Spending time outdoors is a great way to reduce stress, lower blood pressure and other health benefits. I really enjoy leaving the city behind and enjoying some time away from civilization. It allows me to re-center myself and experience places that few others ever get a chance to. While you can simply pick a spot and head out there this weekend, the smart way is to be prepared. Here's our tips on how to plan for an awesome weekend hiking trip.
Hiking is budget-friendly and can be adapted for just about any level of fitness. A hiking trip, whether it’s several days long or just a few hours, is also a great way to spend some quality time with friends and family, get some much needed time to yourself, or even spend some time with your favorite canine friend.
Whether you’re an experienced hiker or new to the sport, below are some tips that can help you plan a safe and fun hiking getaway.
Pick a Destination That Matches Your Abilities
Hiking trips can range from walks on the beach to climbing a snow-covered mountain. No matter how skilled you are, make sure that you pick the right destination that matches your skills. I'm not going to be able to climb Everest today without training, but I could take a hike through the desert or an easy hike in the mountains. Not only should you plan something that matches your abilities but also a place that will be fun to explore. Do you like waterfalls, animals, unique rock formations or something else. Your preference doesn't matter but you are going to have more fun if it is somewhere awesome and exciting.
Plan The Route and Research The Trails
There are so many tools that you can use today to plan a hiking trip. For instance, I use AllTrails primarily for off-roading but it is an excellent resource for planning hiking trips too. Not only does it show you popular trails but you can browse other people's photos, download offline maps, and even record your own path to share with others. Whatever tools you use, make sure you have a plan so that you can reduce the chance of unexpected challenges.
Invest in Appropriate Footwear
The hiking shoes or boots you choose for your next hiking trip should be appropriate for the landscape where you will be hiking as well as the weather forecast. Are the trails flat? Will you be climbing mountains or rock ledges? Is the temperature below freezing, or surfaces covered with snow or ice? Each of these conditions may require different shoes or boots.
If you’re going to be hiking level trails free of loose rocks, snow or ice, a good pair of cross-trainers should work great. For long-distance hikes, especially one where you will be carrying a loaded backpack, a sturdy pair of hiking boots will give you more support.
Whatever type of hiking shoes or boots you buy, it’s smart to choose footwear that is waterproof. If you will be hiking during the winter or in icy conditions, consider bringing along a pair of micro-spikes or crampons so you will be able to hike the trails safely.
Wear Appropriate Clothing
Even if it’s the middle of July and a nice sunny day, weather conditions on a mountaintop can be drastically different from those at the trailhead. Storms can blow in without notice. Dressing appropriately for the outdoors will help keep you warm, dry and comfortable no matter what the weather conditions are.
In general, you should always have a base layer made of a moisture-wicking material; a waterproof outer layer, and extra socks in case yours get wet. A hat that will keep the sun off of your face and neck is also a good idea.
If you’re new to the world of outdoor clothing, pay a visit to a local sporting goods or outdoor retailer to get started. Quality outdoor clothing and gear can also be purchased online from retailers like TRU-SPEC.
Don’t Leave Home Without a Map, GPS and Compass
It is crucial to carry an up-to-date map of the place you will be hiking, even if you are somewhat familiar with the area. While I always travel with offline maps saved to my phone, having a paper map is helpful too. Natural areas can change appearance depending on the season; time of day, or weather, so even a place you know can look completely unfamiliar.
Carrying a GPS unit and compass is a good idea, too since your phone may work poorly without internet access. Make sure that you know how to read a compass properly in case your GPS fails.
Carry Extra Food and Water
Even if you’re just taking a day hike, having adequate food and water is essential. It’s easy to become dehydrated while hiking, especially during the summer. Before your trip, it’s a good idea to become familiar with the symptoms of dehydration so you’ll be able to recognize them in yourself, your pet, or your hiking companions.
Hiking while you’re hungry can also be risky. Energy-rich snacks such as beef jerky, trail mix, tuna, cheese, and peanut butter will boost your energy level and help make your hike safer and more enjoyable.
Don’t Forget Essential Safety Equipment
Regardless of how long or where you plan to hike, packing essential safety items such as a flashlight or headlamp (in case your hike runs longer than expected or you get lost) is a must. Bring matches or a lighter for starting a fire in the event of an emergency (a fire is also an effective way to signal for help and allow rescuers to locate you). Pack a whistle as well. If you need to call for help, it will be more reliable than yelling. Your voice can wear out quickly.
Always Let Someone Know Your Plan!
No matter how experienced you are, always make sure to share your plans with someone you trust. You never know what might happen out on the trail. Even the most skilled hiker can get attacked by an animal or slip and fall on a loose surface. Share your plans with a friend and tell them when you expect to be able to contact them again so they can alert authorities for help if you don't check in as expected.