How to Hike
One of the things I love about hiking is that there's always something new to learn. There are advanced hiking skills, navigation skills, wildlife spotting, geology, etc. Every piece that I learn makes my hikes more fun and deepens my connection with nature. These guides are here to help you bring another level of appreciation and connection to your hikes. Have fun reading these articles on how to hike, and if you have any questions or subjects you'd like to see covered, please feel free to contact me.
You might have noticed that the total ascent figures for many of the same hikes have different values for the same route. This video will show you what total ascent is, how it relates to elevation gain, and why it’s always different for consumer GPS units like wearables, handhelds, and smartphones.
In this short video I’ll explain why automatically sharing your hikes and outdoor activity data with Strava helps trail advocates and land planners get the information they need to improve the outdoor experience.
Backpacking for beginners doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it is. Unfortunately, the massive amount of information online, coupled with pundits’ strong opinions, can be overwhelming for many day hikers looking to make the switch. The good news is that backpacking is much simpler than you probably think, and in this guide, I’ll give you some simple steps to make your first backpacking trip easy.
In this short and simple video I’ll explain why GPS distances are always different, and what you can do to improve the accuracy of your GPS distance reading.
In this short video I’ll show you around the CalTopo mapping software. We’ll create a hike, send it to our phone, navigate with the CalTopo mobile app, and then review our hike on the computer afterward.
It’s fairly common to spot errors on Google Maps, especially when you are heading to trailheads and outdoors-related areas. In this short video I’ll show you how to update the errors on Google Maps so that other people will get the correct address information.
In this short video I’ll show you how you can very easily advocate for legislation that supports hiking and the outdoors using the REI Cooperative Action Network. Letting you representatives know that you want them to support outdoor legislation is as easy as a few mouse clicks.
For those who are new to hiking using the Gaia GPS app (for iPhone or Android), this quick video will walk you through the basics of creating or loading a hike, using the hike to navigate, and then viewing your saved hike when you’re done on the trail.
In this video I’ll walk through the diffeent map layers that I find useful when planning nad going on a hike using Gaia GPS. I’ll show you which specific maps make sense and why, and also show you how I check for rain, snow, wildfires, cell reception, and overgrown trails.
In this video I’l shine light on the often asked question, “what are the triangle signs at the tops of mountains?” Well, they’re called witness posts and they were used in surveying. In this video I’ll explain the hows and whys behind them.
In this video I’ll share some tips and suggestions on how to minimize the chance that you may inadvertently cause a wildfire on your next backpacking or hiking trip. Even some small and simple steps can cut the risk of starting a devastating fire down significantly.
What is slack-packing? It’s a question I get asked, and in this video I’ll explain it to you. In a nutshell, slack-packing is hiking without carrying all the gear. There are a few ways to do it, and a few advantages, and I’ll talk about them here.
In this video I’ll answer the question, what is a Wilderness Area, and specifically, why are the Wilderness Area signs so far back from most trailheads.
In this short video I’ll show you what it’s like to use the Gaia GPS app’s “Guide Me” feature when hiking / walking.
In this video I’ll show you how to use waypoints, tracks, and routes on your Garmin handheld GPS and (watch) wearable units. I’ll cover planning out and creating waypoints, routes, and tracks on your computer using Garmin Basecamp, and then using those things in the field on your GPS unit. In the end I’ll give you some practical tips on when to use each entity on your outdoor adventure.
Just a quick video showing the gym bag that I use to keep my gear organized between my house and the trail.
In this quick video I’ll share some tips and tricks on how to use your hydration pack / water bladder, including tips on finding the best model, use in the field, and how to easily keep them dry and clean.
Almost everyone understands that GPS uses satellites to pinpoint our position on earth. Whether you have a GPS unit or use a smartphone with GPS, understanding some of the principles behind how it works will help you feel confident when using or purchasing one. In this guide, I’ll demystify GPS using plain language and then share some tips to get the most out of your GPS.
It’s a special moment when you get to witness a bear in the wild, but at the same time, it can also send your heart up through your throat. And that’s normal; bears are big, top-of-the-food-chain predators. But they’re not killing machines on a rampage looking for humans to eat. Most of the time, bears will run away from you, and it’s easy to hike and camp in bear country safely. Don’t let bears stop you from enjoying the outdoors.
In the old days of hiking, everyone learned how to read a topographic map because it was the only option to navigate a hike. Today we have handheld GPS units, GPS watches, and smartphones with GPS. Most new hikers can power their phone on, look at a dot on the map, and figure out their position in a second. And that’s great. Until your device doesn’t work, and that’s where (paper) topographic maps come in. And I know that topographic maps and non-digital navigation can be intimidating, especially for those who never used them. So in this guide, I’m going to focus on the basics of the topographic map so that you can look at one and make sense of it. I’ll dive into the deeper subjects of navigation, map & compass, and overland routes in other guides.
There’s nothing worse than having loose backpack straps flopping around. They can snag onto branches, they can get annoying when they constantly swing or tap you, and they look sloppy. In this guide I’m going to show you some simple ways to fix loose backpack straps in a minute or so.
