27 Hiking and Backpacking Tips For Women




27 Hiking and Backpacking Tips For Women

Adventuring problem free in Arizona and Four Corners is fairly simple. Break the rules.

Understand I’ve been doing this for years and I have never had a major problem.but I use every single tip I’ve written here every single time I venture out on my own.  As an inner city rape crisis counselor in Kansas City for three years working with the Sheriff’s Department both as a counselor and self defense instructor, I learned to handle myself in the city.  As a Rocky Mountain and Sonoran desert person, I learned a whole new skill set.  Some of the lessons were learned and earned the hard way.  Love what you’re doing and where you are going.  No one will deprive me of going on my trips  So far, so good.  Enjoy your journey. I love the Southwest, its people, rugged country, vistas and exciting discoveries. Understand the ground rules. Use the knowledge, take a deep breathe and enjoy it all… in safety.   Solo can be so much fun, it’s worth the extra responsibility.  Maybe that’s the reason I love it so much.  It makes me ultimately responsible for myself.   Bon voyage. I hope to meet you on your  trail of discovery.

  1. Look confident.  People can spot a “victim posture” a mile away.  Heads up, shoulders back, stand straight, and look those you meet on the trail in the eye. Take a mental snapshot of who they are and size ‘em up.
  2. Be honest about your capabilities.  Do not over estimate what you can do. If you’re out of shape, plan for your trip by taking the time to exercise and build your stamina.
  3. Be alert to the people in the area. If they look questionable, move on to another place. It’s better to lose a moment than your life or a moments peaceful sleep. Nothing is worth that hassle. Be judgmental.
  4. Be aware of your surroundings. Know what your resource base is such as water, secluded spots, firewood and shade. Plan your fastest escape route.
  5. Keep your keys handy and dryMost of us have battery activated locks.  If they get wet, you can’t shut off the alarm OR start the car. Either use the manual lock or keep an extra set safely tucked under the drivers side or behind the tire..out of sight.
  6. Use check-in-points, if possible, such as ranger stations or reservation police stations.  They will know where you are, what you are doing and be there to help if you really need them Places like Grand Gulch have a check point asking for number in party, date of departure and expected date of return.  Use it.
  7. Make sure your car is as close to problem free as possible prior to leaving for your destination.  Check the oil, brakes, transmission fluid, coolant and tires.  Pack a can of Fix-a-Flat, 2 quarts of extra oil and coolant just to be on the “safe side”.  Have your mechanic check the car out the day or week before you leave.  Fill your tank at every possible point. Helpless women in this environment don’t play well.
  8. Give someone a general game plan for your outing.  They probably won’t know exactly where you are but at least they’ll have a general idea of your direction.  When I tell the family I’m “going to the rez” that encompasses 125,000 acres but at at least, it’s only a 125,000 acres.  You’ve got a fighting chance. Go to www.topozone.com; email them a copy.  (Click on the logo to the right)
  9. Take plenty of extra drinkable water.  Out here, it’s the one thing that can really save your life.
  10. Sun screen, sun screen, sun screen.  And, sun screen.   The headaches of sunburning include headaches, joint pain, dehydration and possible skin cancer.  Don’t take the risk.  Apply it every 2-3 hours and you’ll be problem free.
  11. “Jeep Camp” when necessary.  Jeep camping to me means sleeping inside the car and locking the doors from the inside. Period.  If there’s a rattlesnake warning or I’m just in a questionable area, I sleep in the Jeep.  All my extra gear goes outside.  Personally, I don’t care what they take, just leave me alone.  You get the idea.  They have no reason to bother me and, frankly, it works.
  12. Use maps.  Don’t wonder around.  It’s a great way to get lost out in this vast open country.  Arroyos (dry creek beds) begin to look alike after awhile.
  13. Use landmarks.  Look at the horizon.  Really look at it.   Peaks, valleys,  saguaros, boulders and trees.  Walk a few yards and turn around.  That’s what you’re going to see on your way back.  Memorize it.
  14. Breathe.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  If you feel any exertion, stop and breathe until you’re back to normal.  This isn’t a race, it’s your pleasure cruise.  Enjoy it fully.
