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The Ultimate Hiking Guide | HileHighValley

The Ultimate Hiking Guide | HileHighValley

The Ultimate Hiking Guide

“Hiking is like banging your head against the wall – it only feels good, when you stop” – I once read in a hiking magazine in a remote mountain hut. I personally, of course disagree with the statement, but I can see, how some adventures can end up like that. If you are not ready, do not have adequate skills, equipment and have completely different expectations about what your hiking trip might be like, even the most beautiful of trails can turn into a nightmare.

Hiking is a very broad umbrella term, covering anything from a 30-minute walk to a waterfall next to car-park to hiking the Appalachians. The experience and gear necessary for each level of activity will vary dramatically, obviously. However, each hiker needs to have a set of basic skills and knowledge to keep safe and be able to make the most of one’s time in the great outdoors.

I’ve been on countless hikes throughout my life, and have had a lot of conversations with beginner hikers about hiking.  Being in outdoors requires a subtle understanding of the environment and over the years I’ve met tens of people, who got into trouble not understanding these subtle aspects.

This ultimate hiking guide will be helpful for just about any hiking/outdoors enthusiast. This ultimate guide is split into several sections.


Hiking Safety……………………………………………(Click to skip to this section)

Hiking Food……………………………………………..(Click to skip to this section)

Appropriate Hiking Gear…………………………….(Click to skip to this section)

Seasonal Hiking……………………………………….(Click to skip to this section)

Group/Family Hiking…………………………………(Click to skip to this section)

Hiking Footwear………………………………………..(Click to skip to this section)

Conditioning and stretching for hiking…………….(Click to skip to this section)

Popular National Parks……………………………….(Click to skip to this section)






Hiking Safety

Planning a hike

Hiking safety is a very broad, yet a topic of primary importance for any hiker and outdoors enthusiast. There are many aspects to it, and in a way, all the following topics discussed are related to hiking safety. But in this section I would like to talk about getting ready for a hike – planning, gear, taking necessary safety precautions and advice in the event of emergency.



Any hiking trip begins with good planning and preparation. Take your time to get each of the following steps right to avoid any unpleasant surprises, while on the hike. Firstly, know your route. Before you head out and even start getting ready for the trip, learn as much as you can about your route and plan how long each section of it will take you. Use hiking guides, local tourist information centers, topographical maps and even Google Earth to determine a) the total distance of your hike; b) the total elevation gain as well some major steep, extended climbs; c) the type of terrain you will be traversing, will it be a well-groomed trail hike or a high snowy and icy mountain pass; d) are there any special terrain features like rivers to cross, steep climbs or exposed to bad weather stretches of the route; e) what are your options for overnighting – are there huts or nice valleys for camping.

With this knowledge, you can start setting your daily goals. The distances you can cover each day will depend on the terrain, elevation gain, your fitness, level of experience moving through the terrain and finally the load of your pack; if you are planning a longer trip, each day you are likely to cover less, as you will have to carry a load of supplies.

An average hiker on an average difficulty hike will usually cover 15-20 km a day. This will highly depend on the weather/trail conditions, so always leave some reserve time in a day. An average hiking pace on flat terrain is considered 4km/hours. You should also add around 5-15 minutes for every 100 m gain in elevation. The times will of course vary on the hiker’s experience and fitness. Many popular trails have time estimates calculated that you can look up.

If you are doing a multi-day hike through mountains, you should count 1-2 days extra into your planning, in case the weather changes. Some countries are especially notorious for that; for example New Zealand, where you are highly unlikely to get 4-5 good days in a row of good weather.

Many beginner hikers I know see hiking as a romantic, where one should “be rambling wild and free”, but I would like to warn you not to be so naïve about it. There will be plenty of space for romanticism and freedom, even, when you do have a well calculated plan. Always have a plan and know what you are getting yourself into!


Know your abilities

If you are new to hiking, consider starting with less challenging hike, with plenty of time and space for error. If you have an opportunity, bring someone experienced along. If you are also new to extended physical activity, be conservative with your goals, and do not count on your body to cover 5 times longer distances than it is used to. Also take into consideration the weight you will be carrying, and the likely fatigue you will be experiencing on the second and third days, etc.


Know your terrain

Hiking in forests is different than travelling over glaciers or traversing deserts. Each type of terrain will pose unique gear/skill requirements and will offer some unique challenges. If you are new to the terrain type and/or hiking destination, you should do some research about the weather, area-challenges, conditions, etc. Regardless of how experienced you are, it is also always very useful to consult local tourist or hiking/eco-activity office and talk to local guides. This way you can learn, if there have been some changes to trail/area conditions, if there have been fires, floods or observed animal activity.  You should also inquiry about any accommodation options; if you are planning to stay in a backcountry hut, you should check if it is open and functional, as the opposite is also sometimes possible (it has happened to me).

If you’ll be crossing alpine and/or winter terrain, you should check if there is snow, and be properly equipped and trained. Do not overestimate snowy slopes, if you do not have mountain/alpine experience. Hiking in sneakers over snow can result in you slipping and falling to your death (not exaggerating).


Hike with friends

There are a number of reasons, why hiking buddies make your trip safer and more efficient (and more fun!).

  • In case of any accident, such as sprained ankle, sickness or even hypothermia, your hiking comrades are the ones who might save your life.
  • Discussing hiking route and options with a hiking buddy is a good safety system that you are on the right way as well as being an efficient system for any problem solving. “Two heads are better than one” – they say.
  • It does miracles for your confidence. Few people manage to deal with unforeseen problems, issues and complication in a calm manner, when alone in the outdoors. It requires a lot of experience and a certain type of personality to stay rational on your own, when you feel you are in trouble. If you are with someone you can trust, resolving any problems suddenly becomes easier.
  • You can divide the shared gear load, like a tent and stove for more lightweight hiking. 1 person tent is not much lighter than a two person tent; and you can do the math.

