Off-trail hiking provides the perfect opportunity to enjoy some rarely seen vistas as you get the fresh air and exercise your health requires. However, there are a few things to consider before you leave the well worn path. It’s important to obey signs and use common sense in choosing your direction, but there are other tips to make your first expedition a rewarding one.
Start With Smaller Challenges
Your first off-trail hike shouldn’t be an overnight venture. Instead, start more slowly with several shorter hikes. Pick a destination that’s only an hour or two from the area you designate as your home base. When you return, plan another short hike. This will help you get used to the rigors of off-trail hiking, and it will help you assess your speed and agility. Once you have a feel for your skills as a hiker, you can plan more adventurous journeys.
Learn to Navigate
The GPS system on your phone will work great and you should bring it with you, but don’t solely rely on your phone. Your battery could die or the phone could get lost or damaged. For that reason, bring along a printed map and compass. Use these tools regularly to ensure you’re experienced in using them. You can use your map and compass first, and verify your route by using your phone to help you become a better skilled hiker.
Enjoy the Journey
Take your time with each hike. In addition to giving you a greater appreciation for the surrounding nature, taking your time will help you avoid most accidents. If you do have an accident and become injured, be sure you have a plan for getting help. You should bring along flares and a first aid kit to help you signal for help and treat injuries minimally until help arrives. Your phone can be useful in calling for help, but, if you lose a signal, those flares will become more essential.
In time, you’ll become a more experienced off-trail hiker. In the meantime, following these suggestions will help you enjoy each experience, while ensuring you remain safe throughout each hike. If you feel uncertain about taking on a specific challenge, there’s no harm in turning around and trying a different route. In time, experience will give you the skills you’ll need to take on those bigger challenges.