The Complete Guide to Weekend Hikers
Hiking is a form of recreation, exercise, and tourism. It involves walking outdoors on footpaths, trails, and tracks in mountainous or other natural areas, often in rural areas. As a leisure activity, it can be enjoyed for its own sake; however, there are many health and fitness-oriented reasons people hike. In addition to providing access to natural beauty, some people use hiking as a way to get into shape or build endurance for other outdoor activities like backpacking and mountain climbing. Many backpackers make pilgrimages to famous summits. Strolling along hiking trails is also an excellent way of enjoying scenic landscapes while being physically active at the same time.
Welcome to the Complete Guide to Weekend Hikers! I’m so glad you decided to read my guide to this exciting hobby, and I want to help you every step of the way! My name is Maddy and I am a weekend hiker myself, which means that I love spending my weekends outside on the trails hiking up mountains, and seeing some of nature’s most beautiful sights!
We know how exciting it can be to take off on an outdoor adventure with your friends or family, but hiking doesn’t always have to involve backpacking for miles through the wilderness and can instead be done in smaller chunks of time over the weekend. If you’re wondering what exactly makes a hike qualify as weekend-worthy, we’ve created this complete guide to weekend hikers that explains everything you need to know about planning, preparing, and executing a great hike during your free time.
Planning Your Weekend Hike
Before you head out on your hike, take a little time to plan. We’re not saying you need a detailed itinerary—but do get into gear and make sure you have everything you need. This may seem obvious, but it’s something that we often forget about when we are more focused on getting outside and exploring than making sure we have all of our items in order before leaving. Check your backpack and make sure you know where every item is located so that if anything spills or falls out during your adventure it won’t be lost forever (or even worse, require an expensive replacement). You should also take some time to check trail conditions ahead of time so that you can be prepared for what lies ahead.
Choosing a Weekend Hike
If you’re looking for a weekend getaway and want to get some fresh air and exercise, there are many outdoor activities you can do in a short amount of time. While it’s fun to hike in places with scenic views or historical importance, sometimes your goal is just to see how many miles you can log on a trail. To make sure your weekend excursion is as comfortable as possible, try looking up a local hiking club— they’ll have tons of recommendations based on what experience level you are at. If you decide not to go with a group, follow these tips below
When to Start
Beginners should start planning their hikes by thinking about what their bodies can handle at least two weeks in advance. Seasoned hikers don’t need as much time but may want to find a partner for safety or a community of fellow hikers for support. Regardless of your experience level, give yourself some time off work and prepare accordingly. It’s a good idea to decide on your intended trail well in advance of your departure date, too. You don’t want any last-minute surprises when you are already stressed from travel and attempting to finalize everything else on your list (you have one, right?). In fact, it’s always best practice before hiking a trail – new or old – is familiarizing yourself with that trail through guidebooks and online research.
Know the Rules
If you’re going to go out on a trail, it’s important to know what you’re doing. Every state has its own set of rules and regulations for hiking, so check with your state’s parks department or wilderness office before heading out. In most states, you’ll be required to register before entering off-trail areas, abide by fire bans and notify authorities if something does happen. It’s also good practice not just for safety reasons but for ecological ones too—you can help reduce damage by knowing where trails are located and how much foot traffic is allowed on them.
On the Trail
Gear up! Depending on where you’re headed, there are many essential items that are required by law. In some national parks and forests, for example, campers must use bear-resistant food canisters, so pack one of those in addition to your tent and sleeping bag. In other locations, you may need a hiking permit; check with park officials before your trip if you aren’t sure. Likewise, know whether or not fires are permitted on trails so you don’t accidentally start one in an area where such behavior is banned.
Leave No Trace
Before heading out on your adventure, you should familiarize yourself with Leave No Trace principles. LNT practices include: packing out what you pack in; staying on established trails and routes; disposing of waste properly (don’t just leave it behind); knowing where fires are allowed (if any) and avoiding building campfires. A well-planned trip that adheres to LNT principles can help keep wilderness areas wild for generations to come.
Yield to Uphill Hikers
Be courteous and yield to hikers headed uphill. It is easy for a hiker traveling downhill to increase his or her speed and accidentally knock over an uphill hiker. When you see someone coming down, walk out of their way or stop so that they can pass easily without changing course. Because you are going in opposite directions, it will be easier for them to go around you than for you to get out of their way without losing your balance and falling. If you are in a very narrow section with no space on either side, stand back against the hillside so that they can pass in front of you without having to slow down or make any adjustments in the course.