Having all this in mind, do not pick your hiking buddies blindly. A less fit and less experienced person is likely to slow you down, so you should adjust your plans based on that. A less experienced person is also likely to be less comfortable in more challenging and exposed terrain; you should ask if the potential hiking buddy (-ies) has any fears, phobias and reservations. It is also wise, to double check if both of you are adequately ready gear-wise.

On the other side of the spectrum, if people you are heading out with are much more experienced, you should discuss the trip objectives to suit your abilities and expectations, as it is very easy to get in trouble with peer-pressure and ambitious trip goals.

An ideal hiking buddy is someone of similar (or slightly higher) experience level, or an experienced person, who knows your abilities well and is willing to provide sensible mentorship.


Leave your intentions with someone

A very good practice, when heading out on a trip is to leave your trip intentions with someone at home. Let them know of your exact route and any alternative or side trips you might take. Let them know of what are your goals for each day, and when are you planning to come back to civilization. It is also wise to set a “panic” date, after which, emergency search and rescue organizations should be notified.

Some countries have established systems for that, where you can leave your intentions with national park rangers.

We all have seen the movie 127 hours, and I am sure we have learned some valuable life lessons from it: tell someone, where you are going, take some friends along or take a sharper knife.


Emergency gear

Emergency gear will slightly differ in each situation, but a few must-have items for all hikers, including day-trippers, include emergency shelter, first aid kit and extra food. A tent is very good to have if you are heading out to rugged terrain on your own. A very good, potentially life-saving addition to any gear kit is an emergency (space) blank/bivy.  It only weighs 100-200g and can serve as an emergency sleeping bag, rain jacket and even tent if need-be. Due to its shiny surface, space blanket can also serve as a signaling tool; in case you are being rescued (people are often very hard to spot in forests and mountains).

I will discuss the first aid kit for hiking in the next section, but I would like to stress its importance in any hiking kit (including lightweight day hikes). Finally – food. Always have extra food in case you get trapped due to bad weather or get injured. Extra 2-3 days’ worth of food is a standard in any multi-day hiking backpack.

Some specialized emergency gear also includes satellite phones, personal locator beacons, GPS devices and avalanche gear for winter hiking. In some cases, you might even get cell-phone reception, so it is worth saving your battery, by keeping your phone switched off. Sadly, however, in many cases you won’t have any reception, and that’s when the satellite phone comes in – a very expensive way to communicate with the outside world to receive help.

Personal Locator Beacons are very useful tools. They get very small these days, and once switched-on they send a one-way GPS help signal for the Search and Rescue (SAR) bodies. You will have to check rescue options in each country though. The downside of the personal locator beacons is that that they have a substantial error radius, especially in narrow mountain valleys. Moreover, it is a one way signal, hence you will not be able to tell if help is on its way… and it might be a few days until someone comes for you.

GPS gear can be an incredible help if you are a lost. GPS devices these days get as small as to fit a watch, and you can use them to both navigate and back-track your recorded route. Be wise about blindly following your GPS route, as they only reflect the macro-route features and won’t necessary show micro-terrain features, such as a 5m cliff.

Avalanche gear is an absolutely essential in winter hiking, and will be described in more detail in further section, talking about winter hiking.


In case of emergency

Stay calm and assess your situation and options. Assess your resources, evaluate, how far you are from safety, what are your action options. Does anyone know if you are away? How long would it take for someone to start looking for you? In many cases finding shelter and staying put is the best thing to do, especially if you have a tent. However, if you haven’t notified anyone it might take too many days for anyone to find you.

If you’re lost, see if you can backtrack the route, do you remember and major landscape features? Do you have a compass and a map that could help you figure out where you are? Some basic navigation skills are what any hiker should have be able to read a topogrphic map can be crucial to survival if lost. You can learn how to read a topographic map here. If you’re injured, assess the seriousness of your injury and how fast you can move.


First Aid Kit for Hiking

Do not ever think of yourself as invincible. Stuff happens and often at the worst times possible. First aid kit and first aid skills are a safety net any hiker should have, when heading into outdoors. Ideally, you should take some time to do an outdoors first aid course. These are specialized trainings, tuned to dealing with frequent outdoors injuries/accidents, using available tools.

Every first–aid kit should have:

  • Some sticky sports or even electric tape for blisters and other diverse uses.
  • Some band-aids, large wound-covers.
  • Elastic bands for sprains and broken bones.
  • Some disinfective wipes/solution and/or antibiotic ointments for wounds.
  • Painkillers and/or anti-inflammatory pills.
  • Space-blanket

Common hiking injuries and emergencies

There is a list of commonly occurring injuries and emergencies that every hiker should know how to deal with. The complete information set is too large to be covered here, but you should look at sources like this for more first-aid situations and techniques. You should also gather your first aid kit depending on the possible hazards in your hiking environment and any medical conditions you have. For example if you are allergic to some insects or plants, take some appropriate medication.


Hypothermia – is a drop in body’s core temperature; a very dangerous situation and a common cause of death among hikers. It is important to know how to recognize and treat hypothermia both in yourself and your hiking buddies, but given its life-threatening nature, it is best to learn, how to prevent it from happening.

Hypothermia is not about just having cold hands or feet, it is about your inner body temperature dropping below the functional norm, resulting in vital organ shutdown, loss of consciousness and death. When a person becomes hypothermic, their body might not be able to warm themselves anymore, and immediate help from others is likely to be essential.

