Exit Strategy: Streamlining Your Trip to the Trailhead
Sometimes getting out the door feels like the hardest part of going on a hike. We asked our amazing Facebook community about their planning, packing and streamlining strategies. More than 50 hikers weighed in with tips on fine-tuning their exit strategy.
Sometimes getting out the door feels like the hardest part of going on a hike. We checked in with our Facebook community about their planning, packing and streamlining strategies. More than 50 hikers weighed in with tips on fine-tuning their exit strategy.
Plan ahead for the season
It's no surprise that planning ahead was a universal theme in the tips shared by your fellow hikers. But those weren't limited to prepping the night before a hike. Steps you take at the beginning of the year or the season will eliminate barriers to getting out the door.
- Buy annual parking permits so you're not always scrambling at the last minute to find a weekend vendor. —Neely O. B.
- For backpacking, in the spring I dehydrate a bunch of fruits, veggies and spaghetti sauce and put together dinners for future use. I store them in individual bags in the fridge, then just grab and go when I'm planning an overnight or multi-night trip. —Susan Elderkin, a WTA staffer.
Stay ready, organize your gear, use a checklist
- We keep our packs ready all the time. I replenish packs during the week, change batteries, check snacks. Winter season has different needs. We keep extra cold gear in the SUV at all times in winter.
We pick our destination the night before, which gives us a MUST LEAVE THE HOUSE time... Green Trails maps and all Passes stay in the vehicle. —Debby A.
- Have the stuff in the back of your car in case of a Hiking Situation. —Nathan M.
- Keep most of the ten essentials in your pack at all times, ready to go. Also keep a pack-list. Check off each item the night prior and throw in the last minute stuff (food) the morning of. —Rashel F.
- Dedicate a box or a set of drawers to outdoor gear. Keep ten essentials together. Also: reduce the amount of gear you have down to the gear you ACTUALLY use. That takes the decision out of it. It's not, "oh, which gloves should I use?" Instead, it's "pack cold weather gloves." —Rebecca J.
Packing the night before helps get you out the door
- Pack your bag the night before, drink a cup of coffee, GO! —Tyler A.
- Pack the night before. The best thing for me is to make breakfast burritos the night before. Get up, put them in the oven to heat while taking a shower, you have a hot meal high in protein to eat on the way to the hike. —Meagan L.
- I am NOT a morning person, so I get everything ready the night before and set it by the door. My permit, directions to the TH, phone and wallet are set right beside my car keys if I'm driving. Then I set up coffee pot to start brewing, and make my lunch. The next AM, I just get up, grab a bite, throw the stuff in the car and go. —Linda R.
How to (literally) get out of bed
Do you spring out of bed with a twinkle in your eye, ready to bound up a mountain? Then this section is not for you. Even if hiking is THE THING YOU LOVE TO DO MOST IN ALL THE WORLD, that doesn't necessarily make getting out of bed easier. So, if you're inclined to trade your first-born for ten more minutes in bed, your more reasonable night-self may need to trick or bribe your morning-self into motivating.
- Make plans I'm excited about! —Mary R.
- I set two alarms. The one on my clock gives me time to make breakfast & coffee and leave with plenty of time to get to the trailhead. The other is on my cell and set for about 20 minutes later. It lives across the room so I HAVE to get out of bed. —Anna Roth, a WTA staffer
- Another trick: get a vehicle you can sleep in the back of, like a Subaru Legacy wagon, then drive out the night before and sleep at the trailhead. —Paul B.
- Getting pastries from the local bakery for the road gives great incentive to get in the car! —Rebecca J.
According to a recent study, a week camping in the woods is also a great way to teach your body to wake up more easily.
This makes perfect sense, but when you roll in from a day or weekend of hiking, packing for your next trip isn't always the first thing on your mind. If you need a little motivation to take this extra step, turn your usual post-hike beer or meal into a post-unpacking/restocking treat. You'll thank yourself later.
- Hiking with kids (one with special needs - requires packing in and special equipment) always goes best when we've checked our equipment several days ahead. Growing feet and varying nutritional needs can really throw us off! Keeping packs loaded, unloading and sorting as soon as we return home, and checking everything the night before all allow for extra opportunities to remember random items. Like restocking our bandaid supply. —Carrie W.
Remember, there's no right way to plan a hike
You might be trying to streamline your hiking routine, but not everyone plans ahead or uses checklists the same way. (An informal poll of WTA staff found that while spreadsheets and laminated checklists are essential for some staff, others have never used a written checklist to pack.)
As long as you check trail and weather conditions, take your ten essentials and tell someone where you will be, there's nothing wrong with waking up and seeing where the day takes you.