Beginners Series

Day Hiking For Beginners

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This week I am going to cover hiking. Now before I go any further, let me just say this will be about day and short hikes. I know there are some very cool hiking trails that cover multiple states and beautiful scenery. The bottom line is it’s just not for me so I won’t give any advice or instruction on a subject that I have limited knowledge or desire to learn about.

Day Hikes/Picnicking/Geocaching

That being said, what we love to do is combine short day hikes with other things. We love to go to state parks. We will pack a lunch and snacks and combine day hikes with picnicking and Geocaching. Ahhh, now we’re talking.

If we are doing short nature walk type trails and not carrying the backpack, we sometimes take our motorcycle although we do prefer the truck. The biggest reason for this is because the truck fits everything in easier. We also have not figured out how to take our walking sticks with us on the bike. We are looking into folding walking sticks. We usually take the motorcycle if we are only going to be in the park for a little while and maybe grab a quick Geocache or have lunch at one of the picnic tables.

Getting Ready

In the morning of the day we hike, we lay everything out that we want to take. I keep saying I want to make a checklist and one day I actually might…lol. The main things we bring are:

  • A Backpack
  • Cooler
  • Large Gallon Jug of Water
  • Small 2 cup sized Thermos for water
  • 2 cup Yetti
  • Walking sticks
  • Flashlight
  • Camera Case

These are our staples. Sometimes it’s a little overkill for what we are doing but we would rather have too much than not enough. You must remember that even though you are only going out for the day, things can happen.

For the purpose of this article, I am going to use an example of a large state park with hiking trails, Geocaching and picnicking. Remember this is not an all-inclusive list. There are things that we learned on the fly and incorporate into our next trip. As we do, I will keep this article updated.

Are You Healthy Enough?

Remember the first thing that should be taken into consideration before you do any kind of activity is your health. If you are not healthy enough to be on the trails then you should not go. Remember, and we have run into this many times, when you get into an area you may not have any cell signal. If something happens to you out in the trails, it may be a while before help arrives.

Let me give you a few starter tips that might help. The choice is always yours but being prepared for any kind of an emergency is never bad.

1– Make sure you are healthy enough for the hike. I know I just said this but it’s very important. Even if you are healthy, you might have woke up in the morning not feeling just right. If this is the case, stay home and rest. Postpone your trip until you are feeling better.

2– Try and go with a partner. If you go with a partner and one of you get hurt, the other can go for help or possibly administer basic first aid.

3– Know Basic First Aid- Knowing what to do for minor injuries in the field is priceless knowledge. Knowing CPR with your basic first aid is an added bonus.

4– Bring a cell phone and make sure it’s charged. I know, I said you might not have any reception so why bother. I will tell you why. If someone you are with needs immediate medical help and you have no reception you are going to have to head back to a ranger station to notify EMS. What if the ranger station is 2.5 miles away but after only 1 mile you get reception back? You just saved all of that time. That means help will arrive that much faster. Also, this is a good time to tell you to jot down the emergency numbers for the park when you arrive and check in.

5– Bring a cell phone charger. We love to Geocache. The problem is the Geocache app uses a lot of battery power. Right now we have both mine and Chris cell phone so we are ok but we are looking into a portable cell phone charger to take on the trails.

Cell Phone Charger
Example of a cell phone charger that you can take on your hikes. This one gets 4.5 stars on Amazon and is the one Chris and I are looking into getting

6– Wear The Proper Clothing. I love to wear sweatpants. I probably have more than a half a dozen pair. Just because they are super comfortable to wear, it does not make them a good choice to hike with. Since Poison Ivy is not my friend, shorts are not a good choice either. Although I have on occasion (in the beginning of our day hiking adventures) wore sweatpants, I do not recommend them. I like to wear jeans. Jeans are rugged enough to help protect your legs in the woods. Since I wear a belt I can also wear a knife, phone clip, and have pockets.

A hat is another must. You want to protect your head from the extended periods of time in the sun. Speaking of the sun, a tube/can of sunscreen is another must. Don’t forget the lip balm also. Your lips are also exposed to the elements. Lastly, we always wear hiking boots not sneakers when we hike. Some trails might be paved and easy to walk on with sneakers but most are dirt with tree roots and other things sticking up. A good comfortable pair of hiking boots is a must.

So there are some basics to think about before you even get started. Now that those are out of the way, let’s cover what we carry on the trails.

