A Beginner’s Guide to Overnight Hiking

Looking for a way to boost your overall mental health? Getting outside could be just what you need. In fact, research shows that spending time in nature can help lower stress, anxiety, and depression levels. 

One exhilarating way to enjoy the great outdoors is to try out overnight hiking. 

However, if you don’t properly prepare for your overnight hike, it can be the difference between an exciting adventure and a dangerous excursion. 

Overnight Hiking

Have no fear, we’re here to help. 

Keep reading to learn the most important tips for overnight hiking to make sure your trip goes smoothly. 

Go Somewhere Familiar

Even if you’re experienced at daytime hiking, going overnight is a different ballgame. To help you get used to the difference, it’s a good idea to start by going to a place that you’ve already hiked. 

Not only will this help you be more familiar with the lay of the land, but it will help to cut back on the amount of planning you’ll have to do beforehand. Even going on a new trail in a familiar park is better than going to a completely new place for your first overnight hike. 

Careful Planning Is Key

You shouldn’t make the decision to go on an overnight hike on a whim. Instead, be intentional about your planning to make sure you’re not overlooking anything important. 

Start by laying out the logistics of your trip. How long will it take you to get to the trail? Where will you park? Are other people planning to join you or are you planning to take a solo trip?

Next, research the park itself. Look to see what kind of regulations they have in place to make sure your trip is in compliance. If there are fees or permits required for overnight hiking, make sure you know about them ahead of time. 

Finally, don’t forget to pay attention to the weather forecast in the days leading up to your trip. If inclement weather seems like a possibility, it’s ok to reschedule your trip for another time. 

Start Slow

For your first trip, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Plan for a shorter hike than you might think you can handle. Since you’ll need to pack more for an overnight hike than you would a daytime one, your body may not be prepared to carry the extra weight in your pack. 

Even with careful planning, your first overnight hike might not go exactly as planned, so it’s best to start slow and work your way up to longer, more intense trips. 

Keeping that in mind, it’s important to stay flexible and plan to follow only a loose schedule, leaving room for adjustments as needed. 

Bring Plenty of Food and Water

The last thing you want to happen is to be outside, overnight, and realize you’ve run out of food and water. Since you’ll want to be mindful of space in your pack, bring small items that are full of protein to help keep you full and give you the fuel you need for your hike. 

Snacks like nuts, jerky, and protein bars don’t take up too much space but will give you an energy boost when you need it. However, you’ll need more sustenance for your meals. Consider buying dehydrated meals that require only hot water to make, for the most nutrition in the smallest package. 

Water is bulky, but it’s your most important supply, so bring several containers to hold water and make sure you have a plan for refills. 

Pack Mindfully

There are so many cool pieces of hiking gear that it’s easy to get carried away and want to bring it all with you. However, the more you bring, the heavier your pack, and the more strain that puts on your body. 

Focus on bringing only the essentials, and think carefully about what you’ll actually use. For example, you’ll need a light source, like a Barebones Living lantern. But, you don’t need four different light sources. Similarly, instead of packing several different clothing options, just bring a few quick-drying items that you can rinse and wear again if needed. 

Make Sure Someone Knows How to Find You

You never want to go on an overnight hike without first making sure to tell someone where you’re going. Tell a friend or family member exactly where you’ll be hiking, when you’re leaving, and when you plan to be home. 

You should also plan to take an offline GPS system with you, just in case you get lost. There are several offline maps you can download to your smartphone, but having a paper map as a backup is a good idea too, in case your phone battery dies. 

Wear Comfortable Shoes

Your first overnight hiking trip is not the time to break in your new hiking boots. Instead, make sure you bring shoes that are already broken in and comfortable to wear. However, make sure they’re still in good condition, with plenty of traction so that you don’t fall. 

The wrong footwear can make you uncomfortable at best, or cause you to fall and hurt yourself at worse. Don’t chance it. 

Learn How to Use Your Gear 

Once you’ve decided what to bring with you, make sure you know how to use it before you hit the trail. Try setting up your tent at home so you know exactly how to do it once you’re out on your trip. 

Also, take time to double-check that everything you’re bringing is charged up, if needed, so you don’t find yourself scrambling later. 

You’re Ready for an Overnight Hiking Adventure

Now that you’ve read through our overnight hiking tips, you’re ready to hit the trail! With the right preparation, it will be one of the most exciting and fun trips you’ll take. 

Looking for more ideas about how to get out and explore nature’s beauty? Read through our other articles before you go!

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