When you think about going for a hike, I am sure you think about getting out into nature, and having a fun walk through trails, and over creeks and streams, and just enjoying mother nature and wildlife. While hiking is fun, and a great way to get out of the hustle and bustle of our everyday life, you need to remember that you are going out into nature where there are things that you need to watch out for.
Things like weather, animals, poison oak, and many other things could cause your day to be ruined in a snap. We have comprised a list of the top five tips that will keep you safe out on the trails, so if you do run into anything, you are equipped to handle it with ease so you can keep on hiking. Let’s take a look and see how we can help!
Always plan your trip no matter where you are going, even if it’s a spur of the moment decision, take a few minutes and plan your trip out. Planning does not have to take all day, and can be fairly quick, especially if you have a computer or phone. The first thing you want to do is make a starting point and an end point of you hike.
Plan your end point on how long you think you will want to be gone, so if you only want to go out for an hour or two, plane a nice 2-3 mile hike where you can go at a slower pace and take in the scenery. If you want to be gone the whole day, look for trails that are bit longer, and have hills where you might have to push yourself at a more moderate pace.
Planning a hike only takes 15-20 minutes, so take a little time to make sure that your hike goes well, and you don’t get stuck out somewhere because you used all your time getting to the end, and not having enough time to get back to your car safely.
No matter if you are going for a two hour hike, or an all day hike, you will need to bring some gear in case you get stuck. There are two types of hiking I pack for, one is for a short hike, and the other is for a longer hike. For short hikes I only bring a small backpack, or “fanny pack”, but for long hikes, I will always bring a medium to full-size backpack. Here is a break down of what you should probably bring on a shorter hike and longer hike.
- First Aid Kit
- Water (times 2 or 3)
- First Aid Kit
- Fishing line and hook
- Extra Socks
- Extra Food
- Insect Repellent
It might seem like a lot, or it might not seem like that much to bring, but having these things with you can mean the difference between staying warm, and freezing, especially up in the mountains where it can get cold quick. These packs would weigh less than 10lbs so it should not be a huge impact on your hiking speed.
3. Let Someone Know
If you are going for a hike, especially alone, it is really important to tell someone where you are going, and when you are expecting to be back. Even though there might be cell towers everywhere, I have run into tons of places where my cell phone just does not work.
Even if you are going with two or more people, always let a friend of family member know that you are going out for a hike and you are hoping to be back at “X” time, and if they don’t hear from you by “X”, to try and have them call you. I know people on the search and rescue team, and this is going to save your life.
If a person calls in and says that people were supposed to be back at a specific time, and they cannot get a hold of you, they will ask the person where you were hiking, what your starting point was and hopefully where you were trying to go, and will send a search team out to canvas that area. The worst thing that can happen is for you to get stuck out hiking until you do not show up for school or work.
4. Know Your Own Limits
Knowing your limits will save your life, and your hike. If you know you can only hike for about 3 miles before you have to stop and rest for an hour, do not just go plan a 22 mile hike for a day trip. It is always good to push yourself to go further, but be realistic and do not get cocky. If your max hiking distance is 3 miles in a day, try to push it by 2 miles and see if you can get there.
Small steps are really big out on a trail, and 2 extra miles can feel like 10. Always push yourself to go a little further each time, even if its only half a mile. Not knowing your limits, or if you are just getting into hiking, and planning an epic hike will just end badly.
People who do not know their limits will have trouble with water and food rations, and will most likely run out of daylight before they get back to their vehicle, which can be extremely scary. If you are brand new to hiking, plan a “test hike” of 2 miles, and give yourself plenty of time to finish it. Once you have a starting point, it will much easier to push yourself next time.
5. Weather And Terrain
This tip is by far one of the most important tips you can read. Weather can end a hike, whether it be on the trail, or before you even get started. Always go on your phone, computer, or watch the news for your local weather report.
Don’t just check it for your area, but for the area you want to hike in as well. I have had it be clear skies at my house, and thick fog where I wanted to go hiking, which can slow you down tremendously. If you are planning a hike a week ahead, look online for 5 to 10 day forecasts, and keep checking up to your hike date.
Getting out a couple miles on a trail and having it start raining can be horrible because you can get hypothermia quickly, and if you socks get wet, can damage your feet. Even if you do check the weather and it says you are okay, bring extra socks, or a foldable umbrella just in case, weather changes quickly, especially on mountains.
Hiking is a fun way to get exercise, enjoy nature, and just relieve stress from work, but you have to be safe doing it. Take these five tips we have given you and no matter what, your day will not be ruined. Even if you get stuck, or run out of daylight, having these tips will keep you calm, and safe until help arrives. Always try and stay calm and level headed, and work your situation slowly. Never panic and freak out, or you will only get yourself into more trouble. And last but not least, HAVE FUN! Hiking is supposed to be a fun activity, so be prepared, and I guarantee your day will be awesome.
How Long Does It Take to Hike the Appalachian Trail?
To hike the whole Appalachian trail will take you between 5 to 7 months to complete, at a pace of around 3 miles per hour on average. The Appalachian trail is roughly 2,170 miles, and spans from Georgia to Maine. The starting point for most hikers is going to be Springer mountain in Georgia and ends at Mount Katahdin in Maine.