Eager to do some first-time dayhiking? Taking the family for a new adventure? Just looking for refreshers on ways to improve the quality of your outdoor experience? Here are some tips for all.
1. Acquaint yourself with the area and its trails ahead of time so you can set a reasonable timetable. Many guidebooks give time estimates for trails.
2. To save fuel and to avoid the nuisance of shuttling cars, plan hikes that begin and end at the same parking area.
3. Carry more water than you think you'll need—as much as you can comfortably carry. Fill your water bottles or hydration packs before you leave. Backcountry water sources are unpredictable.
4. Carry more food than you think you'll need. It's better to take extra snacks home with you than to go hungry on the trail. Take easy-to-eat foods high in protein and carbohydrates (like energy bars).
5. Store your clothing and food in different colored (or see-through) sacks in your pack so you can find them easily. Put the items you need most frequently—such as your water bottle, guidebook or jacket—at the top of your pack.
6. Weather on the trail can change quickly, especially in the mountains (or in Kansas—where you can wait 5 minutes and the weather will change!). Layer your garments, and be prepared for severe weather even if it looks perfect when you set off.
7. Start off slowly to avoid fatigue, and take frequent breaks. If you're not on a loop trail, turn back before you get tired—you still have to hike an equal distance back!
8. Let the slowest members of your group set the pace. If skill levels are dramatically different, break into small groups and meet at agreed-upon locations. You may want to carry two-way radios to stay in contact as you hike.
9. Practice low-impact hiking. Carry out whatever you pack in so others can enjoy the surroundings too.
10. To increase your chances of seeing wildlife, choose less traveled trails and start your hike early in the morning. (When you choose less traveled trails, you also help reduce erosion on overused ones.)
11. Leave your itinerary with someone you trust, and check in with them when you return.
By Heather Lansdowne. Reprinted from June 2006 issue of Outdoor News,
the newsletter for customers of The Pathfinder, Manhattan, Kansas.