A hypothermic person often becomes confused, delirious, she/he often stop shivering or feeling any cold and can start feeling the opposite, taking off layers as feeling very hot. If you observe that in a hiking buddy, immediately make shelter and get the person out of the elements. Ideally, you should get them indoors into some heated environment or at least a tent. If you do not have access to that, assess the situation on how far the shelter is and what are your options. Emergency space blankets, plastic backpack liners could be life savers in this situation. Get them out of any wet clothes too, of course. If the person is hypothermic, do not leave them alone.  Since they are likely not to be able to produce heat themselves, you might have to use your own body heat to warm them up. Give them sugar-dense snacks and warm (but not hot) drinks.

DO NOT GIVE HYPOTHERMIC PERSON ALCOHOL. Even if it might make one feel warmer, it actually makes one’s core body loose heat and get colder faster. Hence, by giving hypothermic person alcohol, it might result in their death.

The best way to treat hypothermia is to avoid it. If you start getting cold for an extended period of time or hear your hiking friend complaining about being cold or suddenly becoming quiet and slow, assess how far is shelter or safe/shelter area (in case you are descending from higher, more exposed ground). If shelter is far, and you are starting to get too cold, find or make shelter and remove yourself/your friend from the elements. Wind and rain make you lose your body heat very fast.

When you start feeling cold, move faster and snack on high calorie foods – this helps your body generate more heat. If you are on your own and have a way to make shelter, do that, as there will be no one to help you if you actually become hypothermic.



Hyperthermia or a heat shock is also common amongst hikers. The affected person might become delirious, nauseous or even unconscious. Get the hyperthermic person out of the heat and provide them with fluids with rehydration formula. Wet towels are an effective way to help to cool the person down. If that is not an option, ventilating, ensuring air circulation around the victim can also help.



Dehydration is very common among hikers, athletes and regular city folk. Dehydrated people feel lightheaded, weak, tired, confused, their vision might blur. Urine colour is a good indicator of your hydration levels. People might get dehydrated after an intense physical activity, or after prolonged heat exposure. Dehydration is a frequent outcome of diarrhea and even fever.

In severe dehydration, plain water might not be enough to replenish fluids. Water with salts and sugars is as much more effective way to hydrate; you can either use sports drinks or add rehydration tablets to your water or just some table salt with sugar could also do. Juice and milk and watery foods are excellent ways to rehydrate as well.


Ankle sprain

Camping First Aid

Traveling on uneven terrain with a heavy pack increases your chances of spraining your ankle. If in a city, it would be just an annoying inconvenience, but if you are in the wilderness, it could be a major challenge. Use sports tape or elastic band to immobilize the ankle. Hiking poles or just a regular tree branch will help you walk with the injured limb. Ideally, you will have your friends there to take off your load and help you with walking.



Best way to deal with blisters is to avoid getting them. If you are starting to feel any friction points, use a layer of sports tape to reinforce the skin; make sure the tape to be even with no wrinkles on the area.



If you fell and bruised anything resulting in damaged skin and bleeding, firstly, clean the wound for there to be no mud or other pollutants in it. You can use just plain clean drinking water with some clean padding or a cloth as a sponge. If you have some antiseptic wound wash, use that (but make sure you can wash the wound directly with it). Once the wound is clean, apply a thin layer of antiseptic antibiotic ointment and cover it with sterile wound cover. Depending on your first-aid resources, try to change the wound dressing regularly.

If you noticed, most of outdoors emergencies are nothing to do with illnesses or bleeding, and are related with not taking care of oneself in the wilderness. At any given point, make sue to hydrate, eat enough food and not get too cold, wet or hot, when hiking.


Hiking Foods

The best tips for hikers

After a long day of walking, there is nothing like a satisfying meal. But how does one balance the weight of your pack and the “satisfying meal” part? Don’t backcountry hikers only eat rice? I won’t deny it, rice takes a very important part of any hiker’s life … But luckily there are some clever ways of making it more interesting.

Before deciding on the menu, first answer yourself, how many days will you be out for and what cooking facilities you will have.


Cooking gear

If you are going on a multi-day/overnight trip and will not have access to a kitchen/cooking facilities, you will need to take some cooking gear with you. The bare essentials are a cooking stove and gas, cooking pot with a lid, a cup, a knife and some spoon or “spork”.

If you won’t be hiking at a high elevation, a simple lightweight cooking stove will work. You can get these as light as less than 100g that pack to a tiny box, which is quite unbelievable. Purchase a gas canister for fuel. There a few different types of gas, so check with staff for the gas to suit your stove.

Hiking cookware should be as light as possible. I usually take one one-person pot that I use as a pot and a plate. Titanium hiking pots are the lightest ones out there. They are a bit costly, but a worthy investment, as the weight difference is quite substantial. If you are into luxury items like cups, you should either look at titanium ones or light plastic options. I often use my Nalgene water bottle for my tea and drinks.

A good knife is useful not only for cooking uses, but as a piece of gear in general. I just have a basic Swiss army knife and it serves me well.


Cooking food

Hiking food should be lightweight, long-lasting and nutritious. As regular food, hiking food can be categorized into: breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners.



Breakfast will have to keep you going until you stop for the night end of the day. A good nutritious high energy breakfast options are:

  • Oats with dried nuts and fruit (and brown sugar for extra energy and taste)
  • Peanut butter and bread/crackers
  • Cereals, couscous, energy bars
  • Ready freeze-dried breakfast meals, such as Mountain House.



