In a world heavily focused on keeping in touch with people who surround us, it’s easy to lose touch with the world we live in. One of the greatest ways to refine your relationship with good old Mother Nature is letting the soles of your shoes meet the dirt of the trails. Whether it’s for a short evening hike or a multi-day backpacking trip, a hike can be the perfect break from today’s ever-updating world and interconnected spaghetti bowl of social media.
Hiking will forever be a favorite among everyday explorers for its simplicity. The only thing you really need to hike is a pair of shoes, and sometimes that’s not even necessary. Although hiking requires minimal equipment, certain unsaid rules accompany a day on the trails.
1. Leave no litter. One of the most important rules in outdoor exploration is to leave absolutely no litter. If you bring something in, you take it out with you. I don’t care if it’s something as small as a gum wrapper — you don’t leave that on the trail. This will ensure the trail remains clean and enjoyable for all hikers. Oh, and when I say hikers, I don’t just mean people. Dogs hike too. Dog owners who bring their pooch companions to the trails should be prepared with bags to deal with their pets’ waste. There’s nothing worse than a trail covered with dog feces. So remember, the only trace you leave should be your footprints on the trail.
2. Share trail space. This one seems pretty basic, but it’s important. Always stick to the right. If the trail isn’t wide enough for ascending and descending hikers to comfortably pass, the descending hikers should step aside and allow the ascending hikers to pass. Hiking uptrail requires more energy than hiking down, so allow the hikers putting forth greater energy an opportunity to continue without stopping, unless they use the encounter as an opportunity for a short break and wave you ahead.
3. Hello hikers. Converse with other trail-trekkers. While this allows you an opportunity to meet interesting people, it also gives people a point of reference for your whereabouts in case of an emergency. By making sure a passing group remembers you, they may be able to identify where you were last seen on the trail if you go missing. By conversing with descending hikers, you’re also offered a chance to ask about trail conditions ahead and better prepare and understand the next steps of your trek.
4. Know your trail. You should never attempt a trail without understanding the specific conditions that accompany it. You should know how long the trail is and have a good estimate of about how long it will take you to complete. Include any stops for water, food, photos, rest or recreation you anticipate making to give you a reasonable trail-time estimate. Ensure that someone knows where you’re going and when you should be done, and check in with them as soon as you’re able. By having some background knowledge about the trail you’re about to take on, you’ll be better prepared, and in the end you’ll be safer for it.
5. Prepare for everything. On a trail, cloudy with a chance of rain translates into cloudy with chance of soaking-wet clothes and shoes and a definite drop in temperatures. Make sure you’ve checked the weather and have packed accordingly. Waterlogged shoes are a great way to end up with sore, blistered feet. This issue can be solved by throwing on a pair of rain pants and a rain coat that will keep the water from dripping into your shoes. The trick is understanding when to have them before the conditions requiring them have arrived. Garbage bags work as liners for non-waterproof packs, and Ziploc bags are a great waterproof option for keeping your camera, phone and other smaller things dry within your pack. Sunscreen is also a necessity that is often overlooked, but a great day in the mountains can turn into a dangerous encounter with a wet wind chill or a blistering sun if you don’t understand the type of weather you’re trekking into.