Packing your bag and hitting the trail for a day of hiking is the greatest feeling in the world, as long as you don’t suck at it. Knowing what you’re doing can be the difference between an amazing day out or a miserable potentially even dangerous situation. Luckily there are many things within your control that you can do to improve your chances of having a trek that you’ll never forget. I’ve got 7 easy and practical tips for you so that you can avoid some of the countless mistakes I made when I first got into the hiking game.
1. Know the correct address
The key to making your hike unforgettable begins by researching the trail that you plan to hike. One tip I have learned and re learned over the years is to get the exact address of where you plan to park. More often than not if you just type the name of the trail you want to hike into your GPS you end up in some random field 3 miles from the parking lot you need to be in. This silly mistake has cost me valuable hiking time on more than one occasion.
2. Research the parking situation
If you aren’t familiar with parking lots for hiking trails take it from me. Hiking parking lots fill up quick and not being able to get a spot in these lots sometimes means walking several miles from an alternate lot before your hike even begins.. Do as much research on how many lots are, how many available spots the lots have, parking restrictions, and how early the lots typically fill up. This information can easily be found through a simple google search and if done before hand can save you a lot of time trying to find a backup plan.
Don’t laugh, you’d be surprised how often people simply don’t realize how important hydration is before embarking on a great hike. The amount of water you’ll need depends on several things including the length of the hike, the temperature and how hydrated you are before going into the hike. For a short day hike (anything 5 hours or less) I usually hydrate generously before hand and pack about 32 ounces of water. If that doesn’t sound like enough for you products such as Camelbacks can be purchased on Amazon or a bunch of other site relatively inexpensively. Although I don’t typically take that much water on short hikes I highly recommend it to anyone that thinks they need more water without the weight and bulkiness of carrying multiple water bottles. If not there are plenty of great light weight water bottles that can be purchased super inexpensively as well. Plastic bottles that you can pick up from a convenience store work just fine too just please don’t be one of the hikers that litter on the trail. Nothing is more of a bummer for myself and many other hikers I know than littering (stepping back down off my soap box now).
I am always shocked by how often people forget to pack some form of nourishment for a day hike. I think that people sometimes forget that hiking can be a rather arduous activity. Regardless you really do burn a ton of calories while your out there on the trail so this item on the list is one you will find yourself very happy you didn’t forget. My personal choice is typically a cliff bar (although I’m taking a hiatus from sugar for the time being) or beef jerky as well as some form of nut (I like cashews). The reason I choose these is because they are light weight, I like the taste and they give me real energy. I try to avoid junk foods or anything overly processed just because I’m really looking to get some clean long lasting energy into my system. This item is probably the second most important item. Do not let hanger ruin your trip.
5. A good back pack
Now this is not to say you need a backpack for a day hike. A lot of times on short hikes I’ll ditch the backpack all together. My mantra when it comes to hiking is bring only what you need. Dead weight just equals back pain in my opinion. That being said if i have packed a few snacks water bottles and maybe a camera it’s nice to have somewhere to store everything. It also really helps to avoid littering which is a huge favor to all of us that love and respect the great outdoors. Backpacks can range anywhere from a few dollars all the way to hundreds or even thousands. Again it’s not a necessity if you’re only planning a short hike but if you’re someone that gets into hiking a nice backpack is an awesome thing to have. I go into specifics about what makes a great back pack in my post Choosing the best hiking backpack for day hikes. If your not in the market for a new backpack right now whatever you have should do the trick.
6. Appropriate footwear.
This does not necessarily mean boots, although boots are great. Should you choose to where boots I’d make sure to select a boots catered towards hiking. If I know the terrain isn’t going to be too intense I actually prefer sneakers due to the fact that they weigh less. Not all sneakers are ideal for hiking. The key to success when it comes to footwear is ankle support, Grip and comfort. Just remember your going to be walking for several hours straight on potentially rugged terrain. You need to put serious thought into the footwear you choose or you may just spend several hours straight walking in extreme pain. In short the particular footwear depends on the particular hike, just know the decision should be well thought out before hand.
7. A Poncho
You never know when a sudden rain storm is going to come on. Ponchos can be purchased very cheaply and weigh next to nothing. they can be easily stored in a pocket or a back pack and can be re used. There is basically no reason not to have one on you and in the very possible event that it does decide to rain you may be several hours away from a change of clothes. Get yourself a poncho. Trust me if you find yourself in a situation where you need it you will be so happy that you have it.
We can’t control everything out there on the trail. This is part of the beauty and allure of hiking. But we can be intelligent and do the things within our control correctly to exponentially increase our chances of having an excellent experience interacting with the great outdoors. Thanks so much for reading and please feel free to reach out on social media with hiking questions you have so I can continue to put out articles like this.