There’s something special about embarking off into the wilderness for a multi-day excursion.
And with the weather starting to warm up, overnight hikes are much easier to pull off these days.
If you’re looking to try your first one, the timing couldn’t be better. Make your first overnight hiking trip as simple as possible with these handy tips.
Be Realistic About the Logistics
Don’t go overly hog wild on your first try, but rather opt for a realistic route – one that has two (shortish) day hikes and will ensure you’ll reach your camp spot with plenty of time to pitch the tent (and eat) before it gets dark.
Tell someone where you’re going and check the weather beforehand – Ambling into a full-on storm is no fun on your first venture out.
Essentials to Pack
You don’t need to splash out on fancy frills – most stuff you can borrow for the trip. You will need shelter in the form of a tent (as light as possible) complete with a sleeping pad and a pillow.
Make sure you wear comfortable hiking shoes matched with a couple of pairs of socks (damp socks are a real bummer on any hiking trip), hiking pants/shorts, a merino wool vest/t-shirt and a light down jacket – Cotopaxi has a great range.
Layers will keep you cozy after sunset and in the crisp early morning, but are easy to peel off as the day warms up.
Waterproofs are a must. The weather can change very quickly and if you’re devoid of shelter, being soggy is a sad feeling indeed. Don’t forget a water purifier and be sure to take sunscreen, a headlamp, a basic emergency kit and a shovel.
You’ll also need utensils to eat, a stove and a pan in order to heat up water for dinner or coffee in the morning.
Pack items such as water, a map, snacks or the first aid kit in pouches in your pack that are easy to access.
What Food to Bring
Light, compact and nutritionally dense is the aim. Instant oatmeal with dried/fresh fruit and seeds will kickstart your day. Lunch could be tortilla wraps stuffed with peanut butter and cheese, while dinner could be brown pasta with chickpeas, pesto and cherry tomatoes swirled in.
Remember to bring a ton of snacks to chomp on. Try make your own homemade trail mix by throwing nuts, seeds, dried fruit and chocolate together.
What to Do About Wildlife
Wildlife will most likely be forewarned of your presence as you move along the path but read up on dangerous wildlife that may be on the route with you, and take all necessary precautions. At night, keep all food in secure containers and away from your tent. Don’t forget to stash trash at night to avoid attracting wild animals.
Going to the Bathroom
Have you ever seen a cat go to the bathroom? That's you in the wild. Dig a hole with your shovel, and after you’ve finished your business, bury your paper in the hole. Cover it all up and you shouldn’t be able to spot a thing.
Keep Your Waste in Order
Get rid of trash properly by carrying it onto your final destination. You may think a banana peel is biodegradable but it likely doesn't belong in the wilderness you’ve opted to discard it in. Tie trash to the outside of your pack to keep it from dirtying up the inside.
Choose Your Campsite Wisely
If you’re not staying at a designated campsite, remember to respect wildlife by choosing to camp in an appropriate (preferably open) area. Make sure you leave enough daylight to make camp as there’s nothing worse than fumbling and stumbling around with a head torch trying to fathom out how to erect a tent in pitch blackness.
Keep Your Camp Etiquette in Check
It sounds so simple, but be sure not to disturb the wildlife, or others camping nearby. Remember not to play loud music, take care with fire and don’t let dogs go wild.
Other Handy Tips
Making checklists for food and equipment can save crucial items being forgotten. Try to keep clothes and food in dry (or plastic) bags so they avoid getting soggy in a storm. Also, practice setting up your tent and firing up the stove at home and ensure you keep stove fuel away from food, and while on the trail, give uphill hikers the right of way.
And finally … if you have space, bring along a pair of camp shoes. (Easing off clunky clodhoppers clotted with mud to slip into a pair of lighter shoes is one of camping’s unsung pleasures.)
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