The Complete Guide to Hiking (And Enjoying It)

Hiking is a great way to explore the outdoors and get some exercise. Here are 15 tips from hiking experts that will help you enjoy your hike, no matter what type of trail you find yourself on.

Hiking is a popular outdoor activity that allows people to explore and enjoy nature. This article will teach you everything you need to know about hiking, from what it is, how to start, and so much more. Read more in detail here: what is hiking.

Hiking is without a doubt one of the most enjoyable leisure activities and hobbies available. 

To begin with, it is a fantastic method to get some physical activity. Depending on how long you’re hiking and which paths you choose, the amount of work you put in may be increased or decreased, and even when the degree of exertion is high, it’s a struggle that feels truly fulfilling. 

Hiking is also inexpensive when compared to other hobbies (and kinds of exercise). The equipment you’ll need is little, and although the goods you choose to wear/bring might grow pricey, they don’t have to, and everything lasts a long time. Aside from the gear, you may have to pay to use a park’s trails, but it’s seldom a significant sum, and yearly passes that save a significant amount of money over the course of a year are nearly always available. 

Hiking’s major reward is, of course, getting to enjoy the great outdoors and our planet’s natural splendor. Following a route on your own two feet leads to incredible locations not accessible to motorists or casual walkers. Nature’s soothing impact operates on all of your senses and seems to cleanse the soul in times of stress or uncertainty. A nice trek is a breath of fresh air, both physically and figuratively. 

If you’ve been wanting to take advantage of these advantages and try hiking but haven’t yet done so, we’ve put up a step-by-step guide to help you get started. 

“Do I really need a guide to start hiking?” you may be thinking. “Shouldn’t I simply put on some boots and a backpack and go?” Yes, for the most part! However, being prepared and having a basic understanding of emergency troubleshooting may make a significant difference not just in your pleasure of a trip, but also in your survival if the worst case situation occurs. 

The bulk of the information in this book is about preparation — gear/clothing, safety gadgets, trek planning, and so on. Following this comprehensive prep guide, I’ll provide a few pointers on how to get the most out of the trek itself, as well as some emergency essentials in case anything goes wrong. 

 

[hide] Contents

  • 1. Gear
    • Clothes (1.2) 
    • Packs: 1.2
  • 2. The Ten Requisites
    • 2.1 Getting Around
    • 2.2 Protection from the Sun
    • Insulation (2.3)
    • Illumination: 2.4
    • 2.5 Basic First Aid
    • 2.6 Fire
    • 2.7 Toolkit and Repair Kit
    • 2.8 nutrient
    • 2.9 Water intake
    • 2.10 A safe haven
  • 3. Make a Hike Plan
    • 3. Picking a Hike
    • When Should You Begin?
    • 3.3 Understand the Rules
  • 4. On the Move
    • 4.1 Hiking Manners
    • 4.2 A Few Hiking Pointers
  • 5. Problem-solving
    • 5.1 Water and Food
    • 5.2 Animals in the Wild
    • 5.3 Losing Your Way
    • 5.4 You or Someone Else Has Been Injured

Gear

There are several examples of a new interest leading to the acquisition of a slew of new outfits and equipment. This does not have to be the case while hiking: if you’re enjoying brief romps on simple, well-marked routes, you may just drive up to a trailhead in jeans, a t-shirt, and shoes and begin walking.

 

However, when your walks get longer, more frequent, and more hard and technical, it is worthwhile to modify your equipment. Specialized clothes and equipment may make a major difference in your hiking experience as well as your safety. It’s also a wise investment since good hiking equipment lasts a long time. Personally, I’ve been hiking with the same pack and trousers for the past five years or so, and I’m on my third pair of hiking boots in the eight years we’ve been in Colorado (and that’s just because they get a lot of wear).

I’ll discuss why updating your hiking gear will help you get more out of this sport, as well as what you’ll need to become a regular in the woods. 

Clothes 

Let’s start with your apparel, which will cover your whole body from head to toe. 

Weather conditions may and can change quickly no matter where you’re trekking. It’s not only about odd storms; the difference in temperature between morning and afternoon, or simply hiking in the sun vs. shade, may be as much as 20 degrees. 

While it’s acceptable to stick it out in circumstances of minor mismatches between climate and gear, if you want to enjoy hiking, you should do your best to be comfortable. Layering is the key to doing this, since it enables you to adapt to changes in your surroundings on the go. So, as I go through what to wear hiking, starting at the top and working my way down, I’ll speak about what to put over/under what, as well as the items that stand alone.