You will usually be eating lunches on the road, so you need ready-to-eat high energy, nutritious options, such as:

  • Crackers, bread, wraps, rice crackers
  • Cheese, ham, salami
  • Peanut butter
  • Variations of Trail Mix and snack bars
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Fruit (if you are day-tripping)
  • Protein bars


Snacks are there to keep you going in high energy consuming hiking activities. Those are usually carbohydrate-dense, with fast absorbing sugars. If I am day-hiking, I tend to take some more natural “healthier” options like bananas, apples, oranges and carrots. While, if you are out for many days, you want something as calorie dense as possible, like trail mix, snack bars, cookies, chocolate, dried fruit (apricots, mangoes, raisins, dates). Basically use the opposite of what we are used to in the modern society, and choose food that have the highest number of calories possible per weight.



Having a proper dinner meal is essential in order to recover after a long day of hiking. Regardless if you arrive late to your overnight stay site or are very tired, make yourself a proper dinner or you will be suffering severely the next day.

It is of course difficult to carry and prepare dinners from raw whole ingredients, but there are some lightweight options out there. You can also do some pre-cooking to prepare for your trip. Some good combinations could be mixing some of these ingredients.

  • Rice/couscous/polenta/mashed potatoes/buckwheat/
  • Ham, salami, canned tuna/salmon/chicken, sardines, dehydrated meat
  • Tofu, cheese, powdered milk for sauces
  • Dehydrated vegetables
  • Instant soups, instant noodles, miso soup

The way I structure my meals for backcountry is combine some carbohydrate base that will make the majority of my meal (pasta, rice, couscous and similar), protein/fat component (cheese, powdered sauces, canned or dehydrated meat/fish) and some dehydrated/powdered seasoning.

Some tips:

  • When cooking your meal, bring your water to boil (or just before the boil) and leave your meal soak with a lid on. This will help you save gas.
  • If you are painfully tired of all the regular dehydrated meals you can find a supermarket, have a visit to your local Asian market, as they tend to stock a larger variety of dried products and lightweight seasonings.
  • If you are going on a longer trip or want to go lighter, you can take more simplistic food. Taking canned fish is a luxury and not a necessity; I usually alternate full dinners to more ascetic ones every other night. Do take enough food to feel full, but do not be too worried taking all food groups.
  • Polenta is by far the lightest hiking food – it absorbs water like crazy, making even half a cup of dry grain – a sufficient for a meal.
  • Eat the heaviest/fastest spoiling foods first.
  • Most people are not very good hydrating enough during the day of hiking, so make sure to drink enough in the evening to replenish all the fluids lost
  • Hydration tablets make hydration more efficient and help you keep sufficient energy levels. I often have a tiny bit of a hydration tablet on its own and let it melt in my mouth; this provides me with salts I am losing through intense activity.
  • Do not forget hot chocolate and powdered desserts – these are a good, lightweight calorie additions.
  • Coffee and tea might seem like a luxury, but they provide a lot of comfort and even recovery, when in the backcountry. Coffee is known for its recovery powers.
  • Tiny pepper, salt and salad dressing sachets are a good way to add some flavor.
  • Popcorn! Yes, you can make popcorn! Just put some in a pot with a lid over your stove and keep on gently moving the pot. Can there be anything better than watching sunset in mountains with a bowl of popcorn?
  • Marshmallows over candle/stove/campfire flame for those hiking dates and ghost stories.
  • Some people carry olive oil and drink it for food, arguing that it is the most lightweight calorie source… but I personally am not a fan of the idea.

Gluten-free hiking food

Gluten-free hiking food is a bit less abundant and definitely more expensive. If you are under a strict Gluten-free diet, whether by choice or forced by the coeliac disease, there are still some good options for you. Rice, polenta, buckwheat, rice noodles and mashed potatoes make excellent gluten-free dinner bases. You can also find gluten-free porridge and cereals these days.

The most difficult to find are snacks. There are some gluten-free snack bars and protein-bars out there. You can also eat rice and corn crackers with peanut or almond butter, seeds and carefully selected trail mix. If you feel motivated, you can always make some gluten-free brownies and home-made snack-bars.


Appropriate Hiking Gear

how to pick hiking gear

It takes some research and a lot of experience to know what will be the best hiking gear option. Before selecting your gear kit, think about the duration of the trip, the season, the range of temperatures and conditions you are likely to experience, the terrain and your personal fitness/tolerance levels.

Generally put, your hiking gear should be weather-proof, lightweight, durable, breathable and comfortable. Materials, technologies and designs of hiking gear are advancing very fast these days and the available assortment is incredible, with the most specialized of uses.

Here are the main gear components and what to look at, when choosing.


Hiking Wear

Hiking wear layers could be separated into a few categories – base layers, insulating layers and hardshells/windbreakers for climate protection. The exact combination and the type of each layer will depend on your activity, temperature, duration of the trip. Some of the most essential pieces of gear for any hiker are listed below.


Lightweight breathable base layers

Assuming you will be spending more time walking, than sitting around and having snacks, you will be consuming a lot of energy and generating a lot of heat. A pair of shorts and a synthetic or lightweight wool t-shirt is the best combination for summer hiking. Choose lightweight, breathable, quick-drying materials.

Avoid anything that has any cotton in it! Cotton absorbs water very well (think about towels) and makes you cold, when wet. Cotton t-shirts, jeans and cotton hoodies are terrible for hiking, especially for any multi-day, variable weather pursuits. If you are out hiking for a few hours, it is not a big deal of course;  but these materials are not suitable for backcountry.

