The scorching temperatures of summer are slowly turning into a memory instead of a reality. The seasonal landscape colors are slowly but surely changing from greens to brilliant yellows, oranges, reds, and browns as the weather and the trees are finally changing.
It's one of the best times of the year to see the brilliant colors of fall, especially hiking trails that end in stunning vistas and views you won't find hardly anywhere else. Not to mention that there'll be less bugs and, in some cases, less crowds along the trail too. It's the perfect time for hiking, and if you're well prepared for whatever the trails throw at you, it's the season to make the greatest, memorable hikes.
If you're a seasoned mountaineer or just getting into the wonderful world of hiking, we've got some great tips for you to ensure your hikes this fall will be safe and memorable.
- Safety first.
You may picture first aid kits when you read the words, "safety first." And that is a very valid thought: but one of the most important things that we may forget when going hiking is keeping warm and dry.
Make sure you check the weather reports for your area before and during your hike if possible. Weather conditions change rapidly this time of year and be prepared for anything. Dress in layers, making sure one of those layers is a wicking base layer, a fleece layer, and a waterproof shell. It's definitely a good idea to pack a warmer coat as well. You may feel like you won't need the warmer coat while working up a sweat as you climb or walk, but if you get chilled or if the weather turns nasty, you'll be very glad you packed it.
Try to avoid wearing denim or cotton. Cotton holds onto water, so while sweating it will hold onto that dampness. If things turn cold and wet, you'll get chilled quickly.
For those new to the hiking experience:
• Base layer/wicking layer: This is the layer worn right against your skin. A wicking layer should be made from of a material that can pick up moisture from skin and 'wick,' it away from you. It should fit snugly.
• Fleece layer: This is the layer between your base clothing and outer layer. It's meant to trap air and keep you warm and dry.
• Waterproof shell: This is your jacket.
- Take care of your feet.
What you wear when going hiking will make the difference. A good pair of hiking boots or shoes that are comfortable and already broken in will make sure that the miles you cover won't result in aching feet. You'll want a pair of good boots or shoes that are waterproofed with a sturdy tread to avoid slipping on wet rocks, leaves, or undergrowth.
- Go with a friend or let someone know your hiking plans.
The saying, "there's safety in numbers," is especially true when hiking. If you're going to cover very rough terrain, or are in bear country, invite a friend to come along. If you've not met any hiking buddies, make sure to communicate your plans to go hiking to anyone you know—and when you expect to get back in case of the worst scenario of you getting lost or hurt.
- Always pack the essentials just in case.
There are essential items that you should always pack and carry with you when you go hiking. These items are for your safety and to cover any scenario you might face when on the trail.
- Carry a detailed map of the area and a compass, even if you have a GPS or smartphone.
- Water. Heatstroke, hypothermia and altitude sickness can all be something you may be more susceptible to without staying hydrated. Carry water with you and if possible, consider carrying a water filter, purifier or chemical tablets.
3. Food: You're going to be burning calories and will need the food to keep your body going. Try to carry extra, at least one days' worth. Make sure it's something that stores well for a long time, doesn't require preparation, and is high in energy.
- Firestarter. Waterproof matches in a water-tight container and a waterproof striker is always an excellent essential, especially in dire situations where getting dry and keeping warm is needed.
- First aid kit. Don't just have the standard first aid kit. Make sure the supplies you have in your first aid kit can deal with major injuries. It would be advised to make sure you have the know-how in treating major injuries and using the kit as well.
- Tools. A knife or a multi-tool will be indispensable in any backcountry you plan to explore. They can help you prepare tinder, wood, cut moleskins, bandages, repair gear and much more.
- Flashlight. It can get dark out there in the evenings, quickly! Luckily, flashlights and lights these days come in extremely portable, lightweight options.
- Emergency tarp or a lightweight blanket. Another, 'just in case,' that will make you exceedingly grateful you packed it in dire situations. A tarp, or a blanket can protect and shelter you through an unexpected night outdoors.
- Choose the right trail for you.
It's probably obvious now that one of the most important tips for hiking is preparation and research. So, it's no surprise that one of the best tips is to know which trail is right for you, and then learning about that trail. Research your chosen hiking trails and choose your destinations during the day carefully. Know exactly where you may encounter creeks, rivers, if any trails are closed, where the trail branches off, and if possible where the ranger stations are and their numbers. You can even call ranger stations beforehand to get up-to-date current conditions.
If you've never hiked before and have no idea where to start, there are plenty of online resources for every region that can tell you all about the hiking experience and where to find them. It's important to pick a trail right for you to avoid exhaustion and dangers you may face.
Hiking holds a range of wonderful experiences for beginners and experts alike. The benefits of hiking are numerous from lowering your risk of heart disease or lowering blood pressure to simply calming the mind. This fall when you head to the outdoors to discover the next brilliant autumn view, remember these important safety and comfort tips to get the most out of your seasonal hiking experience.