I. Thou shall remain hydrated
This cannot be stressed enough! Even if you only plan on heading out for a “short hike”, bring water. Anything can happen out on the trail and you need to be prepared. Bring re-usable water bottles, or bladders, plus water filters or tablets on longer trips.
II. Thou shall ingest sustenance
Your body needs fuel to keep going just as much as your car. Keep small snacks on you and munch along the way, or plan to stop at a pre-determined interval to eat up. Think high-protein and carbs to keep your energy levels up. High sugar content foods are not recommended as they can pack a wicked ‘crash’ later on.
III. Thou shall procure proper footwear
Your feet are important and take quite a beating through a hike. Help eliminate common injuries by wearing the proper boot for the trail. You need something that is closed, with good ankle support and a thicker sole. There are varying levels of these features designed to meet the needs of the various terrains you will encounter.
IV. Thou shall know thy socks
Did I mention your feet are important? Another way to eliminate common injuries is through wearing the proper sock for the trail. There are all sorts of socks with different weaves to keep different foreign material off your feet. But most important is that your socks are moisture wicking and quick drying to help prevent blisters.
V. Thou shall consider trekking poles
You may think they look funny, or just get in the way, but trekking poles can be a life saver for your knees. Use them to maintain your balance going down steep section, and pull yourself up (bonus: upper body workout!). They are also great for poking around questionable foliage, and testing ‘how deep is that puddle?’.
VI. Thou shall carry a great day pack
A day pack is a small backpack, usually about 10L or less. It makes it easy to carry your water, snacks and other essentials, without bulking up your pockets. Your day pack may already include a water bladder as well, eliminating the need for water bottles and making it that much easier to ‘leave no trace’.
VII. Thou shall layer thy garments
Be the onion! Wearing layers of clothing on a hike allows you to remove pieces as you warm up on the trail, without leaving you under-dressed. There are three main layers to consider: base layer (sits next to skin, moisture wicking, quick dry; merino wool, polyester, silk), insulating layers (trap warm air, repel cold air; fleece, down), and outer layers (wind/water resistant/proof, durable, usually breathable).
VIII. Thou shall train for night hiking
Getting used to hiking in the dark is important for two reasons; first, there may come a day that you want to catch a sunrise from that fabulous lookout 4km from the trailhead. This means you’ll be starting out before the sun comes up – in the dark. Second, if anything happens on your hike and you end up being later than you planned, the sun will set whether you like it or not. Save yourself the anxiety and prepare yourself for the all the unidentifiable strange sounds from the trees.
IX. Thou shall cross train
You’ve got that ‘Wild’ itch – the thru-hike is calling! Naturally the best way to train for a long hike, is to go on long hikes. But you probably don’t have time to be out for several hours on the trail every day. Use alternate means to get yourself ready – this is not the part of planning you want to skip!
X. Thou shall listen to thy body
As with any physical activity, the more you push yourself, the more your realize you have muscle where you didn’t know muscle existed. Pay attention to your body – it is giving you notice before something becomes an issue. Minimize your chances of serious injury by always stretching (before, during and after) and treating your minor injuries appropriately.