Wool, especially merino fabrics are known for their amazing properties and durability. A wool shirt will keep you warm, will dry fast and will quickly wick any moisture out of your body. Merino wool is also amazing at taming those body odors…


Insulating/warmth layers

These are any layers with the purpose of keeping you warm. They vary in types, purpose, thickness and materials. You can divide insulating layers into mid and outer layers. Mid layers should be worn on top of your base layers and are usually close fitting and relatively thin. The most common materials include merino wool, fleece and other breathable synthetic materials. Outer layers are worn as 3-4th layer and tend to be made from wool, down or soft-shell.


Hard-shells for weather protection

Hard-shells are usually just relatively lightweight thin jackets and pants, created to protect you from wind, rain and snow. They do not seem very warm, when looking from outside, but that supreme insulation allows your body warmth to accumulate, as you are not losing any to wind or wetness. If you were to take a single emergency layer, it should always be a hardshell.

For colder and especially stormy conditions, it is also recommended to wear hardshell trousers. Think about hardshell layers like your personal tent that protects you from the elements. Another good option for trousers for weather protection and warmth are softshell pants. They are usually somewhat water-resistant, but more stretchy and warmer.


The Layering Principle

When in the backcountry, it is wise to combine a few layers than to have one exceptionally thick jacket. It is easier to find the best combination, when the combinations vary. The layer should also vary in materials and thickness to achieve the best insulation result. Think if you were to wear three same type t-shirts on top of each other, you probably wouldn’t feel much warmer.

The most common system would be a light breathable synthetic or wool shirt or t-shirt as a base layer, then a thicker wool shirt as a mid-layer and a thicker fleece jacket or thick wool hoodie as an extra-warm mid layer. Finally, if it is much colder outside, you should also add a down jacket your kit. Finally, as discussed above, you should always have a waterproof and windproof outer layer, especially if on a multi-day trip through mountains.

For your lower body, a pair of long merino underwear and a pair of softshell, synthetic or hardshell pants is usually a good combination for most conditions.


Managing your clothing items, when on multi-day trips

When out for many days, you will need a clothing managing system. Since you will be carrying everything on your shoulders, you cannot take too much with you. The general rule is to have one set of clothes you will wear during the day outside and one dry set for when you stop for the night. Even if you get your day hiking clothes wet, you should still keep a set dry in case you have to get warm, when you stop. If you are hiking in summer, and it is raining, it is sometimes even better to just wear fewer clothes to avoid getting them wet. Make sure to move fast though and avoid getting cold.


Hiking packs

Hiking pack, needless to say, is a very important piece of gear. The main criteria you should think about are a) its carrying capacity/volume – it should be big enough to fit everything you will need for your trip b) its fit – your hiking pack should be the right size and fit you well; c) have technical features to make certain types of trips easier, more comfortable.


Hiking pack volume

Hiking packs come in various sizes, and the best choice depends on the duration of the trip and the amount of gear you have to carry. Remember that some items, like tents can be attached to the outside of your pack. For day hikes, 20-30L packs are the best fit. Light overnight trips require a 30-50L pack, while for anything longer you should choose a 50-70L pack. You can get ever larger packs 80-100L are more, but those work best for very long backcountry hikes or more technical outings.

Backpack fit

First and foremost, the hiking pack should be of the right size for you. Many packs can be adjusted, but make sure you find something that fits you comfortably. If in doubt, ask shop assistants for help; they are usually well trained on these topics.

Packs will also differ on the level of cushioning and how they fit on your shoulders and back. Purely hiking and trekking packs are more bulky, highly padded and are wider from width. This provides you with more comfort and fatigues your shoulders less. However, extensive cushioning and broad profile makes it more difficult to move your arms and the movement the pack might feel a bit misbalancing.

IF you might be hiking a more technical terrain and might have to use your arms, I suggest you look at packs designed for alpine climbing. These have less cushioning, but are still very comfortable, with a lightweight frame system. They are designed for mountaineers and climbers that have to be able to move their arms and head freely, but would also faster-pace hikers, who like to explore variable terrain.


Technical pack features

Ice axe loops, pockets, compartments all contribute to making your pack comfortable to use and easy to store your items. The exact specifications will depend on the exact pack use; hence do some research to see, what could be best for your hiking.

A few things that are also important in a pack are for it to be waterproof and the materials – durable and sturdy. The bottom part of the pack should be reinforced and thicker not to rip as fast, when placing your pack on rugged ground. Many lightweight packs do not have the latter feature, making them lighter, but they do not last as long; what combination you want to settle with is your decision to make.

A few of our favorite bags are listed below

North Face Borealis

Osprey Atmos 65

Gregory Baltoro 75


Hiking shelter

Hiking shelter can be life-saving. Think about it this way, whether you get injured, lost or stuck in bad weather, as long as you have a way to stay warm(-ish) and dry(-ish), you are not doomed. Due to an incredible advance in hiking shelter gear technology, it is no longer a burden to carry a tent or a bivy bag on you.

The main types of shelters are tents, bivy bags and tarps.



Tents are designed to provide weather protection against rain, snow and wind, at the same time offering some living space. The two main types of tents you can get are highly lightweight single-wall tents performing best in alpine environments, where the main elements to deal with are snow and wind, and two-wall tents better suited for rainy conditions. If you are going on a regular hiking trip, a two-wall tent is a more reliable option.

Depending on the type of terrain you will be hiking in, you should choose your tent geometry and sturdiness. While almost any tent will be suitable for summer camping in good weather in a valley or at a beach, mountainous areas and more intense climates demand a tent that would survive high winds and heavy rainstorms and blizzards.

