15 Tips To Make Your Hiking Trip More Enjoyable

Let’s face it – hiking can be difficult. On any hike, you will probably experience pain, fatigue, hunger, thirst, and more. But if you can eliminate or minimize those problems, the things you love most about hiking will be all that you remember. I’ve spent time considering my own hiking experience as well as the advice of other hikers to find ways to make hiking more enjoyable.

The most important factors that impact the difficulty of a hiking trip are your safety and well-being, your physical condition, and your mental state of mind. Hikers who plan carefully, take care of their bodies, and take time to have fun will find that their hikes are easier and more enjoyable.

Choose The Appropriate Trip For You

The right hiking trip ultimately depends on you. If you are an experienced hiker who is in good shape, you might be up for a 40-mile hike with 10,000 feet of elevation change. Or perhaps you are a beginner, and would rather start with a 10-mile hike, with much less climbing. Be honest with yourself and choose a hike that you know you can handle.

I love to use the Alltrails app to find the right hike. I usually have 3 or 4 days to complete a hike, so I usually look for something between 30 and 50 miles, along with moderate elevation gain. I also enjoy trails that I know fellow hikers have tackled, enjoyed, and reviewed.

Use the AllTrails App to find the right hike for you

Get In Hiking Shape

If you are not in good shape, you will want to spend some time getting there before you embark in a longer hike. Find a fitness routine that will help you improve your stamina and strength. This is not merely a long walk or run. Because you will also carry 20 to 30 pounds of weight on your back, you also need to make sure your core and stabilizing muscles are in good shape.

I would recommend an weekly routine that focuses on: Cardio, core, and leg strength. Do some core muscle exercises, such as crunches and pushups. If you have a spot near your home where you can hike uphill and downhill for a couple of hours, take advantage of that. Try some squats or lunges as well. And make sure you jog or walk at a brisk pace several times a week. Your body will thank you once you get on your hiking trip.

Get Good Footwear

In my opinion, good footwear is the most important piece of hiking gear. There is absolutely nothing more demoralizing and painful than having blistered, injured feet and 30 more miles to hike. Conversely, while foot soreness on a hike may be inevitable, a hike with minimal discomfort is an incredible experience.

When looking for the right pair of hiking boots or shoes, I believe you should prioritize comfort and durability over any other features. I have written about my favorite hiking footwear HERE. I think the Merrell Moab 2 is a great hiking shoe for anyone.

Whichever hiking boot or shoe you decide on, make sure that you wear them in before you go on a hike. Your feet need to adjust to your boot, and vice versa. Hiking in boots you’ve never worn before is not a great idea.

Familiarize Yourself And Your Body With Your Gear

It is a mistake to go on a hiking trip having no idea how your backpack fits, or whether your shoes are right for your body. Try them on before your hike. Go on some practice hikes with weight in your pack. Adjust the straps on your pack until you find the right fit for you. Consider how you tie your boots, so that you feel comfortable.

These are things you want to know before your hike, rather than after a painful day on the trails. I would even make sure you like the fit and quality of your hiking clothes. For example, while you can probably survive a hike where your rainjacket doesn’t protect you from the rain, why take that risk? Make sure it’s a quality rainjacket that does the job for you.

Know Your Route And The Weather

Knowing your route and what to expect with the weather provides piece of mind, as well as contributes to a more comfortable hike. As noted above, I love to use the All Trails app to prepare for each of my trips.

I always feel better knowing exactly where I will camp each night, how long each day will be, and how much elevation gain I can expect. I also hate to be surprised by bad weather. My pre-hike checklist includes:

  • Download a map of the hike from Alltrails onto my phone
  • Know exactly where I will camp each night
  • Study the weather report and pack accordingly
  • Be aware of possible river crossings or other obstacles

Give yourself the best chance to know everything there is to know about your hike, and you will enjoy it so much more.

File A Trip Report With Loved Ones

Always let loved ones know where you are hiking, where you plan to camp each night you are gone, and when you plan to get home. In the back your mind, you will appreciate the fact that people know approximately where you will be at all times.

If you were injured or lost on your hike, you will take comfort knowing loved ones are expecting you home at a certain time. If you don’t get home when they expect, they can notify police and get a search started as early as possible.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

A good general rule of thumb is to drink 1 liter of water for every 2 to 3 miles of hiking. You may even need to increase this amount if you will be gaining a lot of elevation or hiking in warmer weather.

It’s always a good idea to get ahead of this and drink more BEFORE your hike. I usually drink about 2 liters of water each day, but before a hiking trip I up my water intake substantially. I usually start drinking about 50% more water per day for about 7 days before my hike.

Once I am on the trail, I drink at least 6 to 8 liters of water per day. Start each day with 2 liters at the ready, and be sure to know where the water sources are on the trail for the day. You should also have a good water filter with you so you have access to water on the trail. I love using Sawyer water filters (Amazon link). They are easy to use, and very affordable.

