Hiking and backpacking require additional considerations than standard car camping. Out on the trail, you’re farther away from any real comfort or first aid, so before you begin, plan your trip.
- Know the difficulty level of the trail and be honest with yourself. If you’re not used to hiking steep terrain, don’t assume that you’ll be happy on mile 5 of a 6% grade trail. Pace yourself.
- Plan on getting back to camp before dusk. This will force you to think about how much time you’ll have on the trail and whether or not you’ll be walking in the dark.
- Talk to the rangers about where you’re headed. Keeping the officials in the area aware of any hikes can only add to your safety.
- Pack the right gear.
- Potable water and water purification
- Trail mix or nutritious snacks
- Map and Compass
- Extra clothes in case they get wet (not cotton because it sticks to the skin when wet)
- Long sleeve outer layer
- Sun protection (hat, sunglasses, sunscreen)
- Safety Items (fire starter, light, and a whistle)
- First Aid
- Knife or Multi-Tool
Packs and Bags
Choosing the right bag for your hike is imperative. Considering the items that you should be packing, you need a bag that will fit your gear and remain light and breathable. We suggest practicing loading the pack with your gear to see how everything fits. Make sure the items that you’ll need more frequently (water and snacks) are easily accessible.
- A bag should have the ability to hold at least 2 bottles of water. Ideally, it’ll also have a hydration bladder. This helps distribute the weight more evenly on the back.
- Make sure there are waist and chest straps. A waist straps lets the bulk of the weight rest on your hips, which will ease the stress on your back. The chest strap keeps the backpack touching your back, which helps keep the center of gravity lower to the ground and give you more stability.
Dehydration is one of the biggest dangers on the trail. Even if the air is cool and dry, you’re going to be sweating more than usual, and your water consumption should reflect that. Dehydration can start with a headache, and you may feel a lack of appetite due to nausea or dizziness. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, stop and drink water and eat some trail mix. Sweating will deplete your body of natural salts and electrolytes, which can be replenished through low salt snacks.
- Drink water slowly a few hours before the hike to ensure that you’re well hydrated from the beginning.
- If you think you’re bringing enough water for the hike, bring an extra bottle.
- On the hike, drink roughly a quart an hour.
- If you plan on using natural water for hydration, ALWAYS filter water that is constantly moving. You don’t want to filter stale / brackish water.
- Know the signs of dehydration. The first is a headache. Don’t ignore this. Further dehydration can lead to heat stroke or hypothermia.
- Look at the color of your pee. If it’s dark, you’re already dehydrated..
Yes, we know that the trail head is clearly marked, and it should be an easy road back to the car, but too often people end up getting lost in the wilderness because they took a wrong turn or left the trail wanting to explore. Understanding how to use a map and compass will give you confidence that you’ll be able to find your way back to camp. That said, stay on the marked trails. Wandering off is not only dangerous, but it disturbs the beauty of the area, which is why you are visiting in the first place.
- Understand the map. Check the scale printed on the map and review the distance of the trail. Are you able to complete it in time to get back to camp when it’s still light? Remember, it’s twice the distance of the destination (meaning there and back), and you’ll be more tired on the way back.
- Use the compass.
- Mark your location and destination on the map with dots.
- Draw a line between the two.
- Place your compass’s edge along the line. Make sure the directional arrow is pointing in the direction of your destination.
- Rotate the compass housing so the orienting arrow aligns with north.
- As long as the needle is within the orienting arrow, your destination is in the direction of the directional arrow.
- Watch a demonstration