You’re hiking through the woods, surrounded by majestic mountains, a trickling brook, and trees filled with the colors of Fall. But none of that seems to matter. Instead, you are annoyed by the mosquitoes biting you in places you didn’t even know you had, thirsty because you ran out of water back at Mile 2, and burnt to a nice lobster red. No matter the length of your planned hiking trip, some simple preparations can help you enjoy the journey so much more.
First, I cannot stress enough, bring more water than you think you will need. Some people are thirstier than others, so know yourself, and even better, know your hiking partner too because guess whose water bottle they’re going to be eyeing if their supply runs out. This comes from experience of a family hike we took in Hawaii back when I was young. My cousin and I didn’t know the full extent of just how desperate our situation was at the time, but now, that hike is forever known as the infamous “ran out of water hike” of 2001. While the trip itself was spectacular and filled with so many wonderful memories, that hike where we ran out of water comes up five times more often than any other memory–you do the math on what sticks with you.
Second, while fashion is by no means important to the birds and other wildlife that surround you during your hike, it does matter what you wear. Pure cotton is your enemy on hikes. It retains moisture longer, which means sweat or rain plus wind can leave you cold and damp for a very long time. Pay attention, as well, to what fabric your socks are; a cotton and wool mixture is a good option. And speaking of socks, on a longer hike, I like wearing two pairs for extra cushion and keeping any rain or puddle water out for just a little longer. Of course, having thick hiking socks on can be a little bulky, which is why a good shoe store will always recommend going a size larger than usual.
When in a climate where the weather can change quickly, layers are you friend. This might include a hat (baseball cap for the sun or beanie for cold), gloves, scarf, light jacket, rain jacket, sunglasses, etc. Sure, you could get lucky and not need your extra gear, or you could get unlucky and unexpectedly be stuck in the rain for three hours.
Third, have your backpack full of goodies that are there for whatever need comes up. A travel packet of tissues, hand sanitizer, Bandaids and Neosporin are my go-to medical kit. Also, if you are anything like me where if there is one mosquito within 100 miles, you get ten bites, some packets of mosquito repellent wipes are an easy way to make sure you cover all showing skin. Lastly, don’t forget snacks! Nothing is worse than being hungry on a hike (well, except for blisters, thirst, sunburn…why do we do this again?). The usual recommendations of granola bars and trail mix are still the top items. I also throw in a natural fruit bar for a quick sugar boost.
With your bag packed, water bottle filled, and hiking boots laced up, you’re ready to enjoy the journey.