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The 5 Keys To planning a Hike

Updated: Nov 10, 2022

If you are a newer hiker, learning how to plan a successful hike can be hard. This guide will walk you through the most important things you need to plan for to make your hike a lot of fun while also pointing you in the right direction of where to go next after you've planned it.

Consider this guide as pathway to a fantastic hike but not a step by step guide telling you exactly how to get there. Every hike is different so having one guide for all is very hard, but ticking all these boxes can help ensure you have a fun and safe time out on the trail.

1. Know Your Limits

When planning a hike it's important to know your limits; on top of any physical limitations you might have there can also be limits on your knowledge of an area or limits to your existing planning skills.

To really understand your limits as a hiker you should always look at walks you have completed previously. Look at the grade of the walk you are doing and assess if it is similar to walks you have done previously, if so then you're probably good to go.

Planning skills are a little different to your physical abilities and can a little harder to judge but is certainly something you gain overtime. Planning out an entire walk can seem hard but once you've done it once you can start to create a template for you to use going forward.

2. Look Around

Some tracks can be perfect at first sight but this isn’t always the case. Often many tracks are plagued with closures, fees and may not be suited to your abilities so take a look around before locking your location in.

Once you've settled on a place that you think is good, do the research into it just to be certain that this walk is good not only for yourself but also for any other hikers who will be with you for the walk.

Remember that it is always ok to change your mind at any time, often if you aren't too fixed on a single location it can end up in a better hike overall because you don't overlook the problems one location might have just to stick with all your plans.

3. Understand The Area

Understanding the area in which you are going to be hiking is paramount and probably the most important part of the planning stage in a hike. Whether it's an overnight adventure or just a half-day walk, doing research into what the trail and it's facilities are like is an absolute must.

This not only means looking at trip reports, photos and local parks agencies websites but also your good old topographic map to better understand the elevation you will have to walk on each day. Spending time to study the trail a little better can avoid any unwanted surprises while also allowing you to get an understanding of how long it will take to walk.

4. Plan for Nature

Nature always likes to throw us some curve balls which we simply can’t predict. A good amount of planning can help us mitigate any risks that you might face when heading off into the bush such as bushfires and storms alongside allowing you to have a better time too.

When it comes to planning for natural events like bushfires and storms, you should always have an action plan for what you are going to do as the weather escalates. This may include marking emergency escape routes on your map and having specific indicators for when you will decide to abandon the hike and take these routes out.

Ultimately your plan should be thorough enough that when bad weather and nature strikes you should know exactly what to do. This could be to continue your hike or to leave right away but you should never feel like you don't know what you should do. When you know what to do in an emergency you remove the risks that are presented when you make rash and rapid decisions which can often turn out to be the wrong one.

5. Make it Organised

Now this may be obvious but it is always important to remember. When you are organised you are much more likely to actually follow your plans because they are clear and straightforward. Some simple ways to keep everything organised is to break it down into the major categories like an overview, emergency plans, food, gear and others.

All of these can be put into a folder or a nice concise document which can then be shared with someone who will be staying at home and can contact emergency services if something goes wrong and you don't return from your hike when you were meant to.

So those are the five keys to the successful planning of a hike. No matter it's length, planning is essential and important to help keep you and others safe while out on the trail. After a hike is planned the next step is packing which as a new hiker can seem daunting. That's why we have made free downloadable packing lists for you to use on both day hikes and overnighters so you never leave anything behind!

Written by Josh Welch