.
Stop doing whatever exercise or move is causing the cramping, even for a quick break. The pause in activity gives muscles the chance to reset.
Hydrate if you’re thirsty. While dehydration isn’t necessarily the cause of acute cramping, it will help lessen the overall strain on your system.
Drink something acidic or salty, like pickle juice. Current tests are showing that the briny flavor may actually trick your brain into releasing cramping muscles. In studies, the engaged muscles actually release before the sodium has time to enter the blood stream.

Preventing Muscle Cramps

Muscle cramps hurt. After experiencing them, you will want to make sure they don’t happen again. Not knowing exactly what causes cramps makes it a challenge to prevent them. However, there are some things you can do to reduce their occurrence.
Train specifically for your race. If your race has a significant amount of uphill or downhill, replicate it in training so your legs and body can adjust to the workload.
Pace yourself. Going out too hard, especially harder than you trained for, will cause your body to fatigue early, putting you at a higher risk for muscle cramps.
“When you are out of shape, and then engage in high intensity, prolonged exercise you would put yourself at risk for developing cramping,” says Schwellnus.
Hydrate and stay on top of electrolytes. While the lack of fluids or electrolytes do not necessarily cause cramps, keeping them in check will help your body feel and function efficiently.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Food for Treks

Daily Food

  Pretty much any snacks work to provide energy for a Day Hike since you can eat a healthy breakfast before hiking and a nice dinner when you get home.
Once your hike becomes multi-day, your nutrition needs change greatly. You now need to ensure your body is receiving more than just calories.
A good distribution of foods from the food pyramid, possibly supplemented by a daily vitamin will keep you hiking strong for days, weeks, and even months on end. The calories you consume should be around 15% proteins, 50%-65% carbohydrates, and 20%-35% fats.
Carbohydrates provide faster energy, fat more long-burning, and protein replenishes and keeps muscles healthy over time. Reducing protein too much will be devastating on a long-distance hike.
Carbohydrates and proteins have 4 cal/gram (113 cal/oz), while fats have 9 cal/gram (255 cal/oz). It is a good goal to find calorie-dense foods so fewer pounds are carried for the same amount of energy. A food pack containing about 4.25 cal/g (120 cal/oz) is fairly dense. Most multi-day hikers carry 1.5 to 2.0 pounds of food per day. That means carrying more than about ten days of food becomes impossibly heavy. For longer treks, read about supplying food along the way.
The process to outfit your trekking food is:
  • Estimate how many calories are needed with this Calorie Calculator.
  • Create the meals with this Menu Planner.
  • Shop for food. Start early and buy when items are on sale since they can be stored.
  • Repackage. Just before the trek, repackage food into meals so all ingredients are easy to find.
  • List required utensils. Choose food to minimize the extra tools needed.
The planning of food, shopping for ingredients, and repackaging into meals is an enjoyable part of planning for a long hike. It's exciting to think I will be preparing this meal while the sun is setting on some far mountain.
Figuring out what tastes might work together, making sure I have enough but not too much food, understanding what utensils are needed to make the meal - all parts of the planning that can be a lot of fun.
Some people like real food, such as steak, stew, hamburgers, or other items that take real cooking and weigh a ton. These people tend to take day hikes from a base camp, exploring an area thoroughly.
To take an extended trek requires changing your expectations of food and the effort involved in carrying it and preparing it. Minimizing the weight to carry and the time, fuel, and utensils needed to prepare a meal are the main goals.

Reduce the Weight

It makes no sense to carry any more weight than necessary. Since a large portion of total pack weight can be food, that is a good place to start lightening the load.
There are a number of ways to reduce the weight of your hiking food:
  • Dehydrate - buy your own food dehydrator and dry fruits, vegetables, and meats.   Most inexpensive and healthy option but requires effort at home. A dried apple is still an apple, just without the water.
  • Buy Prepackaged - purchasing freeze-dried or dehydrated meals is the easiest. It is also the most expensive and can introduce large amounts of sodium and preservatives.
  • Calorie Density - read the nutrition labels on foods. Find those that are dense in calories compared to weight. Sunflower kernels are 190 cal/oz while an apple is 15 cal/oz. and a dehydrated apple is 100 cal/oz.
  • Repackage food - you'll be surprised how much garbage labelling you'll throw away. Better to just leave it at home rather than carry it mile after mile just to throw away later.