When purchasing a tent, think about the number of people it will be used for. You can find 1-person, 2-person and larger tents. Each of them will still vary in their floor space; some 1-person tents can be used for 2 people, while many 2-person tents are enough for three people. The size of the tent will influence the weight and the living comfort of the tent. Generally a lightweight 2-person tent is a good choice for anyone to have, as you can use it, when hiking with a friend, or have excellent living conditions while on your own.

Since some tents are very lightweight these days and are made of super lightweight, delicate membranes,   it is advisable to use tarps underneath for longer tent life.


Bivy bags

Bivy bags are very lightweight single person camping option. Bivy bag is an outer hard-shell bag that you fit in with your sleeping bag. It provides a waterproof, windproof protective layer; most of bivy bags also have framing to create some space around your face. Bivy bags are perfect in relatively good weather; if you want to sleep under starry night sky. If you will be dealing with heavier rains, you should take a camping tarp along or look for shelter under trees and rocks.

Bivy bag should be lightweight, yet durable. Check its waterproofness and comfort temperature rankings. One major drawback of a bivy bag is that all your kit stays outside, so it is a good idea to have a way to put everything under some shelter.

Camping tarps

Camping tarp are a wonderful lightweight addition to your bivy bag, under which you can store your hiking kit, cook meals and just “hang out”. Hiking poles can be used to elevate tarps, allowing you to save some weight.

Camping tarps work well on their own if camping in warm summer and desert conditions. They will protect you from any precipitation you might experience, while still allowing you to sleep in pure fresh air. As you might expect, they are not so good if it is stormy.


Hiking poles

Hiking poles are not only for older people or those with knee problems. Hiking poles help you to distribute the forces across your body, aiding you with your downhills, uphills and while carrying a load. At least 10-15% of your weight is transferred to your upper body from your knees, both protecting your joint longevity and reducing fatigue over-day. Poles also allow easier traverse through loose terrain and snow.

When buying a pair of poles, choose a pair that would suit your height. Lightness and grip comfort are highly important characteristics. Many poles are collapsible for carrying convenience.

If you want to read more about hiking poles and how to best choose them, read through this review.


Season Hiking

Winter hiking tips

Hiking is usually considered a summer good weather endeavor, but with the right gear and preparation, you do not have to be as limited.  Winter hiking can be a magic experience, if done properly.


Summer hiking

Summer hiking assumes higher temperatures and drier, more stable conditions. That is subject to the area, climate zone and elevation. If you will be hiking over mountains, expect less stable weather, and likely very cold temperatures, rain and even snow precipitation even in summer. If you are hiking in the mountains, you should check the mountain forecast, looking at predictions at various elevations, even if just day tripping.

People often underestimate the conditions they might experience, hiking on a bright summer day. It is  not infrequent that hikers in shorts and t-shirts get caught in bad weather midway through their day-walk, as they underestimated rapidly moving weather currents. Never take situations like that lightly and always have some emergency gear, light rain or wind jacket.

Winter hiking

Winter conditions will vary depending on the climate zone, terrain, so this description is quite relative, and best suited for colder climate areas. Usually by winter hiking, we mean dealing with low temperatures, short days, snow and ice. Multi-day hiking becomes much more challenging, as one will have to deal with more physically challenging and potentially dangerous conditions.

Traveling through snow is strenuous and often impossible, hence people usually employ snow-shoes or touring skis. Moreover, anyone travelling in winter conditions should have undergone avalanche training. Avalanches are one of the major killers in mountains and should never be taken lightly. You should have an avalanche kit on you – avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel, and make sure that everyone in the team is also trained and equipped. Winter hiking on your own is very dangerous. Depending on the terrain, you might also have to get some cramponing and self-arrest, using an ice axe, skills.

If your winters do not include a lot of snow, but there is ice and compact snow on trails, you should choose an adequate pair of sturdy hiking shoes and a pair of crampons to match.

When hiking in winter, you will also need warmer layers and more serious outer shells. Choose down, wool and fleece. It is best to layer each of the different types of materials to maximize the insulation. Do not forget hats and a pair of good gloves. If you are not used to hiking in low temperatures, I would advise going on shorter trips first, as this allows you to better understand the conditions and your body.

Hiking in winter is an absolutely wonderful experience, but the stakes are higher; hence a better preparation and more extensive knowledge about conditions is essential.


Group/family Hiking

Hiking with friends

Hiking with friends and family is safer and (usually) more fun. Think about it as an insurance policy; if something goes wrong, while hiking, you want someone to be there for you. If you are hiking with people, however, you should make sure that the trips plans are suitable for the weakest member of the group. It is important for every member of the group to be honest about their physical abilities, skills, experience and outdoors comfort levels.

Hiking in a group is usually slower, as there are mot reasons to stop; hence that should be taken into consideration. Someone should take initiative to keep everyone going and keeping to the schedule.


Choose a leader

Trip leader should be responsible for making clear plans and setting goals for each day. A good trip leader should know about each member’s abilities and recognize any issues, potential problems people might experience. Being a good hiking leader is a serious skill that comes with experience and training, but we can always do our best and try to be as responsible and rational as we can.


Hiking in a large group

Hiking in a group of 5 and more could be considered a big group. A certain level of discipline and commitment is required for everyone to move swiftly and make a lot of progress. If there are different levels of ability within the group, it sometimes makes sense to split the group. Each group should have an able leader, who knows, what the route and terrain is. The groups should make agreements, where and what time to meet, and what could be a plan in case of one group being late. If the visibility is bad, the group should not split, not to risk someone getting lost and trapped out.

Hiking with children

I am not an expert in children, but I would expect that as with any person, they need time getting used to the activity and the physical activity. I also heard that a lot of delicious snacks are in order. Sometimes it may help to bring some portable speakers along to keep the kids entertained. Check out this article on the loudest Bluetooth speaker on the market.

