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Ultimate Resource Guide for Preparing for the Perfect Hiking Adventure

Millions of people take to the outdoors every year in search of breathtaking and unforgettable sights. Hiking is a wonderful way to enjoy beautiful scenery and fresh air while staying active. Hiking can be done on several types of terrain and in different weather conditions, making each trip’s experiences and needs different. It’s those beautiful views that make all the hard work worth it. 

To get the most out of your hiking experience, it’s important to prepare accordingly. Making a plan, training appropriately, getting the supplies you need and making safe choices are all important parts of taking a hike from good to great. Read on to find out exactly what you need to do to make your hike the experience the best it can be.

Plan Your Trail Route

Part of the allure of a hiking adventure is finding a beautiful area to make it happen. Which means you’ll want to spend some time researching where you’d like to go (as well as who will come with you). From completing a summit hike up a 14er to navigating rock formations on a desert hike, there is definitely something for every outdoor enthusiast. 

If you’re planning a day hike in your area, you’ll be more limited to the type of terrain that’s within a 1-2 hours drive or so. Otherwise, you won’t be sorry making the extra effort to travel to a top destination for a beautiful hike. 

Beyond planning where you’ll want to go, you’ll need to determine the following to best prepare:

  • Distance – how many miles will you hike?
  • Trail type – do you want something easy, medium or expert level? Do you prefer a loop or an out-and-back?
  • Elevation – this makes a big difference in how difficult the hike will be, so make sure you understand how much elevation is involved in your hike
  • Time – Make sure you know about how long it will take you based on your fitness. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you’re not back before nightfall. Use this hiking time calculator to help you get an estimate.
  • Weather – Will it be cold or hot where you’re headed and will something like snow and ice affect the terrain? This is something you’ll need to think about to prepare as well as pack the right gear. 

Here are a few top sites to find your next hiking adventure:

  • All Trails allows you to search a database that provides 100,000+ trails to choose from.
  • The Hiking Project provides detailed maps to find your next perfect hike. 
  • Hikes Peak allows you to search trails by name, length, elevation, dog-friendliness and more. 

RELATED: How to Prepare for a Hot Weather Hike

Once you have your trail route planned, it’s time to train your body to meet the demands of the hike. 

Train So You are Ready

Now of course you still need to make sure your body can handle an easy 2-3 mile hike on fairly flat terrain. But for the most part, this is something that most in-shape (and even children) can do on a whim without a lot of forethought or training. 

But longer hikes where you’re headed to terrain that you’re not used to with mileage that you’ve never done before requires training. Just as you wouldn’t run a race without training, you shouldn’t go on a distance hike that has 1,000+ feet of elevation gain without preparing your body in the right way.

Here are some recommendations for getting the training that you need:

    • Strengthen your legs, hips, glutes and core. Here are some great exercises to get started. 
    • Find elevation where you live to train. Even if you don’t have the right terrain, you can least start preparing for the elevation. Try to find a route in your area that has a lot of hills. You can also bump up the incline on the treadmill to get the same effect. 
    • Get the mileage in. Start walking every day and focus on increasing your mileage each week by about 10%. Plan for your longest walk to be close to what your hike will be. 
  • Practice on similar terrain. We suggest doing short hikes throughout your training that mimic the type of terrain and elevation you’ll have on your big hike. Be sure to carry your backpack with you just as you will on your longer hike to get used to the extra weight.

Hiking is not the same as walking around your neighborhood, so don’t skip the necessary training to get your body in shape.

Gather Everything You’ll Need in Advance

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when it comes to having an enjoyable hike is not bringing along the right gear. Many times this happens because you wait until the last minute to gather what you think you need only to find out that you’re missing something important. And often by this time it’s too late to make a quick trip to the store.

Instead, you want to utilize a checklist and lay out everything you’ll need at least a few days in advance. This way, you’ll be able to see what you’re missing and you’ll have plenty of time to purchase what you need or reach out to friends to see what you may be able to borrow. 