Back Pack– It is a standard backpack. Nothing fancy. It is the same type of backpack one might take to school. We only take the backpack if we will be doing multiple trails or long trails with no picnic table/rest areas in between. In the backpack, we put the following

  • Thermos and Yeti filled with water
  • Snacks containing protein and sugars
  • Bug Spray
  • Basic First Aid Kit ( Bring an epi-pen if you have bad allergies)
  • Hand Sanitizing Wipes
  • Advil and Pepto Bismol
  • Pens and Business Cards (for Geocaching)
  • Sunscreen and Lip Balm
  • Binoculars
  • Telephoto lens and other misc items for the camera

Believe it or not, carry all this stuff in the backpack is lighter than you think. If we are doing more “Nature Walk” type trails than we skip the backpack and take the camera case. Since I wear the camera around my neck it leaves a lot of room for the other things in the case.

What Else Do We Bring?

Cooler– We do not eat out a lot. Even when we are on the motorcycle, we pack our own lunch and snacks. The best part about parks whether they are state or not is that there are tons of picnic tables. That means we can hike, take a break and have lunch or a snack at the table, then hike some more. We just recently visited Suwannee River State Park and took our breaks while sitting at a table overlooking the river!!! When we are done the cooler goes back in the truck and we are off again.The Suwannee River State Park review will be up on the site shortly.

Water– This my friends is one of the most important things. It gets hot out in the trails. Especially if you get into a section that there are no trees and the sun is beating down on you. We fill a gallon jug of water, a thermos, and a Yeti. We take the thermos and yet on the trails and leave the jug in the truck. Each time we come back near the truck, we refill the thermos and Yeti from the jug.
We have seen people on the trails with backpacks filled with water. They have a drinking tube that connects to the backpack so they can drink in the trails. However you do it, make sure you stay hydrated!!! See my blog post on heat exhaustion for more info on heat emergencies.

Camera Case– I mentioned this earlier but I will quickly explain the camera case function. On shorter walks like nature trails, we only take the camera case. I carry the camera around my neck and a telephoto lens stays inside the case. The case has many pockets and lots of room next to the telephoto lens. On the shorter trails, we fill the camera case with candies, a pen and business cards (geocaching), band-aids, and tissues/napkins.

Don’t Forget The Bug Spray

On the shorter nature trail type walks we will spray ourselves with bug spray, put on sunscreen, and bring a small bottle of water instead of the big backpack. These type trails are very short and loop back to the beginning point very quickly so we feel there is no reason to carry a backpack.

Even though these short day hikes are nowhere nears as long and complicated as the multiple day hikes, you should still take precautions. Do not get lulled into thinking that since it’s only a day hike nothing can go wrong. Chances are you are probably right but there is always that “one time”.

Where Are We?

Sometimes if we are on a trail that started at a trailhead and goes multiple directions once you’re on it, we will use an app called map my walk. This has saved us a time or two when we got turned around on a trail (it can happen) and forgot the way out. Map my walk will show you the exact way you went so you will know how to get out. Also, both our phones have compasses on them. The I-phone came with one and Chris downloaded a free compass app. I highly recommend some kind of compass.

Day hikes are extremely fun and great exercise. You will see anything from wild animals to different types of nature. This would be a good time to mention that if you run into wildlife on the trail, leave it alone. Take a picture with your telephoto lens. Never try to approach any animal you see out on the trails.

What Do You Bring?

I hope that I have given you a basic knowledge of day hikes. As we do more and go longer I will update this article accordingly. If you have any tips or suggestions that I did not cover, feel free to add them in the comment section below.




6 thoughts on “Day Hiking For Beginners

    1. We never thought we would like it either. It has actually become very relaxing for us and when we combine it with Geocaching, it’s a blast!!!
      Dennis

  1. Wow, I did not know that you needed to think of so many thing for a short hike. I guess this makes me a beginner. I assume that being in America’s national parks, you run the chance of meeting wild animals, some of which might be dangerous to humans. What do you do to protect yourself for them?

    1. Probably not as much as we should…lol. We carry knives, long walking sticks, and common sense. So far the most dangerous thing we have encountered was a very large alligator. The best thing to do is just leave them alone. Don’t try an feed anything wild or try and get up close pictures. That’s why I have a telephoto lens for my camera…lol. 

      Also, anytime you are doing any kind of activity, anything can happen, Severe bug bites and heat exhaustion are common even for short walks. Especially, if it’s a new activity for you. That’s why staying hydrated and carrying a first aid kit for minor bites and injuries is extremely important.

      Dennis

  2. Funny story, I actually used the Anker battery charger for a prototype at my job. The prototype about the same amount of current as a phone and it lasted three days from a full charge! I definitely agree with your recommendation with the battery charger. These are great to have!

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