Hiking is a wonderful way to get exercise, breathe fresh air, and adventure to stunning vistas. If you head out on the trail unprepared, however, a potentially fun day in the great outdoors can turn sour very quickly. Luckily, we've compiled this list of the top five ways to prepare for hiking season this year to ensure that you have the best time possible. Grab your backpack, and let’s go.
The first thing you need to consider before spending the season hiking is how physically prepared you are. If you're planning on hitting some technical terrain for miles of backcountry hiking, you need to be confident in your level of fitness. Nothing will ruin a well-planned beautiful hiking trip faster than getting halfway through the trail and realizing you're too tired or sore to finish the trek.
A couple of months before your planned hiking trip, get conditioned at home. Grab your gym shorts and start preparing your body for endurance. Stairs and step exercises, jump squats and weighted squats, planks, and of course, your cardio of choice are fantastic ways to get ready for your hike at home. Don’t forget to schedule plenty of rest days as well.
Proper nutrition, both on and off the trail, is key to a happy and successful hiking season. While hiking, it's recommended that you consume at least 50-100 calories of carbohydrates per 30 minutes of strenuous hiking. Remember to pair carbs with proteins to keep yourself energized.
Take inventory of any hiking or backpacking equipment that you already have and make a list of things you think you want to invest in. What you wear on your hike can have a huge impact on how much you enjoy (or don’t enjoy) your time in the great outdoors. The key is to find the balance between skin coverage and keeping cool. The climate and weather will be the most important determining factors in your hiking outfit, so do your research locally for the best advice on exactly how to dress for your hike. For example, in many climates, it may be best practice to pack and bring along your best raincoat, even if the weather report that day doesn’t call for rain.
As a general rule, you want to wear long sleeves and light colors. This will reflect the sun and also make it more difficult for ticks and chiggers to make their way to your skin. Be sure to invest in performance activewear. These pieces are specifically designed for activity and will keep you cool and dry as you move and sweat.
Depending on the terrain you'll be hiking in, you can choose either hiking boots or trail runners. These shoes are specifically designed for rocky and potentially slippery terrain. Don’t try to hike in water shoes or street sneakers. At best, you will give yourself blisters, and at worst, the terrain will eat up the soles of these styles and result in your shoes having no grip, which can be very dangerous while hiking.
Packing for a hiking day trip is very different from packing for an overnight hiking or multi-day backpacking trip, but we can help you cover the areas where those two overlap. You'll need a good hiking backpack to carry your things in. It's good practice to be prepared even for shorter day trips.
Pack plenty of nutrient and calorie-dense snacks like jerky, granola, and protein bars in your backpack. If you're hiking somewhere near freshwater, invest in a Lifestraw to cut down on the weight of your pack. Otherwise, bring plenty of drinking water with you. Navigation tools such as a map and compass are also good practices, even if you have a smartphone with GPS.
Bring a small first-aid kit in case of emergencies. Purchase your first aid kit from a specialty outfitters store, as what you may need in an emergency will differ when you're in a backcountry situation versus at home. Bringing an extra pair of Smartwool socks is also a great just-in-case practice.
Always tell someone when and where you're hiking. Research both the climate and the weather so you're properly prepared in case of inclement patterns. Even in the warmest summer months, weather can drastically change in an instant. Depending on where you're hiking this season, you may also want to bring along a packable jacket.
Get geared up, get fit, and plan ahead, and you're sure to have a fantastic hiking season!