These are some of the most important hints and tips I can offer to help you have a better time hiking. Some are discussed on other pages of the site, while others are miscellaneous items just listed here. Have a great hike!
- Hike in a group. Always have at least one other person with you if you are going on low-traffic trails or be accepting of the risk you take in having no one able to aid you. Some of the benefits of hiking in a group:
- Learn from more experienced hikers or pass on your knowledge.
- Aid for injuries
- Distributing loads for common group gear
- Meet new people or deepen relationships
- Drink often to stay hydrated. Carry enough water for the day and your pack will get lighter as the day wears on.
- Small snacks often will keep your energy level up rather than waiting for a big lunch meal after you've emptied your body's reserves.
- Keep a small amount of surplus food ready, just in case.
- Embrace Leave No Trace ethics - using the open spaces is not a right, its a privilege we need to keep available to others years from now.
- Leave your hike plan with someone back home and call them when you get off the trail.
- Bring and use sunscreen and a hat to prevent sunburn, even on cloudy or cold days.
- Plan a hike that is suitable for everyone in your party and let the slower person set the pace.
- Keep your pack organized and put items back where you expect to find them.
- Repackage to reduce weight. No need to take an 8 ounce bottle of insect spray if you can pour some into a 1 ounce spray bottle you can pick up at Wal-Mart. Don't bring the whole plastic-wrapped box of 12 energy bars when you'll only eat 2 and need one more just in case.
- Leave all your cotton clothes at home.
- Keep a bandanna tied to your pack strap for a quick wipe of your brow as needed.
- Inspect your emergency and first aid kits before each hike. Replace consumed items. Especially be able to start a fire.
- Minimize your weight before starting a long hike, lose 5 pounds, get a haircut, cut your finger nails, and go to the bathroom. :-)
- Water is critical for staying alive, but it is also deadly when mixed with cold on the trail. Keep yourself and your gear dry. Put items in zip-loc baggies, sleeping bag in heavyduty plastic garbage bag, clothes in waterproof bags. Carry and use raingear.
- If your hands swell while hiking, raise them. Hold onto your pack shoulder strap for awhile and see how that helps. Use trek poles to keep your hands elevated a bit and keep the muscles active.
- Take a photo ID, insurance card, and credit card on the trail. Before a long trek, taking digital photos of your documentation and emailing it to yourself can be helpful if they are lost or stolen. Easy access to a copy of the document may aid in getting replacements faster.
- You may see rock cairns, piles of rocks, along the trail. Don't destroy them, but don't add to them either. Don't create cairns, tree blazes, or any other sign to mark the trail - people should be able to navigate their own route and scarring the landscape doesn't help anyone. The agency with responsibility for managing the land will determine which markings are appropriate.
- Short hair is much easier to manage in the wild and it is less inviting for bugs and critters looking for a place to live.
Hike On: Hiking Links
Apr 16, 2012 - Magda Willemse
What causes cramps in your legs abd what do you do to prevent it. And, if you should get them whilst hiking, what do you do then? Please help! I love this articleNov 12, 2012 - kEn
Anybody read this page??? eat bannanas and raisins, and water. Good luck!Nov 12, 2012 - kEn
Magda, cramps could be low on potassium. I was getting them from driving too long. eat bannanas and raisins, drink lots of water. good luck!Nov 25, 2012 - amit
hello sir, I am 33 years old and I recently came from Rohtang Pass. There i face a knee problem. i felt pain in knees as i walk upwards. is there a food or anything which prevent my knee problem or anything that makes my knees stronger. i have an operation long time ago in knees.Dec 01, 2012 - Hiking Dude
amit - There is no magic food. Consulting a doctor would be the best thing to do. Taking ibuprofen on hikes can help. Exercising and building up leg muscles before going on strenuous hikes can help. Drinking more water almost always helps. Keeping electrolytes replenished in your body while you are hiking is a good idea - fruits, sport drinks, trail mix.Apr 18, 2013 - bg
why leave all your cotton clothes at home? a good piece of cotton can be useful if you get lost and need to filter water or make char paper is cotton not a good material to sweat in??Apr 19, 2013 - Hiking Dude
bg - Cotton absorbs water and takes a long time to dry. It is a great contributor to hypothermic situations, which is a bad thing. If you are in an arid climate, a cotton t-shirt soaked in water can help keep you cool but that wet t-shirt can also chill you when the weather cools down. It's fine to have a cotton bandana, but no one is going to be making char cloth in the wilds. Pouring water through a cotton cloth can trap some of the big particles, but bacteria will go right through so it doesn't filter.May 27, 2013 - John Roseman
