Hiking Survival Guide

How To (Safely) Start Your Journey 

Hiking allows us to fully surround ourselves in the vibrancy of wild nature. In this fast-paced world, our senses rarely have adequate time to reset from technology and human-made noise. Getting out on a trail with as little as possible to weigh you down refreshes your mind and body. With the right support and a few hiking essentials, you will be ready for this adventure. We even have an expert guide to help you find the best shoes for the task.

Where to?

Be confident in setting the pace that challenges you and still allows you to progress with time. Start by knowing your capabilities and goals. These will guide you as you continue to hike regularly. Never let the distance ahead of you prevent you from enjoying the view right where you are standing. For so many people, hiking is daunting because the advice offered from different sources varies significantly. That's why this blog will focus on the planning essentials to keep you safe and your backpack lightweight.

Bring (too much) water.

Having extra water is a simple concept: bring more water than you think you will need on your hike because it's easy to underestimate your intake needs. Dehydration is a common issue for new hikers. Take plenty of water with you and drink it consistently, especially if you are starting your journey during the warmer months. Water purification tablets are a great idea if you think you will need additional water and know that there are natural sources along your trail.

Eat consistently.

Snacking once an hour will help you maintain your energy and prevent collapse. You should keep with you enough snacks to 'graze' consistently on foods that are high in protein, salt, and that have natural carbs. Eat at the very minimum, a small snack once per hour, but depending on your metabolic needs, this may be too little. 

Find the perfect shoes for your hike.

Your success on the trails (and more importantly, your ability to enjoy hiking) is dependent on the quality of your support. Everything starts with your shoes. Stay ready for adventure by choosing boots that are ridiculously comfortable and that provide adequate support from top to bottom for a variety of terrains. We'll share our expert opinion. Mt. Tam is ideal for a strenuous hike because of it's lightweight Vibram lug sole and triple-density, Poron memory foam insoles that cradle your feet. The oil-tanned leather is soft and resists water. Even better, these boots are fully leather lined in glove-soft cowhide. It feels like a cross between a hiking boot and a bedroom slipper. Northcoast rises to a slightly different challenge. Our reimagined version of a chukka boot has the support and classic style to transition from a moderate hike to a restaurant with ease. Ready for a scenic but less intense hike? Open Road is a sleek, supple design with a hiker tread design in natural rubber for a springy, soft, and insanely lightweight effect.

Choose a hiking route that fits your goals.

Hiking trails vary significantly across a variety of variables that influence difficulty. When researching and planning, take distance, elevation, water sources, and weather variability into account. If you want a light and short hike, this will lead you to consider very different trails than if you are looking for a challenge. The scenery is the most crucial consideration for some hikers, in which case you should search for information about the views on the hike.

Hike with a friend.

For safety purposes, finding a hiking partner is an essential part of the planning process. Getting lost or getting injured is both less likely and less dire if you have someone you trust by your side. Going out on a trail together is also a unique opportunity to form a closer friendship through quality time together. There are even whole communities based on your location that are passionate about hiking. Getting involved with a hiking group is an incredible way to get you out on the trails consistently and to be a part of a meaningful, driven community. If you are confident that hiking alone is the best option for you, make sure someone who you trust knows precisely when and where you will be hiking. As a general rule, never tackle an unfamiliar path or area alone.

Know your time constraints.

Naismith's rule helps hikers calculate the time it will take to finish a particular trail. This general rule estimates that you should be prepared to give yourself one hour for every 3 miles (or 5 km) and add another hour for every 2,000 ft of elevation. Take the time to access your time constraints on a given day and then calculate your probable timing using this guideline. Elevation also impacts the time it takes to go any distance significantly. If your height above sea level is raised 1000 ft in a mile or under, this is considered to be a high difficulty trail.

Be honest about fitness progression.

Where is your current starting point? Whatever your fitness level, you can get started with hiking as long as you have no specific health concerns. Being realistic, however, is a critical component in planning a hiking excursion. One of your goals may be to increase your fitness, so take the progression slowly and be patient with yourself. You will enjoy a hike more once you're ready to complete it.

Pay attention to the season.

Weather extremes vary widely depending on geographical location. If you are planning hikes in an area with rough winter conditions, you may wish to delay. Many trails close when snow or other elements of terrain become unsafe. Even if a specific area remains open in spite of heavy snowfall, be extremely careful to avoid snow blindness (from the bright sun hitting large reflective patches of snow) by wearing proper eye gear. It is equally important to be aware during the summer if you are in an area prone to wildfires.

Bring the right gear.

Aside from the importance of wearing the right hiking shoes, there are a few essential tips on what to wear (and not to wear!) when hitting the trails. For example, you should never be opting to wear jeans on a long, strenuous hike. They have poor ventilation and are too stiff to be practical for any situation where you know you'll be sweating. Choose clothes made of breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics to keep you comfortable. This is the athletic standard for a reason. Natural fibers such as wool or blends like polyester are ideal but avoid slow-drying cotton. Depending on the weather, you may need secondary layers and insulation, but always be sure to keep your clothing layers light when possible and avoid heavy items that will weigh you down and increase fatigue. Depending on the length and duration of your hike, you will want to carry a backpack ranging from 20 to 30-liter carrying capacity. Inside the pack, bring a first aid kit with essentials ranging from wound care to sunscreen to topical creams for insect bites. Always bring hand sanitizer and a flashlight, just in case. For a long hike, especially in unknown territory, it is wise to bring an emergency shelter. Finally (and most importantly) have navigation in either the form of a map, phone, or compass depending on the area and your preferences.

Leave no trace.

As a hiker, you need to be mindful and respectful of the areas you enjoy while hiking. Whatever non-natural waste that you have during your hike needs to be brought home with you in a safely sealed bag and disposed of after you return home. Under no circumstances should you light a fire or spark a flame in the wild (especially during the dry season) unless you are in predefined campgrounds. Wildfire has the potential to decimate the natural beauty around you in the blink of an eye.

A few final thoughts.

Whatever your background in hiking or limitations in terms of time and fitness, hiking is an incredible outlet for stress and, even better, a way to escape the urban jungle. Taking time to reconnect with nature impacts mental and physical health positively. It's the perfect time for your next adventure. Where to?