1. If you are going on a low-traffic trail, hike in a group or with at least one other person. Group hiking benefits include: learning from more experienced hikers, aid for injuries, distribution of loads for group gear, establishing and building relationships with fellow hikers.
2. Stay hydrated. Carry enough water for the whole day, and your pack will get lighter as the day wears on. Good water carrying solutions are plastic bottles on a waist belt or soft backpack-type water bladders with drinking tubes.
3. Small snacks (grazing) on the go helps keep your energy up rather than draining your reserves while waiting for a big lunch.
4. Keep a small food reserve on hand just in case there is an extended, unplanned delay.
5. Embrace “Leave No Trace” ethics. Return with everything you brought in. Leave rocks and plants as you found them. Respect wildlife. Avoid disturbing nests, watering holes and feeding grounds. Never pursue, crowd or otherwise harass animals. Human food is bad for wildlife. Never feed wildlife. It can alter feeding habits and endanger them. Don’t create rock cairns, tree blazes, or any other signs to mark the trail – people should be able to navigate their own route without scarring the landscape.
6. Shortcutting trail switchbacks causes erosion. When traveling on established trails, hike in single file and stay on the path. Walking two-abreast or outside the established path breaks down the trail’s edges and leads to a widening and creation of multiple, parallel trails. If a trail is impassable at a certain point, try to get around the obstacle by walking on rocks, snow, sand, downed logs or similar non-vegetated footing. If a trail requires repair, report it to those tasked with carrying out repairs. That way hikers won’t start creating new ad hoc trails where never planned.
7. Leave a hike plan with someone back home and call them if you find yourself off the trail. Fully charge your cellphone in advance.
8. Bring and use sunscreen and a hat to prevent sunburn, even on cloudy or cold days.
9. Your hike should be fun for everyone in the group. Plan a hike that is suitable for everyone and let the slower person set the pace.
10. Keep your pack organized and place items back where you can easily find them again.
11. Repackage items to reduce weight. Transfer an item from a large container to a smaller one that only holds the volume you’ll be using. Don’t bring the whole box of energy bars when you’ll only eat 2 and need one more just in case.
12. Wear synthetic material clothing. Cotton doesn’t wick sweat and moisture away from your body. Neither does it dry quickly, which can expose you to hypothermia should you get wet.
13. However, a cotton bandanna tied to your pack strap works for a quick wipe of your brow as needed.
14. Inspect your emergency and first aid kits before each hike. Replace consumed items. Make sure you’re always able to start a fire if needed.
15. Becoming wet can be deadly when mixed with cold on the trail. Keep yourself and your gear dry. If near water or subject to rain, keep your cellphone and camera in waterproof bags, pack your sleeping bag in a heavy duty plastic garbage bag, and keep clothes in waterproof bags. Carry and use rain gear.
16. If your hands swell while hiking, raise them. Hold onto your pack shoulder straps for awhile and see if that helps. Use hiking poles to keep your hands elevated a bit and keep the muscles active. Raise your arms when stopped to prevent blood from pooling in your hands.
17. Take photo ID, insurance, and a credit card with you on the trail. Make sure you have photos or copies of documents at home in case they are lost.
18. You may see rock cairns (piles of rocks) along the trail. Don’t destroy them, but don’t add to them either. The agency with responsibility for managing the land will determine which markings are appropriate.
19. Short hair is much easier to manage in the wild and it is less inviting for bugs and critters looking for a place to live. Always check for ticks on your body after each hike.