Walk on the Right, Pass to the Left
When hiking on a trail or busy path, walk on the right side of other hikers and bikers. This way, when you come upon another hiker or biker coming your way, you can pass each other safely. Even if it seems like there’s plenty of room for both of you to pass at once, never risk it—hike single file until you’re out of each other’s way. Be Polite: If a faster hiker passes you while walking on a busy trail, give them ample space and let them by. If someone asks on your left? as they approach, move aside so they don’t have to step off trail to pass you.
GPS is an absolute must-have for weekend hikers, not only because it’s fun, but also because it helps them stay on course. If you’re lucky enough to have a smartphone with GPS capabilities built-in, that can work just fine. For hikers who don’t have a smartphone (and thus no built-in GPS), there are plenty of excellent options available from companies like Garmin, Magellan, and TomTom. These devices connect via cable or Bluetooth and even come in watch form factors.
One of the most important things you can do when going out for a hike is to be friendly. Many people enjoy hiking as a way to clear their minds. By being friendly and asking questions such as where they’re from, what brought them there, etc., hikers will be able to have a meaningful conversation with other hikers. Also, it would be helpful for you if you start a conversation about one of your interests in common (such as favorite movies or music). This not only serves as an ice-breaker but also connects two people by having something in common.
A backpack is a very important item when hiking. It will hold all of your equipment and supplies, including food, clothing, water, and a first aid kit. As a rule of thumb, you should carry no more than 25% of your body weight in your pack. If you are just starting out with hiking it may be helpful to invest in an internal frame pack; however make sure that you don’t overpack it. Visit our hiking gear checklist for more information regarding hiking gears.
Choose your clothing carefully and make sure you have everything you need. If you’re hiking in cold weather, bring multiple layers, including a fleece top, mid-layer (like a wool sweater), and a windbreaker or rain shell. An extra pair of dry socks is always a good idea if your feet get wet. Wear fabrics that will keep you warm, but breathable so they don’t trap sweat against your skin. Also, make sure to have hiking shoes with a sturdy sole to prevent rocks from poking through.
What are you going to wear? You’ll want a hat or cap with a brim. It will protect your eyes from sun glare and your ears from those cold winds that bite through any gaps in your clothing. (There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing!) Make sure it has ear flaps so you can cover your ears if necessary. If it doesn’t have them, you could use bright tape or bandanas to signal rescuers.
Sunglasses are a must-have for any hiker. Not only do they protect you from harmful UV rays, but they also shield your eyes from debris and insects. A good pair of sunglasses will completely change your experience.
Make sure you bring your base layers. These pieces of clothing will keep you warm but won’t make you overheat. Synthetic and merino wool layers are great, especially if they can wick sweat away from your body. They’re comfortable enough that you might not even need a sweater or coat on top! Be sure to bring an extra layer in case it gets cold—you don’t want hypothermia setting in.
The outer layer should be a non-cotton material, such as wool because cotton will retain more moisture. If you’re starting your hike in cold weather, dress in layers (that can be removed as needed) so that you’ll stay warm and dry no matter what happens. You should also bring a synthetic poncho for rain protection. An extra wool or fleece layer is good for rainy conditions or colder temperatures. A light pair of gloves will keep your hands warm on cool nights.
A jacket is essential for any weekend hiker—think about it, there are few things worse than being cold on a hike. As someone who hikes at least once a month, I have tried out several jackets; these are my favorites Patagonia Nano Puff and Arc’teryx Squamish Hoody. The Nano Puff is super light and packs down small enough that you can take it anywhere with you without taking up much space in your bag or backpack. The Squamish Hoody has all of the features you need for a warm and dry hike: water-resistant outer shell, soft fleece lining, and integrated handwarmer pockets that keep your hands warm even when they’re empty.
We recommend wearing full pants when hiking over shorts because they provide better protection and comfort. Sure, some may be able to hike for miles in shorts or dresses, but that’s not you. Long pants protect your legs from getting sunburned and scraped up, which can become annoying if you have a long trip ahead of you. It will also be much more comfortable than shorts especially if it is cold outside.
You should always bring two or three pairs of socks with you on any weekend hike. Make sure they’re appropriate for what you plan on doing, but they don’t need to be specialized hiking socks. As long as they are comfortable and suit your style, there’s no need to overcomplicate things. You can wear them throughout your hike without worrying about stinking up your shoes and not having clean options for each day of your trip.
There are many important things to consider when buying shoes for a weekend hike. First, you need something that’s durable and able to hold up over time. The next most important thing is how well they grip—you don’t want your feet slipping on rocks or roots while you walk. Also, look for something waterproof, so your feet don’t get drenched in case it rains!
