So you’re a hiker…or you want to be one. That’s awesome! But just like any other outdoor activity there are important safety points worth noting.
Obviously you need to know what you’re doing out there in the wilderness, especially if you are overnight backpacking. But if you don’t, go with someone who does! There are plenty of places to find a hiking or backpacking buddy. Mountaineers.com offers guided trips you can sign up for, plus meetup.com allows users to join groups of all interests. You can even go to a talk at REI and perhaps meet your next hiking pal there!
Choose your Route
Where do you want to go? There are many guides, maps, and websites to help you decide which route is best for you depending on distance, expertise level, how far you want to drive, etc. A great resource is the Washington Trails Association. They even have a fantastic app called Trailblazer (available to iphones, androids, and windows phones) that you can use to search trails throughout the state and save them to your ‘backpack’ which you can access offline.
You definitely need to accurately assess how much time you have, how physically fit you are, time of year (this affects temperature and number of daylight hours), and what elevation gain you can handle. You will also need to know what kind of fees are involved and whether or not you need a specific pass.
If you need to train before hitting the trail, have a look at REI’s Backpacking Training Tips and Exercises.
This is a much smaller and simpler task for day hikes, but there are still a number of extremely important objects to have with you on the trail. The more people that go with you on your multi-day trip, the more you can spread out the goods and share, so keep that in mind so you don’t have unnecessary duplicates. The Washington Trails Association names the 10 Essentials as:
- Navigation – maps, compass, gps
- Hydration – water, purifier, etc
- Nutrition – including an extra day’s worth just in case
- Rain Gear and Insulation – waterproofs and layers (avoid cotton)
- Firestarter – waterproof matches in water-tight container, backup cigarette lighter
- First Aid Kit – full of useful supplies for the trails, and knowledge of how to use it
- Tools – duct tape and pocket knife
- Illumination – flashlight, spare batteries, extra bulb
- Sun Protection – sunglasses and sunscreen (snow can reflect wicked rays from a strange angle so lather up under your chin and nose)
- Shelter – space blanket, tarp, tent, etc, even if it’s not your plan to stay overnight
Other important things to pack, depending on your preferences include bug spray, whistle, gloves, signal mirror, extra socks, and bright gear for hunting season.
Have a great time out there and remember to be safe. ALWAYS make sure someone knows you’re out there and your intended route in case of any emergencies.