Lotions and Potions

Although our bodies are amazing creations, and capable of doing amazing things, they may need a little help when making them walk 2650 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail! In this post I talk about some of the lotions, potions and pills we will be taking or carrying with us to help us reach our goal.

Some of them are medicines in-case things go wrong, others help protect against the environment whilst this first lot are supplements to help the body stay fit and strong! Hiking 2650 miles takes a huge toll on the body, and this isn’t helped by having to eat light weight, but high calorie food. This often results in vitamin deficiency due to lack of fresh fruit and veg. We will therefore be taking Multi Vitamin tablets each day to help boost our defences.

In addition to the Vitamins, we are going to regularly take Glucosamine tablets. There are designed to boost the bodies joints. As our joints, and especially our knees are going to take a lot of hammering, the Glucosamine should help to protect them.

Although we will be drinking a lot of water throughout our hike (especially in the desert sections), we also need to replace the salts and electrolytes lost from sweating. Without them we would end up very ill and it could be fatal in hot conditions.

For replacing the salts and electrolytes we will be using Emergen-C which is powdered drink additive with all sorts of goodies added in to help keep the body performing correctly. As a bonus to replacing much needed salts, they are also flavoured which will help break up the constant lack of flavour from water. We will be carrying a couple of Gatorade bottles to mix the powdered additives and water in.

No matter how much we prepare for this hike, and how fit we are, at some point it is going to start to hurt. We are prepared for it to hurt a lot! Much of this will be a mental battle and simply get on with the job of walking north. To help us along when the pain gets unbearable, we will be taking a substantial supply of Ibuprofen.

Some people say they end up taking Ibuprofen every day. We would like to try and avoid this if possible as it can damage your stomach lining and cause ulcers, but there is no doubt a fair amount of Ibuprofen tablets will be consumed.

One medicine that we won’t be bringing with us, but I have still decided to discuss here is Diamox. Diamox is a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor which can be used to treat a number of illnesses. The reason we considered it though is it’s ability to reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness. During the Pacific Crest Trail we will reach altitudes of 13,153 feet (4,009 m) at Forester Pass. At this altitude, people can and do suffer from the symptoms of altitude sickness.

Although we initially wanted to bring some along, in the UK it is a prescribed drug, so would be a little hard to get hold of. We are also counting on our slow acclimatisation by gaining altitude over a number of days and weeks to keep the symptoms at bay. For this reason why are not bringing any along. For anyone else planning something similar, it may still be worth considering though.

One other symptom we may suffer, both from a result of drinking from poor water sources, or just from a poor diet are loose bowel movements. This isn’t pleasant at the best of times, but even worse if your toilet is the great outdoors. For this reason we will be bringing a supply of Imodium.

For ailments of the skin, we will also be bringing along some Sudocream. This can help against any dry or itchy areas of skin, whether from the sun or fungal infections of the feet.

Speaking of itchy bits, one thing that we are going to face lot of are bugs. There are going to be a huge amount of bugs trying to eat away at us! To try and reduce the amount of insects trying to eat us, we will be treating most of our clothes with Permethrin. This acts as an insecticide and insect repellent.

If any bugs get past our Permethrin treated clothes, they will have to deal with us being liberally coated in bug spray. The type we are going to use is still being decided. Most people recommend pure Deet. This is a very effective insect repellent, but unfortunately is also known to be very toxic and not a very nice chemical. For this reason I am open to trying slightly less effective, but less dangerous insect repellents.

If the insects manage to get past all those chemicals and actually manage to have a bite of our flesh, then we are packing Antihistamine cream to relieve any itching or rashes.

Another environmental aspect that we are going to have to be careful of is the sun. We are expecting a lot of very sunny days. In the desert the heat and sun will be intense, and once up in the mountains the heat might get less, but the altitude and snow will make the sun’s rays even more intense.

We plan on covering up as much as possible with long sleeve tops, wide brimmed hats and trousers, but even with these we need extra protection. We will be bringing factor 20 suncream along in the form of Ryman P20. This stuff stinks and smells like it contains all manner of chemicals, but it works really well. It goes on without making you greasy and lasts all day, even if you are sweating or get wet.

Another side effect of all that heat, combined with walking a long way each day is that of chafing. Unfortunately as sweat builds up, the constant rubbing of skin on skin or skin on clothes can rub various parts of the body sore and if this is left untreated can lead to some nasty sores in places you really don’t want them!

To help overcome this, we will be bringing along some form of anti chafing powder/cream. Our first choice is the amusingly named Anti Monkey Butt Powder. Essentially a form of Talcum powder, it helps absorb sweat while reducing any friction. Unfortunately it comes in fairly large bottles, so this will need to be repackaged into smaller containers.

Another, smaller options that we are considering is Bodyglide. This is more like a Vaseline type product and comes in a small applicator. Although it doesn’t soak up the sweat, it does reduce the friction and stop chafing.

The final option is good old Vaseline. It may not be designed as an anti chafing product, but it should do the job. It also has the benefit of being multi purpose. By mixing it with cotton wool, it produces a very good fire lighting product. It also comes in nice, small tins.

The final, but possibly the most important area of lotions and potions we will be taking are those that are for hygiene. Strict hygiene is vital in order to avoid getting ill. A lot of people suffer from Giardia on the Pacific Crest Trail, and apparently this is caused more commonly from poor hygiene than from contaminated water sources!

So each time we go to the toilet or prepare food, we need to make sure we sanitise our hands with alcohol gel. Water may be scarce in some areas, but carrying alcohol gel ensures we always have something to clean our hands with.

In addition to alcohol gel, we will be bringing wet wipes. This will be useful for cleaning the rest of our bodies or just to freshen up.

Finally for when we do have water, we will be bringing Dr. Bronner’s castile soap. This is a liquid, bio-degradable soap that can be used for cleaning yourself, cleaning clothes, cleaning dishes and even cleaning teeth!

Dr Bronner’s is great stuff and will clean us and most of our kit. We won’t be using it for toothpast however. We did try it, and although we bought the peppermint version, it tasted absolutely vile! Will be sticking with a small tube of normal toothpaste to keep our teeth clean.

All of these lotions and potions may seem like a lot to carry. They will however be decanted into smaller containers, and all together they will make our bodies much happier and less prone to disease or infections that could knock days off our hike, or even worse make us quit. So with this small medicine cabinet of drugs and chemicals we should stay strong and go all the way!