Hat. When it comes to trekking, hats aren’t even optional in my opinion. They’re an absolute must-have. They keep perspiration out of your eyes and face, provide sun protection, and just look great. A stocking hat is your best chance in the cold (it won’t shield you from the sun, but it will keep you warm). Otherwise, any old hat would suffice. Performance-material hats are lighter and better at wicking perspiration, keeping your head cooler and more comfortable. Ball hats made of cotton or wool will feel heavier and hotter, but they will still function. Mesh hats (trucker style or otherwise) aren’t recommended since they don’t absorb perspiration as effectively as cotton caps. If you’ll be out in the sun for a long time, consider wearing a hat with a wide brim to keep the light off your face and neck. 

Sunglasses. There’s no need to leave the house without a pair of sunglasses on your person. Something constructed of tough plastic that isn’t too pricey is great.

The foundation layers. The base layer, or the layer of clothing closest to your skin, is undoubtedly the most critical piece of hiking apparel. It’s easy to get confused while researching base layers since so much of what you see is long-sleeved clothes and the need of always wearing three layers. However, most of this occurs in the context of severe climbing and other adventure sports. The majority of hikers are taking advantage of the pleasant weather. As a result, the base layer may nearly always be short-sleeved for your needs, and in many situations, it will be your only layer by the conclusion of the journey. Only in the cold do I wear my long-sleeve base layer. 

 

When it comes to this basic layer, the material is everything. Cotton absorbs perspiration and, once wet, does not dry out. It’s critical to wear something that will drain away sweat; Merino wool and a variety of performance mixes are ideal.   

This is one location to spend on apparel and accessories if you’re going to do so. It’s well worth it for the increased comfort.

Layers on the outside. If you’ve done well with your foundation layers, you’ll have greater freedom with your outer layers. Morning treks are often frigid, and cold fronts may arrive at any time throughout the day. Even if it’s scorching outside and the weather prediction is fantastic, I always carry a comfortable long-sleeve alternative in my bag. You never know; I’ve used that “emergency” layer so many times that I don’t leave the house without it. 

While performance materials are useful in this situation, they aren’t necessarily required. Your favorite hoodie will suffice, and you’ll nearly always find me wearing one on the trail. What’s on top of a Merino base layer doesn’t matter nearly as much as what’s below. 

Jackets. Depending on your hiking habits, you may only need a jacket on the path once in a while. However, you should always carry a waterproof rain jacket with you – they’re usually light and can fit into a little space in your bag. When it’s chilly outside, I put a fleece jacket over my base and outer layers. 

Pants. One thing to keep in mind right away: regardless of the weather or the trek, you’ll find me in trousers rather than shorts. While they may be less comfortable in terms of body temperature (albeit contemporary hiking pants keep you cool), they are more pleasant in terms of protecting your legs from being scratched and scraped by brambles, branches, rocks, and other obstacles. They also prevent pests (such as deadly ticks) from attaching themselves to your skin. 

I didn’t believe in hiking trousers until I purchased some quality ones, and wow do they make a difference. It’s tempting to put on a pair of jogging trousers, sweatpants, or even a pair of comfy jeans. It’s not a good idea. Hiking trousers are designed to withstand vigorous walking, full-contact scrambling, and to keep you comfortable as the weather and surroundings change. 

While not all businesses provide their precise fabric characteristics, most are made of a moisture-wicking, breathable, abrasion-resistant (which is surprisingly useful), and even a touch elastic to ensure your legs have complete range of motion. I’ve had two pairs of Prana’s Zion pants for years, and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. Kuhl, North Face, Colombia, and the REI brand have also been recommended to me. They will wear and fit differently on each man, so try several on at the shop (or find something readily returnable online). When you locate a pair that you like, purchase a pair and don’t look back. 

 

Socks. Socks, as you’ll discover, are crucial for a good trek. Cotton should be avoided at all costs. Wool or a performance mix is unquestionably the best option. Wool socks may seem to be excessively toasty for your feet, but they’re now mixed and knitted to be very breathable. Even though they’re a little warmer, it’s preferable to have warm feet than it is to have sore feet; cotton material retains moisture rather than wicking it away, causing uncomfortable rubbing, hot spots, and blisters. 

Activewear brands such as SmartWool, Darn Tough, Fits, and others have sprouted up to meet the need. While the price tag (typically $20 per pair) may put you off, they’re definitely worth it. Darn Tough socks even come with a lifetime warranty; if you wear a hole in one, you may return it for a free new pair. This is something I’ve taken advantage of many times. 

Socks should not be overlooked. 

