Like all retired lawyers, I like to research new activities and to make sure I know as much as possible before starting.

But as you learn from years of legal experience, there is a gap between knowing the law and practising law.

Even after watching the videos, reading the books, and going over the tour brochures, certain hiking knowledge gaps still leap out and capture the beginning hiker. After doing my first Juan de Fuca three-day overnight hike quickly followed by a seven-day overnight hike on the West Coast Trail, I distilled the five major ones. Seasoned hikers likely assume these to be common knowledge, but one should never underestimate the naivete of the beginner.

1. Even a slightly slanted tenting site provides challenges. I found a nice level spot with just a gentle slope. Putting my head slightly uphill would be like resting on the couch I thought. However, my polyester sleeping bag resting on a vinyl mattress in combination with tossing and turning, sent me slowly and gently into the downhill side of my tent. Trying to squirm uphill proved difficult.

2. Calculating the number of required meals when hiking with your adult children requires higher algebra. Each freeze-dried pack provided two servings. So over three days, three people, three meals a day should mean 27 meals and 14 packages should do it. But adult children require 2.5 servings per meal. So now I find that over three days, two people needing 2.5 meals per meal, one person (older) one meal per meal, at three meals a day means finding a 12-year-old to calculate the result for me.

3. Calories are not the only thing to count. I realized that I packed three days of food, but that means almost seven days’ worth of the industry recommended amount of sodium. If it weren’t for some of these industry factions lobbying the government to advocate 2,300 mg per day, I am sure we consumed 13 days’ worth of the various health organizations recommended level of sodium instead.

4. Carefully consider how to purify water. I took the easy route and just used sterilization tablets. No more than one per bottle. But everyone we encountered used filter systems instead. When I eventually got home, I pulled up the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) on the chemical used. I normally read these MSDS documents when I was working in health and safety, and we wanted to know how to deal with hazardous liquids. The water sterilization tablets had an extensive 11-page MSDS. Much longer than the ones telling us how to interact with cleaning agents. They all had warnings about overingestion. Going the filter route next time.

5. Lay out all your clothing for the morning in your dry bag. I thought I did this, but I needed to include making sure my technical shirt was not inside out and leaving the tags on, so I knew how to tell my technical shirt was backwards. Walking outside of your tent like this causes issues. I know that all hikers help one another when the need arises. Unless it looks particularly hilarious, then you are on your own.

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