There is nothing more invigorating than getting out on your favorite trail. Hiking can be a visually rewarding and spiritually uplifting activity for anyone. Knowing how to plan your next trip while staying safe and prepared can make your trip into a lifelong memory.
Every trip is different so getting ready to go can be a different challenge every time. Bringing the necessities is important, but planning for all of the unknowns takes some experience. Take your time planning your next hike to make sure that you are the most comfortable and safest that you can be.
Being on the trail is no joke and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Your survival can often be at stake when you are out on the trail. Whether you are hiking the Manaslu Circuit in magical Nepal or staying closer to home on your favorite trails, planning out your trip to account for these variables will help you be prepared for anything.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Planning your Hiking Adventures
Consider the Weather
Before booking your trip or setting a date, you should know what kind of weather you will be dealing with. If you are travelling somewhere for the first time, make sure to do your research well in advance. Most tourism website will list weather trends by the season. Choose your departure date wisely and try to avoid times that can have severe weather.
Keep in mind the difference in temperature between daylight hours and night time. In many places, you can deal with warm weather during your hike and then frigid temps overnight. Packing your hiking gear can require you to accommodate for both cool and warm conditions on the same trip.
It is not recommended that you try to carry a pack that is more than one-half (½) of your own body weight. When you carry too much equipment and bulk you can make the hike feel miserable. Purchase equipment that has been specially designed and engineered for camping or hiking. Lightweight items that can be stored while taking up minimal space are always best.
When you are getting your packs ready make sure to account for the weight of water and food. You will need as much water as you can carry and it can add a lot of weight to your load. A water bladder canteen worn against the body can be more comfortable than carrying multiple bottles.
Footwear and Clothing
Your wardrobe will largely be determined by the location and the weather that you anticipate on your hike. A durable and well fitting pair of waterproof hiking boots is essential. Without solid footing and protection, your feet can often be the first thing to let you down on the trail.
Choose your clothing wisely and remember to dress in layers. You should have a thermal layer next to your skin that can help keep your core temperature steady while wicking moisture away from your skin. Add a looser fitting shirt and convertible pants to complete your second layer. Always have a waterproof windbreaker with you for the ultimate protection in your third layer. Staying dry can help you avoid situations of hyperthermia so always remember to take your rain gear with you.
Set your mileage limits
Everyone has a different fitness level and if you are hiking in a group, take into consideration the fitness level of each member. Someone who has never been to the countryside is going to struggle when hiking more than ten miles a day. Being fit in the gym is a lot different than hiking for 5 to 6 hours a day. One has to deal with not just physical fatigue but mental fatigue as well. It is essential to note here that the rule holds true for relatively flat terrain with slight elevation. If the train is more challenging and requires going up and down mountains, you need to be careful when deciding mileage limits for yourself or the group. Generally speaking, an inexperienced hiker is expected to manage 10 miles of flat terrain and about 5 or 6 miles of the mountainous terrain.
Pick the hiking route carefully
Every hiking trail or route is different and before you decide which hike to aim for, think through a few things. You should know how much time you can spare for the hike and is it possible to complete the hike within the time limit you have. Do not forget to add in the time you will need to reach the trailhead. Inspect the fitness level of those going for the hike and if the hike is suitable to their stamina. After all, a hike should be an enjoyable experience and not a test for someone. What the use if the hiking team is suffering and grumbling all the time? As there are plenty of hike and hikes for everyone, choose carefully. Keep the distance, terrain and the elevation gain in mind to determine the difficulty level. Choose a hike that will suit the hiking members and make it an enjoyable experience.
Food, water, and calories
Food and water are essential aspects when planning a hiking trip. Typically, one needs two to three hundred calories per hour and about a half liter water every hour. How much food and water you consume will rely a lot on the kind of kike and the intensity of the hike. Some other factors that can impact the quantity of food and water include the body type, age, gender, and sweat rate. The more you hike, the better you would be able to judge as to how much you need. As a general rule, one should always have extra food and water in case the hike takes longer due to unforeseen conditions. Hiking on a hungry stomach can be torturous. That doesn’t mean that you load yourself with so much food and water as your backpack needs to be lightweight. So, carry foods that are nutritious, non-perishable and easy to digest and light on weight. You should be able to enjoy them as you walk and get the source of energy you need. Some enjoyable snacks for your hike are trail mix, bananas, dried fruits, dried beans, granola bars, whole-grain tortillas, freeze-dried vegetables, and cereal. As carrying water can be heavy, it is a good idea to make use of the backcountry streams and lakes and filter the water and refill the bottles.
Safety Items and accessories
If you are on a popular and well-maintained trail that sees lots of hikers, you can feel comfortable about your safety. Nevertheless, every hiker should be well prepared for his own safety as well as the group. As you would be out in the sun, protect your face and skin from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun and use SPF 15 or higher. It is a good idea to start early when the sun is not so hot and take rest in some shade during noon time. Reapply sunscreen every two hours. Simple items like whistle can make calls for help, or a flashlight can show you light in the dark and fire can keep you warm and safe. Always carry a first-aid kit with essentials like gauze pads, bandages, antibiotic ointment, bug spray, and medications. The multi-purpose tool is a must-have for hiking, and you might just never know when you might need those tools. Use bug spray to keep those, bees, spiders and mosquitoes away. Toiletries are a must as you are away from public restrooms. So, carry hand sanitizer, toilet paper waste bags, and any other necessities.
Guessing the Trail Time
You should set realistic trial time for the total hike and take into consideration the total time you want to go for and backwards the whole trail. The trail timing can get impacted by the weather conditions like rain and snow as nobody would like to hike when it is raining or snowing. Everybody would want the weather conditions to clear before they can resume the hike. As a conservative rule of thumb, add at least 30 minutes for every 1,000ft of elevation and an average hiking speed of about 2mph for a group. Make realistic guessing of the total time it will take to complete the trail. some of the hikes may not be as easy as they look, and you may come across steep stretches that may require a little bit of rock scrambling and thus more time.
Now that you know what aspects to keep in mind before going on a hike, start planning the trip. Based on the hiking location, pack your backpack. Make a checklist of items you need to pack and ensure that nothing is left. Coordinate with your group and ensure that everyone has every piece of gear needed for a fun and safe adventure. Check the weather conditions before you go and plan accordingly. Do not leave before handing a copy of your itinerary with your family and friends. You might not have a phone or internet connection in remote areas, and they should know by what date or time to expect you back. Keep in touch with them whenever you can. Leave a piece of paper with contact information in your car before you begin the hike.