  15. Be in tune with your body.  If you’re tired, stop.  If you’re out of breathe, stop.  If you need food, eat.  If you’re thirsty, drink.  Sit in the coolest shade you can find until you cool down.  Your body gives you signals constantly.  Listen.
  16. Multiple layers of clothing.  The desert, no matter the season, goes through extremes.  Wet, cold, sweltering heat.  You name it, you get it here.  A rain poncho, extra sweat shirts, tee shirts, shorts, running pants (yes, I do!), sports bras are in the bag.  If I don’t need them, fine.  If I do, I’m either warm and comfortable or cool and comfortable.  Take your pick. Comfort is the key.
  17. Hats.  Yes, they’re optionally..BUT, the hat will protect your face and neck from sunburn.  I carry a visor and full hat..just in case.
  18. Flashlights.  You bet.  This country is riddled with caves and kivas.  If you encounter either, you’re going to want to explore.   Check for snakes.  Check over hangs.  And check for cactus… chollas and ocotillos grow in some of the damnedest places you’ve ever seen.  I’ve personally found them inside caves here well out of sunlight.  Their spines will penetrate your boots or sneakers.  Beware.
  19. Gloves.  Sometimes, you’ll need gloves to protect yourself from the plants. Catsclaw acacia is found near the limestone rims of many mesas will chew your arms and legs up.  Manzanita, equally thorny,  is everywhere.  Cholla, ocotillo, fish-hook cactus, saguaros are in abundance.  Enjoy where you are but be prepared for what the desert offers.
  20. Springs and water sources, while beautiful, attract animals.  Meeting a mountain lion. javelina, bear or coyote on the trail would be a real treat but, if you startle the animal, the tables can swiftly turn.  These are wild animals and it is THEIR HOME.  We’re the visitors.  Be a good guest.  
  21. Walk with a firm step.  Wildlife is wildlife.  Let them know ahead of time that you’re coming, I promise you, they’ll get out of your way unless they’re rabid or starving.
  22. Camp smells.  Avoid them.  The fragrance of cooking food in the outdoors to hungry predators signals dinner time. Yours and theirs.  Keep it to a minimum.  If they approach, give it to them without an argument and walk away, quietly and cautiously. You’ll go home.  This is THEIR home and anything goes.  Bow and step aside. Never leave food out at camp.   Put it in your trunk or car.  Roll up the windows and lock it.
  23. Snakes.  Step on top of logs, not over them.  Lots of snakes hide under the logs for shade and protection.  Don’t make your leg a sudden target and threat.  If you rock climb, test the ledge above you before you pull up face-to-face with an angry Diamondback.  Rattlesnakes can hold a strike poise for up to 30 minutes without making a sound.  Just because you do not hear them does not mean they are not there.  The Hopi Reservation has Hopi rattlesnakes which are small, pink dust colored and  love  the cool shade of flat rocks.  They hide underneath them so well you can’t see them unless they move.
  24. Be aware of where and what you’re walking on.  If you investigate a cave or kiva, take a flashlight, toss a couple of rocks in and listen.  Reptiles, such as snakes and Gila monsters, as well as bats and insects, will tell you if they’re home as a general rule.   Enter cautiously.  Remember, baby rattlesnakes are often more toxic than adults.  Adult rattlesnakes will many times bite without releasing venom, sometimes called a “dry bite’.  The babies, on the other hand, are protecting their lives and give you all they’ve got.  One of my Scottsdale neighbors died after picking a little one up..across the street from his house near Camelback Mountain.  The toxin took 4 hours to kill him  Beware.  Rule of survival:   look, listen, move with caution.  Then  look again.  They call it camouflage  for a reason.
  25. No hands in dark crevices, please.  If you’re bitten, don’t panic. Calmly use the suction cup to clean the wound and get to your car for help.  The best advice is exercise utmost caution before proceeding into any enclosure no matter how inviting or exciting.   If it’s unavoidable, and sometimes that’s the case, use a stick to prove the cracks before you place your fingers into unknown territory.
  26. Roll and lift rocks away from you.  Gila monsters, snakes, spiders, scorpions and various other rock lovers may have made it their temporary home.
  27. Take the Survival Kit with you.  (Click here to go to that page if you’ve missed it) It’s only a fanny pack filled with things you might need.  If you need any of it, it’s a gift and could help you save your life. Weight: less than 2 pounds.


Map of Arizona


Map of the reservations and Four Corners



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