How to Choose and Prepare for a Hiking Trip

Some of the most memorable and iconic adventure travel experiences involve hiking across spectacular landscapes. For instance, trekking to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro or hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. But sometimes travelers can be overwhelmed with the requirements of undertaking such a challenge, such as sleeping in tents, carrying a loaded backpack, and walking for miles each day.

If you've ever dreamed of hiking the Great Himalaya Trail or crossing off any number of other amazing trails, we have some suggestions for how you can properly prepare for your journey and get the most out of the entire experience. 

01 of 09

Define Your Trip Style

a tent on a field in the Rocky Mountains
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The Adirondacks or the Rockies, camping in a tent or staying at a luxurious lodge, hiking from one town to another or finding a far-off place to wander—making these kinds of decisions is the first step you should take when selecting a hike that interests you.

Some travelers like visiting more remote areas and getting far away from civilization, while others prefer a few luxuries to make their trip a bit more enjoyable. There is no right or wrong choice, only the one that works best for you. 

Once you've decided exactly where you want to go and how you want to explore that destination, you'll more than likely find numerous options online for guides and itineraries. 

02 of 09

Choose Your Trip

a group of people in full gear hiking on a glacier
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Now that you've dialed in on the type of trip that most appeals to you, it’s time to actually choose one. You'll probably find many companies that offer walking and hiking trips to the place you want to visit, but narrowing down which one works best for you can still be a challenge.

Start by finding guide services that offer departures for the timeframe that you want to travel. Some only run one or two trips a year, some are seasonal, and others offer trips on a more continual basis. 

Once you've narrowed down your selection, reach out to each company that has a trip of interest to find out more information. Ask about how many guides will be on the trip, what the food will be like, and the amenities (or lack thereof) you can expect on the trail. Try to get a sense of the experience ahead of time. It's also a good idea to ask about the level of fitness required, as some hikes will be more demanding than others, and many of them won't offer the option to catch a ride to the next campsite or lodge. 

Of course, you'll also want to factor in your budget by finding a trip that meets your price too. 

03 of 09

Assess Your Fitness Level

hiking in the mountains
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Prior to setting out on any excursion, it is important to take an accurate and honest assessment of your own level of physical fitness. Traveling on foot through a remote corner of the world can be taxing at times, even if someone else is carrying the bulk of your gear. Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses will prove to be a major asset in getting ready for any trip. 

Keep in mind that you may be able to walk a mile or two on pavement comfortably, but can you also hike four or five miles a day – or more – on varied terrain? Beyond that, can you also get up and do it again tomorrow and the day after that? Inquire with your tour operator about how strenuous the itinerary is to get a better sense of what to expect on the trail. 

04 of 09

Train for Your Trip

trail running for fitness
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If you don't already exercise regularly, aim to start training at least a month or two before you actually leave for vacation. Spending time at the gym working with weights and on a treadmill or stationary bike can all help you prepare. Supplement that training with long walks or hikes on weekends, preferably on dirt trails instead of pavement. Jogging can also help help improve your cardio efficiency, as well as agility and stamina. 

For more extreme trips, like hiking to Mt. Everest Base Camp or following the Inca Trail in Peru, you should start training several months ahead of time to prepare for challenges of rough terrain and high altitudes. Companies running these types of trips will often have specific recommendations for a training plan, including a timetable for when you should start. Keep in mind, however, that you can be incredibly fit and still suffer challenges with altitude, so expect to take it slow and go at a moderate pace when hiking in the mountains. 

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05 of 09

Get Used to Carrying Gear

backpacking in the mountains
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Even if you're in great physical condition, if you're not use to wearing a backpack filled with gear (possibly multiple days' worth), any hike can be a challenge. A loaded backpack can be heavy and cumbersome and can affect your balance and agility. 

Prior to setting out on your trip, find out if you'll be responsible for carrying your own load or if porters will do the bulk of the work for you. Either way, you'll want to start prepping for the trek by making day hikes on your local trails while carrying a backpack with approximately the same load as you will while on your adventure vacation. This will help your body to get accustomed to having a backpack on for hours at a time.

While training, be sure to wear the boots and backpack you'll take on the trip to ensure there are no surprises when you get to your destination. 

06 of 09

Wear the Appropriate Boots

hiking boots
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One of the keys to enjoying any hiking trip is to have a proper pair of boots designed for the terrain you'll be walking on. If you'll mostly be exploring paved, easy trails with little change in altitude, hiking shoes may be in order. On the other hand, if you'll be dealing with a lot of climbing and descending on steep trails, sturdier backpacking boots may be in order. 

Before setting out, be sure that your boots not only fit properly, but are broken in enough to ensure they are comfortable too. This will help avoid developing hotspots and blisters while on the trail, keeping your feet much more comfortable as a result. Bring several pairs of good-quality hiking socks too, preferably made from synthetic, high-tech materials that wick away moisture, which are much better than cotton. 

Pro Tip: Wear your hiking boots on the plane while traveling. That way, if your bags get lost you'll still have the proper footwear. Most gear can be replaced, but breaking in new shoes can be disastrous. 

07 of 09

Decide What Clothing to Pack

backpacking clothing
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Your tour operator will typically provide you a list of specific clothing you should bring on the trip. Those lists are generated from years of experience and understand of what travelers will need while on the trail. Usually the list will include waterproof and breathable clothing that are designed to keep you comfortable in a variety of conditions and changing weather. Purchasing clothing that can provide protection from the sun is always a plus, and some hikers prefer pants that convert to shorts as well. 

REI has clothing and gear for pretty much every adventure imaginable, as does Backcountry and Sierra Trading Post

08 of 09

Bring the Right Backpack

backpacking packs
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Picking the right backpack can play a key role in getting ready for any adventure travel excursion. No matter what style of trip you're on, you'll want to bring a pack that fits your body comfortably, has the capacity for whatever you're carrying, and has features to keep everything dry and well protected from the elements. 

Just like selecting the proper boots plays a vital role in your enjoyment, so does the right backpack. Visit your local outdoor store to get a proper fitting and find one that meets your needs. 

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09 of 09

Bring Personal First Aid and Emergency Gear

backpacking gear
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You may be trying to conserve space in your bag, but don't forget to pack items that can keep you safe and healthy. For example, you'll want to bring sunblock, energy snacks, a flashlight, a knife, bug repellant, a first aid kit with blister bandages, and possibly even an emergency kit with a whistle, compass, matches, and a space blanket, depending on your destination. 

If you want an all-in-one solution, grab an Adventure Medical Kit. They are well organized, convenient, and stocked with everything you need.