Eat Well Before And During Your Hike

As you prepare for a hike, try to take in more protein, fiber and more whole grains. Also, try to cut down on sugar and empty carbs. Once you are on the trail, your body will need the best fuel it can get. Eating a bunch of garbage the night before a hike is not a good idea.

On the trail, some of my favorite foods to keep me fueled and happy include:

  • Summer Sausage (my favorite lunch protein)
  • Power Oatmeal (I like this recipe from Backpacker.com)
  • Protein bars
  • Almond Butter
  • Mountain House meals (A bit pricey, but very good to eat!)
  • Pop Tarts (Yes, I told you to avoid sugar, but you do need a reward for a hard day’s work)

There are many resources online to help you develop a great meal plan for your hike, and you can’t really go wrong with any of them. In order to manage the weight you will carry, you should bring calorie-dense foods that will give you as much energy possible in a small package.

Pack Light

Heavy packs are always a huge obstacle to an enjoyable hike. And let’s face it, the more you hike during the day, the heavier your pack gets. There are plenty of other reasons to pack light, including:

  • You will burn fewer calories with a light pack, meaning you can pack less food
  • A lighter pack will put less strain on your muscles and joints
  • You can hiker longer and higher than with a bigger pack

So, learn how to pack as light as possible. Some tips to lighten your load for a backpacking trip:

  • Find a lighter “Big 3” – (Your sleeping bag, your pack, and your shelter) – see if you can get under 12 pounds
  • Consider taking fewer clothes (I usually bring only one change of clothes for a four-day hike)
  • Find ultralight cooking gear – or even leave it home and eat meals cold
  • Take only the essentials – if you can live without it, leave it at home

Become an expert at hiking light, and you will love your hikes even more. I have written about why you should consider ultralight backpacking.

Find A Good Pace And Stick To It

A good hiking pace can be anywhere from 2 to 4 miles per hour, depending on terrain and other factors. Nonetheless, each hiker has his or her own pace. I have a pretty fast pace and I try to stick to it. Changing from fast to slow and back again makes me uncomfortable.

Find a pace where you can put miles behind you, but also you are comfortable with. Be realistic and honest with yourself and plan each day according to what you are capable of. I would definitely recommend bringing a GPS device that tracks your distance hiked. You will be able to compute your hiking rate and challenge yourself to hike faster and farther the next time out.

Enjoy The Views

As much as I appreciate the physical exertion of a hike, my favorite moments are when I stop to appreciate the scenery. Plan each day so you can take a good bit of time to sit down for a bite to eat and enjoy the scenery.

Spider Meadow – Buck Creek Pass Loop, WA State. A great view for lunch…

This is where reading trip reports from other hikers comes in handy. Any beautiful view that other hikers mention are worth stopping for. Plan your hike so you can stop for a snack or a meal and sit back and enjoy the view.

Start Out Early, Finish Early

There are a lot of good reasons to start a hike earlier, rather than later. The biggest reason to start a hike early is to avoid as much of the heat of mid-day as possible (if hiking in the summer). It also allows you the flexibility to have more time to deal with unexpected delays.

Time To Start Another Day…

And if you really want to challenge yourself to a long hike, 20 miles or more, you’ll need to start early.

But I also appreciate getting into camp for the night early as well. Some of my favorite times hiking are when you can finish a day’s hike in mid-afternoon and spend the rest of the day resting, talking, playing cards, and just enjoying the time.

Hike With A Great Companion

I almost always hike with my brothers, and I cherish each adventure with them. It’s a great time to catch up and talk about our own families, remember growing up together, and to have some good-natured fun at each other’s expense.

I Love Hiking With Family!

Regardless of who you hike with, having a good companion who you trust also is vital for safety and security. Your hiking companion should know the trail, know you, and be able to make good decisions if you are unable to. Each of my brothers is an experienced hiker who I know will look out for me.

Take A Camera

It may be a smart phone, it may be a small disposable camera, or even your $1500 Canon, but be sure to take something to capture your experience. Keep your camera or phone handy – I always keep it in a pocket on the front of my pack – to be able to capture a quick pic and still keep hiking.

I love looking through pictures of my previous hikes – it powers up my nostalgia for hiking and makes me want to get out on the trail again!

My Son And I Hiking On the Olympic Peninsula – My Favorite Place On Earth

Practice Good Hiking Etiquette

Be sure to practice Leave No Trace principles on your hike. Be kind to others, pack out your trash, leave a campsite or trail nicer than how you found it, and just be respectful of nature, wildlife, and other hikers.

It’s a great feeling to be part of something bigger than yourself when you become a hiker. Practicing the right etiquette gives you a sense of pride and belonging to that.

Happy Trails!

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