Items that pertain to normal people are written normally.
(Items that pertain only to guidebook authors are in parentheses).
- Pick a hike. Don’t just drive somewhere and hope for inspiration.
- Pick the best hike feasible. Never skip a good hike for a mediocre hike thinking, “I’ll get to that other hike soon enough…” Weather/health/family/jobs sabotage hiking opportunities all the time. (If you haven’t prioritized your hike list by coolness vs accessibility, go do that now.)
- Do a little research. This, of course, depends on how comfortable you are with uncertainty. Some hikers like to know everything before they go (for which guidebook authors must be grateful). Some just want to know how to get to the trailhead, and let everything else be a surprise. At a minimum, though, you should know what the weather’s going to be like, and the water or fire conditions.
- (Learn something about the history, geology and ecology of your hike destination – so you know what to look for on the trail. Yeah, you can do a lot of that afterwards, but why work harder?)
PACKING THE GEAR
- Get a map. Bring it with you. Your GPS does not count. (Print an extra one for your significants – so they can refer to it when they call the emergency response team later)
- Gather your essential survival things. (Have these in a kit ready to go, and keep that kit in your vehicle, so your son does not plunder it).
- Calculate the most water you could possibly consume on the hike, and put at least twice that amount in the car.
- Don’t forget lunch!
- Make sure your GPS, flashlight and camera are charged.
- (Make sure your GPS has memory left.)
- (Make sure your flashlight actually works.)
- Make sure you camera has memory.
- (Clean the lens on the camera.)
- (Bring a notebook and a working pen – because bad things can happen to digital recording devices in the wild).
- If the hike is more than 10 miles round trip, or you know you won’t make the trailhead until after 11 am, pack extra batteries for the flashlight, and bring an extra layer of clothing. At ten miles or more, or a noon start or later, you are one wrong turn from looking for the trailhead by moonlight.
- Gather this stuff the night before if you can.
AT THE TRAILHEAD
- Turn on the GPS, and let it find the satellites while you do the rest of your things.
- Finish your coffee. It won’t taste good when you get back.
- Now drink something else – don’t start the hike dehydrated.
- (Write down the GPS coordinates of the trailhead. Don’t just recite them into the DVR – write them down! Remember altitude.)
- Top off all the water containers.
- If there is some sort of toilet – use it. Especially if there are a lot of other cars at the trailhead. I don’t have to explain this logic – right?
- (Test the recording devices. Get the date and start time in the first recording, so you can use it on your blog seven months from now.)
- (Take a Bongo picture at the trailhead.)
- Lock the car.
- (Catch up with your companions who grew weary of your fussing and have already started the hike.)