Even if it’s just a day or a half-day’s hike, good preparation is essential: check the weather, choose your route and equipment.
Check the Weather Carefully for your Route
Before every excursion into the mountains, it’s important to look at the weather in detail. Sunny skies when you set off on your hike can hide wetter weather along the way. As well as the basic information relating to the vagaries of the weather (rain, fog, wind etc) and temperature, take a look at when the sun rises and sets. From the end of August, the days get shorter and night falls much faster than you’d think, so it’s essential to plan a route that lets you get back before nightfall, or make sure you’re equipped accordingly. So even if you intend to get home before sunset, always have a head lamp in your bag.
Choose the Route That's Right for you
Heading out on advice from friends? Why not! But be careful – make sure those friends are in similar physical shape to you, otherwise you’ll end up in trouble. Before setting off, work out the difficulty of the route, looking at the distance and vertical height gain, the altitude, and any tricky sections. Also check their difficulty classification to hike at your level. At the same time, plan your rest halts, shelters, accommodation etc that can offer a few hours’ or an overnight stay, depending on your needs. By working out where they are along your route, you can better regulate your effort.
More than the distance, it’s the height difference that makes a hike difficult. A long hike over flat terrain will prove less difficult than a shorter walk but with a greater difference in height, so remember: the shortest route isn’t always the easiest. You’ll find lots of useful information, and especially their experiences, opinions and feedback. If you’re planning a hike over several days, sleeping in a hut or other accommodation, make sure they’re still open.
In addition, some shelters are pretty basic once the summer season is over, and require similar equipment to that used for camping if you’re to get a good night’s sleep, hence the importance of checking carefully beforehand. Depending on the difficulty of the crash, pack an ultra-light and compact sleeping bag. Finally, if you go hiking with children, choose terrain that’s not too slippery or steep. Consider, for example, the undergrowth, which will offer some protection from the rain, and at the same time let you fill your basket with mushrooms!
Go Well Equipped
Never set off without at least a map and compass with you, especially as the route markers in autumn and winter aren’t always in the best of condition, and can become lost in the rain and fog. Also, an IGN map, guidebook, GPS or hiker tracking app on your smartphone should definitely feature among your equipment. Sometimes, you’ll be faced with wet ground and rain. So choose boots with good tread for better traction. You also need breathable clothing that’s warm and will keep you covered in case of bad weather. A pair of sticks can prove useful, especially to help keep your balance on slippery ground or to probe marshy terrain. Read our article on the items you need in your bag to be sure to not forget anything.
To find the right equipment, check out all our tips in the article about staying dry when hiking.
Finally, remember to also take with you: flashlight, survival blanket, water and cereal bars to avoid being caught unprepared. And of course, if you take a break, make sure you leave no trace of your visit behind. That way, the hikers that come after you can also enjoy the beauty of the place, and the animals won’t be disturbed by things that don’t belong in their environment.