Fulfill Your Hiking Dream! Here to help fellow hikers by offering wisdom, ideas, and lessons learned from a two-time AT North and South, Long Trail, Foothills Trail, Allegheny Trail, Colorado Trail, Florida Trail, Shenandoah Nat'l Park 500 miler completions. Former AT Ridgerunner for six years, Author, Speaker on Hiking and Backpacking
10 Things to Do Before You Begin Your Long Distance Hike
You’ve been thinking abut this trip forever, it seems. Your big
step onto a long distance trail hike. The nerves are getting to you a bit but
so is great expectation. Especially the gnawing sensation if you have everything you really need to do this. Try this checklist to see if you have covered all your
bases before you embark on your adventure.
1. Your gear. Have you got everything you need for what may lie
ahead? Esp. weather wise? Try this
Gear choices can be overwhelming. Do the best you can.
gear list to see if you may have forgotten
something, even the small stuff. Have some money on hand during your hike to replace
some gear issues for long distance hiking. Even if your gear choices aren't perfect, it will be ok. Some extra money can help remedy some of that, esp if it is a safety issue. Other times, just let it go.
2. Your means of communication. While we like to get away from
the electronics out in the wild, electronics are necessary for planning ahead,
calling home, checking on shuttles and hostels, unplanned emergencies, etc. Plan for a cell
phone. Some family members may want to follow your progress so consider a SPOT
or similar device. Leave an itinerary at home. Though it may change, it gives your loved
ones an idea where you will be.
3. Your navigation. Most say just follow the blazes, but lots
of time, esp. in surprise weather, that doesn’t always work. Have the means for
navigation on you. Maps (or map apps for your cell phone), current guidebook
and / or guidebook pages, etc. If using a phone for map apps, be sure you have an extra power pack for it. A compass is an added bonus, but make sure you
know how to use it. Same for a GPS for certain hard to follow trails.
4. Your health. Have you been to the doctor AND dentist for all
necessary checkups? Make sure you will have the medicines you need. How about
extra prescriptions, esp. for glasses should they break while on the trail? Do
you have a prescription for things like doxycycline for a tick bite on the trail? Also, be up to date on shots like Tetanus. Don’t forget to bring a good first aid kit and consider taking a first aid course before the trip.
5. Your money. Check your accounts to make sure everything is up
to date and you have the money you need should you have to spend a few extra
days in town due to bad weather, illness, gear replacement, etc. Carry some cash on you as well
as a debit card and credit card on you, along with your driver’s license or
other form of ID. Be sure you have an extra debit card at home to mail out just in case the magnetic strip wears out.
6. Your trail mail. Are you expecting mail on the trail? Make
sure you have your mail drops ready to go or a person ready to do them for you
and a responsible person to mail them. As things can change en route, be sure you
give yourself plenty of time for the drops to get there. Use Priority Mailing
case you need to forward drops (which can be done for free if you don’t pick up
the box at the PO). Use this checklist for maildrops and what to put in
7. Your house, bills, pets. Is your place or residence being
cared for as well as the bills for it? Things like this can really distract from
a hike unless you have prepared for it. Make sure all these things are covered.
That also includes any pets left at home – that they are cared for by responsible
people and have the food, medicines, vet info, etc they need.
8. Your job. If you have a leave from your job, make sure everything
is OK at work for you to return. If you quit your job, have some ideas what you
will do when you get back. Maybe make a list or have an idea of a job that interests
you. Be sure there is money to cover several
months of bills after you get back as you look for a job or to pay the bills
until you start work and get paid.
which are very real after any
major hike. Don’t
let depression and other issues kill the joy of your great adventure.
10. Now…Relax. The bases are covered, so get out there and enjoy
it. Take it day by day. And don’t be afraid to change things on your hike if
needed. Be flexible. The journey is more mental than physical.