Other Trek Food Tips

  • Take dehydrated fruits and vegetables to help input vitamins not found in processed foods.
  • Take a daily vitamin each day to help fill any lack of nutrition in your food choices.
  • Pack spices. Take a lightweight container of 5 or 6 common spices to add flavor to meals - salt, cayenne pepper, garlic, cinnamon, chili powder, onion, or whatever you like.
  • If you expect cold mornings, or aren't eager to start hiking bright and early, have oatmeal and hot chocolate. On long treks, I prefer packing up and moving right away with a break for Pop-tart, granola bar, or trail mix after an hour or so. This saves a lot of time heating water and clean up. It also means less fuel to carry.
  • The ultimate lightweight meal packaging is to just take your credit card. When thru-hiking a long trail that goes through towns, it's a lot lighter to eat at a restaurant or buy fresh food at a grocery store than to carry your meals.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Plan the Hike, Hike the Plan

  I actually enjoy the planning of hiking trips and treks nearly as much as the hike itself. Thinking about where I'll go, what I'll eat, the supplies I'll need, and what I'll see helps get through boring stretches at work and commuting. Planning is kind of like virtually taking the hike and its fun to see how close I imagined it would be to how it really is.
When planning a hiking trip, you can't get too detailed. It's fine to calculate right down to the weight of your bandanna or the exact minute you need to stop for lunch. But, you do need to remain flexible at all times and be prepared to shift your plans as needed.
These main planning sections are good things to consider.

Take a Shot

Consider your current abilities from your recent training to determine how much of a hike you can handle - be realistic. Decide where you want to go - the coast, mountains, nearby forest, ... wherever you want to explore. Get a rough idea of how many hours you want to hike, how far you can go, what hiking supply load you need, and then use maps and guidebooks to find a trail that matches your desires and abilities. Figuring out how far you can hike in a certain amount of time is a good exercise. Or, figuring how long it will take to hike a certain trail. The actual results will depend on your shape, the trail condition, elevation, weather, and lots of other little things. But, in general, you can count on 2 miles per hour on flat land. Reduce that a bit for every 1000 feet above your home elevation due to reduced oxygen. To the total time, add 1/2 hour for every 1000 foot elevation change due to slow climbing.
Here's a simple calculator that will give you a crude estimate - enter what you want and the rest will be calculated:

Hiking Goals
Ability:Beginner     Average     Advanced
Hike Elevation:feet above home
Elevation Change:feet

Click Here to use Calculator on your Site!

Tell a Friend

  Find a hiking buddy to go with you. Hiking alone is not safe. Once you are an old pro and have been through some rough weather, difficult terrain, a few accidents and missed turns, then you can think of hiking alone. Until then, take a buddy along. Someone with more experience than you will be a great way to learn new tips. Discuss your plans with your friend and make sure everyone understands how far you want to go, how fast you want to hike, and what you want to see on the hiking trip. Having expectations synchronized will make the adventure fun and fair with fewer surprises.

Check Terrain

  Use a detailed topographic map to understand the difficulty of your hike. It may just be a 6 mile loop on the map, but that may be flat or include 4000 feet of elevation change.
Learn how to read a map before going hiking. When you are in the field, your map and compass will be your most important tools to stay on track. Also make sure your map is current - trails change, magnetic declination changes, areas open and close.
Checking with the agency responsible for managing your planned hike area is a good idea.   The elevation you gain and lose while hiking will have a definite effect on how fast you hike and how much ground you cover. Hiking up a steep grade will slow you way down, forcing your muscles to work much harder. Hiking a downgrade will be easier on muscles but much harder on joints.
  Creating a hike elevation profile will give you a good idea on where the more difficult stretches are in your planned hike. Convert the information on your topographic map into a chart of elevation versus distance. In this example, a climb to the top of a peak and then the return on the same trail is diagrammed. It is fairly consistent with just one short stretch halfway up that is fairly flat.
Take into account the time of year when checking the terrain. A dry, dusty trail in July may be a muddy mess in May. You may be able to hike across a frozen marsh in January, but go around it in June. Also remember that higher altitude means cooler temperatures and hypothermia is a real possibility anywhere below 60F degrees. If your hike takes you over 9000 feet, read more about high altitude hiking.

