A walk in the woods is an excellent way to retreat and regroup from the hectic pace of everyday life. And for those Type A personalities among us, a demanding hike up and down a mountain is even better. Regardless of how you approach it, your hike will end up being much more enjoyable — and safer — if you are outfitted properly. Here’s what you need:

  • Other important gear carried by experienced hikers includes the following (in addition to a cell phone):
    • Map
    • First aid kit
    • Insect repellent
    • Compass
    • Flashlight
    • Multi-function pocket tool
    • Waterproof matches
    • Whistle
    • Gloves and head buff
    • Lightweight trekking poles to help with uneven terrain and steep descents, especially for those with compromised knees
    • Compact binoculars and camera

Bring a Companion Along
It’s always nice (and safer) to have a companion along to share your hiking adventures, whether they’re two- or four-legged. If you hike with your dog, be sure to pack water, food, and other supplies he may need.

Prepare for Changing Weather
If you are going on a day hike in a part of the country where weather conditions tend to change constantly, even in summer, be prepared before you hit the trail. Weather can be particularly fickle in the mountains, so even if the local forecast calls for clear skies and warm temperatures, you may find that actual conditions are quite different.

How Long and How Far?
Before you set off for your hike, consult a local guidebook or online source to help you choose an appropriate trail not only for the weather conditions and time of day, but also for your fitness level. How much time do you have and how far would you like to hike? If it’s early in the day and you’re reasonably fit, you can easily cover miles and miles of relatively flat terrain. Trails with an elevation gain, however, can be much more challenging. Experienced hikers use a traditional formula to help determine the length of a hike: 3 miles/hour plus an additional 30 minutes per 1000-ft. increase in elevation. Make adjustments for the specific terrain you’re hiking (e.g., rough terrain will slow you down) and your individual circumstances. Elevation gains more than 2500-3000 feet become very tiring for most people.

What Are You Waiting For?
Not only is hiking in the woods an excellent way to get in shape and feel a sense of accomplishment, it’s a great way to escape modern madness. In the woods, your senses are heightened by the sights and sounds of nature, which is incredibly exhilarating but somehow relaxing at the same time. There’s nothing else like it. Just make sure you’re dressed properly for the elements.


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