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How to Prepare for a Full Day of Hiking

If you're going to be on the trails for more than a few hours, plan accordingly. 

By Trent Jonas

How to Prepare for a Full Day of Hiking

A day hike doesn't sound like it would require much preparation, but there are a few important things to take note of, plan for, and pack with you before you head out to the trails. If you plan to spend more than just a couple of hours out hiking, especially if you are unfamiliar with the trail, make sure you've checked everything off your checklist. From taking a peek at the weather to properly packing your backpack, here are a few tips to get you ready for your trek. 

Check the Weather

Before you hit the trail for the day, you’ll need to know what kinds of conditions you’ll be dealing with. Take note of the forecast, and dress and pack accordingly. Prepare for unexpected changes: Bring a light, waterproof jacket in case of unexpected rain or cool weather. 

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Know Where You’re Going

Heading out for an all-day hike usually means you’re going to go some distance, and if you’re leaving a familiar environment or heading into the wilderness, it’s best to have a good idea of where you’re going and what kind of terrain you’ll be hiking before you go. Bring along a GPS unit or a smartphone with an app like Gaia GPS to help you keep track of where you are on the trail. But never rely solely on electronics to get you by, always bring along a map (ideally a topo map) and a compass in case your electronics run out of charge or fail in some way. 

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Tell Someone Else Where You’re Going—And When You’ll Be Back

When you’re heading out for the day, whether it’s into the wilderness or an extended trip in a nearby urban park, let somebody know where you’re going and when they expect you back. And then check in with them when you return. By doing this, if something unforeseen happens while you’re out on the trail, and if you can’t call for help, people will know where to look for you and when to start worrying about you.

Bring a Day Pack

There are always some basics you should bring in a day pack, just in case. In addition to a light jacket, pack a small first aid kit, in case of cuts, blisters, or bug bites. Bring a multitool and a fire making kit, like matches or a lighter, and something to get a fire going like emergency tinder. Pack a headlamp in case you don’t get back as early as you plan to and a day’s worth of snacks to keep your energy up on the trail. If you’re in bear country, clip bear spray onto your pack, and if you’re hiking in a dry or arid environment without water sources, consider a hydration pack for toting your gear. Don't have a day pack? Consider purchasing one from a brand like Osprey

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Plan for Hydration

Carrying a water bottle is obvious, but if you’re going to be out hiking all day, you’ll need to drink a lot of water—a gallon or more on hot days—so, you’ll either have to bring a really big water bottle, carry enough water with you in a bladder, like a HydraPak or Dromedary, or you’ll have to plan to refill your water bottle on a regular basis. If you’re heading to an area without potable water, you’ll want to bring a filter that works with your water bottle or with another bottle or bladder that you bring along specifically for filtering purposes. 

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Protect Your Feet and Ankles

A long day on the trail can be hard on your feet, and if the going is at all rough, on your ankles, too. So, you’ll want to put on footwear that’s appropriate for the terrain your hiking and weather you’re going in. Start with lightweight sock liners to keep moisture from soaking into your socks and keeping your feet wet. Then, choose a pair of supportive, comfortable socks designed for walking or hiking. Throw a second, dry pair into your day pack in case of rain, a wet trail, or a lot of perspiration—it will help prevent blisters. Wear comfortable, broken in shoes or boots. If you know the trail will have a lot of rocks or roots, you may want to consider hiking boots with higher uppers to protect and support your ankles. Finally, pack some moleskin, just in case blisters happen.

Protect Your Skin

Out on the trail, you’re going to be exposed to the elements, like sun and wind, as well as pests like biting insects. So, you’ll want to do what you can to protect your skin. Pack sunscreen, bug spray, a hat, and sunglasses. You may also want to pack sun and bug bite relief spray or gel. Consider wearing long sleeves if the temperature permits. In particularly buggy areas, you may want to think about treating your clothes and gear with Permethrin before you head out.

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Due to the escalation of the coronavirus outbreak, local destinations for outdoor recreation may be closed. Please visit official websites for more information.

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