5 Hiking Essentials

Reader Contribution by Dan Klein
article image

Whether you’re planning a last minute day trip or multi-week expedition, these five hiking tips are a must for seasoned hikers and newcomers alike.

1. Know your personal abilities.

Before any trip, whether it be big or small, it is important to assess and understand your abilities. How strong are you physically? What sort of distances have you covered on previous trips and how did your body respond? Does your body handle well in extreme temperatures, hot or cold? Do you have any existing medical conditions or allergies? How confident are you in first aid and emergency treatment? If you are planning to travel in a group it is important also to know and understand each members ability levels as well.

2. Know your gear.

Whether you chose to carry an ultra-light, minimalist, kit or an eighty pound, “everything plus the kitchen sink” pack, matters very little. What is important, is that you know how to use what’s in your pack effectively. If you do not understand the role that each piece of gear you carry serves, than you will not be able to rely on it when needed. Furthermore, if you do not know how to use the gear, and have not used it before (at least in some form of trial scenarios), you may find that in your moment of need you are unable to operate it effectively. For instance, a free-standing, fully enclosed tent, certainly provides more protection from the elements than a simple tarp, but both need to be pitched and pitched correctly. Practice operating stoves and pitching your shelter in the dark. Keep your gear organized and have a consistent system so that if and when you need something, you can locate it within your pack effectively under any and all conditions.

3. Plan ahead.

What is the weather forecast during your trip? How many miles do you plan to cover? How many miles per day? How many days of food will this require? Will you need to resupply at some point during your trip? How? Knowing your personal abilities and your gear will allow you to cover your bases and plan a successful trip, as well as to identify potential issues that may arise and prepare yourself with a few contingency plans. Any hiking or backpacking trip carries a certain level of risk with it. It is therefore important to know and understand not only what your “best case scenario” plan of action is, but also what you will do if things do not work in your favor. Identifying nearby access points along your intended route is relatively simple, but should a situation arise, you’ll thank yourself.

4. Know how to navigate appropriately.

Your navigational needs, and therefor abilities, will vary based on the type of trip you have planned. Most trips will not necessitate advanced orienteering knowledge, though certain trips certainly could. At a minimum all hikers should understand the basics. Simply internalizing that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, as well as some basic astrological features will do you wonders. From there, make it second nature to constantly assess your direction of travel as well as where major and distinct terrain features lie in relation to your path. Knowing, for instance, that you are headed East, on relatively level terrain, and that you crossed a stream approximately a mile ago that was flowing north/south, will help pinpoint your location should the need arise.

5. Bring a sense of humor.

If you chose to spend time in the great outdoors it must be accepted that all conditions can and will change and accidents can certainly happen. Bad weather, difficult terrain, injury, and even simple fatigue or hunger are all part of the experience. Your laugh, even potentially at your own mistakes, will often be your strongest ally in overcoming difficult conditions. Stay positive, keep an open mind, and most importantly, have fun!

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.