You might spend weeks carefully planning out and dreaming of your next adventure, but you may be guilty of not being fully prepared for the trek. Before each hike, I make sure to do 5 simple things to be at my best.
We all know being hydrated on the trail is extremely important, especially during hot summer hikes. While drinking sufficient water throughout the hike is often discussed, many people hit the trail dehydrated. Focus on being hydrated every day, especially leading up to your hike. Everyone’s water intake needs will vary, but be sure your urine is clear or a very pale yellow. On your drive up to the mountains, avoid purchasing sugar laden coffees which and fill a liter water bottle at home. Not only will you save money, but you’ll be properly hydrated when you get to the trailhead and you won’t have a sugar crash when you hit the steeps! If you have a difficult time drinking enough plain water or need some electrolytes, pop a Nuun tablet in your water for a little flavor and that extra boost!
One of my favorite benefits of hiking is you can get away with eating whatever you want before, during, and after a big hike! Your body will appreciate you for not making extremely poor food choices, though. Make sure to fuel up correctly with nutrient rich foods that will fuel you through your local hikes and prep you for that summer hiking trip you’ve been planning. A healthy diet lays a foundation for maximizing your training and conditioning.
Sitting in a car for multiple hours before spending an entire day hiking without stretching is asking for trouble. Stretching prepares your muscles and enables you to have a more enjoyable and safer hike. It doesn’t matter if you plan on hiking for three hours or three days, stretching before and after your time on the trail can help keep you feeling your best. I find that doing more dynamic moves like jumping jacks helps wake up my muscles before I get a quick stretch in. Post hike, I sometimes enjoy using a foam roller to get any knots out.
I plan for emergencies not by packing loads of “just in case” items, but by using my noggin: the most important piece of gear I have. Research where you plan to hike and what you’ll need. What will the terrain be like? What about the weather? Are there technical climbs, exposed ridgelines, water crossings, or other potential hazards? What gear will I need to bring to help me be successful? Having a pack full of gear you don’t need or know how to use is equally as dangerous as being unprepared. If you bring an ice axe with you, learn how to use one. Pounds of equipment won’t serve you any purpose if you don’t have the knowledge to use it properly. This goes for technology as well. A PLB or communication device could be a lifesaver, but it does not mean someone is coming right away. Bring an emergency bivouac to take shelter. A Wilderness First Aid course is beneficial here as well. Learn how to identify dehydration, hypothermia, or other conditions. Learn how to assess a situation to determine your next step.
I always leave a detailed itinerary with someone at home. If you’re hiking in the White Mountains, create a map with wmgonline.org and print it as well. This way you can easily show your route, direction of travel, and mileage. Add your estimated completion time and create a plan if you do not return within that time. Note that you may not have cell phone service in the area.
The best way to avoid an emergency is to decide on a non-negotiable turnaround time. For example, this means if your turnaround time is 1:00 pm and you are not descending to your car, you must do so anyway. Whatever is causing you to not make your time will likely not change. You will not suddenly be faster and stronger, the weather will likely not improve, and the terrain will not get easier. As they say, the mountains will always be there.
Before your hike make sure your gear is in good shape. Did you have to make an on-trail tent repair on your last trip? Catch your jacket on a branch? Spend some time making appropriate fixes or replacing gear before you head back into the woods. You can avoid being ill prepared or uncomfortable if you take a look at your gear. Make sure your first aid kit is stocked as well. You don’t want to reach for the Vitamin I (Ibuprofen) or some gauze and realize that you gave it to someone on your last hike. I like to go through my gear and see what I used, barely used, and never used on a hike. Unless it’s a first-aid item, if I didn’t use it, I don’t need it!
Have any tips of your own to share? Leave a comment below!
Last modified: April 16, 2015
BTW, there is no evidence that stretching before exercise reduces injuries.
I am so bad with 1 and 3! I tend to always stop for a big coffee on my way up!