I know it can be tempting to just take your backpack and head out into the wilderness.
But for your own safety and comfort, you need to acquire some basic knowledge first.
We’ve rounded up what we think are the nine most important hiking and camping tips that everyone should know.
Tip 1: Share your route and the expected return date with friends or family
One thing that the movie 127 hours taught me is that you ALWAYS have to share your route and expected return date with your close ones.
Of course, also make it clear to them that if you’re not back by that date, they should send help.
Tip 2: Check the weather
You don’t want to end up with a thunderstorm on your favorite trip. So always check the weather, and not two weeks on beforehand because it will most likely change by the time you’re camping.
Try to check the weather as late as possible as this will give you the most accurate results.
Tip 3: Consider local wildlife
Before you leave, you may want to Google what animals you may encounter on your hike. Poisonous snakes, deadly bears and even more deadly spiders can really form a threat if you’re not careful.
If you know that you may stumble upon rattlesnakes, pay attention to your footwork. Most snake bites happen because they blend perfectly into the grass and people accidentally step on them.
The same can be said for spiders. Inspect every spot where you want to sit. I’m sure you don’t want to end up with a few black widows up your butt.
Encountering a bear can also be a pretty scary situation. They may look cute but keep in mind that they’re deadly, especially if there are cubs around.
If you’re camping in bear country, make sure you know how to avoid bear encounters and how to act if you do have one. This guide may help you with that.
Tip 4: Bring the 11 essentials
- Tent or another type of shelter
Tents are great but they can be heavy and bulky. This is not a problem if you’re just camping on a campsite though.
However, if you’re backpacking, every ounce counts. That’s why many backpackers bring a tarp and some paracord instead. It requires some knowledge but you can make a shelter with it.
I do recommend using a tarp only if you know how to set it up and if there aren’t any mosquitos or bug problems.
This video shows you how you can make a shelter with just a tarp and some paracord.
You could also hang a hammock underneath it like in the picture below.
- Map and compass
Yes, a GPS is easy but you depend on its batteries. That’s why you should always bring a map, a compass and the knowledge to use it.
You wouldn’t say so but using a map and compass is not that easy. Make sure you watch this video repeatedly until you fully understand it.
This is much better than a flashlight because you don’t need to hold it, you just place it on your head.
- Sun protection
Protect your skin with sunscreen, especially if you’re snow camping.
Snow reflects the sun much better, which means it can burn your skin much more easily.
Also, consider bringing a pair of sunglasses.
- First-aid kit
Your first-aid kit should include: treatment for blisters, adhesive bandages, a few gauze pads, adhesive tape, something that disinfects, medication to reduce pain, pen and paper, and nitrile gloves.
The size of your first aid kit depends on the number of days you plan to backpack/camp.
Bring a sturdy knife. There are many types you can choose from. You can also bring a multi-tool instead. Usually, it includes things like a knife, scissors, a saw, and much more.
REI has a great article on this topic, you may want to check it out.
Bring firestarters with a long burn. If you’re going to make a campfire everyday, you’ll appreciate that you brought these.
You can also make a few yourself. Just get some cotton balls and smear them with Vaseline.
You can also check out our essential man skills article so that you can know how to make a fire from scratch with your bare hands.
- Emergency shelter
In case you get stranded, make sure you have brought some type of shelter, like a space blanket. They keep you warm and protect you from the wind and rain.
- Extra food
Always pack at least an extra day’s worth of food, just in case.
Also, try to bring snacks like jerky, dried bananas, energy bars and dried fruit.
Your snacks and meals need to be light and nutritious in case you’re backpacking.
- Extra clothes
Bring a whole extra outfit in case you’re completely soaked or in emergency situations.
- Extra water
Always bring extra water and a water filter.
Before you leave, you should also where the nearby water sources are positioned.
Tip 5: Do this if it’s your first time
You don’t want to be hiking 2 miles only to find out your new boots aren’t as comfortable as you thought. That’s why you should always break in your shoes before going on a trip.
You may also want to take your new backpack on a test run with all your gear in it. Walk a few miles and see how it goes.
Another tip I want to give you is keep your first trip short. Don’t start with the Pacific Crest Trail, start with a weekend trip or a day-hike.
Tip 6: If hiking in the cold, know how to layer your clothing
If it’s going to be cold, know how to layer your clothing.
You should have a base layer, a middle layer, and a shell layer.
The base layer’s job is to wick away sweat and keep you dry.
The middle layer’s job is to trap your body heat, which keeps you warm.
The shell layer’s job is to protect you from wind and rain.
For more information, like what clothes you need to wear, check out this article by REI.
Tip 7: Bring food you like to eat
Don’t listen to the gurus that tell you about the disgusting food you need to eat. Bring something you like but keep it nutritious, light and easy to make.
Of course, if you’re camping on a campsite, weight doesn’t matter. You can bring whatever you want in that case.
If I need to recommend one website with great backpacking recipes, then it’s https://www.trail.recipes/. They feature many meals and snacks for backpackers.
This link will take you to their one-pot backpacking meals. They’re nutritious and easy to make.
Tip 8: Bring a whistle
A whistle can save your life. If you’re in trouble, use it and your fellow hikers will surely hear you.
Tip 9: Bring insect repellent
There’s nothing worse than having to walk through a swarm of mosquitos. Bring an insect repellent and significantly reduce this problem.
In need of more tips?
I recently wrote a huge article that contains 150+ tips about backpacking and hiking.
If you’re interested in more helpful tips, feel free to check it out.