Top 10 Hiking Tips for Day Hikes
Hiking season has commenced. The trails are clear of snow, temperatures are warming and our urge to get out and enjoy nature is at its peak. So, I’ve put together my top 10 hiking tips for day hikes. Even if you’re only going out for day hikes it’s important to be prepared and stay safe so you can fully enjoy your hike.
1. Plan Ahead
So often we decide to head out on a hike on a whim. But it’s important to plan ahead a least a bit, even if it’s only an hour it will make a difference. In terms of planning ahead you should know what trail you are hiking. Look at it on a map – whether its a google map, trail map or other, so you know what to expect. You should be aware if there is hunting in the area, bodies of water, wildlife to look out for, any other hazards, as well as how difficult the trail is. Planning ahead also involves making sure you have all your gear, supplies and proper attire including footwear. Be sure to also determine the length of the trail. Is it long? If so, you’ll need more supplies. Is it a loop trail or will you need to retrace your steps. Knowing as much as you can and being prepared will help lead you to a more enjoyable hike.
2. Check the Weather
You may have planned for an incredible hike but get there and it’s raining, or worse, there’s a thunder storm. Knowing the weather is vital to safety and ensuring a great hike verses an unbearable one. Especially so, if you’re driving a distance to get to your hiking location. Before you head out check the local weather forecast for the location you will be hiking. Will it be raining? Maybe excessively hot with a high UV index (meaning you’ll burn faster). Knowing the weather will help you prepare better. Perhaps you’ll need to pack a rain jacket, extra water or specific gear.
On many trails there are a set of painted blazes marking the path. These blazes help steer you in the right direction. Most often they’re on trees to the right of the trail, but sometimes they are on steps or large rocks on the footpath. Three blazes in a triangle refer to the start (or head) of the trail. One single blaze means continue straight. Two blazes with the left blaze lower means turn right. While two blazes with the right blaze lower means turn left. (See photo above.)
4. Protect Yourself from Bugs
Spring and summer is prime season for bugs like misquitoes, black flies and ticks. Be sure to protect yourself from these pesky bugs during your hike.
How to stay protected?
Wear light coloured clothing with long sleeves and full length pants. I also suggest a bug spray. Another thing to remember is to check your legs upon leaving for ticks, as some of them can cause Lyme disease.
5. Protect Yourself from the Sun
While many of us just want to soak up the sun after a long winter it’s important to also protect yourself from the harmful UV rays.
How to stay protected?
You should be wearing light weight long sleeve shirts and long pants while hiking. But if you have any skin exposed be sure to wear, at least, an SPF 30 sunscreen, and reapply every few hours. Also remember to wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your head and eyes.
6. Stay Hydrated
It’s always important to stay hydrated, but especially so if you are preforming an activity outside in the sun and heat. Be sure to bring plenty of water to continue to stay hydrated during your hike. More likely out in the woods there will be no place to grab more water and fluids. Be sure to bring more water for longer hikes and higher temperatures.
Remember – though it may be heavy at first in your day pack, as you continue to drink the weight will decrease.
7. Keep Your Energy Up
Hiking can be a very athletic activity and so, it’s important to keep your energy level up. You can do this by ensuring you eat a well balanced meal before you go out and also by bringing along some snacks that will help boost your energy. Snacks can include; protein bars, or other nutritous bars, nuts, trail mix and dried fruit.
If you are going for a walk or run than running shoes and other sneakers are fine. But for serious trails you will need a pair of hiking boots or shoes. If you hike often than consider investing in a high quality pair – you’ll thank yourself later. Hiking boots/shoes are made for hiking along uneven ground, climbing rocks and are built to help protect your feet, ankles and more.
Note on fit: Hiking boots/shoes should fit well. Not too big or small and may take time to get accustomed to as they are meant to hug your feet and ankles for full support.
9. Bring a Compass
Back before iPhones and smart phones hikers used a compass to help orient themselves and help them if they were lost. Now almost everyone has a mobile with apps like Google Maps, a Compass app, as well as countless hiking apps. These handy apps help us find out where we are, tell us where to go and help us discover other attributes of our surroundings. If you’re not bringing a traditional compass than make sure your mobile device is fully charged and if you’ll be out for a long hike bring a back up power source like a portable charger.
Note: Make sure your portable charger is also fully charged.
There are many reasons to stay on the trail. Staying on the trail helps protect you from hazards, as well as ensuring you don’t become lost. Another main reason to stay on the trail is to protect the environment. For instance, delicate and endangered orchids are found on Flowerpot Island in Tobermory, Ontario and its important to stay on the trail so you don’t tread on them and kill them.
To ensure your next hike is a fun and safe one be sure to follow these simple hiking tips.