What happens when you cross the streams
What's the best way to cross streams while backpacking?
Each method will be slightly different because they use different shoes and different equipment (e.g. poles versus no poles).
Plan ahead and find out the expected water level given the time of year and the amount of snow that year. If there is a likelihood that a particular hike cannot be safely completed, this is what you want to know and you don't.
When I know a big cross is coming, I look for a good stick or two to keep my balance. (I don't hike with walking sticks.)
When the creek is high enough or fast enough to look dangerous, I try to discipline myself to spend a lot of time looking for the safest place to cross. The safest point can be 100 meters from where the path meets the creek and can be invisible from the path. The safest point is usually the widest, as this is where the water flows the slowest. Sometimes in 10 minutes of searching you can find a tree or rock that you can cross without wading, or you see another hiker tell you a better place to cross.
Loosen the belly band and the chest strap so that I don't get caught in my backpack in the event of a fall. Make sure that sleeping bags, down jackets, etc. are in a garbage bag or something similar.
I usually hike in running shoes. To cross a stream, I take off my socks, take off the inserts from my shoes, and put the shoes back on to protect my feet when crossing. Although river rocks are mostly smooth, a foot injury could ruin my entire trip so I wouldn't want to cross barefoot.
As you cross, practice what to do if you get knocked off your feet. When this happens, shake off your backpack. The major risks of death are head injuries and entrapment underwater. To reduce the risk of a head injury, try to orient yourself so that you are walking your feet first.
After the crossing, hike for 10 minutes and then tuck the socks and inserts back into the shoes.
One of the biggest problems with hiking boots is that if you wear them for foot protection when crossing a creek, they will likely never dry out and you will blister your feet.
Rory Alsop ♦
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