Going on a hike can be one of the most rewarding things someone does. You will do and see things that few others have. You will also learn an incredible amount about yourself along the way. These trips are not for the faint of heart. They can be as grueling as they are mesmerizing and if you don’t prepare properly, you may find yourself having to bail early. With the right prep work, a daunting task such as hiking can go off without a hitch.
Know your trail
When choosing your hike, make sure you fully understand the trail you have chosen. A big issue that people don’t think about is terrain. Always get the full topographical map to better understand elevation changes and how the trail winds its way through the wilderness. What type of terrain are you walking on? Is it rocky, sandy, well packed down? Is the trail well marked? What type of vegetation and coverage should you expect? How often will you see a road? All things to consider when looking into what trail you want to hike.
Make sure you read forums, blogs, and informational sites on the trail as well. These will help you answer questions and understand the type of trail you’re getting into. Reading blogs about the trail can be especially helpful, as you can learn the tips and nuances of the trail the informationals won’t have. Just keep in mind that blogs are opinion based and different blogs will treat the same trail differently, take what you read with a grain of salt and go with the information that makes sense to you.
Plan To The Day
Understanding your limitations is a good place to start when planning your day to day on the trail. For long distances most people average 20 miles a day. This is a lot of mileage to put on your body in one day, not to mention having to do it the next day, and the next day, and the next… So knowing if this works for you is a good starting point. Understanding how long you want your trip to take and how many miles you can go will help you determine every other aspect of your trip, from the clothes you take to the food you bring.
Rain or Shine?
Researching weather averages for the area will help make your trip much more enjoyable. Knowing the temperature averages will help you plan the clothing you bring and make sure you stay warm and dry in the process. You can’t always plan on the weather doing what it is supposed to, so preparing for the worst and hoping for the best is always a good way to go. Make sure to expect the lows in an area and worst weather possible. You’ll typically always bring a rain jacket when on a hike, but knowing if you need more insulation that could make your trip much more comfortable. Even after planning, make sure you watch the area's weather for a week or so before your trip. This will help you better understand what weather the area is going through right now, and help you make minor tweaks to your gear right before you go.
Food can be one of the most comforting things while out on the trail, and also one of the most tedious. Choosing foods that are easy and taste good can be a challenge, but definitely possible. Typically you plan for 3 meals a day with some easy snacks while walking. Dehydrated foods can be a great lightweight way to carry hearty meals with little weight. Though they may take some time to cook. Cold dehydrated food is probably the lightest meals you can get, as long as you can handle no warm food. The warmth is mostly just a comfort and something your body doesn’t actually need, though staying comfortable may help you keep going the next day. pre-cooked, ready to go meals are definitely the heaviest option, though the most convenient. No matter what way you choose, you're not wrong, it just depends on your needs for the trip.
I tend to do a mix between cold and warm meals for breakfast, a cold lunch, and a warm meal at night. Breakfast is usually either a packet of oatmeal or a cold hydration breakfast from a company called Camp Chow (there cinnamon/honey couscous is awesome!). Snacks on the trail are usually granola bars, you can’t really choose a wrong one, though high calorie bars tend to be the best. Lunch is typically Peanut Butter and Jelly Wraps using small squeeze tube peanut or almond butter and jelly packets accrued from fast food breakfasts. Dinner ranges greatly for me, though it is always warm. I try to give myself a variety of dinner choices since the other two meals are pretty repetitive. I have found soups in ready to heat bags that work great, as well as rice and bean dinner pouches that go on tortillas well. Another favorite of mine is the dehydrated mashed potato pouches you can purchase, mix in some pre-cooked chicken and you have an awesome meal! Finally I always bring a few snickers bars for my dessert.
Staying fit can help you not be so sore out on the trail. You can find hundreds of different workout regimens online. However they all seem to have 2 or 3 things in common. They all are around 30 minute workouts and consist of Lunges, planks, squats, and leg lifts. I recommend doing these workouts with the weight of your pack on your back. Whatever you decide to do for exercise make sure you couple it with healthy eating and you should have no trouble being prepared for theoutdoors.
It doesn’t matter if your trip overnight or your walking 2,000 miles, hike prepping, in the end, can be something that saves yourself from trouble along the trail. Don’t just take my word for it. You can find all sorts of blog posts, articles, and forums dedicated to hiking. Find a system that works best for you and don’t forget to share anything you find helpful along the way. Happy trails!