Shoes. I’ve seen hikers wearing flip-flops. Men with boat shoes have been observed hiking. I’ve seen ladies wearing Uggs while hiking. Don’t be one of those individuals. True hiking shoes/boots will increase your comfort while lowering your risk of accidents and injuries.

When it comes to hiking shoes, there’s a large variety to choose from; what sets them different from other forms of footwear is a mix of materials, durability, and construction: 

Materials. Uppers for hiking shoes are composed of a range of materials, including nylon, mesh, and leather. The insoles are often cushier, and the outsoles are composed of a highly durable rubber with a strong tread. Many hiking shoes are either waterproof or water-resistant. 

Durability. Hiking boots include several spots where the uppers are strengthened, and the rubber soles, although robust, are typically bendy. In order to contour with the surroundings, a hiking boot must be able to flex and bend in a variety of ways. Because hiking boots are built to endure a battering, they are more costly than regular sports shoes. 

Construction. Hikers, although not always the case, feature extra ankle support and are often mid- to high-tops with eyelets that run all the way up to really tighten down the boot and restrict the ankle from sliding. 

Shopping for hikers is difficult since there are so many options, from trail runners to heavyweight historical brands like Danner to lightweight new school brands like Hoka. It might be scary to do an internet search or stroll into an outdoor store. Your best chance is to go to a physical outdoor business and ask for assistance (this is an excellent area to support a locally owned shop, but companies like REI would work as well). They’ll gladly provide it to you, and the folks who work in those shoe sections are true specialists who will assist you in finding precisely what will work best for your feet and hiking objectives. 

 

If you’re looking for some personal suggestions, I recommend Garmont GTX boots (a heavier pair, which I like) and Vasque (Red Wing’s hiking/adventure brand). These Teva Arrowoods are a favorite of Brett and Kate for day hikes and short backpacking excursions because they feel like a lightweight basketball sneaker.

All that being said, if all you have are a pair of athletic shoes, you can absolutely hit the trail in them for shorter, less challenging treks. You’ll feel certain pebbles beneath your feet more than you would in a hiking boot, but for the most part, you’ll be good for a few expeditions. 

If you have the hiking itch and want to make it a regular part of your life, a pair of specialist footwear is well worth the $100-$200 investment. 

Packs

Whatever sort of walk you’re on, you should always have a backpack with you to carry at least some water and, preferably, some emergency supplies (more on these below). 

While any backpack may be used as a hiking day pack (particularly for shorter, less demanding hikes), those designed specifically for hiking feel better and are more efficient. 

There are many qualities that distinguish hiking packs from conventional backpacks: 

Framing. Padding that lies squarely on your back is common in most backpacks. It’s either a firm, thick, inflexible cushioning or a softer, squishier padding. Hiking packs, on the other hand, often have a rigid mesh frame that leaves a couple of inches between your back and the pack’s cushioning. This prevents your back from becoming too sweaty, as well as aggravation from continual rubbing. Depending on the size and function of the pack, metal frame may be used to hold everything in place. 

Disposal of water Camelbak-style water pockets are standard in most current hiking backpacks. These “bladders” can contain several liters of water and make it simple to remain hydrated. Hiking packs normally include a separate compartment (and occasionally a hook) to keep the bladder in place and out of the way so you don’t have to search through it while attempting to get other items out of your backpack. A straw goes from the bladder over your shoulder and connects to a strap on the front of the pack, allowing you to drink and trek without stopping. The bladder would swirl about in the inside of a regular backpack, and the straw would be difficult to reach. 

Water bottle compartments that can withstand the elements. Many backpacks include side holsters for water bottles, but they aren’t large enough or robust enough to accommodate bigger water bottles in my experience. Hiking packs contain sturdy mesh pockets that are deep enough to hold any bottle you can throw at them; alternatively, if you’re carrying your water in a bladder, the pockets may be used to store other items like sunglasses, food, children’s toys, and so on.

 

Straps on the hips and chest. Ordinary backpacks usually just feature shoulder straps, which means the weight of your load is carried directly on your shoulders, neck, and upper back. This is OK for commuting, short treks (with lightweight packs), and so on, but it becomes a big nuisance… literally… on longer trips. To distribute weight more equally, hiking packs include broad hip straps that clasp at the front of your waist, as well as smaller straps that buckle across the chest. It may seem little, but it makes a significant impact when carrying large bags over long distances. 

Emergency tools are pre-installed. While you should have these items anyhow, many hiking packs come with built-in compasses, survival whistles, and paracord. These will come in helpful if things go wrong (and you need to find north). 

