Monday, October 17, 2011

Carry a wristwatch on a day hike with kids

A watch not only tells time but can serve as a makeshift compass.
A wristwatch may seem redundant in the age of mobile phones, but if your phone goes dead or is lost, a watch lets you know what time it is.

This can be valuable in helping you gauge how far you’ve traveled. For example, if you know your brood covers about half a mile every half hour, and only 15 minutes have passed, then you’ve probably traveled a quarter mile. If you’re lost, you’ll need to know how soon you should think about going into emergency mode and staying the night in the wilds.

Wear a watch with hands, not a digital one. While digital watches come with all kinds of gizmos, like a barometer, altimeter and compass, most of them require a battery, and batteries have a way of going dead just when you need them most.

In case your GPS dies or you lose your compass, a wristwatch with hands also can be used to tell direction. Simply point the watch’s hour hand toward the sun. Now imagine a line between the hour hand and the 12 on your watch; that line is true south. If you’re currently on daylight savings time (in the United States, this is from the second Sunday of March to the day before the first Sunday of November, except Hawaii and the non-Navajo sections of Arizona), you’ll need to pretend the hour hand is one hour earlier than it appears on your watch (so if the hour hand is on 11, pretend it’s on 10). If cloudy, simply line up the hour hand with the brightest part of the sky.

Finally, make sure your watch is waterproof or water resistant. You don’t want it to stop working during the rain or in case you accidentally take it into the water.

Read more about day hiking with children in my guidebook Hikes with Tykes.