Whether you have your sights set on hiking a national park or simply spending a long weekend on the trail, preparation and planning are both extremely important. Starting a hike without the proper food, equipment, medical supplies, and information can result in an extremely negative experience. At best, you’ll have a miserable time. At worst, you can put your well being at risk, even your life.
When done correctly, multi day hikes can be amazing experiences. You’ll see nature up close and personal, create memories, and possibly meet some interesting people on your treks. By following the 9 tips below, you can help ensure that your hiking trip is a success.
1. Research The Area You’ll be Hiking
Be sure you have accurate and up to date information on the areas where you’ll be hiking. You’ll want to know what to expect as far as weather, trail closures, and rules and regulations. Start by checking out the official information. This means visiting national park services websites, reading guidebooks, and learning the rules and recommendations put out by your local department of natural resources or department of conservation.
You can use that information to begin to plan your trip and map your hike. Your next step is to get the unofficial take on things. Look for community forums and discussion groups that have been formed by hikers and campers familiar to your chosen area. These are great sources for the kind of unofficial information that you won’t find through other sources. For example, experienced hikers may know of landowners along your path who will let you refill your canteen from their spigot or where some edible plants are accessible.
2. Start Challenging Your Physical Limits
Packing around 30 to 50 pounds of gear is tough for a day. Doing it for two or more days, fatigue quickly becomes an issue if you aren’t prepared. Don’t wait for your long trek to see what your body can endure. Start challenging yourself today. Hit the gym and spend lots of time on the stair climber. Then, ask a trainer for help learning exercises that strengthen your core and your legs. You’ll need this in order to build up both strength and endurance.
On the other hand, be cautious. If you’re the bodybuilding type, you may be used to focusing on getting your gains at the gym. Now is not the time for that. If anything, consider trimming down a bit. It may help to focus on a workout routine designed for endurance athletes.
3. Take Special Care of Your Feet
It’s one thing to have to nurse a blister after a day of hiking. It’s a special kind of hell to deal with blisters and sore feet in the middle of a national park miles and miles away from civilization. Next to your brain, your feet are the most important body part when it comes to hiking. Take care of them.
Invest in a dedicated pair of hiking boots. Then, use them. Take them on several shorter hikes. You don’t want to start a long hike in a pair of boots that aren’t broken in. Next, buy several pairs of socks that are specifically designed for hiking and mountaineering. Merino wool socks are very popular amongst hikers these days. Here are some features that would make for a great pair of hiking socks:.
- They Provide Adequate Cushioning
- They Wick Moisture Away From Your Feet
- They Are Warm Without Being Overly Thick
- They Are Breathable in Hot Weather
Some people recommend changing socks once daily. However, you should probably plan on changing more often if your feet sweat or if you are hiking in hot conditions.
4. Consider Investing in Lighter Gear
If you’re planning to hike for multiple days, you’ll have to add lots of new gear to your pack. This includes cooking equipment, sleeping bag, tent, and more clothing. That means adding more weight. You might be able to handle that for a day or two if you are in good shape, but it will take its toll as the days pass.
It may be a good idea to invest the money in some lighter gear that is specifically designed for multi day hiking trips. You’ll be grateful, even if you can reduce your overall load by just ten pounds.
5. Invest in a Good Navigation System
First, never start a hike without grabbing a copy of the trail map. If you have an equipment or battery failure, this could be a real life saver. You should also invest in a waterproof carrying case for that map. Having said that, it is more than worth the money you will spend to get a GPS system or app that is specifically designed for hikers. These durable pieces of equipment can help you navigate the toughest areas, and can withstand a lot of abuse.
6. Make a Hydration Plan
When you plan your trip, it is of utmost importance that you make a plan to stay properly hydrated. Remember that you can’t simply throw a bunch of water bottles in your backpack. If you do carry water, it’s a good idea to invest in a hydration vest or belt. This allows you to carry the water you have more ergonomically.
Then, map out places where you can refill or otherwise replenish your water supply. If you aren’t certain that there will be potable water sources, it’s time to invest in a water filtration straw or purification tablets. If you are hiking in especially demanding surroundings, it may help to bring along some powdered sports drink mix.
7. Be Prepared to Pack Out What You Pack In
Good environmental stewardship is the responsibility of every hiker, camper, mountaineer, or backpacker. This mean that everything you bring along with you on your hike should come back off of the trail when you finish your hike. This includes food waste. Don’t leave it assuming that the animals will devour it. That’s not healthy for them, and it gives them a taste for human food which can be dangerous for them and other hikers.
8. Plan Your Meals to Optimize Nutrition And Avoid Waste
One good rule of thumb to keep in mind is ‘fresh food first’. If you have fantasies of roasting hot dogs over a fire, or preparing a camper’s breakfast with pancakes, eggs, and all the trimmings, that’s fine. Just plan your menu so that any perishable items are eaten first.
If you’re thru hiking, fresh food may not be an option. Instead, you’ll want to rely on dehydrated or freeze dried foods. These are sold in packs at outdoor and camping supply stores. If you have your own food dehydrator, there are plenty of trail meal recipes online.
9. Have a Plan And Equipment in Place For Illness or Injury
Never hike without a proper first aid kit. If you are hiking long distances, you’ll want to invest in even more supplies than you would normally bring along. Also, bring cash with you. This will allow you to replace any times that you use up when you make your way into campgrounds or towns. Finally, if you decide to hike alone, please invest in a personal location beacon.
Overnight and thru hiking can be amazing experiences. Keep the tips above in mind so that you can get the most out of each hiking trip.
Featured photo credit: David Marcu via unsplash.com