Going off the beaten path and into the woods sounds like a great way to recharge, relax, and get back to nature. However a hiker knows there are risks in the wilderness that have to be prepared for. But a good hiker will know how to bring the right gear for the right trip.
Here are some things you need to know before you hit the trail.
Tip #1: Dress For Success
When you're hiking you need to dress for the elements. If it's chilly then bring a lightweight, highly insulated jacket or windbreaker that won't weigh you down while keep you warm. Avoid bulky coats and pants because they'll put a lot more weight on you than you'll want. Don't forget things like gloves if it's cold, or a hat (warm hats for cold weather, broad-brimmed, sun-blocking hats for warmer seasons). Make absolutely certain that you have a pair of comfortable boots you can walk for days in (since blisters can make backpacking a miserable experience). Lastly, always bring sunglasses to cut the glare of the day and help keep your eyes safe while you're on the trail.
It's also a good idea to give your hiking ensemble a test run on a short hike to make sure they're as comfortable as you think they are.
Tip #2: Pack Light
One of the biggest mistakes that backpackers make is that they try to bring everything they might possibly need. This means you're hauling around a huge amount of stuff you probably aren't going to use, and which is just going to weigh you down while you're going uphill.
The solution is to make sure you only bring what you're going to need, and to make sure that as much of your gear does double duty as possible.
As a quick for instance you could bring a tablet computer, a cell phone, a mobile hotspot, and a personal GPS. However, if you have a smartphone then you should be able to combine all of the functionality of these other devices into one. While you could bring a full-size sleeping bag, if all you need is a thin sleeping mat then you can cut out a lot of bulk and a lot of weight. You should always bring a map of your destination and trails, but there's no reason to pack an entire atlas in your bag if you don't need to. If you can save space and weight without losing functionality, you should do so.
That said you need to cover the basics. Light sources (a regular flashlight and a back up like a collapsible battery lamp) are a necessity, along with food, clothing, water, and a form of communication. Medicine, spare batteries, and a small first aid kit are also good things to keep in your bag.
Tip #3: Always Plan Ahead
Whether you're backpacking across Europe or you're just doing an overnight hike to the summit of a local peak and back, it's important to sit down and plan your trip carefully. You need to know where you're going, when your trip is taking place, what you're taking with you, how you're going to do the trip, and who you're going with.
Start by picking the area for your hike and examining the route you're going to take. Research the hike to see how difficult it is, and if you're going to need any special equipment to get to the end of the trail. Once you know where you're going decide a plan for when you're going to go. Check the weather for that time period, and make sure you don't have to deal with record low temperatures, rain chances, etc. Try and get a sense of how long the trek is going to take, and what your pace is going to be. Once you've planned for all the different aspects of your trip, make sure that you let people know where you're going and when you should be back. If possible you should also make it a point to update an outside source on your progress and safety.
Tip #4: Practice Makes Perfect
Backpacking is kind of like running; you should really be a regular jogger before you try to complete a marathon. You should do some regular day-hikes before you try an overnight to build up your tolerance and familiarity with what works for you. It's unsafe to decide to start off with a four day hike across a hundred miles of rough country when you haven't built up your tolerance for that kind of endurance march.
Before you go on your next hike, be sure you stop by Pugs and take a look around. You might find just the thing you were looking for, whether it's a set of polarized shades, some cool beanies, or just some rugged apparel. Follow these four tips and your next adventure may be one of your best!