Check Weather

  Everyone knows that weathermen are seldom correct. Even with high-tech gear, predicting the chaotic nature of weather is not possible. A beautiful, sunny day can turn to life-threatening rain in an hour. You have to be prepared for the worst probable weather and its consequences. The word 'probable' is key - June in Minnesota will not require snowgear, but will require raingear. You need to consider what the worst effects will be from weather for which you did not prepare and then decide if it is worth the risk. For example, hiking in Death Valley in April has a miniscule chance for any precipitation, but an average daily high of 90F and a record of 120F. So, the consequences of no raingear are much less than not taking a hat and lots of water. Elevation and weather are closely related. In general, every 1000 feet in elevation means a drop of 5F degrees in air temperature. Also, the higher you go the faster and more severe weather changes with big drops in temperature occurring quickly and higher winds in general.
A sudden rain passing through may just cause you to seek shelter for 15 minutes. But, your travel time may be greatly reduced afterwards due to a deep layer of mud on the trail. Be ready to change your hike plans due to weather conditions. Read more about what to do in case of lightning.
While hiking on your trip, constantly stay in touch with nature around you. Just walking through and oohing and aaahing over the flowers and mountains is missing half the fun. Check out the clouds - are they building? are they picking up speed? are they white or dark? what does the horizon look like? Are birds still flying around? Is there a gentle breeze in the treetops or is the wind getting stronger? Keeping an eye on your surroundings is fun and important.

Check on Permits

hiking trip Most national parks and wilderness areas require a backcountry permit. Often times these permits are free but if you are checked and have no permit, the fines can be very expensive. Permits are used to monitor visitor traffic, to limit use of certain spots, or to help keep hikers safe. From very restrictive permits that define your trails and campsites to general access permits, it depends on the management goals of the agency in charge. Other areas may not require a permit, but its always a good idea to check in with a ranger. It's an opportunity to tell one more person where you plan on hiking and to check one last time on trail conditions and any special short-term regulations in the area.

Tell Another Friend

 Always, that is ALWAYS, leave your hike itinerary with someone at home.
Make sure they know your route, start time, when you will be back, and when you will be contacting them. If you are not in contact with them as expected, they should have instructions on who to call to check - for example, the ranger station near the trailhead.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Runner’s Knee

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is among the most common causes of knee pain. The injury impacts top runners and amateurs alike. In fact, there is evidence to suggest it may account for as much as 50 percent of lower extremity injuries in runners. PFPS is generally characterized by pain and discomfort behind or around the patella. It is often called runner’s knee because pain results from activities that require the knee to flex while bearing weight on the patellofemoral joint, such as running. If you’ve encountered this injury, you know how nagging it can be. Fortunately, there are a number of research-backed measures you can take to treat or prevent PFPS.

Symptoms of Runner’s Knee
  • Tenderness around or behind your knee cap
  • Pain that is aggravated by downhill running
  • Dull pain when running on uneven terrain
  • Pain when you push on the patella

Causes of Runner’s Knee

Runner’s knee occurs as a result of improper tracking of the knee cap in the femoral groove. When the patella doesn’t track correctly, the result is pain while flexing the leg and bending the knee. Poor strength and flexibility in areas like the hips, hamstrings and quadriceps have all been shown to contribute to this problem.
Training errors are another potential culprit. This can include an accelerated build-up of mileage, as well as too much high-intensity running or hill work. Worn out or inappropriate footwear is also cited as a possible cause.

Runner’s Knee Treatment

The first line of treatment for runner’s knee is rest, along with the use of ice and NSAIDs. This may help diminish pain and swelling in the short term.
Take a day or two to rest. Do not run on a knee that is painful, as you will only make things worse. If you are unable to bear weight on the injured leg or if you have swelling of the joint, these are signs that you may have more important structural damage to the ligaments or cartilage. In these cases, evaluation by a physician is strongly recommended.
For long term care, research suggests strengthening the top of your leg if you’re struggling with runner’s knee. Poor hip strength and stability have been repeatedly shown to create knee problems. For instance, when researchers focused on a group of runners with PFPS, they found that their biomechanics were hampered by hip instability as a result of weak hip abductor muscles. Other research identifies the importance of hamstring and quadriceps strength in addressing runner’s knee.
Research published in the Journal of Athletic Training demonstrates that six weeks of hip strengthening exercises can help improve the symptoms associated with runner’s knee. Squats, balance exercises and movements that incorporate the hip abductors and hip flexors are paramount.
What’s more, when physical therapy researchers from the University of Pittsburgh compared patients with and without PFPS, they discovered that those with runner’s knee tended to have less flexibility in their quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. Some runners will find relief by foam rolling. Rolling out the quads, hamstrings and calf muscles can help stretch those areas and take strain off the knee.
There is also new research out of the University of Calgary that suggests orthotic insoles may help runner’s ailing from PFPS. They discovered that orthotics could change biomechanics by reducing knee loading and thereby alleviating pain. The researchers suggest that custom-made insoles, which can be tailored to a runner’s individual gait pattern, are optimal.
Remember that cutting back on mileage—or even taking a complete break from running—remains important. If pain has subsided after a few days of rest, begin a strengthening program for your legs. Replace your shoes if necessary with new ones that are suited to your running style. After a week or so, continue the strengthening exercises and resume running on a soft surface but at a much reduced volume and intensity. If the pain does not return, slowly increase the frequency, duration and finally intensity of the runs over a period of at least a month. If at any time the pain returns, evaluation by a physician is probably a good idea.