Be conservative with your planning, take it easy and just enjoy.

Here is some more advice on how to hike with children. And if you are in the market for childrens hiking boots we reccomend you check out guide to the best hiking boots for kids.

Hiking with dogs

hiking with dogs tips

If you have a beloved pet, you might want to share a wonderful hiking experience with it. Hiking with a dog could be a lot of fun, if you are ready properly.

Firstly, you should check if the trail is appropriate for dogs. Some locations, especially nature reserves, dogs might be required to be kept on a leash or even not allowed on trails. It is also not advisable to take dogs along on mountain biking tracks or technical trails.


Wild Animals

When you are out in the wild, you should play by its rules. Each hiker should understand and respect the nature; learn to coexist with all its elements and creatures. Humans are just one out thousands of species out there on the planet, each of them wonderful, interesting and with the right to live. Hence, before heading out, know your wildlife. Do some research about the area and learn if there any dangerous animals in the area or any habitats you might disturb. The wildlife you might encounter will depend on the area.

As a general rule, you should always respect and keep distance from any wildlife. Do not touch or approach any animals too close, especially if they might attack you.


Dangerous wild animals

Some common potentially dangerous wild animals include bears, wolves and cougars. Check for any wildlife reports and learn to read wildlife signs to avoid any unexpected encounters. Wild animals very rarely attack people and most attacks happen, when animals get caught unexpected. Avoid wild animals with offsprings; as they are more aggressive in these situations.

When you are in a bear or cougar country, it is best to travel in a group and make a lot of noise. Carry a can of bear spray for extra precaution and have it attached to your pack for easy access. If you are hiking on your own, it is even more important to make noise and carry bear spray, as you are more likely to be attacked, when traveling on your own. If you see any bear signs, such as footprints or freshly broken branches, try to leave the area as soon as possible.


Black bears vs. Grizzlies

Black bears and grizzlies are very different animals in terms of their appearance, behavior and potential threat to you. Black bears are the less dangerous type; they feed mainly on berries and are generally very timid and scared of people. If you ever see a black bear in your campsite or neighborhood, make a lot of noise, clap to scare the creature away. Do not give them food, as this might encourage them to come back again. As I once read it put “you never see the actual black bear, you just see its ass retreat into the bushes”. If a black bear does attack you and does not react you trying to scare it, it is probably hungry, and you should fight it. Stand your ground and make a lot of noise, use sticks and rocks and anything to fight it off.

If you will ever get unlucky enough to encounter a grizzly … slowly retreat facing it. If the grizzly will keep on approaching, play dead – lie on the ground without moving. Grizzlies are territorial and are probably just attacking you to defend their territory.  Of course, each situation requires individual assessment. Make sure to have all the best information about the area and take any precautions necessary to avoid any dangerous situations in the first place.  You should also consult local rangers and tourist centers on what steps you should take, in case of wildlife encounter.


Hiking Footwear

guide to hiking footwear

A good pair of hiking shoes can make or break your hike and hence, it is very important to select the right pair with the right characteristics. Hiking shoes or boots provide support for your feet and ankles, while their outsoles have enhanced grip to deal with loose and slippery terrain. There a number of different types, styles and models of hiking wear suited for a variety of conditions, terrains and uses. By identifying, what sort of hiking trips you will be mainly using them, you will be able to choose a pair that will suit you best.

Shoes vs. Boots

Generally, shoes refer to more lightweight low-ankle footwear, while hiking boots are heavier and have higher ankle-cut for support and protection. Hiking shoes are more suitable for lightweight, short hiking trips over easier terrain, while boots are more suitable for more rugged surfaces, heavier packs and longer missions. However, the exact characteristics and specifications of the footwear will vary highly among the types and hence the distinctions and purpose of each type is blurred.

What to consider, when choosing hiking shoes

  • Fit – first and foremost, your hiking shoes should fit you really well. Any friction or pressure points might cause severe discomfort after hiking for a few hours or days. Your heels should be fit, but not tight, and there should be some space in the toe-box for you to be able to wiggle your toes. When purchasing your boots, try them with any inserts or socks you would be using for hiking. Try them on in the afternoon, when your feet are slightly swollen and do not buy anything of wrong size or fit, hoping for the fit to change.
  • Lightness – the lighter the shoe, the better, as weight on your feet translates to several-fold that on your back. However, heavier boots can offer a counterbalance for your backpack weight, and provide a more reliable platform, when on loose terrain.
  • Ankle support – ankle support is mainly needed if you are carrying a heavy multi-day hiking weight or are traversing rugged and loose terrain. Higher ankle-cut and supportive shoe structures will reduce ankle and feet fatigue and help you avoid injuries; it is very easy to get a nasty ankle sprain, if on uneven ground with a heavy pack.
  • Outsole grip – excellent grip is one of the defining features of most of hiking footwear. Choose shoes/boots that have deeper groves, irregular threading and prominent lugs. Heel break is another important grip advancement that is especially useful on soft-ground and snow downhills. More aggressive outsole means better grip, and it is a very important feature on soft and slippery ground, snowy and icy surfaces.
  • Stiffness of the boot – Flexible shoes are more comfortable to walk in and they are usually lighter, but stiffer boots provide a better platform for your feet and prevent feet and ankle fatigue, when hiking over loose terrain. Stiffer boots are also more suitable, when carrying heavy load or traversing loose terrain. Stiff boots are also essential if you are hiking over snow, as they are easier to “kick steps” in and they fit crampons – technical snow gear.
  • Breathability and waterproofness – hiking in hot summers or deserts, breathable, lightweight hiking shoes are a pure necessity, but, when hiking in colder and wetter conditions for multiday trips, waterproofness and durability become more important.

