We've all been here. The TV weatherperson just called the upcoming weekend the "very best ever!" and the smiling sun graphic behind them has you wanting to get out, get in touch with nature, breathe in a bit of fresh air and nab some exercise while you're at it. If you're looking to hit every one of those points out of the park, get on out and take a day hike. If you follow a few simple steps, I'm sure you'll find that a day hike is simple, easy and TONS of fun.
This is the most important question you can ask yourself before getting into the "meat" of your potential hike. Head to the internet and search your local state and national parks, or better yet read a review or two right here on the blog. If you haven't hiked much you may want to keep your hike short, seeking out 1-2 mile "loop" style trails, be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to soak in the beauty of your surroundings. A loop trail will make a circle and upon completion should take you right back where you started, at the trail head.It is always best to find a topographic map as well, be sure to look at the elevation as every mile hiked up 1000 feet will feel like three miles hiked flat.
I like to wear loose fitting clothes, not so loose that they may get in my way in an attempt to trip me, but loose enough that they don't bind me or feel restrictive when I walk, climb or scramble over rocks and boulders. If you want your clothing to run double duty for you be sure to wear light colored clothing, to help avoid ticks. You may also want to spray your clothing down with an insect repellent that contains 20% DEET or make your own homemade bug repellent to keep nasty insects at bay as well, keep in mind, insect repellant doesn't last forever, you'll have to re-apply (usually after 2-3 hours). You may find some good deals on outdoor clothing online, I've found some good deals at The Clymb (you'll need to register though).
You don't have to wear hiking boots when hiking, in fact, I don't even own a pair. Personally, I prefer a pair of trail running shoes (or just regular tennis shoes), they are light, responsive and I've found that they grip the trail and rocks quite well. Just be sure that these shoes are comfortable and for the love of Pete, don't ever, ever, ever wear a brand spanking new pair of shoes or boots into the woods. You're begging for them to be ruined and get some wicked blisters as well, always be sure to "wear in" your shoes before really tackling any trail mileage.
Find some hiking buddies.If you're able, grab a few friends and take them with you, bonus points are given (but not rewarded) for nabbing up pals that are experienced hikers. Better yet hop on the Local Treks facebook page and see if anyone else is interested in meeting up! For my fellow hikers that love to take to trail with friends of the hairy and four-legged design, pay special attention when researching your hike as not all state or national park areas allow for pets, even leashed. Let other folks know that you are leaving, even if you're heading out with a group, be sure to indicate where you are heading and what time you expect to be back.
But, I "Vant to be alone"...Ok there Garbo, not everyone enjoys the outdoors with others. I know that some seek the solace and tranquility that can only truly be attained through absolute "aloneness" and from time to time I dig doing this myself. But before you leave, be sure to let friends and family know where you are going, what time you expect to return and tell them you'll call them once home. Should something happen to you while you're out hiking you'll thank your lucky stars you did this.
Pack smart and pack light.Going on a day hike with a 25 pound pack on your back, most likely, isn't going to result in a "good time". No one is the same, so be sure to make a checklist of what you need to take with you. When I hit the trail I take a small backpack (the same type that kids truck their books to and from school with, a cheap old Jansport):
- A pocket knife: Conveniently placed, you guessed it, in my pocket...
- A lighter: I don't smoke, but should something go wrong I want to be able to start a fire, for signaling, warmth or cooking. Also conveniently placed in my pocket.
- A cell phone: Turned off and placed in my pocket. Nothings more annoying to you or other hikers than your ringtone of awesomeness over the sounds of nature.
- A compass: It's always comforting to have one of these with you, learn to use a compass and map (it's easy) correctly. Placed in my pocket.
- A printed map of the area: This is a must. Don't hike without a map of the area, it's that simple. If you get lost this could save your bacon. Maps usually have interesting sites and attractions marked as well, so it helps to keep an eye out for landmarks and potential, slightly off trail, sites. Folded and stuck in my pocket.
- Water: I've heard that 3 liters per hiker is adequate, I take a 2 liter Stanley vacuum bottle filled with ice water and another 1.5 liter stainless steel water bottle on my hikes and that is plenty of water for me. When hiking with the family, I'm the mule, although my wife will carry water as well. Please don't drink the water on your hike unfiltered, unless you absolutely dig diarrhea, and cramps, and pain, and possible death.
- Food/Snacks: I love peanut butter crackers. Love em. They make it into every single pack I take with me. I generally only pack food that can be consumed and safely carried at room temperature, so apples, beef jerky (mmmmm), trail mix, pears, oranges, fruit snacks, etc. However, just because you're eating a piece of fruit doesn't make you immune to "pack out what you pack in", keep those cores and peels until you can dispose of them properly in a trash can.
- A small, but effective first aid kit: Here's what I have in mine; Band-aids, a few Ibruprofen, antibacterial ointment, rain poncho (can double as a little shelter if absolutely needed), 10' of para-cord, gauze, and medical tape.
- A camera: It's simple. I don't hit a trail with out either my Nikon D3100 (and maybe a lens or two) or my little Canon point and shoot, depending on the length and difficulty of the hike.
Thank you for reading, hopefully this will help you the next time you decide to hit the trail.
Am I missing something? If you have any questions or comments or if you have something for me to add to the list above, just let us know, either here on the blog or on the Local Treks Facebook page.
Map Compass 101 on YouTube by Packrat556
Leave No Trace - Wikipedia (Pack In, Pack Out)
The Clymb: A site to find good deals on outdoor products and clothing