Thanks Hiking Dude! I'm 71 and planning a Colorado 14'er hike with my daughter (I'm not experienced beyond day hikes). Your site information is very practical, well thought out, and has been extremely helpful with planning. I appreciate the work you have put into it. Do you have suggestions (or sources) for an older hiker?Jun 01, 2013 - Dennis
Amit, knee pain felt especially when stepping up is often a sign of chondromlacia patella. This can be treated with RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), NSAIDS (such as ibuprofen), and physical therapy (aimed at strengthening your quads in particular which helps the patella "track" correctly). There are also physical aids (such as Cho-pat straps and braces) that can be worn while hiking. Oh, I'm a former Fleet Marine Force Corpsman with over 20 years of military service caring for Marines.Oct 15, 2013 - Jerome Johnson
HIking poles save me, seems like, every time out. Also great for tapping logs and rocks for critters, crossing creeks, they come in handy at the campsite (tarp poles, spear, lamp post, pot passers). I was having "fall out of bed", literally, cramps from mountain biking and hiking long distances. I mean these were bad. Legs mostly, but not entirely. I started taking a product called Recoverite after the hikes/bikes. You mix w/water. I'll still get a little bite from cramps, but nothing like I was getting. I still eat bananas etc., but this stuff works. At REI (no association with either.) Please tell people!! A) Toilet paper takes a LONG time to bio-degrade. Bury it and the stuff that goes with it. I bring a garden claw instead of a little shovel. Much faster. B) Rope and string around trees does NOT degrade, and with do GREAT HARM to the tree as it continues to grow. C) Christ Lives. Really.Nov 09, 2013 - Dineh
Hi... What can one do to avoid rashes in the inner thighs that occur due to friction between the thighs as a result of long hours of walkingNov 12, 2013 - Hiking Dude
@Dineh - Body Glide is a popular choice to help prevent chafing, so is plain zinc oxide. Synthetic underwear rather than cotton can help, such as Under Armor with a 6-inch long leg portion. Improving air circulation to help keep the area dry can help - some people wear kilts when hiking, some wear no underwear, some wear mesh shorts that let air through. Washing yourself every day on the trail to keep clean is also a big help.Jan 06, 2014 - Anon
me and my friends are planning a 6 mile hike and this was very useful informationFeb 23, 2014 - Wium la Cock
Cycling, static or real bicycle, and/ or leg extension exercises in the gym strengthens the muscles around the knees as well. It helps.Aug 16, 2014 - EJ
@Hiking Dude - I myself have made char cloth in the wild, just as a just in case. One thing I didn't see mentioned was to have broken in foot wear, in experienced people should understand that it's a HUGE mistake to be taking even a day hike in new foot wear. I would like to see you talk more about the survival scenario, it does happen that even the most experienced get lost, or someone in the party gets injured, reality recognition is KEY.Aug 21, 2014 - Hiking Dude
@EJ - There are lots of wilderness survival websites out there with great information on the topic. I do have a few pages of info at Hiking Safety.May 22, 2015 - Todd Bolgrin
Hello! I appreciate all the helpful info. I've successfully raced long distance mountain bikes for years and learned one simple thing and it applies to hiking too. CONDITIONING and NUTRITION/HYDRATION are vital. if your strong physically and keep your body fueled right you can go on forever. You can avoid nagging injuries and aches and pains. just keeping the core strong between hikes is helpful, especially if you're going for a long trip. Thanks for posting this information -also the comments we're helpful too, I found it all useful and will implement some of it into my next hike! :)Jun 28, 2015 - Nick
As above, good nutrition does wonders for recovery and progress. It also helps you think positively. Stretching before exercise is great for preventing injury too.Jun 06, 2016 - Ken Reiners
63 yr old make w/bad knees (ortho dr. says need to be replaced). My tips for hiking w/bad knees. 1-get into a reg cycling program. I bike 100+ miles a week/15mph. Muscle buildup really helps support knee joints for hiking. 2-lose weight if you're over ideal weight. Obvious I know, but really helps. 3-tried a variety of joint supplements. One that has really helped me is Baxyl's Hyaluronan (hyaluronic acid) a joint lubricant. 4-buy quality knee braces that fit you (consider professional help in fitting & be prepared to spend a little $). I have a pair of DonJoy hinged braces that work well for me. 5-drugs like Aleve, etc., help but there can be complicating health issues if used too frequently. I use them only when doing hikes exceeding 3 hours or so in length. 6 and last-stay hydrated. Even getting slightly dehydrated causes more stiffness and joint soreness than you otherwise would experience. Consider carrying an electrolyte along with water.Jul 18, 2016 - Dazza
Great article! I'm planning on walking some of the South Coast of England in a couple of weeks, and then thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail next year, the tips and tricks from this page will be really helpful :)
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