So, you want to start planning a hiking trip, but you don’t know how to start? You’ve come to the right place! There has never been a better time to start hiking than in 2021. Hiking offers spectacular benefits such as getting in shape, immersing yourself in nature, and learning new skills.
It’s also great because literally anyone can do it! There are trails that are suitable for just about anyone who wants to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. But how do you go about planning for a hike to get maximum enjoyment?
Planning A Hiking Trip: Start Here
This guide will walk you step by step through the process for planning the perfect hiking trip. You’ll learn:
- Where to find the best trails to hike.
- What to bring along with you on your hike.
- How to absolutely crush your hike safely and responsibly.
When you’re done reading this guide, you’ll have the knowledge necessary to get out there and hike your best hike!
Let’s dive right in.
Locate the Best Trail for You
Before you lace up your boots and pile them in the car, be sure you know where to go! With so many trails to choose from, how should you go about finding the hike that is perfect for you? Start where most great adventures start – Google!
Google is a great tool for finding inspiration for hiking trips. If you’re new to hiking or you’re planning on hiking in a new-to-you area, be sure to search for trails in the area that you want to go hiking in. Once you’ve narrowed down where you want to try hiking, it’s time to get specific.
One of the best hiking apps out there is AllTrails. AllTrails is basically like Yelp or Google reviews for hiking trails. All you need to do is search the area that you found in your initial Google search and you’ll be met with several trails that are in the area you want to hike in.
But the value of this app doesn’t just stop there. You can filter the trails only to show you the information that you want to see! Want a kid-friendly hike that also allows hiking with dogs? No problem!
You can set the filters to only show hikes that would be great to bring Junior and Fido along! Want an easier hike that is less than 2 miles round trip? Punch it into the filters and voila!
You’ve got a curated list of trails that are user-reviewed to choose from, for planning a hiking trip. Be sure to scope out the pictures that users post to each trail so that you know exactly what you can expect to see on the trail!
Check the Forecast
Now that you have found the hike that you’re going to crash, it’s important to check the forecast for the area for which you are planning a hiking trip. This is a critical step, as weather can turn nasty quickly and if you’re not prepared, you’re setting yourself up for a bad time!
The general rule of thumb is to not hike in weather that you’re not comfortable with. Common sense sort of comes into play here. But it’s important to keep in mind the following when considering the weather:
Don’t plan to hike high mountain passes in the afternoon.
Mountain hiking is very popular. Peak bagging motivates hikers from all over the world to come to states like Colorado for the chance to tackle 1 of the 58 14,000’ peaks that tower over the centennial state.
But afternoon thunderstorms routinely roll in daily in the summer. If you’re hiking at altitude, be sure to plan to be heading below the tree line before noon to avoid this serious hazard.
If you’re hiking when it’s hot out, be sure to bring along at least 1 gallon of water per person.
Dehydration and heat injury are probably two of the most common hiking injuries. Both can have serious impacts, so be sure to check the weather for hot temperatures and bring along at least a gallon of water per person.
*Pro-tip* stash a cooler full of cold drinks in your car for after the hike so you have something cold to sip on when you’re done!
If there are thunderstorms forecasted, DON’T GO!
Thunderstorms obviously don’t just happen at high altitudes! They’re also dangerous to be caught in when you’re below the tree line, so if it’s forecasted to a storm, avoid going on that day.
If you do get caught in a thunderstorm, be sure to seek shelter as quickly as possible. If shelter isn’t nearby, try to get as low to the ground as possible by finding a ditch to sit in.
If that isn’t available either, squat down low to the ground and grab your ankles. This is known as the lightning position.
It’ll reduce the risk of you getting struck by lightning, and if you do get struck by lightning, it’ll make it so the lightning has the shortest path through your body to the ground, which will reduce the chance of you dying!
Must-Have Gear to Bring
If you talk to most veteran hikers, you’ll learn that they’re all gear heads. There is a rumour that many are into planning a hiking trip, just for using all that gear they have. I am sure that that is not (so much) true.
There are so many different things to bring and a large variety of brands that offer the same products that it can be intimidating to figure out what you should bring along with you!
Before you spend your lifesavings on a bunch of gear, be sure to have the basics and adjust from there. Below is a list known to the hiking community as the “10 Essentials.”
Survival Folding Knives are one of the handiest tools to bring on the trail. They have so many uses that it’s almost impossible to list them all off! Be sure that you have a knife and know how to use it whenever you go out hiking.