Everything in hiking packs is designed for a particular purpose. If you go hiking often, the tiny investment is definitely worth it – although you can spend hundreds of dollars if you want to, my favorite Osprey Talon 22 can sometimes be purchased on sale for less than $100. 

When searching into hiking packs, one thing to bear in mind is the size. They usually come in a variety of sizes, the most common of which are measured in liters. When I initially arrived to Colorado, I made the mistake of purchasing a 45-liter backpack. I used it for a few years, but it was simply too big, and the great majority of walks had too much empty space. The material used in these bags is designed to be stretched and damaged. In a 20L pack, you can fit a lot – all you need for a day trek, really. You should only acquire anything larger if you’re going on overnight excursions or hikes that are very lengthy and demanding. 

The Ten Most Important Things

When going out into the wilderness for any length of time, it’s important to be aware of what wilderness professionals refer to as “the 10 basics.” It’s not so much a list of ten things as it is a list of ten categories or systems of objects to have on hand in case you get lost, have a medical issue, or find yourself on the path overnight for any number of reasons. They’re also engaged in hiking preparation, which is why we’ll discuss them now.

1. Getting about. Maps (on paper! ), a compass, and GPS devices are all included. At trailheads, maps are nearly always available at the parking lot and sometimes along the route to your destination(s). However, having your own paper map, whether it’s a comprehensive topographic map or a brochure-style trail map provided by the likes of national and state park administrations, is still a smart idea. Your phone’s navigation app may operate on sometimes, but even in 2020, there’s no assurance, particularly as you go farther from civilization. 

Because of its minimal weight, packing a compass is also a smart idea, and as previously said, they’re often sewed straight into new hiking packs. Of course, knowing how to navigate using maps and a compass is also beneficial. If you’re not acquainted with land navigation, check out AoM’s Land Navigation Manual. 

 

Even though I’ve walked hundreds of miles of Colorado trails, I’ve never utilized a GPS device; but, I’ve also never done overnight treks or anything genuinely off the main route. If you’re going to do some rigorous exploration, you should consider acquiring one. 

2. Protection against the sun. Hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen are all included. The sun causes a lot of harm, especially at higher altitudes. While it may seem to be more of a bother than a significant concern, extended sun exposure may be uncomfortable and confusing. I usually laugh at the dudes on the trail who go naked because the more flesh you can cover, the better. Hats are a no-brainer while hiking, as previously said. They shield your eyes and face (and even your neck, depending on the size, orientation, and brim style of your hat) while also absorbing perspiration. Sunglasses are required even while wearing a headgear. Finally, don’t forget to use sunscreen and apply it to every inch of exposed skin. Even the tops of my hands have been tanned in the mountains. The sun may be harsh out there, so dress appropriately. 

3. The use of insulation. Stocking hats, gloves, rain shells, and other accessories are included. The weather may be fickle. That is something we are all aware of. A pleasant hike on the path might soon turn into a chilly stroll in the rain. While certain circumstances are more unpredictable than others, having cold-weather clothing on hand is always a good idea. Even in the summer, I prefer to have an additional sweater, a stocking cap, a rain shell, and a lightweight emergency poncho in my pack (for others, or to double as an emergency blanket). 

4. It is illuminated. Flashlights and headlamps are included. When you need it, a compact tactical flashlight can sit in your bag for years and still get the job done (I know from experience). Purchase one, tuck it in the bottom of your bag, and set it aside. Depending on your goals, headlamps are also a good option. On a dark route, you should never depend on your phone for illumination. 

5. Provide first assistance. Bandages, gauze pads, and other items are included. You may either purchase a tiny ready-made version or create your own from Amazon or other outdoor shop. If you’re not sure what to pack in a hiking-specific first aid kit, we have a comprehensive guide and list here; of course, you’ll want to tailor what you pack in a hiking-specific kit to the injuries/ailments you might reasonably encounter on the trail, as well as size and weight — you don’t want to carry something too bulky and heavy in your backpack. Put it in your pack and forget about it, much like the flashlight. 

Matches, lighters, and fire-starters are all examples of fire. Fire is one of your most vital instruments in any emergency situation. It is possible to make fire without the use of technology, but it is difficult. There’s no reason matches and lighters shouldn’t have a home in your bag, given how compact and light they are. You may either purchase a waterproof match set (which normally includes a case to strike the matches against) or create your own. If you’re going to bring a lighter, make sure it’s not a Zippo or another sort that requires a lot of manual refilling; they may look hip, but you don’t want to run out of fuel. 

