Whether you're a female solo traveler, an experienced hiking backpacker, or a couple taking on your first adventure travel destinations, these hiking tips & tricks well help you make the most of your next trip!
Brian & I just got back from our first major hiking road trip through the Pacific Northwest. Some of these tips are things I wish we'd have known about, & some are hiking hacks we had in our pocket going in. All of them, we'll absolutely make sure we do next time!
1. A Solid Pair of Hiking Boots
This is a MUST! Before our trip, I was a bit resistant to coughing-up bucco bucks for hiking gear - I've done some short hikes around our WNY home in sneakers & made it through fine, so I figured hey, why not save the money? BUT...every article, review, & person I talked to made it clear this item was non-negotiable. And more so, the real waste of money would be saving $50 to buy a cheaper, less durable brand. So I finally succumbed & purchased this pair of Keens, and I am SO happy I did!
Almost immediately they paid off as I had no difficulty finding traction while stomping through mud & wet, rocky trails on our Multnomah Falls hike in Oregon (my fitness level on the other hand - that's a different story). Meanwhile, I watched others in sneakers sliding along the path or slipping on wet logs over stream crossings. And when we went to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park? I was doubly happy that my feet were warm & cozy,confidently scaling the ridges, while others scrambled up the icy, snowy path clinging to tree trunks & branches to keep from going down on the ol' keester.
Overall, my Keens kept me warm, dry, & confident of my footing on the paths. I opted for the ones pictured here with the high-ankle for additional support, and was pleasantly surprised how lightweight & comfortable they were. I'd definitely recommend them to as my top hiking gear essential to anyone thinking of hiking the trail, & I'll link to the exact pair here for you. Keenfootwear.com (Not a paid link, but Keens, I'd love to hear from ya. Contact me?).
2. Your Hiking Outfit Matters
This one I learned the hard way after that Multnomah Falls hike - cue the product of overdressing - excessive sweating, followed by freezing when attempting to shed layers.
Our first big hike was on a 50-degree, damp, cloudy day, & I was really cold at the start. So I layered a heavy fleece over a tank & under a fleece-lined jacket; a decision I promptly regretted about a half-mile into our hike. I was a sweaty mess, but had to keep the jacket on because all the sweat made me freeze when I tried to take it off.
That night I felt terribly dehydrated (likely added to because I purposely didn't drink a lot on our flight out so I didn't have to keep squeezing past our seat mate - I don't recommend that wonderful plan of action).
Lessen-learned. For the rest of the trip, I stuck to the idea that if I was slightly cool at the beginning, I'd be comfy throughout the hike, & opted for a sweater over a tank, & found that plenty warm. You do more work than you think when hiking, especially if you're going up or down switchbacks. You're body warms easily on steep trails like this one, so it's important to not overheat. If you don't think you can handle the cold, I recommend bringing a backpack so you don't have to try to carry layers you shed as you go.
3. Check the Webcams
Although I've become slightly obsessed with watching the cams from our trip (total post-trip blues!), believe it or not, this isn't what they're meant for. Many of the National Parks have cams that are along key trails & update every 10 minutes to let you know the conditions at the top of peaks or scenic vistas. When used, they're quite handy for planning your day.
We didn't know about these when we went to Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, a snowstorm at the top of the now dormant volcano kept us from being able to see more than 20 feet in front of us. Had we known about & checked the cam ahead of time, we wouldn't have wasted about 2 hours of drive time. Definitely a beginner hiking mistake on my part.
Can I offer a PSA for a second? I was super disheartened to read so many negative comments about this gorgeous park because of poor visibility due to the fog & snow that frequently cover the lake, when so many day-trippers could have saved the wasted trip by checking the site cams out first. If you're a beginner hiker, please check out the websites for your travel destinations when offered. Besides webcams, they offer alerts regarding delays, trail closures, or emergencies that may hamper your trip - it's up to you to do your due diligence & use the services these parks provide. It's not the mountain's fault the weather was crappy. Ok, I'll get off my soapbox now.
4. Trail Maps are Your Friend
These days, it's pretty easy to find either downloadable or hard-copy trail maps, whether from a park welcome station or a website like alltrails.com. Trails may be difficult to fully see due to debris, or signs may be damaged; especially if you're a beginner hiker, knowing the trail is imperative.
We were spoiled in the Pacific Northwest, where trails were clearly marked with signs like this, but getting comfortable & admittedly lazy caught up with us on our recent hike at home in Zoar Valley. The trail was not marked, except for red placards on trees labelled "foot trail". Even at intersections, there was no marker, & if we hadn't at least previously read a description of the trail, we'd admittedly have been pretty lost. Even so, we ended up missing about 30% of the hike, including 1 mountain vista & 3 waterfalls due to lost time trying to figure out if we were in the right spot. A trail map would have easily prevented that! And even when they are clearly marked like in Washington & Oregon, it's still nice to know where you are in distance, & when to prepare for steep switchbacks or elevation changes.
5. Hiking Fuel Packing List
Especially if you're traversing moderate to difficult treks, hiking is quite a workout for your body. More so if you're like me & "forgot" to do some hiking strength training before the trip. Don't rely on a big breakfast to last you several hours & miles - you may find yourself hangry halfway through a loop or out-and-back trail,and that's no fun for anyone.
Plan to bring a few easy-to-carry snacks that offer a good protein to complex carb ratio; for me, this means oat-based bars or an apple won't do. My preference? Grass-fed beef jerky & the Kind crunchy peanut butter bars that offer 12g of protein. I purchase them on Thrive Market because they're usually 20-50% cheaper than the grocery store, and that particular variety of Kind bar is hard to find sometimes. I'll leave the link to Thrive Market for you to check out here. ThriveMarket.com This I do make an affiliate percentage on, so thanks for the free groceries!
On the same note, make sure you have enough water! It isn't unusual to go through half a gallon on a warm day. If you don't want to carry a heavy bottle, or if you want to free your hands up to take some Instagram-worthy shots, get yourself a Camelbak backpack with the built-in water pouch.
Most importantly, make sure you carry out what you carry in to keep these gorgeous places beautiful & unblemished! Stay on the trails, follow the rules (like not hiking at dawn or dusk in cougar territory), & enjoy your time in nature! Adventure is yours!