Clothing Essentials

Beyond the obvious, here are some articles of clothing you’ll want to have with you in order to be prepared for the terrain as any weather that may come your way:

  • Hiking boots – It’s best to have someone help you get fitted for a pair of hiking boots and then practice using them in advance.
  • Hiking socks – Spend the extra money to get a good pair so you’ll avoid blisters and keep your feet comfortable.
  • Sunglasses and sun hat
  • SPF long sleeve shirt 
  • Waterproof jacket – You can choose something light or insulated depending on the temperature, but this will keep you dry if it rains.

Cold Weather layers – Weather can often change drastically as you go up in elevation. You may be warm in the beginning but cold at the summit so be sure to bring items like a sweatshirt, hat and gloves.

Gear

To stay safe as well as have what you need to make the hike as enjoyable as possible, there are some pieces of gear that are essential:

  • Directional Tools – It’s important to know where you’re going and you don’t want to rely on your cell phone GPS to get you through as it likely won’t work. Having tools such as a compass, map, and satellite communicator with GPS, such as the Garmin inReach Explorer+ are your best bets for staying on course and getting back home safely. 
  • Backpack – Be sure it’s large enough to hold everything you’ll need. 
  • Trekking poles – You’ll need these if you’re navigating rocky and steep terrain.
  • Satellite Phone – Many hikes will put you out of cellular range which means you won’t be able to stay in contact if something goes wrong. Having a satellite phone will keep you safe, and you can even rent one if you will only need on temporarily. 
  • Extra batteries – Be sure to have a back-up battery for any electronic devices you’ll be taking. 
  • Whistle – Many backpacks come with these. You’ll want to have one to use as an alert in case you get into trouble. 

Some hikes will also necessitate a helmet. Don’t ever skip this if it’s recommended for the type of hike you’ll be doing, such as a craggy climb with loose rocks.

Download the full hiking checklist here.

Bringing your dog along? Read “Experience Hiking with Your Dog” to find out what else you’ll need to bring for little Fido.

Hydration and Food

Long hikes can be exhausting which means you need plenty of food and water. The longer the hike, the more you’ll need. I always like to consider what I think I’ll need and then throw in extra snacks on top of that as well as more water. This will ensure you have what you need in case your route takes longer or something unexpected happens. It’s always better to be overly prepared.

According to Section Hiker, 16 ounces of water per hour is a good rule of thumb to follow. However, if it’s warmer, you’ll need more. You’ll also want to bring water purification tablets as a back-up in case you end up needing to drink water that comes from a lake or stream.

Take Safety Precautions

Many people skip the proper safety steps because they assume they will be just fine. And though this is most likely true, it’s the type of thinking that will get you into trouble. As they say, expect the best, but prepare for the worst. Here’s what we recommend:

1.) Let someone know where you will be.

It’s important that you let someone know exactly where you plan to be and when. Give them the details of your planned route, including when you plan to leave, how long you think the hike will take you, and when you plan to be back. 

Of course, we may misjudge at times how long a hike will take us, so as not to worry anyone, be sure to leave a little wiggle room for when you plan to finish up. As we suggest above, at least one person in your hiking group should have a satellite phone and that number needs to be given to your contact. Be sure to reach out to them if you’re running a bit behind to let them know your safe. 

2.) Don’t hike alone.

Though it can be nice to be out in the wilderness with no one to bother you, hiking is something that is best done with a buddy. Especially when it’s a long hike where you may not see other people along the route. This is really a dangerous course of action to take and it’s really not worth the risk. Even as a seasoned hiker who is in really good shape, you just can’t predict what could happen. So bring a friend or family member along with you whose company enjoy, and if you want the quiet, sensory experience without the chit chat, just let them know. 

If you really must go alone, be sure you have researched a route where you know there will be plenty of people along the trail if something goes wrong and don’t forget to bring your satellite phone so you’ll always have a line of communication that works no matter where you go.  

