During my early mountaineering pursuits, I had it burned into my psyche that breaks are not a time to just collapse, sit on your pack and rest. Instead, breaks are the perfect opportunity to do all the things you can’t do when moving, especially eat and drink. I am to the point now where I anticipate exactly what I need to do on the next break, accomplishing everything efficiently as possibly.
Rarely, if ever, do I sit and do nothing on a break. When I have nothing left to do, I know it’s time to move or help someone else out in order to get the group moving. Over the years, I have dialed in the key activities I usually look to accomplish during a break:
1. If I am out in cold weather, first thing I do is put on an extra layer to preserve all that warmth I have worked up. Don’t waste it.
2. Eat and drink. This is key for me. If I eat and drink little amounts every time I get the chance, I am better suited to make it through an entire day of activity without bonking. I like to nibble on dense energy bars such as those from Kate’s Real Food (bonus-they don’t freeze). I also use the time to restock my pockets with hard candy, Honey Stinger Energy Chews, or other easy access food items I can eat when on the go.
3. Dial in my apparel systems. Depending on the conditions, I may need to take off or add a layer, while always anticipating the activity and weather that is ahead of me.
4. Bathroom break. This is much harder to do when you a roped up to a group of guys on a glacier but in the end, you will be way more comfortable and warmer.
5. Reapply chapstick, sunscreen, tape hotspots, etc.
What helps with efficiency is to give some thought on how you will pack your backpack before you leave in the morning. Stuff I will want access to on breaks goes either in the lid of my pack or close to the top. I pack almost exactly the same way every time. By following the same routine, I don’t need to think much and immediately know where to find an item. This is most efficient for me and helps me be quick.
When you are done with your chosen activity for the day, you are most likely tired and pumped about completing something awesome. The tendency is to stand around and talk about it, slowly packing up your stuff. But as Sarah Hueniken always says, “We celebrate back at the car”.
Of course, break efficiency is all time and place dependent. If you are out on a hike in gorgeous weather and want to stop and lounge around a lake for lunch or even part of the afternoon, by all means go for it! Efficient breaks are more for those times when it’s too cold to lounge around, time is of the essence to complete your goal for that day or because of weather and other hazards.
Key point to remember: Being fast does not mean rushing. Rushing can lead to accidents. Instead, being fast means being efficient.