Want to feel like you’re a part of the great outdoors? Hiking may be just what you’re looking for. There’s a range of factors that go into hiking: where you’re hiking, the level of difficulty of the path, if you go it alone or with friends, and a lot more!
Hiking prep plays a huge role in how well your trip goes. Most hiking trips can go without a hitch, but being prepared can make even the bad situations tolerable.
Be Honest About Your Fitness Level
Thinking about your fitness level can be unpleasant. But it’s necessary; you need to know what your fitness level is to determine which level of difficulty you can tackle. If you suddenly become too exhausted to move and it’s several miles each way to get back to the car, that’s a problem.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that hiking is different than walking or even marathon running. The uneven terrain and the ups and downs of the land can tire even the best of runners.
Our advice for beginners? Start on the easier paths, even if you are in top shape. They’ll give you an idea of what hiking is like without the risk of getting stranded. And if you do well, feel free to move up on difficulty.
You will find a myriad of sources online for what trails to take. We find that All Trails is the best source for hikers of any level when looking for a new trail. Their filtering for difficulty level is perfect for finding an appropriate hike for your friends and having to carry in and carry out when you brunch anywhere.
Picking a Hiking or Nature Trail
Now that you’ve figured out what level of difficulty you’ll take, you can start really digging into the trails that you can try.
There are a lot of ways to find out which trails are available in your area. There’s always the World Wide Web, but there are also guidebooks and local organizations that are always ready to lend a helping hand.
There’s not only difficulty to take into account when you choose. There’s the season and coming weather, the time it’ll take you to get there, the length of the trek you want to take, if there are any stops that are a part of the trail, and a lot more smaller details you’re going to have to think about.
It’s a good idea to keep your eye out on the forecast. Rain, snow, and extreme cold are all enemies of a good hiking trip. Worse comes to worse, you’ll have to plan for another day.
Of course, weather forecasts aren’t always accurate. Make sure that you are prepared for sudden changes of weather when you’re hiking as well. Speaking of which…
Wear the Right Gear
Hiking is no walk in the park, literally. Wearing the right clothing and accessories plays an important role. Good shoes and pants, a proper jacket, and a hat are a must. And skip the cotton shirt and denim jeans if possible; cotton absorbs and holds onto water, making it take forever to dry. Even on warmer days, this can lead to being cold and damp for longer than anyone should. (We know what you’re thinking and yes, denim is made of cotton.)
Pack the Right Things
Planning for what you need on a hiking trip is a weird balance: you want to be prepared, but not to overburden yourself and make the actual hike harder with all that you bring. Luckily, a lot of hiking gear has been made with lightweight in mind.
In the 1930s, the Seattle-based organization The Mountaineers created the list that has been named the Ten Essentials. As the name implies, it’s the ten essential things everyone should bring while hiking to stay safe and prepared. Nearly a hundred years later, and it’s become more of a “system” of things rather than things themselves.
The Ten Essentials are:
3. Sun Protection
4. First Air
8. Extra Food
9. Extra Water
10. Extra Clothes
Intimidating list, isn’t it? It’s worth mentioning that you shouldn’t count on your phone to fill in some gaps; if there’s no cell reception or the battery runs out, it’s the last thing you want to rely on in an emergency.
The Mountaineers have a great article that explains the Ten Essentials here. It breaks down each category and explains why you need these things.
Friends and Notes
Hiking with friends is always fun. For newer hikers, it’s always good to have an extra set of eyes and hands around. You can all make a great group of encouragers to get through the hike!
If you don’t have any nature-inclined friends, don’t worry! There are a lot of hiking groups found all around the world. Local hiking organizations can help you find events or groups that would love for you to join. We recommend the American Hiking Society’s page to help find a good group.
Whether you’re with friends or going solo, it’s also a good idea to leave a copy of your route itinerary in your car (not in clear obvious view, but a glove compartment works). This is the “worse case scenario” kind of deal; if you aren’t back at a certain time, it will give rescuers a good idea of where to look.
All of this is just an overview of how to prepare for a hiking trip. We’re not the experts, though. If you are looking into longer or harder courses, or are considering making this your next big hobby, it’s best to look to the experts.
REI Co-Op has a lot of good advice, especially under their “Expert Advice” section. We highly recommend you check them out here.
We also recommend HikingGuy’s top tips beginner hikers should know.
And Don’t Forget the Food and Drinks!
You’ll need the calories while hiking, and finding a scenic spot to eat and drink can make the perfect memory. Sandwiches are made (both literally and figuratively) for hiking. They’re easy to pack and easy to store. And more importantly, you don’t have to pull out the cutlery when you want to eat!
Snacks and side food are also a very welcomed addition to any hike. Trail mix is a popular choice, as it has a lot of the nutrients your body needs. Fresh fruit and vegetables are also highly recommended, as well as dried fruits.
And don’t forget some Picnic Brunch. After all, it’s easier to bring one of our canned cocktails than having to bring all the ingredients yourself! (Also, they can double as a cool pack for all of your other food. Multipurpose for the win!)
(Of course, drink responsibly, bring plenty of water, and pick up after you are done.)