Overnight hiking is one of the best ways to integrate yourself with nature. Not only will you enjoy some of the benefits of hiking, but you’ll also allow yourself to unplug for several hours. When was the last time you thoroughly unplugged from technology for 48 hours?
If you can’t remember, you’re not alone.
Hiking tunes you into the most primal parts of your brain. The human body was created to live alongside nature—not in the modern world. You’ll learn how to navigate the forest, cook for yourself and entertain yourself without the use of modern technology.
Spending time outdoors has plenty of health benefits too. In addition to reducing stress, spending time outdoors can help enhance your mood and help you sleep better. Yet, you’ll need a few pointers if you’re about to embark on your first overnight backpacking trip. One of the most important things to understand about hiking is: planning is everything.
Tip #1 - Plan Ahead
Planning is one of the best things you can do to ensure success on your hiking trip. The more you prepare for your trip, the more successful your trip will be.
Your first hike should be planned when the weather conditions are expected to be mild (or at least, not so erratic). You don’t want to deal with drastic drops or rises in temperature for your first trip.
Tip #2 - Don’t Pack for a Fortnight Away
It’s important to be prepared, but sometimes less is more when it comes to packing. Don’t pack everything. Many first-time hikers tend to pack all the modern comforts they think they’ll desire over the next day.
Just remember that you’ll need to carry everything that you pack. You’ll want to lay out everything you plan to pack before you place anything in your pack. Take a good look at everything you’ll need to carry. You can go ahead and discard those four extra pairs of socks you just thought you wouldn’t be able to live without.
Tip #3 - Preparing to Dine Al Fresco
It’s important to plan out your meals in advance, so you don’t find yourself burdened with too much (or worse—without enough food) over the course of your trip. Make sure to pack plenty of protein and carbs to keep you satisfied.
Remember that you may have to pack your waste out, so don't bring lots of food in heavy containers such as tins. It's best to prepare meals in advance, and bring them in ziplock bags or buy freeze-dried meals that only require boiling water to cook.
Although, don’t forget to have a little fun with your food! Try a new recipe for an old fan favorite like buttered popcorn marshmallow smores.
Tip #4 - Bring a Map (and know how to use it)
Despite how much Google Maps has rocked your world, you’ll need to bring an old-school waterproof map. You’ll also need to know how to use it. Navigation skills are hugely important in the wilderness where cell phone batteries can die, or your GPS doesn't get a signal.
Tip #5 - Test Your Equipment at Home
It’s important to test out all of your equipment at home before your hike. You should break in your hiking boots before hitting the trail, so you don’t destroy your feet.
Sometimes manufacturers forget to include all of the parts in products, and you don’t want to wait until you’re in the middle of the woods before realizing that you don’t have the main pole for your tent. Test your equipment in your backyard first.
Tip #6 - Learn to Dress Appropriately
Hikers and backpackers these days swear by the three-layer system that will help keep you comfortable in (most) any weather. This involves a thin base layer, to wick away moisture, a middle insulating layer to keep you warm and then an outer shell layer to protect you from the wind and elements. Simply remove or add layers to suit the climate.
Also, don't forget to bring accessories such as sun hats, sunglasses or cold weather gloves.
Tip #7 - Familiarize Yourself with LNT & Local Regulations
You know the saying, “Take only photos, leave only memories?” Leave No Trace means that you leave nature the same as you found it. This means that everything you "pack in" should be "packed out" again.
Don’t bother the wildlife, pick the flowers or camp on sites that aren’t already established by other campers.
Lastly, you also want to ensure you have the appropriate permits before you step foot on the trail. Don’t assume that you don’t need a permit.
Tip #8 - Check the Weather Before You Go
Leading up to your trip double-check the weather forecast and consider rescheduling your trip if the weather won't be in your favor. If you still plan on heading out, make any final adjustments to your pack based on the likely (and worst case) weather forecast.
Tip #9 - Panic Time, Leave One!
Never hike without telling your friends and family where you’re going. Establish a panic time. This means that you tell your friends and family when you’re leaving, where you’re going, your exact route and when to call the authorities if you haven’t returned.
As soon as you are back in your car (and have cell service), call your designated family members to let them know you’re okay.
Tip #10 - Keep It Simple
On your first trip, just keep it simple. You'll probably be doing a lot of new tasks for the first time such as map navigation, long strenuous hikes and setting up a campsite. Don't further add to the burden by planning to hike 15 miles a day or fit in lots of extra activities.
Tip #11 - Enjoy Yourself
The most important part of your hike is remembering to have plenty of fun. Enjoy yourself! Hopefully, you’re planning this trip because you already have a love of hiking. Don’t forget to have fun and relax!
Article written for UP KNÖRTH by My Open Country. My Open Country is a campaign to try and get more people excited about the outdoors. Improve your wilderness adventures with their in-depth articles on hiking/backpacking skills, inspirational trip guides & awesome gear reviews.
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