Embarking on a long hike can be an exhilarating adventure, immersing yourself in nature’s beauty while challenging your physical and mental stamina. To make the most of your hiking experience, it’s essential to come prepared and take care of yourself and the environment around you.
Before you head out, be sure you have the right supplies and mindset.
Stay hydrated by carrying at least a gallon of water per person. Backpacks with hydration packs are especially helpful for easy access to water during the hike. No need to dig out your water bottle and stop to take a sip!
If you’re planning to be on the trail all day, pack dense, high-calorie snacks like trail mix, granola bars, or sandwiches. Opt for foods that don’t need to stay cool like apples or oranges for a refreshing energy boost.
Sunscreen, bug spray, and a first-aid kit are easy essentials to miss. Even if it’s cloudy or you aren’t hiking an especially challenging trail, it’s best to keep a permanent supply in your hiking pack for each of these items. Flashlights and headlamps are also handy when you’re starting your hike early in the morning or you plan on trekking into the evening.
Respect your surroundings
As hikers, it’s our responsibility to preserve and protect the natural environment. Here’s how you can ensure that you’re leaving no trace:
Take your trash with you
Pack a small bag to collect and carry out any trash or waste you generate during the hike. Leave the trail as pristine as you found it. This includes poop bags for dogs, any food wrappers, or other waste.
Follow the leash rules
While it’s great to see your pups frolic through the woods, it’s even better to be a courteous hiker and obey leash laws. If you want to bring your dog along, be sure to choose a dog-friendly trail or keep them on a leash through your hike.
Take only photos
While exploring, resist the urge to pick flowers or disturb plants or wildlife. Instead, take photos of any views you see or specimens you’re interested in. Many of the best hikes are also in delicate ecosystems, so it’s best to leave everything in its place while you’re out on the trail.
Guided trail apps and GPS
Technology and nature don’t have to be at odds. Apps like AllTrails have a navigation feature that allows you to download the trail map before you set out. So even if you lose reception, the app can guide you back to the right place.
GPS watches like those from Garmin can also come in handy to track your steps and where you came from in case you want to find your way back.
Hike in groups
If you’re new to the trail or venturing alone for a whole day, it’s best to bring a friend or group with you. Share your hiking plans and when you expect to return with someone at home as well. If something goes wrong and you do get lost, they’ll be able to help.
While technology can be helpful, it’s not always reliable. Paper maps, especially for unfamiliar areas, are a reliable way to understand the lay of the land. It takes a little more practice and learning to read them, but they’ll never lose reception.
While hiking is a lot of fun, injuries are still possible. Shin splints, blisters, and foot pain are all possibilities when you take a long hike.
Be sure to take plenty of breaks to stretch, rest, and enjoy the view. This will help you regain your strength for the next leg of the journey.
Starting early, especially for a long hike, gives you plenty of time to hike with daylight and take those breaks.
With a little preparation and experience, day-long hikes become less of a chore and more of a vacation from the city. These simple steps can help you protect the trail, think ahead, and be kind to yourself while out on the trail.