(Almost) Everything you need to know to Hike! Bike, paddle…

OK, we can’t really include ‘everything’ here, but the “Boston Local Walks & Hikes Committee” hopes this gives you many answers to the common questions; both about ‘Hiking’ as well as about ‘Hiking with the AMC.’

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I find the Boston Chapter activities?

There are multiple ways to find our hikes.

  1. The AMC system: If you go to https://activities.outdoors.org/search/?mode=cal&grp=2 you will see a calendar showing the upcoming hikes. (Note that you can change the selections at the top and find info for other Chapters, etc. Note that this site can be ‘finicky’ and many complain it is hard to use. Plus, it shows some activities you may not be interested in. So…)
  2. If local hikes are your interest, you can sign up for our weekly email, which shows hikes for the next two weeks. Go to https://amcboston.org/amc-boston-chapter-committees/local-walks-and-hikes/come-hike-with-us/ and enter your name and email, submit and leave the work of finding trips to the computer.
How hard are your hikes?

The hikes vary. Usually, the hike description will give a time or distance, and some indication of the difficulty. If in doubt, just email the Leader and ask. Even better, call if they publish their phone number, then you can have a two-way conversation.

When and where do you hike?

The Boston Chapter “Local Walks & Hikes Committee” runs trips, generally within the Rt 495 loop, but sometimes a bit further south, west, or into southern NH. We hike year-round, and many of us prefer winter trips, with no bugs, no 90-degree temperatures, and the beautiful snow on the trees. 🙂

The Boston Chapter “Hiking & Backpacking (H/B) Committee” runs hikes to the White Mountains, Vermont, Maine…. Again, year-round.

There are other AMC Chapters & Committees running hikes, bike rides, XC ski trips, rock climbing, paddling, paddleboarding… in season.

Do I have to be an AMC member? Or pay any fees?

You do NOT have to be an AMC member for 99% of AMC activities, and typically no fees are charged for our (Chapter) activities. You will, of course, be responsible for any parking costs or fees for any facilities used.

How do I sign up for these activities?

When you find an activity, you are interested in, many will display a “Register Now” box. Just click that and provide your information. If there is no “Register Now” box, it will typically tell you to contact the Leader or trip Registrar. Just email them to begin your registration process. The third option, used for some activities, is called “Show & Go” and for these trips, the trip description will provide the meeting location and time. If you want to go on these, you just arrive at the start location, (properly equipped, and prepared of course), and off you go.

OK, I am interested in going hiking, but prefer to go alone or with my friends and family. Does AMC have anything to offer to me?

Yes! Keep reading, and we will provide some basic information for all those starting out.

Where can I go hiking?
  1. The DCR (Mass Department of Conservation & Recreation) has many parks, state forests, etc. See: https://www.mass.gov/visit-massachusetts-state-parks
  2. Many local cities & towns have conservation lands open for hiking. Check with your town Conservation Commission.
  3. Use an App! AllTrails.com is a great resource for finding places to hike. Simply open the map, and look for places with lots of trails! (Note: Some of these places may not be open to the public, so once you see some trails on the map, determine what the place is, and its rules.)
How do I find my way around?
  1. A map. Most DCR facilities have a map on their website. (Sometimes paper maps are available at the facility, however, don’t depend on that!)
  2. Use an App. The free version of Alltrails.com is a good one. Maprika, also free, is another option. A good app has 2 ‘requirements’, and several optional ‘nice-to-have’ features. (Note there are many other fine apps1. These are just 2 good examples.)

    • It shows a map of the trails. AllTrails is good and can be a great starting point, however, note that AllTrails shows a map of the trails, as uploaded by AllTrails users. So, in some cases, it will show trails that the facility owner does NOT want you to use, and at other times you will physically see a trail, however, AllTrails won’t show it, as very few people hike it. Maprika, on the other hand, typically shows you a copy of the ‘official’ map, e.g., for a DCR facility such as Borderland you will see the DCR map displayed on your screen. Note that maps in Maprika are uploaded by users, so sometimes the first ‘Borderland’ map you see in the list might be an outdated map! (In the Borderland case, search for “Borderland DCR 2019” for the latest map.)
    • It will show you where you are on the map. Sort of like a mall map, with that “You are here” arrow, except ‘here’ will be displayed as a colored dot, that moves around the map as you hike. (Note: Your phone must have a built-in GPS, and you must give the app permission to use the GPS.)