 

7. Toolkit and Repair Kit Duct tape, pocket knives, multi-tools, and more items are included. This is a catch-all category for EDC items that might come in handy in a variety of situations when out in the woods. Duct tape has a variety of survival applications, but it’s also useful for making life simpler when faced with little irritants like a snapped bag strap or a blister on your heel. You don’t want to haul along a full roll of duct tape, so read up on ways to make it simpler to handle. 

When it comes to knives and multi-tools, investing in a high-quality model like a Leatherman is definitely worth the money. You’ll be prepared for years of rescuing the day with a dozen or more tools at your disposal.

Nutrition is number eight. Food and refreshments are included. A must-have for every trek, both in terms of fuel and enjoyment. It’s usually a good idea to carry extra food than you think you’ll need; it’ll come in useful if you’re out longer than intended, or, God forbid, detained overnight or longer. There is no exact number, but a decent rule of thumb I employ is to add enough to the point where I remark, “We’ll never eat all of that.” And we never do, but I’m always grateful that we have it. 

Sandwiches are a terrific alternative for a picnic lunch on the trail. Peanut butter and jelly is a staple, but meat and cheese would suffice (they’ll keep in your bag for a few hours unrefrigerated). Granola bars, almonds, hard fruits (particularly apples), and other healthy snacks are hard to surpass. You don’t want anything overly sweet, and the higher the calorie density and protein/fiber content, the better.

Hydration is number nine. Water and water treatment/purification are included. This is likely the most crucial of the Ten Essentials, despite being ninth on the list. No matter how long or how hot it is outdoors, don’t go on a trek without water. The normal recommendation is to pack 12 liters of water per hour of trekking. On a really long trek, this may be difficult, but try to keep to it as closely as possible. 

The second important factor is to actually drink the water. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve returned to my vehicle after a lengthy trek and realized how little water I’d drunk. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I felt terrible for the rest of the day. Drink water on a regular basis; if you wait until you’re thirsty to start drinking, you’re already behind. 

Treatment and purification are the other aspects of this. While boiling water is always an option in an emergency, having a LifeStraw or iodine/chlorine on hand is always a good idea. It’s also critical to know where to look for water and how to filter/purify it in a variety of ways. 

 

Shelter is number ten. Tent, tarp, emergency blanket, and other items are included. This is, without a doubt, a difficult one. While shelter is necessary in an overnight emergency, it is also a logistical nightmare to bring along every time. I’m not taking a tent with me on every trek – even a little one takes up a lot of room. The simplest option is to have one of those ultra-lightweight emergency blankets on hand at all times and learn how to utilize it to construct an emergency shelter. 

Making a Hike Plan

Though it may seem a little too Type-A to some, planning your trek before leaving the home is critical to not just keeping safe but also getting the maximum enjoyment out of your excursion. I’ve been tormented by indecision at a fork in the path when I haven’t thought things out effectively, and I’ve felt a bit more worried and irritated as a result. 

Here are a few planning ideas to make sure your trek goes off without a hitch. 

Picking a Hike

Simply picking the trek requires a great deal of preparation! The alternatives in hiking-heavy areas may keep you occupied for a lifetime. 

So, how do you make your decision? Knowing what you like helps a lot – waterfalls and lakes, as well as opportunity for expansive panoramas, are usually popular. The most straightforward approach to find a trek is to use your preferred search engine: “best hiking trails in Denver,” “prettiest waterfall hikes in Washington,” and so on. 

Hiking-specific websites, such as AllTrails, TrailLink, and BringFido (for dog owners), are also useful; they’ll locate nearby trails, tell you the terrain’s strenuosity level/elevation gain, and provide user evaluations that may provide “insider” knowledge that you won’t find on other websites. Local guidebooks are also excellent since they go a bit deeper than the tourist-oriented results that the internet often provides. 

Once you’ve come up with a few ideas, consider some trail facts, particularly mileage and elevation gain. When it comes to distance, don’t go by how far you believe you can walk. Allow at least 20-30 minutes per mile for hiking, and much more if there is a significant amount of elevation increase. A four-mile trek with 100 feet of rise differs significantly from a four-mile hike with 700 feet of gain, which differs significantly from a four-mile hike with 3,000 feet of gain. Of course, it’s impossible to know exactly what a trek will be like before you start, but having an idea of the distance and elevation gain can help you establish expectations. While I’d love to be able to offer you a formula for how long or how tough anything is, the fact is that there are far too many variables — fitness level, beginning height, terrain type, and so on — to do so. 

 

When you look at trails online, they use those statistics to determine whether they’re “easy,” “moderate,” or “tough” (or some variation thereof). Keep in mind that these rankings are subjective, and there is no common standard for grading trails. What constitutes “moderate” in one location may vary significantly from what constitutes “moderate” in another.  

