No, you’re not gonna melt if it rains. You can and will likely get stuck on a trail, or worse, off the trail and have to yield to weather conditions. This is something you really can’t be prepared enough for, so do your research ahead of time.
If you’ve ever gone dancing in a brand new pair of boots, you get it. Spend some time breaking in your boots before you hit the trail. If you don’t break them, they will break you.
Buying some $200 pair of hiking pants with military grade PVC knee guards really isn’t necessary. You’re not Bear Grylls. That said, don’t wear your yard day denim either. You may as well be wearing a sponge.
Once again, you don’t need to blow a paycheck on your gear, but that $10 sleeping bag and tent from you-know-what-Mart likely won’t even make it through a hike, let alone a night on the dirt. Invest in a good tent and bag and it will last you as long as you take care of it.
You’re not running a triage unit in the wilderness. You don’t need an ER worth of life saving first aid in your pack. Take the essentials: prescription meds, single use packs of pain relievers, gauze, waterproof tape, sanitizing gel, tweezers, small knife (multi tool), antiseptic and safety pins.
When you get above those tree tops, particularly where there is snow involved, the sun is going to beat you like a step-child. Be prepared with some serious atomic level sun screen.
Use the right map. Anything helps when you’re trying to get your bearings, but road maps should be left to the roads. Grab a trail map and orient yourself before you embark.
With all our electronic wizardry people often forget this marvelous little tool. Don’t expect your cell phone to navigate home through that mountainous ravine. Get a compass. Get comfortable with it. Then get off the grid.
Particularly in Autumn, the temperature varies greatly from the morning to the afternoon. Wear layers so that as the temperature rises, you can reduce your insulation.
If you find yourself on a trail that has mules, like many in Yosemite, the mule always has the right of way. If the trail isn’t large enough to pass side by side, step off the trail and allow the animal to pass.
You’re here to enjoy nature. What’s the rush? Take your time. Pace yourself. Or end up on CNN.
This goes hand-in-hand with the last tip. Give yourself planned breaks. 10 minutes per hour is a good standard to go by.
This may be one of the most important, non-essential tips on this list. Know your route and the estimated time round trip. Starting late can be disastrous particularly if you’re not equipped for camping.
As a general rule of thumb, an ascent is going to take 2/3 of your time versus a descent. When you’re planning make sure you account for this difference. Don’t gas yourself on the way up.
This rule generally applies to camping, but its relevant when hiking too. Leave the trail how you found it. No one should know that you’ve been there.