Hiking is a fantastic way to explore the great outdoors. It can also be a fun physical challenge. It essentially involves walking long distances – usually as a way of accessing scenic locations that can only be accessed by foot.
There are lots of different forms of hiking from summit hiking (mountain climbing) to coastal walking. A hiking trip could last a few hours or a few days. It all depends on what type of challenge you’re looking for.
Whatever the case, it’s important to plan your trip thoroughly. Below are some tips on planning a hiking trip including choosing the right trail, training for your hike, choosing what to bring and staying safe on your hike.
Choosing the right trail
In order for your hiking trip to be a rewarding adventure, you need to choose the right trail. There are few questions to consider to help you find the perfect trail.
What’s your fitness level like?
First, consider your fitness level. If you don’t do a lot of exercise, you should start with a fairly basic day hike – aim to cover no more than a few miles over relatively easy terrain. Those with a higher level of general fitness may be willing to take on something more challenging.
It’s worth researching trails online to see how fellow hikers rate their difficulty. This is particularly important with mountain climbs where overexerting yourself could be dangerous.
Where in the world do you want to go?
You don’t have to travel far to go on a hiking trip. In fact, there could be many trails in your area that could be perfect for a day trip.
Alternatively, you could try looking into trails further afield. There are many places across the US that are renowned for their scenic hikes. In the southern states you have Grand Canyon National Park, Big Bend National Park. In the midwest, you have the trails of Northern Michigan and Northern Minnesota. When it comes to the northern mountain states you have the likes of Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National park. Travelling for a hiking trip can be more expensive, but it could give you the chance to see greater sights than what may be on your doorstep.
Some people even go abroad for hiking expeditions. Popular hiking trails around the world include the Inca Trail in Peru, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal and the Torres Del Paine in Chile. Such trips are great for experienced hikers. Just make sure to consider all the extras of going abroad such as applying for a visa and bringing a passport.
How long will your trek be?
You should consider your time frame when planning your hike. Some trails can be done in a few hours (although it depends on your fitness level). Others can take days or weeks.
When it comes to longer multi-day treks you’ll need to plan out your stops. It could be worth going with a guide when planning longer and more challenging hikes in places you’re not familiar with.
What time of the year are you planning your trip?
Some trails are best avoided in winter. In fact, some mountain trails may be inaccessible during these months due to the harsh weather.
Summer is the safest time to book a long or challenging hiking trip. Just be wary that it is also the most popular season for planning a hiking expedition – even lesser known trails could get busy during these months, which can result in ‘traffic’. If you don’t want to be competing with crowds, plan to go hiking in spring or fall.
Training for your hiking trip
If you’re going on a short local day hike, there’s probably no reason to train for it. However, if you’ve decided to take on Kilimanjaro or the Appalachian trail, you’ll need to do some serious training.
For big hiking trips, it’s worth practicing by going on short local walks. When training for mountain climbs, consider going for walks in hilly areas and practice walking uphill. Practice with all your gear on (if you’ve bought brand new hiking boots for your trip, it’s worth going on a few practice hikes to help wear these in).
Choosing what to wear/pack
There’s a long list of things to consider when going on a hiking trip. Below are some of the essentials worth bringing along:
- Appropriate shoes (for long or challenging hikes you’ll want to buy some hiking boots)
- Moisture-wicking socks
- A backpack
- Clothing for warm and cold weather (bring a variety of layers that you can easily put on/take off)
- Waterproof jacket
- Hiking poles
- Lots of water
- A physical map and compass (don’t rely on GPS)
- A first aid kit (just in case somewhere has an injury)
If you’re going on a multi-day trek, you may want to consider a few extras.
- A tent
- A sleeping bag
- A sleeping mat
- Toilet paper
- Cooking utensils
- Garbage bags
- A flashlight
- A flare/bear banger
Staying safe while hiking
Safety is of the utmost importance while hiking. The biggest thing you can do is to bring enough water so that you don’t get dehydrated – many ill-prepared hikers have ended up passing out because they don’t have enough water. Water is heavy, so you’ll need to find a way of stocking up on the way when going on a long hiking trip.
When taking on challenging hikes, it’s worth travelling with somebody else. This way if someone gets injured or in a tricky situation, the other person can help. If you do go hiking alone, make sure to tell someone exactly where you’re going.
Where possible, you should try to avoid venturing off the beaten path. Marked trails are safer because they are constantly travelled by people and are generally well maintained. If you try to make your own route you could get lost and there’s no guarantee anyone will find you, plus there may be hazards such as loose ground or dangerous wildlife. On mountains and near cliffs, you should always stick to the trail.