3.) Stay on your planned route.

There are two main reasons you need to stick to the route you planned on doing. 

For one, you let someone back home know exactly where you’d be and if you go off course and you don’t return home when you’re supposed to, know one will know where to look for you.

For two, you put yourself at risk. Whether that’s from getting lost because you’re in unknown territory or your body can’t handle the terrain or distance, it’s just not something you should ever do. 

There’s no reason you can’t thoroughly enjoy the route you already have planned.

4.) Make smart moves.

Along your hike you’ll encounter different types of terrain such as rocks, branches, and steep downhills. Don’t try to be “cool” by bounding over these areas or doing anything else you know is risky. You do not want to end up with cuts and scrapes or an injury that doesn’t allow you to hike back to where you started, and making smart choices along your route is the best prevention for this.

5.) Take a break when you’re tired.

It can be tempting to overdo it when you’re enjoying the beautiful scenery around you. Often times hikers will be feeling good and go past their turnaround point thinking they’ll be ok to go a few extra miles. But if this is not something you’ve trained for, it can backfire on your return. So be sure to take breaks as needed and not push your body beyond what it’s capable of. There’s no shame in turning around early if you’re feeling overly fatigued. Taking care of yourself always comes first. 

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Best Satellite Phones for Hiking

Explorer 710

At the forefront of a new era of high speed ultra-portable satellite streaming BGAN terminal, EXPLORER 710 is a sophisticated communication tool for broadcasting and other IP based industry applications. EXPLORER 710 provides streaming rates over 650 kbps out of the box, when using new high data rate streaming.With EXPLORER 710, you can leverage the fastest on-demand video streaming via satellite with guaranteed QoS to enhance the quality of live broadcasts and remote communication.

Cobham Explorer 710
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Iridium 9555 Kit:

The Iridium 9555 is the ultimate go-to satellite phone for all off-hikers. If you are looking for a satellite phone for your basic talk and text needs this is the phone for you.

HIKING CHECKLIST​

Top 10 Legendary Hiking Trails You NEED to Explore

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Hiking Resources

TOP HIKING TRAILS IN THE USA​

PARTINGTON COVE TRAIL

Mist Trail

Harding Icefield Trail

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Yosemite National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park

Hiking FAQ

Most frequent questions and answers about hiking

Hiking alone has some good benefits, no doubt, but is not a risk worth taking, stick to group hiking and it gets the same benefits that come with solo hiking.

However ensure you hike with competent people because is still not safe if you hike with incompetent people.

It’s good for you, too. Hiking is a powerful cardio workout that can:
  • Lower your risk of heart disease
  • Improve your blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  • Boost bone density, since walking is a weight-bearing exercise
  • Build strength in your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and the muscles in your hips and lower legs
  • Strengthen your core
  • Improve balance
  • Help control your weight
  • Boost your mood.
  1. Increase the length of your workouts gradually (use guidelines above).
  2. Rest 1 day every week.
  3. Mix up your workouts. …
  4. Power hike, run trails, climb hills, take a spin class, or do a circuit workout using a treadmill and elliptical trainer, varying the level and incline on both machines.
  • Basic exercises to begin your training.
  • Preparing for a beginner or day hike.
  • The three best exercises to condition for hiking.
  • Protecting your knees on steep inclines and rocky terrain.
  • When and how to use trekking poles.
  • What to look for when choosing hiking boots.
  • Getting in shape for a backpacking trip with a 9-week program.
  • Getting in shape for mountain hikes at high elevation and preparing for high altitude.
  • Getting in shape—physically and mentally—for a thru-hike.

At 2mph you can already do 20 miles a day. All you have to do is hike for 10 hours. If lightening your pack allows you to walk faster or longer, then you can get to 30miles per day easily. Hiking lots of miles has only a little bit to do with speed and everything to do with time.

The general rule for how much water to bring when hiking is as follows: Adults: 2 cups (about 1/2 liter) of water for every 1 hour of hiking.

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