Preventing Runner’s Knee

It is important to be proactive with prevention measures, especially if you’ve suffered from runner’s knee in the past. Implementing a regular strength and flexibility routine should be a main focus. Strengthening the hips, quads, hamstrings and every muscle in between improves overall stability and helps the kinetic chain function by design. In addition to improving patellar tracking, these exercises will reduce undue pressure and load on the knees.
Working to improve mobility also remains necessary. Leg swings before or after workouts are a great way to improve hip mobility in particular. Simply stand next to something that you can hold onto for balance and swing one leg at a time forward and backward. Then swing each leg sideways, sweeping it across the front of your body. Foam rolling the iliotibial band, hamstrings, calves and quads can also assist in keeping your biomechanics in good working order.
Listen to your body and respond at the first sign of discomfort. Runner’s knee is an injury that worsens if you continue to run on it. Building mileage slowly will help ensure you remain healthy. Do not increase your mileage by more than 10 percent from one week to the next. Avoiding excessive downhill running and stairs are also good measures to take if you’re hoping to skirt injury.
New research has found that addressing running form can help to prevent runner’s knee. Converting from a rear-foot to a forefoot or mid-foot strike pattern has been promoted as a means to reduce patellofemoral stress. Adopting a forward trunk posture, meaning a mild lean, while you run, while simultaneously engaging lower abdominals subtly, can also help.

The Great Bike Debate: 26-inch-wheels vs 29er

If you want to stir a lively debate among cyclists, simply ask which is better: 26 inches or 29er? Many mountain bikers will extol the virtues of one wheel size over another, but what benefits do larger wheels offer commuters?
700c vs. 29 inches
Many commuters have been rolling to work on 29-inch-wheels for years.  All road and cyclocross bikes are built with 700c wheels, which are 29 inches. However, 700c wheels are designed to accommodate a thinner tire. Many come in widths ranging from 18 to 23 millimeters, with touring tires ranging from 25 to 28 millimeters. Wider tires offer a plusher and smoother ride, but the additional rolling resistance results in slower speeds. On the flipside, the wheels on a 29er are beefier and were originally designed for off-road use. The tires are designed to roll over obstacles, while making more contact with the ground. Mountain bike tires are much thicker than a 700c, with widths typically falling between 1.8 to 2.4 inches.
The 29er
A 29er is more than just a wheel size. The bike’s overall design and geometry varies as well. Because of the larger wheels, the bike tends to accommodate taller riders and these frames offer greater ground clearance for a rider to navigate obstacles. The bikes also have a varied geometry and will handle differently than a 26-inch mountain bike or a 700c road, touring or cyclocross bike.
Big-wheel advantages
Companies such as Surly have caught on to the 29er craze, offering bikes, such as the Karate Monkey, that are designed for commuters and fixed-gear trail riding. For bicycle commuters, 29-inch-wheels help dampen bumpy roads and potholes, are often a more comfortable option for larger rides, and they tend to carry a rider’s momentum better than a 26-inch-wheel. These larger wheels also make it easier to roll over soft surfaces. A fatter tire increases the bike’s traction and corning ability, making it a more stable ride, especially in inclement weather or on gravel and dirt paths.
Other considerations
Any thicker tire will carry a speed disadvantage and a larger wheel will also increase the bike’s weight. While 29ers help carry a rider’s momentum, they’re slower to accelerate and brake.
Bicycle Trailers and 29ers
Many bicycle trailers will fit bicycle’s with 29 inch wheels, but always ensure that if they attach via rear axle, they will accommodate the wheel size of the bicycle.  For more on bicycle trailers download our FREE ‘Bicycle Trailer & Cargo Carrier Buyers Guide‘.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Hot Weather Hiking

Hiking in the deserts and arid regions can be exciting and challenging. Tons of different animals, plants, and scenery can be enjoyed when you hike someplace other than the mountains. The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular U.S. arid locations, but all over Arizona, New Mexico, and other southwest states, you can find great hikes to test your skills.

