I used to be an avid hiker and climber. People who do this sort of stuff as an activity all have their preferred methods of getting ready for the season. Techniques and equipment have improved much since my “salad days” in the dark ages. Here’s how it used to be:
One friend got ready for spring hiking season in the White Mountains by loading his backpack with stones and pebbles. Every year around early March, He’d start conditioning by loading progressively heavier loads in his pack. He was not a flabby person, and he didn’t seek to lose weight by doing this; he did it just to tone the muscles in his legs for climbing.
Another friend used jugs of water and drank the jugs as he hiked. He never worried about hydration and ended his hikes with less load than when he started. Yet another friend had a training method where he wore as many layers of wool as possible and sweated. Few wanted to be too close to him by the end of a warm day of hiking.
I considered these methods nuts and began a moderate series of daily and weekend hikes to prepare for mountain hiking.
Equipment is another area where some truly individual practices existed. For example, a close friend believed that to toughen your feet, you should stand in a basin of dark brewed tea – literally tanning your feet and thereby toughening them up. For another, a sure-fire way of breaking in a new pair of boots was to put them on, stand in a puddle until they were thoroughly soaked, and then hike until they dried on your feet.
Similar preparation was given to tents, sleeping bags, and other equipment.
On The Trail-
By far, the worst ritual of hiking was contained in a small brown bottle with a label that read “Old Woodsman.” Old Woodsman was a fly dope or repellant, with such an awful odor that you could be tracked by odor alone if lost in the woods. If you wanted to enchant or develop a romantic relationship, both parties had better have solid constitutions and lack a sense of smell. Since the scent lingered on you and your equipment, people could smell your outdoor adventures all week. Apply too much, and you’d get a referral to a commercial laundry for yourself and equipment.
Without a doubt, things have changed for the better.