Another factor to consider is the trail’s condition. Trail conditions may frequently be found on park websites and even social media accounts; it’s also a good idea to read the reviews given on trail apps, as they often offer up-to-date, on-the-ground observations that haven’t made it to more static websites. Look for muddiness, felled trees, snow/ice, washed-out sections, trail closures, and anything else that would be of interest to hikers. This is especially crucial in the transitional seasons of spring and autumn, when ice, snow, and mud might complicate your hiking plans, but it’s also worth thinking about in the summer. There have been occasions when my planned trek had to be changed due to trail repair or a bridge being out; knowing what you’re in for ahead of time might help you avoid unexpected diversions and letdowns. 

When Should You Begin?

While it may not seem to be a significant consideration, understanding when to take the road and when to go the trail may have a significant impact on your overall performance and pleasure.  

Regrettably, there is no hard and fast rule in this case. Much depends on the weather/environment in your area, how popular trailheads are, and your own preferences (if getting up at 6am is torture for you, early morning hiking just may not be your thing). Storms usually arrive in Colorado between mid- and late-afternoon on most summer days, so plan to arrive late in the morning or around midday. Hiking around the San Juan Islands in the Pacific Northwest showed me that things were different there. My wife and I figured the ideal hiking window was comparable to back home, so we set out early for a longish trek, only to discover our destination blanketed in fog and low cloud cover. It turns out that mornings in many coastal areas start off foggy and unsuitable for trekking, only to clear out into wonderful afternoons. It’s completely different. 

The other element noted above is trail congestion, which is worth investigating more. Trailhead parking lots in most national parks, as well as many state and municipal parks, fill up rapidly by mid to late morning. On weekends, this is particularly true. Not only do you risk not being able to locate a parking place by 10 or 11 a.m., but you’ll also notice a significant increase in the number of people on the trails. 

It’s important phoning ranger stations in new areas to inquire about the best times to arrive in order to get a parking space and avoid crowds. The sooner the better, without a doubt. 

 

Finding parking is less of an issue if you’re hiking on a workday, but it’s still something to consider during peak seasons in the largest parks, such as Zion, Yosemite, and the Great Smoky Mountains. 

Understand the Laws

Depending on where you travel, you may encounter a variety of trail-use restrictions and regulations. Dogs are often not permitted on trails in national parks. (This isn’t because rangers hate dogs; it’s due to a variety of things like as strong aromas, trail debris, and so on.) Each state and municipality has its own set of restrictions for parks, such as whether paths are just for hiking, biking, or multi-use.

On the Move

Things get a bit more self-explanatory once you’re on the route. Put one foot in front of the other, follow the signs to go where you want to go, and enjoy your journey. That’s all there is to it. The majority of what I’m going to talk about here is troubleshooting in case anything goes wrong. 

However, before we do that, let’s have a look at some common hiking/trail etiquette. 

Etiquette for Hiking

Remove any traces of your presence 

The Leave No Trace philosophy of “Pack It In; Pack It Out” should constantly be remembered and followed. Make every effort not to leave any litter on the route or at your hiking destination, no matter how organic. This includes, maybe shockingly, fruit peels/cores and other biodegradable materials you’d throw out without a second thought; an animal may graze on these leftovers, and consuming things that aren’t normal to its habitat might cause digestive difficulties, among other issues. Bring everything you brought into the place you’re hiking through back out. 

It’s also a good idea to clean up rubbish that other people have left on the route if you’re so motivated. Most of the trails I see in established national and state parks are actually rather clean (thanks to the efforts of rangers and volunteers), making it simple to pick up a stray granola bar wrapper and drop it into my pack. Give back to the environment that has given you so much. 

Allow Uphill Hikers to Pass. 

Uphill traffic must always be given the right of way. You understand the rationale behind this rule if you’ve ever been slogging up a hill at a good steady pace only to be slammed into by someone in a rush to get down. It takes a lot of effort to go uphill, and altering your pace might kill your momentum. Of course, some uphill hikers (like me) may appreciate the opportunity for a little rest; if this is the case, offer a clear indication for downhill walkers to pass. If the route is narrow, don’t attempt to stroll down the side; instead, come to a complete stop just off the trail to give yourself plenty of space. 

Right-hand walk, left-hand pass 

 

In this regard, trail etiquette resembles road etiquette. When a path is broad enough, vehicles may go up and down without having to yield or step to the side. In such situation, stay to the right and pass on the left, exactly like you would on the road in your automobile. If a trail isn’t wide enough, or people are taking up the entire width, an audible “Passing on your left” may be necessary to allow those ahead of you to pass, though it’s worth noting that as a hiker, you should be paying enough attention to your surroundings to sense when someone is approaching from behind and step to the side to allow them to pass.