General Hot Weather Hiking Tips

Most importantly, remember that hiking is supposed to be fun and you are responsible for your own safety. Before you start on your hike, check the weather forecast. If it is expected to be 110 degrees and 110% humidity, then you'd better seriously consider postponing the day hike until things cool down. Your physical shape and hiking experience should also be considered. Hot weather means more strain on hearts and lungs and lots more perspiration just to keep from burning up. Make sure you are comfortable with everyone in your group being out in the heat.
When it's not too hot to hike, then use these tips to stay safe and enjoy the day:
  • Pick a less strenuous route. Maybe cut back on the number of miles you plan to cover and choose something that is flatter than you'd normally tackle.
  • Plan a route that is in forested land, that follows a stream, or has stream crossings. The extra shade and access to water will give you shelter if it gets too hot.
  • If you have a choice between hiking in the valley or in local mountains, spend the day hiking the mountains. 4,000 feet up will be noticeably cooler than down on the valley floor.
  • Include Gatorade mix or some other electrolyte powder. Mix it about half strength in your water to replenish what you sweat out.
  • Include some salty snacks for the trail.
  • Take more frequent breaks and ensure that everyone is drinking water.
  • Enjoy the water. If there is a stream on your route, wade in it to cool off. Use a soaked bandanna to cool your head and neck as you hike, too.
  • Be extra vigilant about blisters. The heat and extra sweating may help you experience your first blister in a long time so notice and treat hot spots.
  • Cotton T-shirts will soak up your sweat and hold it, making the shirt heavy and reducing the cooling effect of the sweat. Wear a polyester t-shirt instead to wick the sweat away quickly. Also, make sure the clothes you are wearing are loose-fitting for more air flow and less chafing.

Desert Hiking Tips

If you are new to desert hiking, you need to learn a new set of skills and guidelines. It's similar to alpine hiking, but does have some important twists. Be prepared before you head out and you'll have a great time.
  • Pick a time of year when temperatures are less extreme. If you really want to battle 120+ degree heat in the middle of summer, then go ahead, but I won't be seeing you out there. Consider spring or fall hiking instead.
  • Carry all your water with you. Don't plan on finding any water on your hike - even a spring marked on your map has a good chance of being dried up. Carry at least a gallon of water per person.
  • Watch for distant storms. Rain can fall miles away in the mountains and create a flashflood roaring down a bone-dry gully. Thunderclouds over mountains on the horizon may mean water coming your way, so stay out of dried waterways.
  • Carry DEET-based insect repellent to fight off insects.
  • The sun can fry you. Just as there is no protection on high mountains, there is little shade in the desert. Wear light, loose, long-sleeved shirts, long nylon pants, wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Re-apply sunscreen occasionally if you're sweating or wiping it off.
  • Add a multi-purpose tool to your pack. A small pliers will be useful for extracting cactus needles.
  • Watch out for dangerous plants. Cactus and other irritating plants just need to be touched to ruin your day. Brushing your calf against a cactus while wearing short pants can easily take an hour out of your hike and possibly ruin the whole thing.
  • Watch out for dangerous critters. Arid regions have more venomous and poisonous critters than cooler areas. Snakes and reptiles are in the sun to warm up when it's cool and in the shade to stay cool when it's hot. Never put your hand where you can not see, like in a hole or under a rock. Always check around the area before you rest or sit down. Keep your ears open for a rattlesnake's warning.

