Know how to plan, prepare and pack for a successful hike
In my opinion, hiking is one of the best forms of exercise and therapy for my body and soul! I’ve been hiking for years from a few hours to a couple of days during my world travels. And I’ve learnt the hard way sometimes about my choices of hiking gear. In this post I’m sharing everything you need to know to plan, prepare, and pack for a hike to help you hit the trail running. If you’re like me and enjoy hiking and choose to make hiking part of your work and travel adventures, then read on.
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Hiking has a number of benefits. It is a great way to improve your:
- Physical health – yes, hiking has been proven to help build your muscle strength and your cardiovascular system.
- Mental well-being – keeping active helps reduce stress and can help you manage anxiety and depression. Hiking also lets you burn off steam on your own if you’ve had a bad day!
- Connection to the great outdoors – hiking is also a great way to connect with the great outdoors and enjoy some fabulous scenery at the same time. And enjoy that fresh air!
Why Prepare For Your Hike?
To some, hiking can be as simple as choosing a trail and start hiking. Well, for short hikes of an hour or two that might be ok, but there is a little more to it than that, particularly when the hike is longer and in extreme weather conditions. Let me share my info on how to plan and prepare for a hike and the hiking essentials you should take with you.
How to Plan a Hike
To ensure your hike goes smoothly, spend a little time preparing for your hike.
Choose Your Hike
The first thing to do is to choose your hike. Now there are many hikes out there ranging in different lengths, fitness levels and terrains. Only you know what you are capable of, so choose the hike that suits you. No point hiking Mount Fuji, in Japan, if you aren’t fit enough! And what about the length of the hike, do you just want to hike for a few hours, a whole day or longer. Once you have chosen your hike, you can begin to prepare.
Things to Consider About Your Chosen Hike
Pack the Essentials for Your Hike
- Do You Need a Permit for this Hike?
Some hikes may need a permit. Find out if your chosen hike needs one. There is nothing worse than turning up at the starting point only to find out you need a permit to get in!
- How Long Will The Hike Take?
While planning your hike, find out details like the length of the hike and how long is suggested it will take. Depending on your own fitness the hike may or may not take longer. You will need to ensure you have the time to undertake the hike so you can appreciate it to its fullest. Hiking is not just about running to the top of the mountain for great views – you need to enjoy what is around you and this may take a little extra time.
- Getting To The Trail and Parking
Include in the length of time for the hike the time to get there. How far away is the hike from where you are and will you be walking or driving there or will public transport drop you off at the starting point. Whichever way you choose to get there factor in this time, and the time to get home after the hike. Also consider times you may need to leave to get to the hike, particularly if you want to see a sunrise!
Preparing for Your Hike
Once you have chosen your hike and worked out the logistics, it is time to prepare yourself and your gear. Take some time, preferably the day before to do the following to prepare for your hike. You don’t want to leave preparations to the last minute because you just might find something has broken and needs repair or you may have run out of batteries! Preparation is key for a great hike.
Familiarise Yourself With Your Trail Map
Get to know the trail before you hike it. Either purchase a physical copy or download a copy of the map. Print it off if you want and study it. It will show you many things including the topography so you know where there are elevated areas, descents and challenging climbs. Also if there are any junctions on the trail you need to be aware of so you don’t take a wrong turn. Take note if there are any sources of water or food on or near the trail as this will determine on how much water and food you might need to take.
Having enough water can be a critical part of your hike. A general rule is to drink 2 cups or .5 litres per hour per person while hiking. Without enough water you can become dehydrated which can lead to headaches, dizziness and possibly disorientation. You don’t want these things to happen as you won’t enjoy the hike plus you could have an accident. I would suggest you start hydrating yourself the night before you hike – not too much that you need the bathroom all night. I often take two collapsable water bottles with me on my hikes and sometimes a water filter in case I fill up my water bottle in a stream. Both my collapsable water bottle and water filter are super light making them easy to carry in my backpack.
Check the Weather
Before you begin to pack your daypack for your hike, check the weather as you may need to cancel the hike or adjust your gear. There’s nothing worse than hiking in adverse conditions, you need to think of your safety!
Share Your Plans With Someone
Before you leave on your hike, share your plans with someone. This could be a trusted friend, family member or the receptionist at your accommodation. You could even put it on your social media feed – but don’t forget to let people know when you have returned safely.
What to Pack for a Hike
This is probably the most important part of your hike as the gear you don’t take can really interfere whether you have a good or bad hike. Here is my suggested packing list of items to pack for a hike and you will need to adjust the items and amounts depending on the length and type of hike you will be doing.
Hiking Day Pack
The first thing you need is to have an appropriate hiking day pack. It should be comfortable and fit you well. The last thing you need is an uncomfortable day pack that doesn’t fit you and annoys you all hike. Most daypacks arena the range of 20-30L and have enough room to store everything you will need for the hike. Check out these!
Take essentials with you for your hike in your day pack
Items to Pack
- Water in water bottles and a water filter
- Snacks (trail mix) and meals
- Lip Balm
- Cell Phone and a solar powered Powerbank (read my post on how to choose the best Powerbank here)
- Map unless you have downloaded one onto your phone
- Torch if you are hiking in the dark – early morning to see a sunrise or late evening after sunset
- Trekking Poles – not for everybody but they can be useful to take the pressure of your joints.
- Toilet kit – if nature calls you will need some toilet paper or wipes stashed in a small plastic, sealable bag – and a small trowel to dig a hole.
It’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Headlamp if hiking in the dark
- First aid kit – just basic with band aids, antiseptic wipes, tweezers, pain relief, anti-itch cream, cream for inset bites, etc.
- Gear repair kit – duct tape and ties and a pocket knife will come in handy when making repairs on gear and equipment.
- Waterproof matches or a light
Items to Pack for Overnight or Longer Hikes
- Small stove is camping overnight
- Tent (read my post How to Choose a Tent for Hiking here)
- Food – if looking for backpacking meals check out my recipe blog for backpackers and travellers for inspiration.
READ MORE: Beginners Guide to Tent Camping
What to Wear on Your Hike
What you wear on your hike will depend on the time of year and weather conditions. Here are my basics that I wear hiking.
Basic Hiking Clothes
- Shorts or lightweight hiking pants – TIP: if you will be scrambling over rocks and crawling along on your bottom, the older the clothes the better. I usually wear an old pair of leggings if I know I am doing this!
- Quick drying shirt made of lightweight synthetic fabrics that will keep you cool.
- Warm layer such as a fleece jumper.
- Quick drying/breathable underwear.
- Hiking socks made of merino wool for wicking sweat
- Sturdy Hiking Boots or Shoes.
Extra Hiking Clothes Dependent on Weather and Season
- Rain jacket and a rain cover for your backpack.
- Insulated jacket – on very cold days pack an insulated jacket to keep you warm.
- Extra socks in case your pair gets wet. Dry socks will help prevent blisters (ouch) or frostbite if hiking during winter.
What to Leave in your Car While You are Hiking
When you get back to your car after your hike have some fresh supplies waiting for you. Such as comfy shoes, extra socks, water and food and some wet wipes and a towel. Even a change of clothes.
Are You Ready to Plan, Prepare and Pack For Your Hike?
I hope you have found this guide helpful so you can plan, prepare and pack for your next hiking trip. If you have any other tips or hacks I could include in this post I would love to hear from you. Happy Hiking!