In the midst of a world pandemic — and, in the United States, the culmination of a bitterly divided, exhausting election season — I can offer a few words of advice: Take a hike.
Hiking is an ideal way to get out of your cooped-up house into the fresh air and, certainly for less-crowded trails, is well suited to social distancing.
It’s a healthy activity and usually fun as well. (Some tougher trails aren’t always fun, but tackling — and conquering — them can be highly satisfying.)
But hiking right — meaning minimizing any risk of injury or other problem that may occur — requires adequate preparation and thought.
Guest writer Rebecca Brown lays out the key things to keep in mind for three different types of hikers: day hikers, overnighters, and multi-day hikers.
So lace up your boots, fill your water bottles, and don your backpack — but first, read this no-nonsense guide to hiking, three ways.
By Rebecca Brown
Every hiker is different: some choose to spend days in the wilderness, while others prefer a day in nature to relax and unwind.
Either way, hitting the trails has multiple benefits to your health and wellness.
Whatever your perfect hiking trip may be, here are some basic principles to follow:
- Take time to plan and organize your hike thoroughly.
- Try to travel as light as possible.
- Always let someone know where you are going and inform them about your route (if there’s ranger station, check in there before setting out).
- With respect to gear, note that there are huge price range differences, especially when it comes to clothing. But higher prices don’t necessarily mean better performance. Stick to the simplest, lightest designs.
Do Thorough Research Before your Trip
To help you better prepare for your hike and before starting to pack your bags, thoroughly research the trail. AllTrails is the go-to app to explore accessible trails and learn more about their conditions.
For example, due to snow, many high-elevation trails in Washington, California, and Colorado may not be accessible until June or even July, so make sure to research your route as much as possible.
Whatever type of hike you choose, what you carry with you can make or break your hike. These three different packing lists will help you enjoy a safe and smooth experience.
Day Hiking Checklist
- Hiking backpack or daypack. The best bag is sturdy yet lightweight. It must be spacious enough for you to pack all your stuff — but look for one where you can compartmentalize your things and distribute weight evenly.
- Weather-appropriate clothing. Select clothing that will keep you warm, dry, and as comfortable as possible.
- Hiking footwear. Proper footwear is one of the most critical items you need when hitting the trails. The right pair has to be comfortable, durable, and waterproof. Make sure it is appropriate for the length and terrain of your hiking route.
- First-aid kit.
- Navigation tools such as a map, compass, or GPS device
- A knife or multi-tool.
- Water bladder or bottles. The best hiking water bottles are durable, reliable, and can save you a lot of money in the long run. Plus, they are easier on the environment.
- Food. Select lightweight meals that are easy to pack and go beyond your minimum expectations. Hiking many miles over rough terrain can make you ravenous..
- High energy snacks like nuts and energy bars are a great choice to provide you with a quick boost between meals.
- Water. Go over the minimum amount you think you might need.
- Sun protection. Sunglasses, sunscreen, and lip balm.
- Plan for some extra clothing as well. Additional layers may come in handy, especially if you are going on a longer hike.
Overnight Hike/Weekend Backpacking Trip Checklist
If you choose to stay overnight in your favorite hiking destination, we’ve got you covered. Essentially, an overnight hike combines day hiking with lightweight camping.
And as a plus, weekend backpacking trips are the perfect opportunity for fun-filled family bonding (don’t forget the grandkids!).
The items listed below are in addition to the ones discussed in the day hiking section.
- Hiking backpack must be bigger than the one you carry on your day hikes. It must have enough room for camping equipment.
- A tent. Look for sound construction and lightweight options. It should be easy to set up and pack down and designed to withstand three seasons.
- A sleeping bag will help you keep warm at night. If it is lightweight and easy to pack, that’s a plus. Look for temperature ratings to get a clear idea of the weather you can use it in.
- A sleeping pad provides both warmth and cushioning. When getting one, prioritize good thermal insulation.
- When it comes to food, you can set up a camp kitchen or not, depending on your preferences. You can bring prepared dry foods that require no stove. Another easy option is to pack meals you’ve prepared and frozen before the hike — but you will need a stove for these. And it’s always safest to bring an extra day’s supply of food.
- Matches or a lighter. Always bring spare ones. Pack them in a container if they are not waterproof.
- Spare batteries.
- Water treatment system. Look for the ones that are lightweight, easy to use, and effective at creating safe drinking water.
- Dishwashing kit.
- Biodegradable soap.
- Toilet paper and trowel.
Multi-Day Hike List
Always pick your gear carefully, and prioritize these factors: performance, durability, and weight. Inadequate equipment can be life-threatening when going away for days.
Just add the below-listed items to the previous checklists, and you are fully prepared to enjoy the great outdoors for multiple days:
Backpacking stove. You can cook meals and make hot drinks. Make sure it is lightweight and reliable.
Emergency contact devices like a spare mobile phone or satellite phone
Tent repair kit.
These lists are designed to help you maximize your chances of a memorable trip — based on good experiences, not bad — and that you’ll want to repeat.
Author Bio: Rebecca Brown is a translator, avid traveler, book worm and horror flick fan. Her job has given her the opportunity to travel to dozens of countries around the world, and writing on Rough Draft gives her a chance to try to showcase some of them.