Hot Weather Hiking Problems

There are three stages of heat-related illness that your body may experience - dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. It's crucially important that symptoms are recognized and actions taken immediately to prevent escalation of the illness. The good thing is that it's very simple to prevent all these problems. You lose about 4 liters of fluid each day in three main ways, each contributing to lost fluid in differing amounts depending on your activity level, environment, and health:
  • Breathing - water evaporates in the air you exhale with every breath. Depending on how heavily you are breathing, how dry the air is, and air temperature, you can lose from one to six liters each day. Normally, it's around one but strenuous activities like hiking increase it.
  • Sweating - through normal daily activity, you lose one to two liters through minimal perspiration. But, hotter and drier air along with increased physical exercise can push that up to one liter per hour! A consistent, non-exhaustive hiking pace will help here.
  • Using the bathroom - urinating is the body's way of clearing out waste from the blood. Losing one to two liters of fluid a day from urinating is good. If you are going less than that while out hiking, you probably need to be drinking more.
    If you are sick and having diarrhea, then you may lose significant fluid that way also. Eating well and staying healthy on the trail is important.
When you exert your muscles, they generate heat which is absorbed by your blood and warms your body core. When the temperature gets high enough, your body's thermostat clicks on and the cooling system turns on. Blood flow increases to the skin where the blood can better cool off - this is why you get red. Sweat glands produce liquid which evaporates to increase the cooling rate. Everything works fine as long as there is sweat and it can evaporate.
If you run out of liquid to create sweat, bad things happen. Kind of like an air conditioner that had all the coolant leak out - it doesn't cool. You need to keep the liquid reservoirs full in order to keep your body cool.
On cool days, like 65 degrees, your body's 95 or so degree temperature is 30 degrees higher than the air so heat is transferred to the air through radiation. But, when the air temperature reaches 95 degrees or higher, your body no longer radiates heat and instead may absorb heat. Radiation is how your body loses about 65% of its heat so this is a big hit to the system when air temperature reaches 95.
Evaporation of sweat normally accounts for around 30% of your body's heat loss. But, once the air temperature is over 95, it's the only way to get rid of excess heat. On a hot dry day in the desert, your body will sweat a lot and the evaporation will keep you cool. But, as the air humidity climbs, less and less water can be absorbed by the air until 100% humidity is reached and your body can no longer dissipate heat. If you continue to generate heat with no way to get rid of it, bad things happen.

Proper Prevention

- level 0
All of these heat-related illnesses are completely preventable and really should not happen to hikers. Follow a few simple rules of prevention:
  • Stay well hydrated. Drink lots of water. Drink every 10 or 15 minutes, more often as the temperature climbs.
  • Wear clothes made of light fabric and light colors to effectively shade you from the sun. Include a wide-brimmed hat and neck shield.
  • Include some Gatorade type mix in some of your water to replenish lost minerals.
  • Hike with a buddy so you can keep an eye on each other.
  • Slow down, rest more, stop if tired. Don't push yourself on hotter days.
  • Hike in the cool part of the day. Hiking in the Grand Canyon between 10am and 5pm during the summer, for example, can be deadly.


- level 1
Usually, when your body needs water, you get a signal in your little brain that says "Hey, I'm thirsty!" and then you get a drink of water. Unfortunately, by the time you get the signal, you are often already on your way to being dehydrated - and sometimes you may not even get the signal if you are losing fluid rapidly and the sensors get overwhelmed. Symptoms - Dehydration symptoms include reduction in coordination, fatigue, and impaired judgment.
Treatment - Rest in cool, shady area. Replenish liquids. Drink cool water.

Heat Exhaustion

- level 2
Your sweat is mostly water but also contains electrolytes - sodium and chloride ions. When you sweat and do not replenish those electrolytes, heat exhaustion occurs. Even if you consume water, you may experience heat exhaustion if you are sweating heavily for prolonged times. Symptoms - Heat exhaustion symptoms include fatigue, nausea, lightheadedness, fainting, headache, muscle cramps, irritability, and exhaustion. There may be heavy sweating if liquids have been consumed. The symptoms usually occur after the exertion which caused it, even after water has been taken to improve the dehydration.
Treatment - Heat exhaustion is not life-threatening and goes away with enough rest and water, but can escalate to heat stroke if not quickly addressed. The condition can be treated more quickly by consuming electrolyte solutions such as power drinks or a teaspoon of sodium chloride salt dissolved in a liter of cold water. Drink the water slowly over 30 minutes or more while resting in a cool, shady location. Pour water on the person to help cool him off. Have him sit in a stream if it is not too cold.

