First of all, it’s a wonderful experience!
To make it extra memorable, plan ahead – because planning is half the fun!
Here are 10 steps to a successful open water hike!
- Get excited! And excite others!
- Make sure you know how to swim. If you don’t, practice before you head in the water. You’ll learn!
- Keep your eye on the map. Plan out the route and take pit stops into consideration.
- Pick a time and consider what you need to bring along. Gather equipment gradually!
- On the hike day, tell a friend or two where you’re going and when you plan on coming back. Show them the map and maybe ask them to take a photo of it.
- Pack your phone in a waterproof container. And the backup phone. Also, pack a backup phone.
- Bring proper nutrition and plenty of water. You’ll get hungry and thirsty, even in the water.
- Remember to visit dry land as well. Hike.
- Upon returning, tell your friends you’re back safe and sound.
- Hype up the new experience you just had! Start planning the next trip.
What do you need?
Some time ago I told about our first open water hike in South Konnevesi National Park. One purpose for that trip was to test out our gear and learn about it. It was just a day trip so we didn’t need a lot of stuff. But we did have to consider what was the best way to carry all of it in land and water.
Naturally, the amount of stuff is dictated by the length of the trek and the preferences of the trekkers. Our plan was to prepare a lunch in addition to swimming and hiking. Our gear list looked a little something like this:
- For swimming: wet suits, swim caps, goggles, swimming clothes under the wet suit
- For walking: terrain shoes, long socks, pants, a t-shirt and undergarments
- Spare clothing: windproof jackets that fit into a small space, thin long-sleeved shirts, socks, scarves
- Lunch: hiking stove, salt + spices, something to sit on, receptacles and utensils
- Safety gear: rope, first aid kit, knives, space blanket, whistles, energy panels, tinderbox, compass, phones packed in a watertight fashion, headlamp, cable ties and other means of bondage
- Featuring: towels, small backpack, Garmin to measure distance, bug spray, toilet paper.
So as we mentioned, we had wet suits on. They keep you warm and make you float on long swims. Arto dragged a backpack on a raft behind him and I had an open water bag on me.
For entering and exiting the water we had knock-off Crocs. The sharp rocks of the waterfront aren’t the most comfortable when you step on them barefoot. Not to mention how dangerous it is. They don’t take too much space and you can carry them outside the backpack. And they float.
On the hiking part in Raappaatsaari Island we wore regular hiking clothes.
Arto is a boy scout and I’ve lived on the countryside my whole life so we both assume to know how unpredictable everything is.
I’m more of a what if person which is why I packed extra safety gear along.
First aid kit, obviously. Space blanket. Headlamp if we need to signal someone. We also wore detachable knives on our forearms. Just in case. We’ve used these abroad while snorkeling.
Whistles are important should you find yourself unable to scream for help.
How to transport everything?
The idea was to pack everything in a watertight backpack. It would just float along on a raft. I found it online and I chose it by how waterproof and visible it is.
People don’t pay attention to a swimmer in the water.
A floating bright yellow backpack on the other hand…
During hikes it’d be fair that both of us had stuff to carry. I just didn’t want to invest in two watertight backpacks so we needed to settle this some other way.
So I got a small backpack that was big enough for a rolled up wet suit. They are the heaviest things to carry since you can’t rid them of all water.
In addition to the wet suits, the next heaviest thing were the hiking boots which I had packed in a waterproof bag.
I was sure we’d find a cheap raft to carry our stuff on but no. So Arto made one from Styrofoam.
What would we do differently?
The trip was exciting and a success but there were a few things we’d do differently.
- Footwear. Taking into consideration the amount of snakes we encountered, knock-off Crocs were an insane choice. The only reasonable one would be rubber boots. However, they take too much space. Maybe Wellington-like Crocs would be the answer. Or we just have to accept that you can’t swim and walk in the same gear.
- Path choices. Invest on either swimming or hiking. If you choose swimming, swim from island to island and rest there for a minute. If you choose hiking, decide on a destination or two, preferably something with a nice fire pit.
- Terrain and potential wildlife. How is it even possible that a boy scout and someone from the countryside don’t even for a second think they could encounter snakes? Hind sight is 2020 but maybe we’ll learn from this.
- Timing. The end of the summer is notoriously mosquito season. It’s not the most pleasurable thing to take off a wet suit in a mosquito swarm. Then again, in the early summer the waters are still cold. I think we need a compromise. But the main thing is to focus on the weather of the trekking day. You don’t want to swim among huge waves.
- Drinking water. The idea was to boil the river water but we soon found out that it doesn’t remove the taste of alga. Maybe next time we’ll bring juice extract to cover the taste.
- Improvising when need be. If something looks inviting, just go for it. The map doesn’t show the view or the landscape. We missed a beautiful open rock formation because I was too bullheaded.
In the following summer we plan to go for an overnight open water hike in Keitele and on its islands.
We think the water will be warm enough in July. Just in time for the season. So now we have plenty of time to plan ahead, upgrade our gear and pre-live the trek.
I’m practically there already!