24 Helpful Hiking Hints & Hacks To Try On Your Next Hike

Text by: Kelsey Begg

Adventure Medical Kits, Arc’teryx, Clif Bar, Coleman, Counter Assault, Goal Zero, Hiking & Trekking, Hydrapak, Jetboil, Leatherman, Light My Fire, Nalgene, Opinel, Platypus, Red Pine, UCO, Victorinox, VSSL. 24 Helpful Hiking Hints & Hacks To Try On Your Next Hike

Heading for a hike in the woods or the mountains is an adventure no matter how long or short the journey ahead is. Whether you’re hiking to camp and planning mini hikes from your base camp or you’re simply on a day hike in search of spectacular mountain scenery, being confident and prepared is crucial. There’s no such thing as being too prepared and with a few good hiking hacks, you’re sure to impress your group and have a splendid time.

Before anything, you want to ensure you know where you’re going and that you’ve got the appropriate gear and apparel. Have you chosen the right hiking pack for your trip and are your hiking boots or shoes a proper fit? These are important factors which can easily make or break your trip so hack #1: make yourself a checklist.

Make a Checklist

Although it may seem silly, especially if you embark on multiple hikes within a month, a checklist is gold. Sometimes writing one can even spark new ideas for things to pack and even that one thing that you always forget because you think of it last minute. Whether you’re packing your hiking backpack for a multi-day adventure or you’re just setting out for a few hours, a little checklist will ensure that you haven’t missed anything. 

Test Your Hiking Gear

While you’re making your checklist if there are any pieces of gear or equipment that you need to purchase, make sure you test it before your hike.

  • Most hiking footwear needs to be worn in before you embark on a multi-hour hike.
  • Hiking backpacks are designed to be worn while traversing rugged terrain although some styles aren’t meant for everyone. Try on your hiking backpack and make sure it will be comfortable on your back for multiple hours. Unpleasant chafing can cause sores and even end a trip early.
  • Set up your tent at least once so you know what you’re doing and aren’t completely lost without the aid of Google or instructions.

Dress in Layers

While it seems like common sense to dress in layers for outdoor activities no matter the season, some people will still forget. Check the weather before you leave the house and dress accordingly. Remember that if you’re hiking up any summits or along exposed ridgelines, the weather can change drastically. Bring along a warm layer and even a waterproof shell because anything can happen in the mountains.

Pack Your Hiking Backpack Efficiently

An efficiently packed backpack can be a game changer on the side of the trail. You want to ensure the items you will need during the hike are easily accessible so that you are not unpacking and repacking the entire backpack every time you need something. If you’re hiking to a destination to set-up camp, it’s understood that you won’t be needing your tent or sleeping bag along the trail so pack those near the bottom. On top of the camping gear, you can pack your kitchen cookware. Think about what snacks you’ll be eating along the way and if you’ll need to pull out your Jetboil Minimo Cooking System for a quick brew at lunch. 

One very important tip regarding your hiking backpack is ensuring the fit is correct. This will impact how the backpack feels on your back while loaded. You want to keep the weight as balanced as possible so keep heavy items like tents close to the center so the weight is central. Heavy items hanging from the back of the backpack can cause you to lose balance or have the backpack hanging off of your body uncomfortably. 

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Learn To Read The Sun

Being able to interpret how many hours of sunlight you have left is ideal. While you should always have a watch, phone or GPS on you while out for a hike, when there’s no service, it can be hard to check the sunset time. Luckily for us, our hands go everywhere and they don’t need service to work.

To tell time with your hand and the sun, simply extend your hand out in front with your palm facing you. Starting at the horizon, stack one hand on top of the other until you reach the sun. Each finger represents approximately 15 minutes so from that, you can calculate how much time you have before it gets dark. 

Know The Trail

Even if you’ve hiked the same trail a million times before, bringing along a map or map book will keep you on the right path. You may discover new trails leading to different lakes or even spectacular views. You may not even touch the map or map book but having it handy just in case is a smart practice.

Keep Electronics Charged 

A dead GPS won’t be much help on the trail so ensure that all your electronics are fully charged ahead of time. If you are embarking on a multi-day hike, it’s possible your electronics will need another charge along the way. While it’s obvious that it’s not often you will find an electrical outlet in the middle of nature, solar panels and other portable chargers like those from Goal Zero are perfect. 

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Flip 30 Recharger

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Light-A-Life Mini Quad USB Light Set

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Nomad 7 Solar Panel

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Keep Electronics Dry

If you don’t have an E-Case to keep your phone or other electronics dry, a simple sandwich bag will work just fine. Weather in the mountains can change in a heartbeat so be prepared for rain and pack along a small bag or E-Case to keep the water at bay while navigating in a downpour.

Duct Tape – Just Bring It

Duct tape is one of the most versatile and convenient pieces of equipment you can have in the outdoors. It’s cheap, found nearly everywhere and has over a hundred uses that are sure to save the day. One roll of duct tape can be quite cumbersome in a backpacking so wrap some around a water bottle or a hiking pole. The more you have, the better so spread it out and wrap a few strips around multiple items within your backpack.

A few good uses for duct tape include:

  • patch ripped clothing
  • create safe handles for pots or pans
  • repair a damaged backpack
  • create loops to attach items to your backpack 
  • temporarily fix broken zippers
  • using a stick as well, fix a broken hiking pole
  • treat blisters
  • removing a stubborn tick
  • keep food bags that cannot be resealed closed
  • fix a crack in a water bottle
  • waterproof shoes with mesh pieces
  • mend a hole in the tent

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Biodegradable Trail Marking Tape

If you’re hiking along a route that you will return along and are slightly worried about making a wrong turn coming from the opposite direction, use some trail marking tape. Make sure the trail marking tape you purchase is biodegradable and opt for a bright colour you know that will be easy to see. As you wander along, you can easily mark your trail to ensure a safe return. 