Heat Stroke

- level 3
Heat exhaustion can quickly become heat stroke if not treated immediately. Heat stroke can kill quickly - less than 30 minutes. This is an emergency situation and 9-1-1 should be called if possible.
When your body can no longer dissipate heat, it overheats which can destroy internal organs, including your brain. Symptoms - Heat stroke symptoms include red, hot skin because all the surface blood vessels are dilated. It is possible to have heat stroke with wet skin, especially on hot, humid days, but when caused from extended dehydration, there is usually little sweat present. When the brain begins to overheat, it affects behaviors and the victim may become disoriented, irritable and combative, and have hallucinations. The victim will finally collapse and die if not treated.
Treatment - Cooling down the victim quickly is the first goal. Cooling the head and neck should be top priority. Rest in a cool, shady place. Remove clothing, spray water over body, apply wet bandannas, fan the victim to promote evaporation, drinking cool water if possible. Getting a heat stroke victim to drink may not be possible, depending on their mental state.
Any heat stroke victim needs to go to the hospital as soon as possible.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Things You Must Know Before Camping in Bear Country

Many camping spots throughout the world are going to be considered bear country. Whether or not you actually run into a bear is not up to luck, but up to you. And what you do when you do find a bear is most certainly up to you. So, if you are going to do any camping in bear country, which is mostly anywhere outside, you'll want to remember these 8 Camping Tips.

Triangle Set Up

You want to set up your campsite to keep certain activities separate. There are three main areas : Sleeping, Cooking, and Food Storage. We obviously want to keep our Food stored away from our tent, this is just good practice. But we also want to keep our cooking station separate. This ensures that any smells the bear might pick up will not lead them to where we are sleeping. A good idea is to make a triangle of these 3 points with at least a 100 yards separating them.

Keep Your Tent Food Free

This needs to be said especially. Never, ever bring food into your tent. Not even a soda, some bread, or a candy bar. No food. If you follow the rest of these tips your campsite will not smell appetizing. But the second you bring a candy bar into your tent, eat it, and leave the wrapper the bear now has one thing they're interested in, and it's in your tent.

Change Your Clothes

I can see it now. You make a delicious meal, clean up, store your food, and then hit the hay. Well, now you are sleeping in clothes that smell just like that delicious meal. This is going to certainly attract a bear. After cooking you must change your clothes and wash up. Keep those dirty clothes stored with the food, hopefully in a bear hang.

Speaking of Smells

You and your delicious clothes are not the only things that are going to attract a bear's curious nose. Things like deodorants, soaps, lotions, toothpaste, and even some bug repellents are going to be very interesting to a bear. You want to keep these, and anything with a strong, alluring smell, with your food at the bear hang. When your food and gear is up and in smell-proof container you'll keep the bear disinterested in your area.

Garbage and Fire

You can do a lot to ensure nothing is too alluring for your bear neighbors and still mess up. Two things campers often miss is their garbage and the fire. Garbage is just as good as food, to a bear, so it needs to be carried out or stored someplace where it can't be reached. And your fire is a magnet for food scrapes, only to be burned so it can be smelled for miles and miles. Keep your garbage and your fire clean and you'll keep those curious bears at away.

Know the Signs, Read the Signs

You have to learn how to see and read the signs that you are in a bear area. First off, if you are camping in a very popular camping spot, you are in a bear area. In these areas bears are constantly smelling food and humans together. It doesn't take long for them to get real comfortable with people. And, no matter how much you clean, your campsite will smell like food. No matter what. These aren't the only signs. You want to check out tracks around trails and water sources. Look for low branches being broken on young trees. Bears are creatures of routine, when you find a spot that tends to lack bears, you'll probably be okay.

Keep Yourself Armed

I don't mean with a shotgun or dynamite, but having a few choice tools near you just in case a bear decides to visit can save your life. Something as simple as flashlight has shown to be effective against bears. No, you don't throw it at the bear. Most bears don't want to deal with people. They just want some free food and then to move on (like a recent college graduate). A bright flashlight can scare the bear and make it back off. If you need a little more protection you can invest in a bear spray.

Colors Count

It turns out Bears know about colors. When they see bright greens, yellows, reds, and blues while out in the forest, they get curious. Most bears understand that a bright color usually means a human. And humans mean food (you know, they bring food). But these same bears tend to have trouble with camouflage colored tents. Darker browns and greens tend to blend into the scenery. So, if you're going to Bear country, keep the colorful tent at home. Bear Country is all over the place. Knowing how to handle it is something all experienced campers need to know. These simple 8 tips can ensure that you keep the bears away from you and your campsite without bothering anyone. And, should one wander in, you'll know how to handle it without getting hurt.