Hiking Guides & Reviews

Hiking How-To Guides

Hiking’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years. All over the globe, more and more people are learning that hitting the trails is one of the most rewarding, fun, relaxing, and health-giving experiences there is. 

If you’re just starting out as a hiker, however, it’s a good idea to learn the ropes before you take to the wilds. Hiking is highly accessible and non-exclusive. However, making the most of your time on the trails requires more than just a good backpack and a thirst for adventure.

You’ll also want to bring along all the essentials needed to stay safe and injury-free, learn how to use a map and compass, and familiarize yourself with some of the terminology. And because planning is almost a prerequisite to success, it’s always wise to have a checklist to hand when preparing your trips. 

With all of that taken care of, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a hiker worthy of “badass” rather than “beginner” status. And with that box ticked, you’ll soon feel comfortable and confident enough to tackle tougher, longer trails, and maybe even bring your kids or pet along for the adventure. 

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Backcountry Navigation

Unless you plan on sticking to the tamest and most well-signed trails, learning to navigate is the single most important hiking skill to add to your armory. 

Countless hiking and backpacking accidents are caused by navigation errors. Given this, it’s a good idea to always carry at least two navigational tools on any hike. The most reliable of these by far is the old-fashioned map and compass combo. This pairing has served recreational navigators and explorers well for centuries, if not millennia. 

After getting your hands on the most detailed map for your hiking area and a reliable compass, learning how to use your compass and topo in tandem is fairly easy and a lot of fun. Importantly, it should also ensure you’ll never have to worry about getting lost again. 

The best digital navigational tools out there take the form of hiking watches and GPS devices. Both of these will have, in most cases, reliable digital compasses, barometers, and elevation charts. More advanced models will even throw in digital mapping for added convenience. 

The potential for mechanical failure or power loss makes using one of these devices as your primary navigational tool inadvisable. However, they’re mightily handy as backups to your map and compass. 

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Keeping Hydrated

Staying hydrated on the trail is of the utmost importance. Without an adequate fill of H20, our bodies won’t be able to perform to their best. And if dehydration strikes, some of the symptoms that might await include dizziness, disorientation, headaches, cramp, fatigue, and lightheadedness—all things you’d ideally like to avoid when out in the wilds. 

As with all things hiking, ensuring you stay suitably hydrated begins at home with your pre-trip prep. This entails knowing how much water you need to drink per hour on the trail, choosing a reliable water transportation system, and using your map to identify wild water sources on your route. 

When it comes to carrying your water, there are several options: metallic water bottles, plastic water bottles, glass water bottles, hydration bladders, or even old-school canteens. 

Whichever you decide is best for your trip type and outdoors MO, you should also come prepared to treat water taken from wild sources. This means carrying a water filtration system, a purification pen, or purification tablets to eliminate bacteria, protozoa, and water-borne viruses, all of which could lead to serious tummy trouble or even a trip to the hospital.

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Staying Safe & Trail Etiquette

Hiking requires striking a balance between having fun, staying safe, and respecting both the natural environment and our fellow hikers. Luckily, doing all three is easy if we follow just a few rules of thumb, come prepared, and make it a matter of policy to minimize our impact on flora, fauna, and other trail-goers. 

Taking care of ourselves in the wild means bringing along the right gear for our trip type and the location or conditions in which we’ll be hiking. 

Some items, like headlamps and a first aid kit, should be ever-presents in our backpack. Others will be determined by variables such as the season, endemic flora and fauna, and/or trail conditions.

If hiking in bear country, for example, then a reliable bear spray should be the first thing added to your pre-trip checklist. On icy trails, a pair of microspikes are likely to prove worth their weight in gold. And if there’s even the slightest chance of precipitation, then rain gear is a must. 

Finally, to minimize our impact on wilderness areas and trails, every hiker and backpacker should set aside some time to learn the principles and practices of conscientious backcountry travel. That way, our wild and wonderful natural environments will remain wild and wonderful for all those with whom we share them and future generations alike. 

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