If you’ve been exploring the great outdoors for years, chances are you’ve come by a few tried and true tips for your own personal comfort whether you are only spend a few hours hiking, or a few days.
But even the most experienced of us can learn a thing or two for a better hiking experience, especially with the many advances in technology that applies itself to our creature comforts.
Whether you are an old pro, or are interested in starting out as a new hiking fanatic, the following tips will help keep you comfortable and coming back for more.
1. Prepare for Weather
No matter how long you plan on being out of doors, plan your hike according to the local weather. Also don’t assume that just because it says it will be clear and warm means that it will stay that way. By doing your homework in advance you will know what, exactly, you should be prepared for and what is typical for the area you are hiking into.
2. Consider Your Altitude
Some people are unaware of exactly how a decrease in oxygen may affect them, and if you are trekking into an area that has an elevation of 1000 feet or more than what you are used to, you may need to slow it down until you better adjust to that situation. This is called acclimatisation. Don’t assume you will cover the miles as quickly as you do at sea level once you get into the mountains, and plan your schedule accordingly for this possible difference.
3. Two Words: Air Mattress
Overnight hikes should include more than just your tent and sleeping bag. You can’t bring your memory foam mattress with you, so pack a self inflating mattress pad instead. These are more lightweight and packable than ever, and are certainly worth the extra minimal weight since you’ll be able to get a better night’s rest to rise refreshed and recharged and ready to tackle the next day’s challenge.
4. Wear Breathable Material
Our bodies generate heat even at rest, so it makes sense that when we exert energy it warms even more. Natural fibers and other breathable materials helps that heat to be drawn away from our bodies and dissipated to allow airflow and cooling to avoid overheating. Also look for moisture wicking fibers that help draw sweat away from you to keep your skin from chafing as you move.
5. Pack Light
Lower your bag weight through material choices, especially if you have a multi day trip planned and know you will need to pack extra water bottles for refilling. Lighter weight materials are more readily available than ever with technological applications, and long gone are the days your framed pack alone would weigh 10 pounds. Today a 65 litre pack weighs around 3 to 4 pounds, and frameless only around 1 to 2. Simple material replacements will quickly lower the amount of weight you carry. Consider down fillings over synthetic, and if you know water sources are available, invest in a good mini-filter and purification tablets.
6. Stay Dry
Getting caught in a rainstorm unprepared when you could have taken precautions to stay dry will not only slow you down, but also make you miserable in the process. Moisture caught in places not exposed to dry air will begin to chafe and cause discomfort. Even if you don’t have a full set of rain gear, packing a poncho- one for yourself, and another for your pack- will ensure that you beat the worst of the wetness and allow you to dry off what didn’t stay dry later on.
7. Stay Hydrated
We can survive days without food, but not without water. Make sure you know your route and plan for regular hydration. Natural sources of water can be easily filtered to fill your canteens so you can carry less overall, but if you know that you will have long periods of time between fill ups you may want to carry more. Collapsible water bottles weigh up to 80% less than a traditional water bottle, and take up a lot less room as well.
8. Break in Your Boots
Don’t take off on a hike in brand new boots. Just don’t do it. If you have recently acquired a new pair of boots and you can’t wait to try them out, start to wear them regularly so they can take on the shape of your foot without causing the rubbing and blistering that may accompany a new, stiff pair on the trail. If you don’t have a lot of time, mist the inside of your boots with water and rubbing alcohol to help the material flex, and wear thick wool socks. It helps if those have also been dampened. Then wear around as usual to help soften and allow the boot to take on the shape of your foot.
9. Adjust and Practice with Your Pack
You probably don’t pack your backpack exactly the same every time since every hike requires slightly different gear. This makes the weight shift and the straps sit differently on you from one experience to the next. Do yourself a favour and pack your bag in advance and get it adjusted; walking around the house or neighbourhood, up and down stairs, or even reaching for things will help you determine what needs to be adjusted for optimal comfort before you get going rather that constantly forcing you to stop and adjust while on the trail.
10. Plan a Menu
Planning your food for a day hike may be a no brainer, but you don’t want to spend days on the trail eating the same thing over and over and over again. Plan ahead for highly packable, lightweight, calorie filled meals. You’re going to burn a lot of energy hiking all day, and replenishing what you lose will be crucial to the overall success, and comfort of your experience- especially since nobody want to go to bed hungry.
Mark has trekked extensively in Asia, Europe, South America and Africa. He founded Mountain IQ in 2014 with the sole aim to be the best online information portal to some of the most popular mountain destinations around the world. When not writing for Mountain IQ, Mark is out exploring the outdoors with his wife!