      Now, about those ‘nice-to-have’ features…
    • How far did I hike? How much elevation did I climb? Many apps record the distance and elevation gain.
    • What route did I take? Many apps record your route, so you can use it again (or avoid it in the future!)
    • Sharing data. Some apps let you see your friends’ and family’s hikes. And let them see your activities. Many of us watch where our friends’ hike, to get ideas for ourselves, and to see if we are missing out on any good hikes!

1 Gaia GPS, STRAVA, … Feel free to look at these and others, or ask your friends which they prefer, and why.

What should I take when I go out for a hike?

You’ve probably heard the term “The 10 Essentials.” And have been told you should carry them. Here’s a secret. That list keeps changing, and getting longer. And, realistically, what you need to carry really depends on where you are going. First, let’s look at the 10 essentials list as published by REI.

Updated Ten Essential Systems:

  1. Navigation: map, compass, altimeter, GPS device, personal locator beacon (PLB), or satellite messenger
  2. Headlamp: plus extra batteries
  3. Sun protection: sunglasses, sun-protective clothes, and sunscreen
  4. First aid including foot care and insect repellent (as needed)
  5. Knife plus a gear repair kit
  6. Fire matches, lighter, tinder, and/or stove
  7. Shelter carried at all times (can be a light emergency bivy)
  8. Extra food Beyond the minimum expectation
  9. Extra water Beyond the minimum expectation
  10. Extra clothes Beyond the minimum expectation

This is a great list. And if you are going on a hike to one of the New Hampshire 4000-Footers, by yourself, this list is the minimum you should be carrying. However, if you are just going with a few friends for a morning walk at Borderland in the summer… OK, maybe you won’t, really, need all of these. But does that mean you should just grab your phone and head out for a hike… No! So, let’s look at the list and think about which items we might need, even at Borderland.

  1. Navigation: Map, and (If you know how to use it!) a compass. Or, realistically, your charged phone with the map of the place you are hiking. (As much as we preach “Take a paper map.” we know many of you won’t do it.)
  2. Headlamp: Maybe not for a morning hike. But it does get dark early in the winter. So, if you are going out, especially alone in the afternoon in the winter, take one. The light on your phone will drain the battery very quickly. Then you will lose both your light and your map. 🙁
  3. Sun protection: Sunglasses, sunscreen. These depend on your tolerance for the sun, and if you expect to be in the sun, or in the woods during the day.
  4. First aid: Band-Aids, insect repellent, any personal meds.
  5. Water
  6. Extra clothes: You should always carry a raincoat, even if it’s just one of those dollar store ponchos. And, except in the 90-degree summer, a fleece jacket is always nice to have. Maybe you don’t intend to stay out late into the evening, but if you twist an ankle and can’t walk, even at Borderland, it will be a few hours before you are carried out. We’ve all seen the temperature drop after a summer thunderstorm. You do not want to be sitting there, dripping wet, with no warm clothes.
How is the AMC organized?

Ok, this can be a source of confusion. The “AMC” (Appalachian Mountain Club) is a big organization, with many paid employees. “Headquarters” runs many things, such as the hut system in NH, the lodges in the Maine Woods, etc. They also offer, frequently paid, trips, training, etc.

There is also the Local Chapters. Locally there are Boston and SEM (Southeastern Mass); as well as other chapters from Maine to greater Washington DC. It is these, volunteer-based Chapters that offer most of the trips that ‘AMC’ offers. Each Chapter is relatively independent, so it’s sometimes hard to say “A Chapter does this…” Or “A Chapter does things this way…”. But, for the most part, things are at least similar. Then, just to make it a bit more confusing, within each chapter there are assorted committees, each also relatively independent. So, within the Boston Chapter you’ll find hikes offered by the “Local Walks & Hikes Committee”, the “H/B (Hiking & Backpacking Committee”, the “20s & 30s Committee”, the “Over-40 Committee”, … Don’t feel bad if you have trouble keeping track… most of us do!
The important thing is “Find a committee doing what you want, with people you like, and go on their trips!” 🙂 Try different Chapters & Committees. Find people you want to go on trips with!

Have more questions?

Come on an AMC hike and talk to us! (Or email, or call any of the Leaders) You’ll find most AMC Leaders will be very willing to answer questions, be they about equipment, where to hike, or how to get started hiking.

In the meantime, you can contact us with any questions by filling out this form!

— Your Boston Chapter, Local Walks & Hikes Committee