Fire Starters

A change in weather can quickly change your plans and have you posting up somewhere until the weather is suitable to continue. In these moments, a quick fire to huddle by and cook up some warm soup is ideal. When you location isn’t abundant with wood, a simple fire starter will do the trick. Stash a few wax covered cotton pads in a sealed bag or container in your backpack or keep a Light My Fire fire starting tool handy.

First Aid Kit

If you haven’t got enough room for a large-sized first aid kit, squeeze a few first aid essentials into an empty pill case or an empty Altoids tin. While Adventure Medical Kits makes well stocked first aid kits, if you’re limited on space, a conveniently sized first aid tin from VSSL will do the trick. Remember to always bring extra band-aids. They come in handy if ever a blister appears.

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First Aid Kit

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Learn How To Tie Knots

Knowing a few basic knots can be life saving in a particular situation so brush up on your knot tying and learn a few good ones. One of the most useful knots you can know is the Bowline knot so learn it and practice until you’ve got it memorized.

Carry Rope Segments

Carrying segments of rope will keep you prepared for just about anything from hanging a clothesline for wet items, creating a shelter and even constructing a splint or stretcher if someone has had an accident. Ideally, you want to carry multiple segments of rope that are around 1 to 2 meters in length. If you have room for more, bring along a large role so you are prepared for constructing a shelter if there are not any trees or other anchor points nearby. 

Carry Candles & Matches

If you’re carrying matches with you, ensure that they are in an airtight container where damp weather or conditions cannot affect them. You can also waterproof the matches using shellac although an airtight container may be quicker. Another useful option is to carry candles. You can keep the leftover wax to waterproof gear and equipment in an emergency too. 

For other forms of lighting, opt for a headlamp instead of a flashlight. This hands-free option will make cooking in the dark far easier and can be even integrated with a Nalgene water bottle to create a lantern.

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Waterproof Matches

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Beeswax Candle 

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Replacement Candles

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Pick Snacks Wisely

Often times the packaging for your favourite snacks take up a lot of space although the contents inside do not. Try repacking your snacks into air tight sandwich bags or small containers that don’t take up much room in your backpack. Also when choosing snacks and meals for multi-day trips, choose foods that are high in energy and protein and take up less room. Things like nuts, dried fruits, beef jerky and Clif Bars will take up less room than bulky chip bags or Tupperware containers with last night’s dinner.

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Be Tick Aware

Although not all regions are populated with ticks, it is always a good idea to be tick aware. If you’re wearing pants, tuck them into your boots to eliminate any small guests from hitching a ride. Tall hiking boots paired with long socks are a good alternative if you are hiking in a pair of shorts. Whenever you stop after walking through tall grass or among bushes, do a quick tick check and ensure you’re tick free.

Combat Wet Weather

Some backpacks like the Arc’teryx Bora AR and the Mountian Hardwear Ozonic™ Outdry® are constructed with waterproof materials which keep your gear inside dry. If there’s a possibility you will be traveling in damp weather and your bag is not waterproof, you can line your backpack with a large garbage bag. This will keep the wet weather from penetrating your belongings inside although if left for too long, the items may begin to acquire a damp and mildewy smell so remember to open the bag and allow fresh air to circulate when you find shelter.

If you still have some room in your backpack, pack along an extra garbage bag or two which can double as a poncho or rain cover for your backpack if needed.

Bring Along Rolls of Newspaper

This is more for those embarking on multi-day hikes where wet weather is a possibility. There’s nothing worse than having to slip on a wet pair of shoes and wear them for an entire day. If you’ve traveled in damp conditions the day before, stuff your shoes with some newspaper for the night. The newspaper will absorb the humidity and dampness from the shoes. Although they may not be bone dry, they will be better than sopping wet boots.

Keep Hydrated

Staying hydrated while on a long hike can be a challenge but it is absolutely crucial. If you’ve emptied all the water in your water bottle and your hydration bladder, a simple water treatment system can turn any river or stream into a drinking source. If you know you’re going to be hiking for multiple hours with a chance of running out of the water, a water treatment system is key.

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Beat Blisters

Stop blisters before they happen by firstly picking the right shoes and secondly, wearing a pair of sock liners. If you haven’t got any sock liners, doubling up with a pair of thin, breathable socks can eliminate uncomfortable rubbing which may cause blisters.

Pack a Knife or Multi-Tool

You never know when a multi-tool or knife will come in handy and they’re small enough that they don’t take up too much room. They’re convenient and compact so don’t forget to include one in your pack. Use it for cutting some rope, making small pieces of kindling or even opening up a can of tuna for a quick trailside snack.

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Make it Float

If you’re traveling along trails near streams and rivers and are having to traverse across, keep your keys buoyant with a wine cork. Keep only the most necessary keys that you need so you can get rid of excess weight and attach a wine cork to the key chain. This will keep the keys floating on the surface if they accidentally slip from their pocket.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Bring along a flora and fauna book. This is great for those wishing to discover new species or who have a tendency to eat strange berries. Make sure you know which trees to stay away from and which animals may cause a threat in the area. If you’re in bear territory, a bear bell or some bear mace would be ideal to bring along also. 

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At the end of the day, as long as you are prepared for the elements and have done your research on the location and route of where you are headed, you’re going to have a great time. These helpful hints and hacks are sure to keep a smile on your face the entire hike and keep you feeling keen for the next.

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