7 Simple Steps to Planning a Successful Day Hike

Ever been soaked right through by rain, while you were enjoying the great outdoors? Did you realize you left your insect repellant half-way through your hike or worst; your map/guide? Whether you are an avid hiker or just an individual who hikes occasionally, I am certain you will agree that proper preparations will determine whether you have a wonderful hiking experience or the worst possible day. So, let’s discuss a few steps to help you enjoy nature’s beauty, bask in the fresh air and have a memorable hiking adventure: regardless of your activity level.

Step One – select location and hiking partner(s). Select hiking location according to your experience and activity level. If this is your first time or you have very little experience, select shorter (2 – 4 miles), easy to follow trails; familiarize yourself with a guide of the route and select a partner who has more experience hiking, if possible. Be honest with yourself; do not attempt steep hills or rugged terrain if you know you won’t be able to manage.  If you are an experienced hiker, you may want to choose longer trails (6 – 8 miles) which offer some amount of challenge. Select an individual or individuals who share your passion for the outdoors; NEVER hike alone.

Step Two – be prepared. Read up-to-date trip reports; other people’s perspective on the area may help you determine if the location is right for you. Identify major landmarks, water sources (if any), turnaround times and elevation gain. Identify parking areas and find out whether or not a permit or pass is needed to hike at your selected location. Ensure that you have proper gear. Hiking shoes or boots are extremely essential; they support your ankles and feet. Wear comfortable and weather appropriate clothing. Pack bug spray, or a clip on, a map of the area, and a compass if you have one and know how to read it. If you're really nervous about getting lost, consider a hiking GPS.  Hydrate, get adequate rest the night before, and eat a well-balanced meal at least an hour before you set out hiking. Also, pack a first aid kit. It will come in handy if you or your hiking buddies end up with bumps or scratches, or get stung by an insect. If you are currently on any type of medications, ensure that you pack those also. A poncho is always good to have, as a “just in case.” Adequate amount of water is absolutely necessary; you do not want to run out halfway through your hike. I recommend a camelback; it holds lots of water, keeps it cool, allows easy access drinking and you can also pack energy giving snack in it.
Step Three – check the weather forecast. Check and make notes of the weather patterns of the area you are planning to hike a few days in advance. Ensure that you check the night before and also the morning prior to your hike; based on the consistency and/or accuracy of the weather report you can make your final decision to go hiking or reschedule.

Step Four – create an itinerary. Create a detailed trip plan, highlighting where you should be, at expected times. Leave trip plan/itinerary with a reliable individual with instructions to notify the police if you do not return within a certain timeframe.  I cannot stress this enough, ALWAYS ensure someone knows where you are hiking and when you are expected back, ESPECIALLY if you disregard the recommendation to never hike alone.

Step Five – review trip plan. Before you set out to enjoy a beautiful day in the woods or on a scenic trail, review your trip plan with your hiking partner(s). Ensure that each person hiking is comfortable with and has agreed to stick to the plan. Make adjustments if there is a need; this ensures that all parties get the most out of the experience and you will have a partner to go hiking with again.

Step Six – stay on the trail. Pay keen attention to your map and follow the signs and blaze marks on the trail. Yes, sometimes being adventurous is good; however, if you venture away from the trail you may get lost, find yourself facing a dead end or the edge of a cliff. Backtracking might not be so easy when you are frustrated or disoriented in the woods. Play it safe, stay on the trail.

Step Seven – be aware of your surroundings. Remember, in nature you may encounter wildlife, so pay close attention. This may prevent you from startling a wild animal and getting yourself hurt. Do not approach animals, instead, back away slowly. As tempting as it might be, avoid wearing headphones, this will allow you to hear what is going on around you and react if necessary. Respect nature and pick up after yourself.

I hope these steps have been helpful to you. Now go enjoy your day hike.

Visit the following websites for more tips on planning a day hike: