28 March 2024

15 Tips to Plan A Hike

Hiking is an activity that requires preparation. Once you begin your hike, you are left at the mercy of nature, away from civilisation and modern convenience. Learning and exploring tips and advice on how to prepare for a backpacking trip will go a long way toward having a successful hiking experience.

Planning a hike is important for reasons that include safety, preparedness, increased confidence, and enjoyment. Hikers can minimise the likelihood of accidents and injuries during a hike if they can identify potential hazards and risks associated with the chosen hiking route, such as difficult terrain, inclement weather, wildlife encounters, and emergency situations, in advance. Planning can also help decide what essential gear is needed, such as navigation tools, first aid kits, water, food, clothing layers, and emergency shelter. By researching hiking trails, checking trail conditions, and selecting appropriate gear, hikers can create a comfortable and rewarding outdoor adventure that aligns with their interests, capabilities, and goals.

We have compiled a list of 15 things you need to know regarding how to prepare for your first hiking trip. This will help you understand why it’s important to plan a hike in advance.

1. Assessing Your Current Fitness and Capabilities

Before deciding where you would like to go, make an honest evaluation of your current fitness level. This will ensure that your physical fitness level matches the chosen trail’s difficulty.

2. Deciding on a Trail

For hiking, there are many trails to choose from according to your preferences and fitness level. Some trails are more famous than others, and there are always people who have travelled the same trail whom you can consult. Join a hiking group on social media to learn about less commercialised trails and also to read about their experiences. This will help you make a decision that will align with your hiking requirements.

3. Check the Weather and Seasons

Decide on the location and check the weather and the recommended season to travel there. Even the most popular trails may turn treacherous, depending on the weather.

4. Get Familiar with the Trail

Do as much research as possible to learn about the trail you are about to attempt. Consult with hikers who have previously experienced these trails for advice, and explore online and on social media for detailed accounts of hikers’ experiences. Some trails have their own podcasts, such as our podcast by Stuart Butler, in which he discusses his experiences hiking The Pekoe Trail and offers advice on how to do it.

5. Prepare Your Clothing and Footwear

Out of all the things to prepare before hiking, perhaps your clothing is the most important component. Choose your clothing depending on the climate and weather. For colder environments, it is recommended to wear layers of clothing, as you can easily adjust the warmth by adding or removing layers. Prepare for different weather conditions, such as taking rain protective gear, even if the forecast is for sunny weather. Take an extra change of clothing and socks. Buy your hiking shoes in advance and wear them around in order to get a more comfortable fit. Two hours into a hike is a bad time to discover that your shoes are uncomfortable.

In this next section, we will discuss what you will need to pack for hiking.

6. Choosing a Suitable Backpack

During a hike, your backpack will be like your lifeline. Choose a lightweight, waterproof pack with comfortable straps and adequate space inside for all your equipment.

7. Carrying Enough Water

Water is your most important resource on a hike. Even if you run out of food, you can survive if an adequate supply of water is available. Check out the natural water sources on your chosen trail which have been marked as safe to drink.

8. Food Before the Hike

What you eat before setting out on the hike will ultimately determine your comfort throughout the day. The best food to eat the night before a hike consists of a balanced meal with complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Avoid heavy or greasy foods that may cause discomfort, and stick to familiar foods that you know won’t upset your stomach.

9. Food During the Hike

It’s not called trail mix for nothing. This protein-filled snack is lightweight and fills you up with energy that lasts, unlike sugary snacks, which will leave you crashing later. Overall, it makes for an ideal snack for the trail. Fresh snacks are also a good option if you can’t get your hands on trail mix, but be aware of the spoilage time.

10. Backpack Essentials

Now that you have your food, clothing, and water, take some of these other items with you as well. Carry a fully stocked first aid kit with essentials like bandages, antiseptic wipes, and blister treatment; a battery-powered torch with extra batteries; insect repellent; sun protection; a multi knife or tool; and a fire starter. There are communities living along The Pekoe Trail from whom you can purchase food and snacks. That way, you can lessen the load on your luggage and help support the communities in these areas as well.

11.Navigation and GPS

Download offline maps or use GPS hiking apps that operate offline before hitting the trail. The Pekoe Trail official navigation app is the best option to use on this trip, as it is tailored to provide you with accurate and relevant tips and information about your trail and surroundings. Familiarise yourself with the app’s features to ensure smooth navigation. Regularly check your location on the map or device to help you stay on track. Bring a backup power source to avoid getting stranded due to a low battery. As mentioned earlier, familiarising yourself with the trail beforehand is crucial. You can also use a manual compass for additional help in navigation.

12. Choosing Your Companions

Arranging a hike involves coordinating logistics, gathering necessary information, and communicating with participants to ensure a successful outdoor excursion. Reach out to friends, family members, or hiking groups to gauge interest and invite participants to join the hike. Provide details about the hike, including the meeting point, start time, duration, trail difficulty, and any special considerations. Decide on the ideal group size based on the difficulty of the hike, the experience level of participants, and any logistical constraints.

13. Inform Others of Your Hiking Plan

At least tell one person about where you plan on going and for how long. In case of an emergency, they will know where to find you.

14. Bonus Tip – Improve Your Physical Fitness Prior to the Hike

When assessing your fitness level at the start, there were a limited number of hiking trails that suited your capabilities. Consider giving yourself at least a month before hitting the trail and working out to improve your fitness so that you can attempt a trail that is currently beyond your capabilities and give you a sense of achievement. For additional preparedness, try carrying your packed backpack while working out to adjust yourself to the weight.

15. Protect the Environment

Make sure your planning includes understanding responsible outdoor practices, like using reusable packaging items and avoid taking any plastic or polythene items with you, packing out what you pack in, and respecting wildlife. This simple approach reduces the impact of hiking activities on the natural environment, allowing future generations to enjoy its beauty.

We hope that these tips will be useful in preparing for your next hiking adventure. Planning your trip to a trail that offers varying levels of difficulty can make the experience more enjoyable. You can begin with an easier trail, and once you gain more confidence, you can try some of the more advanced trails on the same trip. Trails like The Pekoe Trail are ideal for beginners and moderately skilled hikers and are great for a first time or casual hike.