Summer can seem like a long way away, especially when we are in the depths of this La Niña weather, but warmer months are just around the corner and that means plenty of summer hikes ahead. Planning for a hike is almost certainly the most important thing you do before setting off on your next adventure but too often hikers leave it to the last minute and undercook their plans. Today we are going to cover the things you can do right now to set yourself up for a summer full of adventure while keeping yourself safe.
How long does it really take to plan a hike?
Though on the surface it can seem quick and easy to plan a hike, it isn’t always true. Day hikes are considers to be very simple to plan and this is simply because as we all know they don't have the complexity of camping overnight and having to cook multiple meals.
Overnight hiking on the other hand is a totally different beast which requires a substantial amount of planning. Depending on how long and difficult the hike you are planning to do is, you can expect to be spending anything in-between a month all the way up to a year (some tracks need to be booked far, far ahead of departure) which means if you are starting to think about a grand summer adventure the time to start is now.
How do I plan for success?
In theory you should just be able to find a track, pack the bags and go but doing this has gotten many hikers in some dangerous situations. When you have found a trail you like that matches your physical abilities you can start to plan your hike.
The key to planning is research, look online to see what other hikers have said, read trip reports, find guide books and search for anything else that will help you understand what is required for this specific trail.
These books, guides, videos and articles can all give you a better understanding of some of the specific gear you will need, where you can find water and how rough the trail is for ‘this’ particular hike. All of this is an important part of planning as no one packing list can take into account every possible hike and it's conditions.
Once you have a good idea of the terrain, general conditions, challenges and have a good quality copy of a map you can start creating ‘your’ plan.
Some key things you will want to include are:
- When you are leaving and returning.
- The campsites are you camping at.
- The people coming with you.
- Your emergency plans (e.g. escape routes, fire plans, etc.).
- What you are packing.
- What you are eating.
- Where you are getting drinking water from.
- Who you are leaving your plans with in case things go wrong.
- Your transport to and from the hike.
This is certainly not everything you will need to plan for or consider and every trail differs so there may be somethings that is specific to the hike you are undertaking you need to take into account (remember your research).
Some other things you may need to consider are:
- Do all group members have the fitness level for this hike?
- Have you booked your campsites and/or gotten permits for the area?
- Do we have the equipment to undertake this hike?
- How will we follow the principles of ‘leave no trace’ while on the trail?
Once you've planned everything out you can get packing, ticking off everything on your list and then set off for what is hopefully a successful and exciting adventure.
Why should you start sooner rather than later?
Well as I've outlined above, there is a lot of things to consider when researching and planning a hike which means this takes time. Winter can make summer seem so far away but in reality we are only a few months from the warmer weather setting in and setting off on some fun adventures.
The sooner you start planning these hikes which might only be a few months away, the safer you and the people hiking with you will be. So set aside some time and start researching where you plan to set off for next.
Remember, you can over-plan
Though everything I have said up until this point may give the impression that your hike should be planned down to every minute of every day, I would like to stress otherwise. This is an adventure so some spontaneous stuff is going to happen and this is very much a good thing. Planning is great but over-planning is ultimately wasting your time as you are inevitably going to end up deviating from it at some points. So long as the important stuff that keeps you safe is correct (and you follow it) you can be pretty sure that you are going to have a great time.
This blog was written by our mate and Ottie Merino wearer, Josh Welch. Check our Josh's site, A Hikers Friend, for more info on what he's up to.