Exploring nature is one of the most freeing experiences you can have while traveling. These experiences can allow you to see the natural wonders unable to be accessed within a little foot work and can prove to be some of the most rewarding moments on any journey.
Preparing for these adventures however is perhaps just as important as the hikes themselves as taking a few steps toward safety can go a long way and complete change the dynamic of an adventure.
While a lot of people consider the obvious, you might be surprised how many do not consider some of the most simplistic of precautions and because of this find that no matter how improved the hiking trail that it can become quickly one of the more dangerous experiences.
I have been hiking various types of trails for quite some time now and while no two trails are alike, all seem to have a common ground of understanding. I do not know how many times I have seen people hiking with no water or shoes not designed for the terrain on which they are traveling. For this reason I decided I would share my basic prep list for any hiking adventure.
Carry Water -
While this one seems the most obvious on any travels I have been most surprised by how many people take on a
short distance only to realize that distance is in fact a large altitude gain and they are ill prepared by packing either no water or not enough water. Dehydration can occur quickly when your body is challenging itself so I suggest at least 1 liter of water per mile you are hiking.
Water can be carried in any number of containers from hiking backpack bladders to individual water bottles. It isn’t about the packing it is just about the water itself being present. For those who do not like the flavor of water and like to mix drink packets, look for those which infuse electrolytes instead of sugars when hiking.
Appropriate Footwear And Clothing -
How many times have you been on a trail or getting ready for a trail and you have seen someone walk up in flip flops? I have seen this more times that I would like to admit and each time I just shake my head and wonder what these people are thinking. Sandals and flip flops are not designed to travel along anything that isn’t perfectly even and provide no support in the foot or ankle for those wearing them.
For hikes I recommend a sturdy tennis shoe, trainer or hiking shoe while avoiding slim bottom shoes that have little grip or support. While water shoes can come along for the ride on hikes which include submerged routes I wouldn’t recommend wearing them for the entire duration of the hike.
When it comes to clothing you want breathable materials which are able to move. Constricting materials not only limit your movement but they tend to not breathe and can make your body overheat. It is also important to remember that when you are hiking in various climates you might want to have layers because temperatures might be much more chilly in some areas than others and if you are hiking longer distances you might encounter sun movement which creates temperature drops.
I always make an effort to take a light long sleeve top with me when hiking in the mountains. Not only will this help if it starts cooling off because of sun movement but also if I have an incident which leaves me stranded for hours I can at least be warm. When hiking it is always best to think a few steps in advance and always better safe than sorry.
Know Where You Are Hiking -
A lot of times when hiking you might not have the best of cell signal so my advice is always to take a photo of the map if featured at the opening of the trailhead or stop and make sure you have a trail map from a local visitor’s center. Apps that have trails on them are a great source of information, however if you forget to take a screen shot they are basically pointless in areas of limited signal.
I always make it a point to not only have a photo of my trail but also to try to research the trail a bit before I travel it to determine the estimated distance and difficulty. This helps greatly in the process of familiarizing myself with what I can expect in way of footwear, temperature and amount of water I will be needing.
Avoid Exploring Off Trail -
While there might be something of interest just off the trail, you will want to remember that stepping off the path might not always be safe or smart. A lot of times, especially improved areas have been stabilized for foot traffic while only a few feet away could be less stable. In some areas featuring waterways people will step off path to get closer to the water only to slip on rocks or get caught in the current. Staying on path, despite it seeming not like the most adventurous way to travel, can in fact be the safest way.
Know The Animals In The Area -
We are guests in the environment around us and thus we should educate ourselves before we take steps into the homes of the animals which live in the area. Don’t mistake that because you are in a government owned park that you are the highest on the food chain!
I have found that when exploring in Colorado they many times will have educational in visitor’s centers about how to react if you encounter mountain lions or bears. Knowing this information can make all the difference! While you more than likely will not need to know how to react, wouldn’t you rather know just in case?
Drop A Pin -
This is my own personal favorite for all travel because I travel alone a lot and I want to make sure that if something happens to me someone knows where I am. I typically have a safety buddy back home and drop them a pin and tell them an estimated time I will contact them following my hike. I determine this time based on the distance of the hike itself and a reasonable amount of time to not only navigate it but also enjoy it. I make sure I have plenty of time in my estimation and then follow up post hike to let them know I am in fact ok.
Now of course if you are doing an easy trail with lots of park rangers within moments of where you are, you will not always feel like you need this options. However, on the big hikes or the difficult ones you will want to always let someone know you are safe and sound.