August 23, 2014 / Comments (4)

Be A More Efficient Hiker

Trail To Summit is proud to celebrate 100 posts! Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey! I began this blog to keep track of my hikes and help others with their aspirations to hike the 4000 foot peaks in New Hampshire. Thanks to your interest, I have included trip reports for hikes all over New England, a new story-like installment of my John Muir Trail thru hike, recipes, tips, and gear reviews.

If you aren’t already, can follow Trail To Summit on Google+, Pinterest, or my new Facebook page!

For my 100th post, I’d like to share how to be a more efficient hiker. These are tips I’ve learned along the way and I hope it helps you to get the most out of each hike!

1) Fuel your body.

Think about nutrition before, during, and after your hike! I like to drink at least a liter of water on my drive to the trailhead (prehydrate!) and use a bladder to keep myself drinking throughout the day. Have snacks within reach and eat all day vs one or two dedicated food breaks.

trail snacks

2) Take micro breaks and make the most out of them. 

When I stop for too long, I get stiff and sometimes find it difficult to get back to the speed and rhythm I was hiking at before. Take numerous 20 second to one minute breaks versus a 5-10 minute break. Make the most out of each stop. If you need a breather, grab some water as well or snap a couple photos. Think ahead. Are you just going to stop again to put on microspikes? Do it now while you add another layer of clothing.


3) Go lightweight!

Your body will be much more efficient with less weight on your back, hips, shoulders, and even feet! Think about the hike you plan on doing and take items that would be useful in a situation that is likely to occur. You don’t need to prepare for a blizzard on a typical summer hike. Keep extra items at home and replace that five pound pack!

gossamer gear rukus

PC: The Real Hiking Viking

4) Plan your next three steps.

If you’re hiking on rocky terrain this is especially important. Avoid missteps or following a less than ideal route by looking ahead. Visualize your next three steps as you hike.

flume slide

5) Find your stride. 

Get into a rhythm. Your steps should be smooth and in control. This is especially important going downhill to prevent injury.


6) Wear gaiters!

I used to only wear gaiters in winter to keep snow out of my boots, but I discovered summer gaiters. If you wear low trail runners like me, they keep all debris out of your shoes so you can keep on hiking.

trail breaking

7) Think prevention vs treatment.

Feeling a hot spot? Do yourself a favor and take a couple minutes to treat it. Same goes for ailments such as dehydration. You’d be surprised how much you slow down from issues that are easily treatable.

forester pass

8) Use trekking poles and use them correctly.

A lot of people have issues with trekking poles. Some have even compared them to canes and act as if it’s a weakness to use them. Your knees will thank you down the road! When using trekking poles with straps, put your hand through the bottom of the strap. Tighten the strap so it is snug around your wrist supporting you. You don’t need to give the handle a death grip! A light grip is all you need.

Winter Hiking
9) Get in hiking shape.

As they say, the best way to get in shape for hiking is to hike. Start small and build your way up. Hike on a regular basis and if you’re comfortable with it, hike year round! Winter is my favorite season to hike in and I don’t have to spend all Spring getting back in hiking shape!


10) Take meaningful steps.

When the trail gets hard, this is how I deal with it. Make every step purposeful and strong. You’re putting in the effort and you’ll feel stronger instead of dragging yourself up.


11) Be prepared.

Do your research! Find out the conditions you’ll most likely encounter, what you should bring (and what you could leave behind), bail out routes, and typical outing time. What is the route you’re planning on like? Do you need special skills to complete it? Will you run into other hikers or is the route more remote? Looking at maps, guidebooks, blogs, and other resources will help you have a more successful and efficient hike.

spring hiking gear

12) Get a water filter.

Instead of carrying loads of water or hoping you have enough, bring a filter. I like the Sawyer Mini filter. It weighs 3 ounces and only costs $25.00! You can learn how to make it into an inline filter here.

Sawyer Mini Water Filter

Sawyer Mini Water Filter

13) Don’t talk with everyone! 

You may find yourself surrounded by dozens of like minded, friendly people but be mindful of your schedule. A quick hello can turn into a 30 minute discussion about back country ethics or your favorite hikes. You don’t want to end up hiking out in the dark because you couldn’t keep moving. Talk as you hike or make hellos short.


14) Get up the tough stuff quickly.

My big secret about being a more efficient hiker is learning how to deal with the hard sections. I often quickly ascend a steep section leaving those behind me wondering what I must have eaten for breakfast. It’s really all in your mind. Find a landmark to hike to or a number of steps to reach before you stop (and then go past it)! Runners use this method all the time. I keep up my pace and really focus on my stride as I go. If I choose to count steps it could be anywhere from 50 to 300. Yes, in the Sierras I made a goal to keep going up a steep section until I hit 300 steps. Look at your route and get going. Every time I look up ahead I add another 20 steps. If you’re hiking with a group, you get a longer break! Use your time wisely: grab a snack, get hydrated and get a few pictures of what you just accomplished!


What are your tips for being a more efficient hiker? Leave a comment below!

Last modified: May 23, 2015

4 Responses to :
Be A More Efficient Hiker

  1. Unknown says:

    I find that when climbing a hill, it helps to step when I can such that my heel is elevated on a rock or root so that it is more like stairs and less like an inclined plane.
    Rob Kelly aka QiWiz

  2. Gershon says:

    This summer my son and I went on a short night hike up a steep section of trail. We found the section was easy because we only looked at the small part in front of us illuminated by our headlamps.

    Now we sometimes talk about “headlamping” up a steep section.

  3. Jan aka BeeKeeper says:

    Looks like you nailed it! Joan called me a bird though, always fidgeting or multitasking while hiking. It definitely leads to less efficient hiking. I learned to count while ascending as a cyclist and it easily transferred to hiking. For me it helps not to look up at a never ending hill, just keep my head down, one step at a time and count. I use crests of hills or around the next corner as my objectives as I progress up a long climb, and if flattish I can recover and keep going. Another friend taught me to take smaller steps if I find myself needing micro breaks climbing. It’s much more efficient to shorten the stride and keep going. As one with asthma, this seems to be a great technique. Speaking of which, learning to breathe makes hikers more efficient. Don’t waste energy with short shallow breaths.

    I’m still working on learning how to use the pole straps. I cut them off my last pair, but since I just had to replace my poles, maybe I’ll try again.

    As far as water goes, I loved converting to the grab and go method using an inline filter. I always worried about having sufficient water, but hated carrying the extra weight up the climbs where I suffer and am slower. It was good motivation to find a better system. Now I’m working on how much water per mile I need in different temperature and terrain situations.

    1. allison says:

      I totally agree with the “don’t look up” on hills approach! Inline is definitely helpful for actually staying hydrated. I felt with regular water bottles I wouldn’t drink enough because it was a pain to stop, take my pack off, grab the water, and then put everything back together!

Join the discussion