1st time hiking in america - advice (1 Viewer)

NohaTarek

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Hey guys ::cat:: this is my first time to post here...

i'm an international student from egypt, & this is my 1st year learning & exploring in america ::bookworm::

while in the holidays now, i want to travel... i can't afford, of course, staying in hotels & all that stuff! right now, the nearest place to me to go to in this winter break is shawnee national forest, here in southern illinois... & going to it through mass transit is very cheap...

if i go there & stay for a couple of nights in the wild, which would be my first time, could you advise me about the following:

*1* is it better to get a night bag to sleep in the nights there in the forest, or a tent, or both?

*2* if i sleep in the night there with ex. a night bag, alone as a woman, would that be a danger for me? whether being attacked/raped by a man, or by a wild animal? or are such places safe? & generally speaking, is a woman on her own hiking & sleeping in a national forest dangerous for her safety, as she's walking & sleeping in the woods there?

*3* when the night comes, can i just choose any place & lodge myself (with the night bag or tent) to sleep in? or would a police officer or something comes & says it's illegal?

*4* at such national parks, are there stores where i could get cheep food & drink to survive or do i have to carry the amount of food & drink i'd need for all the days i'd stay there?

*5* what about drinking water?

*6* & (this is embarrassing ::bag:: but i must ask!)... when i need to go to the toilet, do i have to just do it anywhere, or are there public toilets in national parks?

i'm sorry if my questions seem so naive! this is really my first time getting into this ::angelic::
 
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Juan Derlust

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First of all hello & welcome! What is your object - 'adventure' or survival? Safe, warm, and dry are the first essentials - with some overlap. I don't want to alarm you, but if this is your first time, you may want to recruit a more experienced companion or wait for a warmer season or at least until after this absurd political nonsense regarding our president and operating budget is resolved. I'm not familiar with that area of Illinois - how long do you intend to camp out? Please forgive my probing but I'm trying to narrow the scope of your inquiry.
https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/shawnee/home
 
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1. Both. It's winter so it's guaranteed to be cold. If you're sleeping cold in the freezing rain you could die. You will need a sleeping bag, but the tent can be as simple as a tarp setup. You could also find a cheap, easy freestanding tent at Walmart.

There may be shelters on the trail. With that in mind, you will need a sleeping pad. Sleeping pads usually have something called "R value" and that just means how much heat it can absorb and reflect back at you. My go-to is the Thermarest Z-lite.

2. It's just as likely to happen anywhere else with random acts of violence. You're probably more likely to run into someone concerned with your safety. Critters might try to get into your stuff for food or warmth though.

3. Dispersed camping or "stealth-camping" is generally allowed on trails so long as you follow LNT etiquette. Otherwise, check the website for rules and regulations. It varies from park to park, but if someone tries to get me to pay to sleep outside I'll laugh in their face. If you camp half a mile away from the campsite nobody is going to bother you. It's winter so there probably won't be anyone to bother you.

4. Doubt it. It's winter so the government does major cutbacks on its parks and forests. Water most likely won't be running, restrooms may be locked and certain roads may be closed.

5. Bring a water filter/purifier, research water sources, see if there are any postings. Otherwise, carry 3L of water for every night you plan on being out there.

6. Bring some TP and hand sanitizer and get digging.

I don't know anything about Indiana so all I say is research, research, research. Check the weather for the area you're in for that time of the year and PREPARE FOR THE WORST. Don't wear cotton, bring a pair of socks specifically to stay dry for sleeping in, layer properly, etc. Camping is super easy to get into and if none of that intimidates you, have fun!
 
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NohaTarek

NohaTarek

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Thank you so much Juan Derlust & Theleenmachine for your very helpful responses and information...

I'm definitely desiring adventure more than survival, i really don't care about survival :D i'm still considering my options to go this winter break, instead of just spending it in the apartment...

i'm afraid that if i wait on finding a companion or a group to start hiking with, i'd wait for a very long time... do you know of websites or groups i could search for hitch-hiking companions/groups in?

thank you Theleenmachine for this detailed information, it boosts my confidence & courage & desire to go do it... even if i encounter a huge problem that i can't get around it, i could go back & end my camp...

there's one thing though... while hiking, do you use the google map app on cell phone? 'cause if my cell phone dies out after the charge is dead, how can i know how to get around or go back (since there wouldn't be a place to re-charge my phone)?
 
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I carry a 15600 mAh battery pack which is good for a few full charges of my phone. My phone is almost everything so I make sure to keep it in a plastic ziplock in the rain. I recommend a baggie specifically for your electronics (charger, cords, etc) for that reason alone.

There are files you can download that sync with GPS apps. For example, I use Gaia because it gives me a ton of information and I can download .gpx files very easily.

Honestly, if you want that experience of outdoor camping/adventuring, I would recommend looking into the Florida Trail. This is the time of year people hike it and there are sections that will take you from one town to another within a few days. The terrain is flat and there are some incredible sections. The long-distance trails in the United States have amazing support systems through Facebook and association pages so those are great places to start!

I was in a pickle and got trail angeled by a man named Todd who let me stay the night in his house, shower, resupply, brought me to fetch my gear and took me all the way to the trail head at the Mexican border in AZ. And it all happened because Greyhound took my bags to California. I posted a cry for help on Facebook and ended up with the email of someone who helps hikers in need.
 

Juan Derlust

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All excellent practical advice - however, I'm guessing you want to stay close to your home base for the duration of your winter break. Without repeating everything Theleenmachine advised, prepare for the worst and research research research - also, get a sleeping bag rated well below expected low temperatures plus a tent, tarp, and mat. The elements are merciless. Don't forget to leave an itinerary with a trusted person as well.
update: storm system headed your way
https://abcnews.go.com/amp/US/major-storm-deliver-heavy-rain-snow-end-holiday/story?id=60015555
 
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Zaphod

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If you plan on hiking/backpacking I definitely suggest you do so in more forgiving climates (like the Florida trail suggestion) since it seems you don't have much experience and a serious winter trek can be dangerous even for experienced hikers. Make sure your basics are covered (have a plan for food/water/shelter).

If you plan on hitching, I would just say be careful. Avoid rides that give you a bad feeling or concerns even if you can't necessarily justify those feelings. Also, the far right/fascist elements are emboldened here in the US since the 2016 elections and violence against anyone who appears (to an American) to be Muslim or vaguely middle eastern or north African is something you Unfortunately should be aware of. Don't let the fear of that stop you from living your adventure, just be aware that there are a decent amount of shitty uninformed biggoted people here especially in the current political climate. On the flip side there are also many kind wonderful accepting people who will help you on your way.
 
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NohaTarek

NohaTarek

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Thank you very much theleenmachine, juan derlust, & zaphod :)

your information is very helpful... i will keep researching this thing, even if i end up not able to prepare myself enough to do it this break, at least i'd be prepared enough to do it the next break or in summer...

you mention also that facebook & other groups are very helpful in supporting trail-tracking... are there any specific facebook pages or groups that provide this, which i could follow or join?
 

benton

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if you end up spending extended periods outside in cold weather here are some points to consider:

you need something between you and the ground while sleeping, otherwise the ground will pull the heat from your body

avoid sweating while hiking. dry clothes are your friend

change your socks often. wet socks will make you feel cold

eating carbs before bed can warm you from the digestive effects

if you are exhaling vapor ("seeing your breath") that's water leaving your body and you will need to stay hydrated
 
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NohaTarek

NohaTarek

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Carbondale, IL, America
Thank you benton for your tips. I will put them into consideration. Hopefully, I'll get to find an opportunity to hike this summer after I finish my term exams!
 

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