When was the last time you went for a hike? Fall is the perfect season to enjoy the great outdoors, so if you haven’t gone hiking in a while, there’s no better time than now. That said, you should keep a few things in mind before you venture out into the wilderness.
Setting off on a whim isn’t always the best idea. Instead, consider these five simple guidelines to ensure your hike is enjoyable, stress-free and safe.
1. Have a Plan
Choose a specific trail to hike ahead of time. Consider when you’re going to arrive at the trailhead and about what time you’d like to be done.
Check the forecast so you can avoid the hottest parts of the day or any inclement weather. Get a GPS, if possible, and supplement it with a hardcopy map for when service is unavailable.
2. Tell People You’re Going
Now that you’ve got an idea of what your hike will entail, share it with your friends and family. You really shouldn’t hike alone, so take a buddy with you if it’s possible — and never undertake a new trail by yourself.
Regardless of whether you bring a companion, make sure someone knows where you plan to go and has arranged to speak with you afterward to confirm you’re back safe. Have an emergency contact in your phone that people can call if they find you and something has gone wrong. Some people like to label it as “ICE.”
3. Wear Sun Protection
Even in low light, prolonged exposure to UV rays can lead to uncomfortable sunburns and skin cancer. Reduce your risk of these ailments by wearing sunglasses, a hat and an SPF 30 or higher sunblock.
4. Pack Some Nutrition
Hiking is strenuous, and you need fuel. Never leave for a hike without an adequate supply of water and some snacks. Your body needs between 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour to perform at its best on the trail. That’s probably nothing more than a piece of fruit or small granola bar for a short hike.
However, you should always pack extra food in case you encounter someone in need of it or your excursion takes longer than you had planned. It’s also important to hydrate, regardless of the cooler temperatures. You should drink around 6 to 8 glasses of water per day, getting enough to keep you alert.
5. Dress for the Occasion
The right clothes can make hiking much more enjoyable. Make sure you use moisture-wicking fabrics that offer enough stretch for you to have a full range of motion and can offer some protection against minor abrasions from plants or rocks.
In colder weather, pack layers so you can regulate your body temperature, and be sure to include some wool socks in your kit. Wool is a great natural fiber for outdoor endeavors because it is moisture-wicking, continues to provide warmth even when wet and self-regulates temperature.
Speaking of footwear, the right shoes are important as well. For very light hikes where you’ll spend most of your time on a fire road or paved path, it’s appropriate to wear your favorite sneakers or cross-trainers. However, more dedicated hiking shoes or boots are best when things start to get technical.
These types of shoes will include ankle support to keep you from hurting yourself, as well as reinforced outsoles to help you feel confident when on loose terrain or slick rocks. They can even include waterproofing, which can be critical in situations where your hike will expose you to snow or involve stream or river crossings.
Enjoy the Hike
Fall is a wonderful time of year for outdoor activities due to the temperate climate and beautiful colors. Remember to take this advice, and you’ll be sure to get the most out of your autumn excursions. Is there some advice we didn’t mention here that you’d like to share with fellow hikers? Post a comment below and let us know.
Dylan Bartlett, aka, “The Regular Guide,” writes about the outdoors, survivalism and similar topics on his site. Check out Just a Regular Guide for more, or follow Dylan on Twitter @theregularguide for frequent updates!