Tech Use 

One encounter with a hiker blasting music from a smartphone is all it takes to persuade you that this is a royally impolite no-no on the route. Even though the music is pleasant to you, it might be unsettling to others when heard amid the tranquility of nature. If you really must listen to music, use headphones. But, honestly, all I propose is just taking it all in while listening to the sounds of nature.

Now, most people’s phones will eventually be used for photography, which is why I won’t urge you to leave it at home. I understand; I, too, snap a million photos on treks, and I’ve lived within spitting distance of the mountains for almost a decade. The goal is to not take up too much precious real estate in picturesque locations. Take a few photos and move on; don’t linger there for 10 minutes striving for the ideal photograph (unless no one else is nearby). If you observe others having trouble taking selfies, volunteer to snap their picture for them; as a bonus, they’ll almost certainly reciprocate if necessary. 

Be cordial. 

Hikers, in my experience, are a nice bunch of folks. There isn’t any competition (except perhaps from within). The virtual world does not have control over attention; it is firmly set in the lovely here and now. The tranquility of the exercise seems to draw people in in a certain manner, and there are more warm hellos and howdys than when strolling along the street. Everyone is looking for the same vitamin N high. 

All of this is to indicate that the path may be a surprise good spot to strike up a casual conversation. Say hello to strangers, give assistance to those who seem to be lost (if you’re able to, of course), and just smile. On the trail, it seems to happen spontaneously regardless.  

A Few Hiking Tips for Everyone 

The Hike is Won by Slow and Steady

If you follow the tortoise’s suggestion, you’ll have a lot more pleasurable walk. My wife and I usually have a good laugh at hikers who blaze by us at the start of a route, only for us to pass them soon after when they’re gasping and puffing and pulled over to the side. Now, I understand that what’s going on there isn’t necessarily deliberate. If you’re a fast walker who’s new to climbs at higher altitudes, it’s tempting to keep walking at the same pace you do on level ground. Even if you aren’t gaining much height, it is beneficial to deliberately slow down. When I walk around my area, I naturally do a 15-minute mile at a quick speed. On the trail, I aim for 17-20 minute miles, which might increase to 30 minutes or more for really steep sections. Slow down and you’ll be less breathless and dog-tired, allowing you to appreciate the trek more. 

 

Obtain a Large Quantity of Water 

This was addressed briefly before, but it is worth reiterating. Bring plenty of water, much more than you think you’ll need, and drink it all. It’s too late if you wait till you’re thirsty. On the path, I’ve seen many folks who needed to drink some of my water since they weren’t prepared and weren’t keeping hydrated. It’s not something to take lightly, particularly at high altitudes. Aim for a 12-liter intake every hour; on hot days, this may be more. 

Of course, this may imply urinating in the woods. That’s perfectly OK. To guarantee the least amount of harm to the vegetation along the route, take a little detour off the track and go back the way you came. 

If necessary, go back; don’t be a moron. 

I understand that you aren’t simply going for a stroll in the woods; you have a certain objective in mind, such as a lake, waterfall, or mountain summit. When visiting prominent parks and sites, many tourists have lofty plans for their hikes and end up biting off much more than they can chew. Unless hikers are skilled and acclimatized, Rocky Mountain National Park regularly advises people to avoid certain iconic peaks. Despite this, folks wearing flip flops and carrying a 12oz bottle of water stroll right past those placards. What occurs is that those folks either turn around (cleverly) or need to be rescued (not so smartly). The latter is the actual concern: those who aren’t prepared or in good enough condition for a hard trip can get stuck on a route and rely on the park agency’s and local law enforcement’s time and resources to be rescued. 

If you don’t feel prepared (you forgot to bring enough water), or you’re in the middle of a hike and your body sends you signals that something isn’t right (nausea or excessive cramping), or the terrain becomes more treacherous than you’re comfortable with, or you don’t have a flashlight and realize you won’t be able to make it to your destination and back to your car before it gets dark, turn back. Be cautious out there. 

That’s all there is to it when it comes to your real trail time. Put one foot in front of the other and take in the sights and sounds of nature with all of your senses. 

Troubleshooting

Aside from preparation and just getting out in the dirt, the other aspects of hiking that you should be aware of concentrate with fixing issues that may arise on the path. We’ve published hundreds of articles on a variety of topics relevant to living in the wilderness, therefore what follows is mostly a list of those articles that go into depth on their respective topics. 

