Here are 22 tips and tricks straight from the hiker’s boot:
1. Wear the right kind of shoes!
Are you spending the day at the lake? Hiking near a waterfall? Mountain climbing? Waterproof hiking boots are the way to go in basically every scenario, but a solid pair of sneakers usually does the trick if you don’t mind soggy socks.
2. Be familiar with the terrain.
Grab a map when provided and always let someone know where you are headed for the day/week. Trail maps are key! Road maps are not as in depth and could be missing key information.
3. Don’t feed the wildlife!
This includes feeding bread to waterfowl. It might seem fun, but it’s bad for their digestive track/stomach and is not a nutritional staple in their natural diet. Use food lockers if provided when camping as a car will not save your fruit snacks if a bear is hungry.
4. When camping, always pack an extra of everything!
You never know what the day/week will bring! I recently hiked in two feet of snow at Sequoia National Park for 6 miles, and my boots were soaked. Without extra shoes, I had to improvise with plastic bags and electric hand dryers.
5. Make sure your campsite follows all the rules of the area!
Don’t camp too close to a body of water and always respect the fire restrictions. The leading cause of forest fires is improper fire maintenance.
6. Know your limits when it comes to hiking.
Take a break when you feel winded. Check if the trails loop and consider the distance you will be traveling round-trip.
7. Pack plenty of water.
This is a crucial one people. Dehydration is no fun and passing out due to lack of water can cause a limitation of oxygen flow in the brain. Consider investing in a water filtration system like a LifeStraw!
8. Leave no trace.
This means pack out what you pack in, including but not limited to: food trash (including biodegradable materials such as fruit skins in certain conservation areas), regular trash (recycle when available), pet waste (this is huge please pick up the poop), clothing, putting out campfires completely (cool to the touch) and/or properly disposing of ash in provided containers, etc.
9. Bring some food along.
If you plan on hiking for more than two hours bring a backpack and consider packing a snack! Trail mix, granola, fruit and protein bars are all wonderful trail foods.
10. Leave things behind.
That bird’s nest might look totally rad in your dorm, but you’ve potentially made that bird family homeless.
11. Respect fences and borders.
If something is the oldest, widest, tallest or largest in the world (be it a tree, turtle, mushroom, etc.) and it’s protected DO NOT TOUCH IT. I don’t care if you think the picture will make your Insta-totally-dope. This happens every day in Sequoia; people hop the fence protecting General Sherman to get a closer photo, but the more we step on the roots the weaker the tree gets and it will eventually die. Don’t do it people (also there’s a hefty fine if you’re caught).
12. All you have to do is ask!
If you aren’t sure what to do or see while visiting an area, ask a ranger! They have insight on the coolest hiking spots/campgrounds and are always happy to help.
13. Apply for your wilderness and backpacking permits as early as possible!
Places like Yosemite have a lottery system, and not getting one could potentially make or break your trip.
14. Learn how to build and light a campfire without the aid of firebricks.
Throwing leaves on the fire is not a permanent fix and just creates smoke. Here are some examples of how to build a proper fire. Never leave a fire unattended and respect any bans in place.
15. Invest in a good backpack camping stove.
They are portable, time efficient and cook things all the way through.
16. Buy those Trek Poles!
Trek Poles are a terrific investment when hiking on rough or steep terrain. Trust me they’re worth it.
17. Tagging everything reachable is totally not cool.
No one cares that Ricky loves Janet 4eva.
18. Do not rely solely on your navigation system.
You might not receive any signal, and roads may be closed due to an avalanche, mudslide or snow. Always check in with the ranger on sight for current updates and traveling conditions.
19. Pack the essentials.
Never hike without a first aid kit, a lighter, sunscreen and sunglasses! You never know when you’ll need them!
20. Dress in layers!
This is particularly important for all you cool season campers. Wearing layers will keep you warm in the early morning, late at night and you can shed them while you hike during the day. Double up on your sleeping bags too; it’s more comfortable than wearing five layers to bed.
21. Uphill hikers have the right of way.
22. Preserve nature by staying on the trail!
Don’t cut corners even on a switchback or if you see others doing it.This leads to unnecessary erosion and the death or damage of native plants.