How To Plan Your Hike

Today we’re looking at what to consider when planning your hike. While it’s tempting to get right into your car and drive to your favorite hiking trail or go out for a lengthy, enduring walk around your neighborhood, doing so is not necessarily the best choice. Preparation is just as important as the actual activity itself. So, before you head out, follow these tips:

Make a plan – and tell someone about it

It’s important to let people know where you will be hiking and when you expect to be back, whether you are going on a multi-day hike or day hike at a nearby park. On a backpacking trip, be sure to plan where you’ll be camping each night as well as the section of trail you’ll be hiking each day. This is important in case you need to be pinpointed for an evacuation. The best insurance is a written reminder with all your information left behind with someone who is not going and who is expecting you back or to check in by a certain time.


Study your maps before you begin the trip and have a good idea of which route you will hike. Look for possible emergency exit points as well as places where water refills are likely. You should also identify more than one water spot since dry spells can be unpredictable.

Create a time control plan. Predetermine where you ought to be at certain points of the day by using your map. Take into consideration your walking speed based on the number of people on the hike as well as their fitness level. Also, for every 1000 feet of elevation you gain, add roughly an additional hour of hiking time. Remember that when traveling as a group, you are only as fast as the slowest person in the group.


Graph your route. Highlight the route you will be taking by marking potential campsites, water stops, and major road intersections.


Check the weather and pack accordingly, keeping in mind that the weather at the base of a mountain and halfway up a mountain can be vastly different. Rain gear should be brought even if no rain is predicted, as wet clothes cause a person to become hypothermic even when temperatures are in the 50’s. Check out our blog post about what to wear right here for more information.


At the moment, there might be restrictions in place due to COVID-19 that can affect your planned hike – depending on where you want to go. Keep an eye on park closures, modified opening hours, limitation of people per hour/day, the need for a personalized ticket and the mandatory use of a face mask at certain points (park entrance, restrooms, shops along the planned route, crowded areas).


All about digitization?

Though an old-fashioned map may seem outdated in today’s world of smartphones, GPS devices and apps, it’s worth considering taking with you. First of all, it can be fun to actually narrow down a route, check where to go and search for the next intersection on a physical map. It also won’t do any harm knowing how to use a map in case you lose your smartphone or simply run out of battery.


However, tracking devices, hiking apps and the like are now more popular than ever, so we dive into this topic a little deeper.

Let’s start with a quick overview of a Global Positioning System (GPS). GPS devices are now available with a wide variety of functions for a wide variety of outdoor activities. By using a GPS device, you can have a map of your surroundings, determine your position, and reliably navigate to your destination. The advantage of most devices is that they are often waterproof and better protected from falls compared to smartphones. The battery life is also significantly longer than that of a smartphone. There are only a few manufacturers of GPS devices. Garmin is currently one of the market leaders.


The display of a GPS device should always be brightly lit so that you can still see something on the screen even in strong sunshine. Some GPS devices even have a transflective screen. These screens use the sun shining on them as a light source. The display size varies depending on the model. Everything from 2 to 4-inch screens are included. In most cases, however, the optimal size is a 3-inch screen.


A holder or wrist strap should also be considered when buying a GPS device. With a holder you can attach your navigation device to your backpack or belt and you don't have to hold it in your hand all the time on long journeys.


The compass is the heart of your GPS device. Most devices designed for hiking have a three-axis magnetic compass. The navigation works through this, no matter in which direction you hold your navigation system, even when holding it upside down. Most navigation devices use the GPS files and use them to tell you the direction of your movement.


Most high-quality devices come with leisure maps instead of simple base maps. You should also pay attention to the battery life and bring along spare batteries on any longer hike.

Apps can not only make hiking easier for you, but they can also help you find your way in nature. You can also take photos with your smartphone and listen to some music or a podcast while you're on the go.


There are plenty of opportunities to track your achievements (e.g. for our upcoming Hike Your Hood Challenge). A few common GPS apps that help you track your distance covered are Strava, Runkeeper or Runtastic. In addition, there are also a lot of hardware fitness trackers/smartwatches that come with their own app, e.g. Fitbit, Garmin, Xiaomi.


Here are four tracking apps we can specifically recommend for planning and tracking your next hike:

Alltrails

AllTrails offers over 50,000 trails in the US and Canada and is highly popular with over 3.5 million downloads. Here, you can not only create your own trails, but you can do so by using GPS tracking. AllTrails is a free app that you can get on both Android and iOS systems.

Maps3D

Your trip should be the adventure - not the planning phase. With Maps 3D, you can set waypoints in advance, calculate the best route, and have the app guide you in the right direction. You can also go on an impromptu journey of discovery.

ViewRanger

ViewRanger lets you plan routes, gives you great navigation, and gives you the ability to not only record but share your hiking adventures. Search and rescue teams all around the globe have used it for its advanced GPS navigation.

Komoot

From ready-built routes that reveal all of nature’s best-kept secrets, to superior route planning and navigation tech that lets you decide what you want to discover, komoot makes it easy to explore more of the great outdoors—however and wherever you want.