A full review of different hiking footwear out there can be found here.


Conditioning and stretching for hiking

guide to hiking

Hiking is a physical activity, often very demanding and fatiguing. Preparing your body and taking good care of it will make your body stronger, healthier and your hiking experiences more enjoyable.

Preparing for hiking

Hiking is ultimately walking with resistance. Focusing on building your aerobic base is the best way to get yourself in shape for your hiking experience. Regular 1-2h cardio trainings, such as light cycling, swimming, running or even dancing will contribute to strengthening your heart and building overall fitness. Regular even if short exercises are best way to get and keep fit that is very important for hiking.

Since hiking is primarily a lower body exercise, strengthening your legs is very useful, when preparing for hiking trips. Cycling, running and even just walking will help you build stronger legs. Regular gyms also can be useful – elliptical, stair-master, stationary bike are all very beneficial.

When hiking, you often have to carry a back pack; hence you should not forget strengthening your upper body and core. Swimming, yoga, some light gym work will help you strengthen your core body, shoulders and arms.

If you are completely new to sports and have never done any hiking or extended cardio exercise, congratulations on wanting to make some amazing changes. Hiking and regular exercise will have truly positive effects on your health and life. So if you are completely fresh, start just by doing some walking. Have walks, even is very short ones, and try to incorporate any type of movement regularly to your daily life, as everything will contribute to your general fitness. Cycling is very useful to build your hiking fitness and is considered a low impact to sport. Slowly extend your workouts and keep focused on getting fitter for your hiking trip.

For more tips on how to prepare for an outdoors experiences, read here.


Stretching after hiking

There is some debate about the usefulness of stretching after physical ability, but many people report it making them recover faster and helping with their exercise. There is no recipe to suit everyone, so give it a try and see if it makes you feel better. The best stretches are very individual to every person, as people differ in their body structure and flexibility. I find that a light basic yoga session does wonders on my body after a day of hiking; it also allows me to avoid injuries and recruit all muscle groups, balancing me out.

Generally, a few minutes of stretching your calves, hamstrings and lower back is a good idea. Check out these exercises.

Preserving the trails

Hiking and the outdoors have become increasingly more popular over the years. People are leaving behind busy cities and small apartments for fresh air, clear horizons and active adventures. This change is wonderful to observe and I wouldd definitely benefiting human society to massive extents, however, it is essential that all the participants of this outdoors wave understand the extent of impact from human activity.

  • Stick to the trails! Look down at your hiking boots; would you want to be stomped on by them? Probably not. Neither do other forms of life. It is likely that you are not the only person hiking in the area, and no vegetation could survive under hundreds and thousands of people walking over it each day. Some ecosystems are exceptionally fragile, and walking on them leads in erosion and area devastation.
  • Do not litter! This one should be an obvious one, but for many people it isn’t, unfortunately. Paper takes a few weeks to degrade, plastic bags and containers will stay there for tens to hundreds of years, while a glass bottle will stay there for a million of years (!). Is it really that hard to take out, what you took with? If you find some rubbish, be a nature friend, and pick it up.
  • Keep your pets away from protected areas. As much as you see your pets as harmless, cute creatures, they can actually do serious harm if allowed to roam in sensitive areas. Cats and dogs are superb hunters that could be responsible for killing endangered species, such as birds in certain areas.
  • Support your local nature conservation units and pay national park fees. These are used to take care of the trails and conduct research that is used to help the environment.

It is essential that people understand that we are just guests in those beautiful national parks, pristine valleys, majestic mountains and inspiring trails. Even if we can call nature – our home, we still have to understand that it is someone’s home too, and hence each time we are out somewhere, we should treat the environment with care and respect it deserves. For much more in depth breakdown of how to preserve the trails be sure to read into Leave No Trace Principles.

Popular National Parks

Yosemite national park hike

There are some amazing National Parks in the United States, you should explore, include the following.

Yosemite National Park (Pictured Above)

Yosemite National Park is not only about pristine nature and rock climbing paradise; it is also about celebrating nature protection and history. Yosemite National Park was first protected in 1864 and is now an indistinguishable part of countries’ and worlds’ natural and cultural history. Yosemite National Park is home for massive granite walls, spectacular waterfalls, giant green forests and luscious meadows. If you ever have a chance to visit Yosemite NP, do not let the opportunity pass by; it is a hiking, climbing and naturalistic paradise.

Sequoia National Park

Feel super small amongst giant ancient trees. Sequoia National Park is a somewhat mysterious and very impressive natural treasure. As you pass valleys of southern California citrus fruit plantations, you suddenly start rising up the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The air cools down, and suddenly you are in a shelter of giant trees. There is a lot of hiking and camping in the area.

Joshua Tree National Park

Have you ever seen a joshua tree? The Joshua Tree National Park is like a gathering of these remarkable trees. Picture a dessert with bright pink evening skies, moon-like rocks formations and this incredible unusual surreal vibe. Joshua Tree National Park offers amazing views, some amazing hiking and camping. Joshua tree is also a prime climbing destination, so you will likely see crowds of keen climbers working their way up rounded pillars.

Grand Teton National Park

Even the name Grand Teton National Park sounds monumental. It is a place of towering mountain peaks, pristine lakes and rich wildlife. There is a long and impressive list of hiking trails in the area, and you can find whatever works best for your interests, skills, experience and energy levels.

So onwards and upwards, dear nature lovers!

And be safe out there!

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