The eight essentials for your weekend hike
If you’re a beginner, don’t stress too much about your gear. However, if you want to up your game, there are some essentials that can take your weekend hike from good to great. Most serious hikers will have these items with them in their packs whenever they go out for a weekend adventure. For example
There are a number of ways that weekend hikers can navigate during their trip. Two popular methods are GPS or compass. A GPS has become an essential tool for hiking, as it allows you to always know where you are on your trail, and how far away from your destination you still need to travel.
The most effective way to protect your skin is by wearing clothing that covers as much of your body as possible, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat. In fact, UV rays can still damage your skin when it’s covered with clothing—especially if you aren’t paying attention. The average shirt offers 15 SPF protection; dress in long sleeves and pants and you should add some sun protection cream on top.
Insulation is an important part of any tent or shelter. It helps keep you warmer in cooler temperatures and cooler in warmer weather. The type of insulation will vary depending on whether it’s a 3-season or 4-season tent, but for most people, a proper sleeping bag will provide plenty of warmth.
You should always carry a light with you when hiking at night. Even in the early morning or late afternoon, there’s a chance of getting caught in an emergency situation in which you might need some light to help guide your way out of an otherwise dark and dreary trail. If you’re planning on going out hiking on a Saturday or Sunday, it’s important to invest in a good flashlight that can last you all day long.
Before you head out on your first-weekend hiking trip, make sure you bring along some basic first aid supplies. To be prepared for any emergency, it’s a good idea to carry at least one complete change of clothes and all of your toiletries (deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, lip balm). But even more important is bringing a thorough first aid kit stocked with all of the essentials.
Firestarter is essential in any hiking trip. Don’t ever go without bringing it. You can bring a lighter, match, or fire starters for fires if you plan on setting up camp somewhere. But make sure you have either of those three items just in case it gets cold in your tent at night or if you want to set up camp by lighting a fire and warming yourself. A fire can be very relaxing after a long day of hiking, especially when drinking some hot cocoa with marshmallows in it!
Repair Kit and Tools
When you’re headed out for a short hike over a weekend, make sure you pack at least a basic repair kit—you never know when you might need it. It should include nylon rope, duct tape, safety pins, and super glue. A multitool can be very handy too; it should have pliers, a knife blade or serrated edge (useful for cutting rope), scissors or wire cutters, screwdrivers, and wrenches in both Phillips and flathead sizes.
The single most important thing for weekend hikers is shelter, meaning a tent or tarp big enough for you and all your gear. You may want to look into ultralight shelters that are less than 3 pounds total or try a hammock, which allows you to sleep off-the-ground. If you’re willing to put in some work, build your own shelter—it’s not as hard as it sounds.
General Hiking Tips
While hiking, it’s important to remember that speed isn’t everything—it’s all about finding a pace you can maintain. The Complete Guide To Weekend Hikers suggests three key things for weekend hikers: Wear appropriate shoes, drink enough water, and turn around when necessary. It’s all about pacing yourself and enjoying your hike.
Wear appropriate shoes
It’s possible that weekend hikers can get away with wearing sneakers or even sandals when hiking around town, but when you’re headed out on a trail for an extended period of time (say, more than three hours), it’s crucial that you wear good shoes. It will make your experience more comfortable and keep your feet safe. Depending on where you live, it might be best to invest in hiking boots or cross-trainers; both are sturdy enough for long walks but have different features and benefits. The most important thing is to wear clothes that fit well—unlike tennis shoes, loose clothing doesn’t provide much ankle support and could lead to serious falls.
Drink enough water
A good starting point is to make sure you’re drinking enough water before and during your hike. If you’re hiking for more than a few hours, it’s also a good idea to pack along some electrolyte-packed beverages (or munch on some salty snacks) so that you can replace what you lose through sweating. And remember: You should always be sure to take in plenty of fluids, especially when exercising outdoors, even if you don’t feel thirsty! It’s easy to get dehydrated on hot days, but sweating isn’t your body’s only way of cooling off—it also helps by flushing out heat and toxins through urination. Make sure your kidneys are working properly by hydrating every time you go bathroom break.
Turn around when necessary
If you find yourself on a trail that’s much more difficult than you expected, turn around. There’s no sense in getting hurt if there are other trails for you to enjoy. And keep in mind: if you’re going solo, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Make sure your hiking partners know your fitness level and ask them if they feel up for doing some of these trails with you. If not, suggest an alternate hike instead—there’s plenty out there!