Hiking is probably such a popular pastime due to the fact that it can be enjoyed by people of all ages and can be as leisurely or as strenuous as you want it to be. For some people it is an ideal way of keeping fit whilst simultaneously taking in the country air and relaxing. However, some people prefer their hikes to be more physically challenging. Whichever category you fall into, a successful hike should involve some element of planning.
Your Physical Condition
Before you even set off, you should consider your physical health first. If you haven’t undertaken much, if any, physical exercise recently, you need to consider the kind of hike which would be more appropriate for you at this time. Above all else, hiking has to be enjoyable and you’ll soon get fed up if you decide to go hiking up steep hills and you’re out of breath and having to stop every few minutes so consider the terrain, altitude and the length of your hike.
Is it steep? Is it a smooth trail or full of rocks? If the answer’s ‘yes’ and you haven’t been hiking for a while, you should choose another route at lower altitude that’s smoother and less physically demanding to begin with.
Even if you’re used to hiking up steep trails in the summer, remember that high peaks will often be covered with snow in the winter months and sometimes well into early Spring so be sure to consider that before setting off.
On the day you plan to hike, check the weather forecast before setting off. What was forecast the night before might be a guide, but weather conditions can change rapidly even in the space of a few hours, especially in hilly or mountainous areas, so it’s important that you can be as sure as possible what the weather holds for you on the day of your planned hike.
Your Ideal Day
Consider the type of location you plan to hike in. It may be in a hilly or mountainous region, along the coast or even on the flat. Are you going to be simply walking the trail or do you have any activities you want to build into the hike? For example, there may be a pond or river along the way that you might want to stop at to do a spot of fishing.
How long do you plan to hike for? You should plan this aspect of your trip very carefully as you’ll want to get back before nightfall if you’re on a day trip or may need to pitch camp before it gets dark if you’re on an overnighter.
Planning the Time
When planning the time for your hike, there are so many variables you might need to consider. Things like the condition of the trail, the gradient, i.e. how steep it is, the weather on the day, the weight you are carrying, your physical condition and your preferred hiking pace will all affect how long the hike will take you to complete so plan ahead and ensure that the route you choose and the time you set off is suited to completing the hike before nightfall. There are some good free online distance calculator sites available these days, especially for hikers which can predict how long a hike will take based on some or all of the above factors.
What to Take With You
If there is no fresh water available on route, you’ll need to take adequate supplies to cover the whole of your trip. Depending on its length, you may need to take food supplies with you, even if that’s just a couple of bags of crisps, or maybe a sandwich and some sweet treats. Each item you carry will add weight your rucksack so, if you prefer not to carry a heavy load when out hiking, you’ll need to be very selective about what you put it in your rucksack. If the weather’s unsettled, you may also need to pack some extra clothing in case you need extra warmth or it rains and you get wet.
Keeping Others Informed
Let others know your plans. Give a family member or a friend you trust a copy of your itinerary. This should contain your chosen route – start and end points, the time you plan on setting off and the time you plan on getting back. If the unforeseen happens and you get into difficulty, this allows them to call for rescue. Even if you’re a traditional hiker, taking a mobile phone is useful and enables you to let your friend or family member know that you have arrived back safely and you might care to call them periodically on route, just to let them know you are safe and give them your location at any given point you contact them. You should also call them on route, if you decide to change your plans from the ones you have given them so that you don’t cause undue alarm.
Obviously, depending on the nature of your hike, your plans might have to be a bit more detailed than these here if it’s a difficult hike but whatever its nature, even simple planning usually makes for a far more enjoyable and safe hiking experience.