The Hiker’s Code: Advice for Newbie Hikers

Since we’re hiking semi-regularly, I thought I should save this here for easy reference (and I’m trying to help out with No. 15 – sharing the hiker code). It’s a post from Explorer Outfitter shared on their Facebook page.

Do Your Part – Be a Responsible Hiker

Always remember that you are responsible for yourself, so be prepared:

  1. Knowledge and gear – become self-reliant by learning about the terrain, conditions, local weather and your equipment before you start.
  2. Share your plans – always tell someone where you are going, the trails you are hiking, when you will return and your emergency plans.
  3. Stay together – if you’re going with a group, hike as a group, and finish as a group. Pace your hike to the slowest person.
  4. Turn back – the weather changes quickly in the mountains. Fatigue and unexpected conditions will affect your hike. Know your limitations and when to postpone. The mountains will always be there for another day.
  5. Prepare for emergencies – even if it is just a short hike (like an hour), an injury, severe weather conditions, or a wrong turn could become life threatening. Don’t assume help will come; learn how to save yourself.
  6. Silence is Golden – you’re hiking, not attending a rave party. Whether you are in a large group or hiking with one other person, there is no need to yell, shout or sing.
  7. Walking etiquette – be mindful of faster hikers coming up behind you. Stay to the right to make it easier for them to pass. Uphill hikers have the right of way so that they can maintain their momentum although there may be times when they may want to step aside for a break and offer the trail to the downhill hikers.
  8. Stay on track – follow designated trails. Shortcuts can lead to increased erosion and also destroy vegetation. Nobody likes muddy boots but tough it out in wet conditions rather than going off-trail. Once a side path forms, other hikers will use it, creating two trails instead of one.
  9. Leave animals alone – It’s not good for them or you. Your curiosity can frighten them and cause them to flee, and they may leave their young vulnerable to predators. Never feed the wildlife because it is unhealthy for them. Animals may also become a nuisance by associating humans with food.
  10. Take nothing but pictures – nature offers plenty of potential keepsakes but resist the temptation to pick up rocks and flowers in the forest, or driftwood and shells on the beach. It seems harmless but in heavily visited parks, the accumulated impact can be destructive.
  11. Collect any trash you find – everyone can do their part. Bring a bag to store any garbage you find along the trail and dispose of it appropriately when you return from the hike.
  12. Clean up after yourself – it isn’t always convenient when you need a toilet break. Find a spot away from heavily trafficked areas that is at least 200 feet from water sources. To minimize the impact, try to urinate on rocks or gravel. The best approach for solid waste is to dig a cathole 6 to 8 inches deep. When you are done, refill the hole and cover it with leaves, needles or other natural materials.
  13. Respect closures – sometimes parks and trails are closed to protect nesting birds, soil restoration or for revegetation projects. While it may be frustrating, these closures are necessary to limit the impact on recreational users. By observing the signs, you can help to avoid extending these interruptions.
  14. Ration your food – there is nothing worse than hiking on an empty stomach. Even if it is only a day trip, it is important to pack adequate food and water. As a rule of thumb, always pack more water than you think you will need. For extended hikes, bring a water filter and purification tablets. In a worst-case event, you can boil water to stay hydrated. The best food to keep on hand contain a high calorie to weight ratio (i.e. they’re light-weight) that provide a good mix of carbs, protein and fat. Keeping the right food on hand will provide you the energy to finish your hike. You can check this list for 10 ultra-light backpacking foods.
  15. Get involved – report trail abuse and environmental concerns. Volunteer to maintain hiking trails and to share the hiker code with others.

Written by Brandon Chee
Recreational Ecology Researcher
EXPLORER supports the “Responsible Hiker” campaign by Hiking & Camping Around Malaysia – HACAM