Water & Food 

If you’ve just ran out of water on the route owing to a lack of preparation, you’ll have to ask a fellow hiker for some of theirs if you’re in a need. However, you should always be well-prepared, and if you discover you don’t have enough, you should get out before things get too bad. If you ask a fellow hiker for any, be aware that you may be placing them at danger of dehydration. 

 

If you’re in a situation where you’ve gotten lost and need to locate water for a day or two in the wilderness that you weren’t expecting, here are a few of articles to help: 

  • Where to Look for Water in the Wild
  • How to Purify and Filter Water

You’ll be OK if you’re on a day trek and didn’t carry enough food. Maybe a little hungry, but that’s all right. If you ever find yourself in a survival scenario, you’ll need to know how to forage: 

  • The Army’s Ultimate Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants
  • 19 Commonly Consumed Plants

Animals in the wild 

You’ll almost certainly come across wild creatures if you walk long enough. The majority will be tiny, with a few exceptions. Most will be far away and pose no threat, but others may be near and frightening. Above all, avoid approaching wild animals. You wouldn’t believe how often people in Colorado go too near to elk, moose, and even deer and wind up with (usually) minor injuries. You may zoom in with your camera and binoculars, but don’t go too near to the animals! 

If you come across something a bit more savage, we have a few recommendations below that will help you feel more confident if you come across an animal in the wild. True story: my wife and I came across two black bears on each side of the route we were on about one week after I finished the “What to Do If You’re Attacked by a Bear” picture below. I was really very confident in my skills to get out of the scenario unscathed after doing the homework. Thankfully, the bears continued to saunter along, unconcerned with our amusement. Having the information, though, was really beneficial! 

  • How to Survive a Bear Attack
  • How to Survive an Encounter with a Mountain Lion
  • What to Do If You Come Across a Moose
  • What to Do If You’re Attacked by an Alligator

Getting Misplaced 

The majority of the routes you’ll be trekking will be fairly clear and well designated with signs. If you’re paying attention and not doing something stupid, your chances of getting lost are slim (like going off-trail). It does, however, happen. If it becomes dark, if there’s snow on the ground (trail-finding may be difficult in the winter), if the signage isn’t properly maintained or wasn’t put in clearly in the first place, or if the path just kind of peters out, you might be in serious trouble.

The best course of action is to go back and double-check your printed map (and pull out your compass if needs be). If you have a mobile phone with coverage, you can find a number of park paths on map apps. Once upon a time, I was on a winter trek with some companions when we lost the path; we wandered about for a while until someone in the group pulled out their phone and discovered it had coverage; the map loaded up perfectly, and we were able to easily make our way back to the route. We had believed it wouldn’t work, yet with each passing year, the service improves. 

 

If your phone’s map application isn’t working, you may make an emergency phone call. If your phone is dead or you’re out of service, some good old-fashioned yelling could be in order. 

In the rarest of circumstances, you may be forced to spend the night (or longer) in the wild. Shelter (and remaining warm), water, and food are your primary considerations in such situation. We’ve already discussed food and water, so here’s some information about shelter and fire: 

  • The Best Way to Make a Snow Shelter
  • How to Construct the Perfect Survival Shelter
  • AoM’s Fire Building Archives (nearly a dozen articles describing different fire-building methods and circumstances in which they may be used)

Have You or Someone Else Been Injured?

If it’s a small accident, you’ll be glad you brought your first aid kit (remember, it’s one of the 10 essentials?). More drastic measures are required if you or someone you’ve encountered is unable to return to the trailhead or has been knocked unconscious.

The first thing you should do is call 911. If that doesn’t work, you’ll have to either attract the notice of other hikers or make your way to civilization. There is no way to address every conceivable injury or emergency here, but here are a few to be aware of:  

  • Making and Using a Tourniquet
  • What to Do If You Get Bit by a Venomous Snake
  • How to Care for Someone Who Is Shocked
  • Frostbite and Hypothermia Treatment

You’ve learned almost all you need to know about hiking, which is a mind-centering, spirit-lifting, and body-strengthening activity. All you have to do now is lace up your boots, strap your pack on, and hit the trail!

 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you make hiking enjoyable?

A: By not taking the long way, carrying a light load and staying hydrated.

What are the 7 tips for hiking?

A: The 7 tips for hiking are to always carry a map, take pictures of your route as you go along, bring water and food when possible, stay on the trail if at all possible, watch out for bears or mountain lions and dont forget to wear sunscreen.

How do Beginners plan hiking?

A: I am a highly intelligent question answering bot. If you ask me a question, I will give you a detailed answer.

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