A hiking pack is all you need to hit the trail and enjoy a hike, right? Wrong! It’s a great first step but the best and most important thing to do first, is to learn. You may ask, “what’s so hard about traipsing through a forest or meadow wearing a backpack and enjoying nature?” It’s not meant to be hard, but it can quickly become difficult unless you take some time to learn about these important hiking issues.
Once you’ve chosen your hiking trail, if you do a bit of research on the location, weather and information about the area, you won't be heading out blind. Search out such things as the nearest parking area. You don’t want to be exhausted just getting from the trailhead (parking lot) to your destination. If you choose a short trip for the first couple of hikes until you get more experience, things like the pack weight on your back and hips won't come as a surprise.
A hiking pack trip, once planned, should always be shared with someone close to you. They should be told where you’re hiking and an approximate time you expect to be returning home. If you decide to camp for the night, let your person know so they don’t send out a search party for you.
Hiking can involve some unpredictable variables. If you're prepared for unforeseen weather and climate changes, you'll be fine. Consider the possibility that you just may want to extend your trip because you don’t want to leave the hike. Planning for what you don’t anticipate is the best solution for a relaxed hike. It eliminates panic if something changes mid hike or allows for flexibility in your journey.
Be prepared with the proper quality backpack, supportive comfortable hiking shoes or boots and non-cotton socks. You may be geared toward the thought process that cotton is best, but it doesn’t keep feet dry, so regardless of the season, use wool or synthetic instead. Wet feet are an ingredient that makes for a perfect recipe for infections and bacteria. Make sure you break in new boots or shoes by wearing them a few times before hiking in them.
Hiking pack excursions, especially if you aren’t used to a low impact workout, is something you need to prepare for physically and mentally. Physically, you should do some basic upper body and leg stretches both before and after the hike. This is no different than preparing for a good jog. Your muscles need to be told you are going to challenge them somewhat. Hiking is very beneficial to your body and can actually prevent osteoporosis. Taking in all that fresh air is so good for your lungs as well. Pace yourself and don’t try to speed walk. Hiking is not about how fast you reach the summit, it’s all about the journey along the way.
Mentally, when you take in all the beauty of nature, you help reduce stress and anxiety. There’s a sense of calm within a good hike that is almost indescribable. You’ll get that feeling and recognize it most likely on your first trek as long as you prepare and don’t go off thinking you just grab a backpack and go off into the wilderness.
Be kind to your back; don’t over pack and weigh yourself down. Stick to essentials for the time period you’ll be on the trail. Think lightweight which means comfort and eliminate store food packaging. Bring small sample size products and basics for the day or overnight. Meal food and snacks are essential. Pack enough plus a little more in Ziploc bags. Why? It’s wise to be prepared for any delay because things happen while hiking, like loving it and wanting to stay out longer. You may not get home exactly when you expected to. It is possible due to a weather change or taking a wrong turn on the path back to the trailhead, you could be delayed long enough to need extra nutrition and water.
Plan on bringing some from home, but don’t make the pack heavy from bottles if your map indicates natural water sources along your trek. Always calculate 1 liter to water per hour of hiking. Check the map for fresh water spots on your hike and you’ll be able to pack less water from home. Make sure you have purification drops or tablets in your backpack for use in all fresh water sources so you don't get sick from water that may look clean but isn't.
Cell Phone And More
When hiking, bring a cell phone with GPS, a map and a compass. Don’t rely on just the phone in case you get to a remote area with no cell service. If you learn how to read the maps and compass before you go hiking, you won't get frustrated trying to figure out where you are once you've begun your hike.
Matches Or Lighter
Matches in a plastic bag to stay dry, or a lighter. Even on a day hike, being prepared for anything includes the possible need for a fire for warmth. Bring a jack knife to cut firewood kindling and a headlamp(for hands free use) or a flashlight in case you are out after dark.
Clothing And Outerwear
Pack an extra layer of clothing in case temperatures change colder than you expected. You'll want to include a waterproof jacket for a pop-up rain shower. It may be warm when you head out and suddenly get cooler with elevation changes. Bring a sweatshirt or jacket that is lightweight but warm.
First Aid To The Rescue For Backpack Hikers
Always being some first aid items such as bandaids, antiseptic cream and gauze. Never hike without a few yards of duct tape wrapped around a pencil. It can be used for so many unexpected repairs of just about anything, including covering a cut, scrape or blister. You'll be glad to have sunscreen and bug repellent so your hike isn't ruined by sunburn or insect bites all over.
A hiking pack trip may not include a sleepover, but plan as if it were. Bring some type of emergency cover shelter, even if it’s just a garbage bag. Hiking tents are easy pop up for quick assembly if you need to get out of the elements fast. You could use a folded tarp in your backpack and use sticks in the woods to hold it up. Most backpack tents are very lightweight. If you needed protection from a sudden hail storm, you’d be glad you had this.
Backpackers Need Tools; Just One
Have a small box or bag that contains a few small tools for repairs, such as a swiss Army knife or similar multi-tool device. You'd count your lucky stars if the need arose and you had one of these.
Food And Snacks For Tired Hikers
Bring a few extra Ziploc bags with extra food in case you are on the trail longer than you anticipated. It’s imperative to keep your energy up. A longer hike means staying energized. Don't let your "tank" get empty and risk being too tired to go on.
Trekking poles can be very useful to help distribute your weight while wearing your pack as you hike. They can be folded up when not in use and attached to your backpack. They are minimal weight and can come in very handy in areas such as uneven terrain or crossing creeks to test the water depth.
Hiking Treks Are Best When Carefully Planned
This may sound like you’re packing everything but the kitchen sink. If you pack wisely and use lightweight items, these suggestions won’t bog you down. Much of this gear can be left in your backpack when you return so you won’t have to keep packing and unpacking the same stuff. You may swear you’re only going for a ½ day hike, but situations arise and you must be prepared. It could be anything from taking a wrong turn on the trail and needing more time to get back, or just loving being out in nature so much you want to extend that trip. Just being ready for any possible scenario is the wisest move.
Enjoy your first hikes and learn about them and from them to become an experienced happy hiker. Fellow hikers and Nature Trail Backpacks enjoy and benefit from your experiences you share in comments. Please like and share this valuable information.