2. First-Aid Kit
Accidents happen, especially when hiking. Uneven surfaces, stray sticks, and stinging bugs can quickly put a damper on the fun! Be sure that you bring along a basic first-aid kit to mitigate the trail pains you might encounter.
Check this first-aid kit, from Rei.
It’s also a good idea to have some basic first-aid training. Google “first-aid classes near-me” to find a class to enroll in. If you take that class and want to know more about how to address emergencies in the backcountry, consider signing up for a Wilderness First Responder course!
Knowing the basics of giving first-aid help is one of the basics when you plan a hiking trip.
3. A Warm Base Layer
Weather can be unpredictable sometimes. What might have started out as a bright and sunny day might cool off to a chilly, miserable mess?
Bring along a long sleeve layer to make sure that you keep your body temperature up no matter what!
4. Rain protection
As mentioned above, weather can be a fickle thing. This is especially important because getting wet can cause you to get cold quickly.
There’s another saying in the hiking community that cold is uncomfortable. Wet and cold are dangerous. Bring along at least a poncho so that you have a layer that will keep you dry if the weather does something unexpected!
5. Water Source
Hiking can be a strenuous activity. Bring water, when you plan your hiking trip. As mentioned before, dehydration is one of the most common hiker injuries because people underestimate how much water they actually need to drink.
Be sure that you bring along enough water for your hike so that you can consistently drink throughout your hike.
Water bottles and hydration packs are two of the most common ways of bringing water with you on your hike. Pick the option that will encourage you to drink early and drink often!
Be sure that you have a light source when you go hiking. You never know if something might happen when you’re on trail that will cause you to come back later than you expected.
7. Extra Food
This is important because if you end up getting lost or stranded on your hike, you’ll likely want to make sure that you have a significant calorie source to help carry you through to being rescued.
One of the best things that you can do is bring along a calorie-dense piece of food and wrap it in a couple of layers of duct tape. This will ensure that you aren’t tempted to eat it unless you really need to, like in the event that you’ve become lost, and you’ll be staying overnight outdoors unexpectedly.
You’ll also have some duct tape to help you in the backcountry, which might come in handy when you’re building a shelter!
8. Fire Starter
In an emergency situation, a fire can provide lifesaving heat. It can also be used to signal rescuers for help! So be sure that you bring along at least a survival lighter to create a fire. To beef up your fire starting kit, also bring along a quick start fire starter to make starting a fire easy!
9. Sun Protection
At a minimum, you should bring along sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself from the sun.
Aside from dehydration, heat strokes are some of the most common hiking injuries. Covering yourself up will help you stay cool throughout your hike. Hiking hats is a must.
10. Navigational Tools
You’ve put in so much effort to plan your hike that it would be a real shame if you didn’t make it to where you wanted to go! Having a way to navigate is essential for planning your perfect hike.
Be sure to also bring along a map of the area and a compass in case your phone dies or gets broken. That way you’ll have a sure-fire way of finding your way, no matter what!
Must Know Skills for Hikers
After you have thoroughly planned out your hike and gathered all of the necessary gear, it’s time to take an inventory of your skills. What skills do all hikers need to know? Be sure that you can do the following before venturing out on your next hike:
- Build a fire without using an accelerant like lighter fluid or gasoline.
- Build an emergency shelter like a lean-to or an A-frame.
- Navigate with a map and compass.
- Dress a minor cut or scrape with a first-aid kit.
- Know how to do CPR.
- Identify potentially poisonous plants like poison oak or poison ivy.
- How to respond to a predator encounter.
- Identify clean water sources.
Each of these skills is important to stay safe while going hiking. When you go into the wilderness, help usually is fairly far off. Plan to be your own rescuer and you’ll be sure to stay alive until help gets to you!
In addition to those skills, be sure to follow Leave no Trace (LNT) principles when hiking. LNT principles basically come down to common courtesy and ensure that the lands that you’re hiking can be enjoyed by others for generations to come. When you go hiking, be sure to:
- Properly plan your hike.
- Travel on durable surfaces.
- Pack out your trash.
- Don’t take anything out of the wilderness.
- If you have a fire, only do it in a designated spot.
- Respect the animals and plant life by giving them space.
- Be considerate of others that are using the trail, too.
Planning a hiking trip can be one of the most enjoyable activities that you get into! You now have enough knowledge to go out and enjoy your hike responsibly.
Remember to carefully plan where and when you’re going to go, bring along the right gear, and know how to properly take care of yourself and the trail. Now get out there and crush your next hike!