Tips for Fall Hiking
Now is the time to start thinking about all of the trails you'll be conquering this autumn season. Like most outdoor sports, hiking comes with it's own inherent dangers and risks to consider. Whether you enjoy challenging yourself with changing elevations, or just like going off the beaten path into areas unknown, be sure to bring along extra caution in your pack.
Although the vibrant colors of the forest are one reason to explore, consider the shorter days and colder nights that come along with the change in season. It's for these reasons an adventure this late in the year requires a little more planning than a typical trip to the beach.
Carefully consider and research your hiking destination, and be sure to check the changing weather conditions leading up to and the day of your trek. Definitely let a friend or family member know where you will be and when you plan on returning. And as always, be sure to pack the backcountry essentials that could potentially save yours or a loved ones life if the time comes.
Watch weather forecasts. In fall, weather can change in an instant. If you discover the day of your hike there are greater than 50% chances for foul weather or treacherous conditions, it may be a good idea to leave the hike for another day when you can return with the proper equipment. Resources such as Weather.com or my personal favorite Mountain-Forecast provide a number of resources and tools to plan ahead.
Let someone know where you are going. Create a simple itinerary for someone back home. Don't feel like you need to give them your exact GPS coordinates prior to (I mean, half the adventure is exploring some place new), but at a minimum let them know when you expect to return. Just as important, REMEMBER to let them know when you've returned. The worst is having a loved one stressed simply because you didn't consider they were waiting to hear back from you.
Always pack these 10 essentials on any hike. These include: a topographic map (recommend having a laminated paper copy) and a compass (and the knowledge of how to use them), extra food (check this out), extra clothing, a firestarter, matches, sun protection, a pocket knife, first-aid kit, and flashlight. In unpredictable weather, consider bringing some sort of emergency shelter, even on a day hike. Hiking poles can be helpful on stretches of unexpected icy or snow-covered patches. Remember, cell phones don't always get reception, batteries die, and are more often than not the most fragile piece of every day carry you own. Do not let carrying a cell phone give you the confidence that you don't need these 10 essentials. Check out this all in one bundle available in the store.
Share the trail. Autumn is hunting season, and each year hunters come out to pursue elk, deer, and other game. Consider wearing a fluorescent (bright orange) piece of clothing so that you won't be confused for big game. Be aware of overhead tree stands and packs of hunting dogs that may be in the area. Remember, they are lovers of the outdoors just as you are. Respect is a two way street.
Trust your gut
Only you know your limitations and what you’re looking for in a hike. If a trip feels forced or the weather turns unexpectedly, hold off for another time. If you’re going into a new area, stay within your pre-planned boundaries. A combination of longer nights and lower temperatures make it especially important to be cautious this time of year. Don’t let the shorter days be an excuse to stay inside, now is one of the best time for soaking a few last rays of sunshine before winter sets in.