6 Things I Do to Prepare for a Day Hike (before I hit the trail!)
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Being prepared for a day hike should be top of mind as your hike approaches. After all, you want to hit the trail safely and with confidence, right? Being a prepared hiker will make it easier for you to adapt to changing and unpredictable situations that you may encounter on the trail. And preparation goes beyond your gear. This is not a list of what to pack, but rather, I’m sharing the things that I do to prepare for a safe hike – both mentally and physically.
Note: This post cannot alert you to every single hazard. It is intended to provide general information. When you follow any of the procedures described here, you assume responsibility for your own safety. The links below may contain affiliate links.
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Day Hiking Preparation: What I Do
1. Make sure all my gear is working properly.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – pack when you’re relaxed.
In other words, don’t try to scramble in seconds to pack all your gear after reading a text that your friend has arrived to pick you up for the hike.
In addition to packing ahead of time, also take that time to make sure all of your gear is working properly. For example, I carry a water filter on every single hike. This is something that I make sure is working properly.
I also make sure my med kit is stocked and none of the medications are expired. If they are, I will change them out for new ones. If you’re using a GPS, make sure the batteries are charged and extras are packed.
While preparing my gear, I also make sure that there’s redundancy in my gear/safety. For example, if I’m using a GPS, I will also pack a map and compass as a backup in case my GPS fails or gets lost.
Remember, “one is none and two is one”.
I take the time at home to organize and pack my gear so when I do hit the trail, I’m confident in what’s in my backpack.
Further Reading >> Learn all about trekking poles for hikers!
2. Tell someone where I’m going and when I’ll be back.
This is a really simple thing to do.
It can be a note or a text, but I always make sure that a few people back home know exactly where I am going, what I’m doing, how long, who I’m going with, and when I’m expected to be back.
The more details, the better.
3. Make sure I have a high-level awareness of the landscape.
When I’m at home, I like to look at a topo map and the satellite view of the area I’m going to be hiking.
I’m trying to get a general sense of the landscape as a whole.
Which way is the ridgeline running? What general direction are the streams or rivers flowing? Are there any prominent landmarks or features? Where are they relative to where I’ll be hiking?
Getting this high-level birds-eye view of the landscape will help me better orient myself when I’m on the hike.
It’s also a good habit to take note of landmarks and points of interest as you are hiking.
4. Check the weather.
This is a pretty obvious one, but it’s important.
I make sure that I pack and prepare for the weather, but at the same time, I also try to be ready and able to adapt to changing weather conditions.
For example, the weather in the mountains is often unpredictable, so making sure that I have the appropriate hiking clothing and layers will help me be prepared and able to adapt if an unexpected storm rolls in.
5. Start hydrating and fueling my body.
I start drinking water and getting my body hydrated first thing in the morning.
I don’t claim to be a nutrition expert, but I know for me personally, if I start a hike dehydrated and hungry, that’s not going to be a fun day. Making sure that I start a hike hydrated and with a solid breakfast will set me up for a successful hike.
My favorite breakfast, you ask?
Right now I’m loving a couple of scrambled eggs and a side of Kodiak Cakes power pancakes! That breakfast really fills me up and gives me energy all morning.
Of course, I also pack lots of delicious hiking snacks to eat along the hike.
6. Mentally prepare for the length, duration, and elevation gain.
I do research on the hike I’m planning to go on.
How many miles is it and how much elevation gain is there? Roughly how long do I think I will be gone?
It’s not enough to just know milage. A flat 2-mile hike will be totally different than a 2-mile hike with 2,000 ft of elevation gain.
If you’re a beginner hiker, it will be harder to judge the difficulty of a hike because that is dependant on you and your physical ability. The more hikes you go on, the more data you’ll have and the easier it will be to get a sense of how difficult a hike might be for you.
Knowing this information ahead of time will help you mentally prepare for the day.
Mental preparation is important.
Understanding the dangers of the area that you’re going to and being prepared for the challenge of climbing up a mountain is important. Hiking helps you build mental fortitude.
These are my top tips for preparing for a day hike!
It feels good to take the time to prepare for a hike and set yourself up for success. I hope this was helpful. If you have any questions, just comment below.