As a hiker, dealing with wildfires is more and more of a reality these days. As with most things hiking, being prepared and informed goes a long way toward safely dealing with wildfires. First off, you’re going to want to know if there’s a wildfire affecting your hike. And when you’re out on the trail, you’re going to want to know how to deal with wildfires that pop up. In this guide, we’ll cover it all.
If you have a Garmin GPS unit, you can create and download custom maps onto your unit. When you use the CalTopo website, these custom maps can be almost anything that you can imagine. It means that you don’t necessarily need to buy a Garmin GPS with maps included, and it also means that you can create highly customized maps based on your use scenario. Custom maps have been available for Garmin GPS units for quite some time, but the process was clunky and tech-heavy. Today, using CalTopo, creating custom maps is dead easy. In this guide I’ll show you how to create the maps, download them to your Garmin, and view them in Google Earth to visualize the topography.
One of the cool features of a Garmin InReach is the ability for friends and family (or strangers if you want) to locate you in the field without much effort. It’s a great way for those concerned about you to easily see where you are or even send you a message. In this guide, I’ll show you how to locate InReach device and how to set it all up. The good news is that it’s all pretty easy.
A GPX file, also known as a GPS Exchange Format file, is simply a text file with geographic information such as waypoints, tracks, and routes saved in it. You can use GPX files to transfer that information between GPS units and computers. In this article, I’m going to demystify the GPX file in non-tech language so that you can use them effectively. I’ll also answer some common questions such as “what is the difference between a route and a track?”
The popularity of satellite communicators like InReach, PLBs, and SPOT has opened up a never-before realized lifeline from the backcountry to the outside world. For most of us who use these devices, this means sending a text message or track log to a loved one to let them know that we’re okay. But what happens when you get in trouble? How do you know what it’s okay to hit the SOS button? How “in trouble” is “in trouble,” and when is it enough to warrant an SOS?
Every winter, I get a ton of emails asking me if there’s snow on the trails that I create guides for. The answer is that I usually don’t know the conditions unless I’ve been there recently, and unless you go there yourself, it’s impossible to know the conditions for certain. But there are some high and low tech ways to make an educated guess about the snow and trail conditions that I use all the time. It’s not perfect, but generally, it will give you a good idea of whether you’ll encounter snow on the trail for your hike.
There’s nothing worse than doing a long hike, getting back to your car, and finding out that your keys are missing. And it’s even worse when you are parked at a trailhead in the middle of nowhere. These tips will help you make sure that your keys are safe during the hike and that you get home safely.
Taking the NOLS wilderness first aid class is one of the best investments you can make. It’ll take a weekend of your time, and in return you’ll learn how to potentially save lives in the wilderness. You can take the class at most REI locations. The format is very hands on, and you get to meet and learn with other outdoors folks. I highly recommend the class; here’s what to expect.
One of my most asked questions is “do I have to worry about mountain lions when I hike?” The answer is no and yes. 99.99999% of the time, mountain lions keep their distance from humans and avoid hikers. But it makes sense to be aware of them and their behavior, and be prepared for anything that could occur.
Trekking poles are standard equipment for many experienced hikers – but do you really need them? The answer is maybe—there are a few conditions that I use hiking poles under and some I do not. Here’s how you should determine whether you need trekking poles or not.
Hiking for beginners can be intimidating, but there’s really not much to it. You don’t need any special skills to hike; you just have to be able to walk and know where you are. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in nature, get a good workout in, and recharge your batteries. This guide will give you some essential hiking for beginners tips to make your hike safe and fun.
Creating a hike and sending it to your Garmin GPS is easy when you pay Garmin for their maps, but not as obvious when you want to use the many free map options out there. The process is pretty straightforward, although not promoted by Garmin. Here’s how to plan a hiking route and track, and then send it to your Garmin GPS and navigate with it.
Blisters are probably the most common hiking injury out there, and I’ve suffered from them many times myself. If you want to prevent hiking blisters, try these insider tricks and tips that I’ve picked up over the years. I haven’t had a blister since. To cut to the chase, you get blisters from chafing, heat, and moisture. Any or all of these factors can work together to cause blisters. All of these blister prevention tips are aimed at avoiding those conditions.
As a hiker, runner, and walker, I have struggled with plantar fasciitis many times over the years. The traditional advice wasn’t working for me. And “not walking” for a few months is just not practical in any way. So I went beyond the traditional treatment and wisdom and started exploring alternatives. And the good news is that I finally cured my plantar fasciitis. I haven’t had plantar fasciitis in years after following the guidelines in this article.
The great dilemma – do you really need hiking boots? Or can you use hiking shoes? Or do you even need hiking shoes? This guide will sort it all out for you, but the short answer is that you probably don’t need hiking boots. Hiking shoes or trail runners will be a better bet for most hikers. I’ll walk you through all the options and when it makes sense to use each one. If you want to see which specific models I recommend, check out my current gear page (updated ).
Mountain hiking embodies what hiking is all about: breathtaking views, fresh air, and a good workout. Here’s you’re guide on how to hike the mountains safely.