Tips For Planning a Safe Hiking Trip

Let’s take a few minutes and talk about tips for planning a hiking trip. Someone posted a comment on one of my YouTube asking for some hiking and or camping tips. So I thought, “Sure, why not?”

One of the things I talk about in my videos is my age and how long I have been doing certain things.  When my brother were maybe 4 or 5 years old our dad started taking us squirrel hunting and walking through the woods.  As of when this article was written I am 50 1/2 years old.  So I have been doing stuff in the woods for around 45 years or so.

Hiking in Southeast Texas

In the past 45 years I have developed various things I do when planning a hiking trip. Before I head out on the hiking trip there are several questions that should be answered.

For example, what is the purpose of the trip?  How long is the trip going to be?  Water sources.  Last but not least is letting someone know your route.

Purpose of the Hiking Trip

Will this be a sight seeing hiking trip?  Or maybe a a hiking trip to do some nature photography?

Before the hike is even planned I ask myself something along the lines of, “What do I want to see on this trip?”  Are there any hill tops to get some good pictures?  Maybe some creeks to follow or fish from?

Abandoned hunting camp
Abandoned hunting camp

Where will you stop for lunch?  Will this be a hot lunch type of day, or a snack bar and peanut butter sandwich day?

Another few questions deals with the time of year, and plants that may be blooming.  For example, here in Southeast Texas the dewberries bloom around the first week of May.

If my hiking trip is around the first week of May, I may want to be close to an old logging road to find berries.  Wild dewberries and blackberries make a nice snack while hiking.

Hiking Trip Length

How long do we want to trip to be?  Do we want this to be a short two hour trip, or a hiking trip that lasts all day?

Will we be able to see what we want during the intended time period?  For example, if I wanted to stop at a certain creek, eat lunch, set up the tripod and take some pictures, then time should be budgeted to do so.

TOPO map, Compass and GPS

Someone saying they want to do a six mile hike in four hours, plus take time to explore the area, save way points in the GPS, take pictures, cook lunch… is not  realistic.

I typically add a couple of hours to the expected length of the hiking trip.  How do I know how long the trip will be?  Because I typically travel at 1 – 1.25 miles per hour.  That may sound low, but the time does not take into account elevation.  While the TOPO map may say I traveled one miles, that does not count going over or around hills.

In short, the TOPO map say only one mile, but I actually covered mote then one mil due to changes in elevation.

Heat and Water Sources While Hiking

One of he big factors is determining how much the heat and humidity will affect the hike.  As the air temperature moves closer to our body temperature, the more difficult it is to cool down.

Then there is the humidity, which determines how fast our sweat evaporates.  The higher the humidity, the slower our sweat evaporates.  The slower the evaporation, the more difficult it is for our bodies to cool.

Hiker overlooking a creek

One of the things I consider while planning a hiking trip is how much rain we have had.  Rainfall determines if there is going to be water in the creeks.  The less rainfall we have, the more creeks that will be dry.

If we are talking about a hot weather hiking trip, then I attempt to plan the hiking trip between creeks and other water sources.

Temperature also helps determine what colors are safe to wear.  While black is my preferred color for just about everything, black is not practical for hiking in 90+ degree heat.

Communicate Hiking Plans

Next is to let other people know your hiking plans.

What I typically do:

  • Pull up Google Earth.
  • Use the path feature to draw a line of my intended path.
  • Take a screen shot of Google Earth with the path visible.
  • Send the screen shot to my wife, mom, and maybe my brother.

This way several people know my intended route.  In an absolute worse case situation, search parties will know my planned route, complete with map.

I also tell my wife what time I plan on being home.  Typically, I add a couple of hours to the arrival time.  There were a couple of times when hiking with my children when we arrived right at dark.

Final Thoughts on Planning a Hiking Trip

Planning a hiking trip beats heading into the wilderness without the slightest idea of where you are going, or where the water is at.  It also beats getting hurt and nobody knowing where you are at.

Every year hikers and campers head into the wilderness, get lost, or hurt, or die, and they are either rescued or their bodies recovered.  Do not be one of those people as a little planning goes a long way.