Make sure your next microadventure gets off on the right foot with these top tips on how to plan your hike.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail!”
If you’re like us, you spend your weekdays chained to a desk, sneaking glimpses of Facebook and Instagram when your boss isn’t looking — getting hyped up on people’s photos from the previous weekend, or dreamy snaps of far-flung adventures. By the time the weekend rolls around you’re absolutely busting for some ‘outside’.
Hiking is pretty simple right? Grab some shoes, throw your lunch in a bag and off you go. But when Saturday and Sunday are all you have to get your nature fix, it’s worth putting in the time during the week to make sure you maximise the precious time exploring at the weekend.
Hey, do your research on work time and you’re getting paid for it!
Here’s our process for planning a good weekend under the wide open sky…
Before you even set foot on the trail, you have to figure out what trail you’re heading to! Inspiration can come in all forms. You might have seen an amazing shot on Instagram (although be careful of chasing the ‘gram shots), you might have just received the bi-weekly dose of inspiration from the We Are Explorers email newsletter, or you might just fancy checking out a certain area.
Whatever method you use to pick your target area, researching before you leave is a great way of maximising fun and minimise unwanted and often unnecessary stress.
Know How You’re Getting There
Google Maps is your best friend before you leave home. It’ll tell you the fastest route and it will tell you the best public transport if you’re carless. You can tell it what time you want to leave, or when you want to arrive by. It’ll also tell you if there’s planned maintenance on the day you plan to travel (many a well-made plan has been ruined by a rail replacement bus).
Once you get there, how do you get from the station or car park to the trail? If you’re planning a dreamy 15km hike through the forest, you probably want to avoid a 10km schlep along a busy freeway getting from the station to the trailhead. Do you need to do a car shuffle for an A to B walk?
Know The Route You’re Walking
It might sound dumb, but check the trail is actually open before you leave. Bushfires, hazard reduction burns, landslides or a trail running event can all impact a popular route. The local authority or National Parks websites usually have an alerts page that gets regularly updated. Make sure you check before you leave.
Have you got trail notes or a map for your route? Maps.me is a great iPhone and Android app that works offline using GPS. You simply download the data for the area you’re heading to and you get detailed maps, complete with trails, lookouts and camping spots. You shouldn’t rely completely on an app for obvious reasons but coupled with experience of using a map and compass, it’s a great tool to have.
If you plan on going remote you might want to consider a Personal Locator Beacon. They’re often available to hire from police stations in popular hiking areas, like Katoomba in the Blue Mountains National Park. When you’re going deep into a valley or traversing ranges, it can really be the difference between a life-threatening catastrophe and a crazy story to tell down the pub.
Talking of safety precautions, it’s worth studying your route beforehand and mentally noting possible shortcuts and exits back to civilisation if things go wrong. At what point will it be quicker to keep going to the end point, compared to when it will be quicker to turn back?
Plan Your Sustenance
The recommendations for an adult’s daily water intake is just short of 3 litres. That’s a basic figure that won’t factor in heat, exposure, exertion etc. Figure out how long you’ll be on the trail, whether there will be places to refill, how tough and hot will the route be and pack accordingly. We’ve run out of water on a relatively short, easy walk and it was incredibly unpleasant. Stay hydrated!
Of course, if you don’t want to be weighed down (1 litre of water weighs 1kg), you can take the gear needed to treat water on the trail. Purification tablets or boiling are 2 methods, but they still rely on free-flowing water being available. Ask the We Are Explorers community before you go to get the latest on water availability. Chances are someone has recently been through and can advise.
Plan your food — homemade or shop bought. Freeze dried or fresh. There are loads of options depending on how far you’re going, how light you want to pack and how decadent you want to be! If you’re planning to just hit up a cafe on the way, use Google again to make sure it’ll be open!
Check Your Equipment
You got back from your last trip, stashed all your gear, hit the shower and went to bed. Before you stuff everything back into a bag you should probably check it’s all in order. Does the tent need drying? Got all your pegs? Any damage? Is your head torch charged? Do you have enough gas left? You get the picture. We use a simple checklist saved as a note on a phone. Oh…and remember to pack your camera! Made that mistake too.
Check The Conditions
We could geek out over this for hours! Along with Maps.me, a couple of good weather apps are a good idea for cross-referencing. If you’re planning a coastal walk you could also check tide and swell heights to determine if certain areas will be safely accessible. If you’re going to be exposed, check a wind app. It’s amazing how the temperature can differ in and out of the wind.
Once you have a good idea of the conditions, you can dress accordingly. It’s likely that layers are going to be your friend. Easy to switch things around and easy to pack away when they’re not needed.
Finally…where is the closest pub at the end of the hike?
It’s essential to celebrate all that planning and a well-executed hike with beer and pie!
Hot tips from our Explorers