This year’s fall weather has clearly shown that it is changeable, summer like in one day and sometimes the change happens on the same day. So as you plan your hiking trip in Montana, prepare for this eventuality for a safe hike. Follow these tips on preparing for your trip:
1. Plan well for daylight
With the reduced amount of daylight, your hikes should be planned to end before darkness sets in. If your trail takes more than six hours, then set off before noon. Starting early will ensure safety and the arrival of help before dark in case something happens. Consult your guidebook and read the trail descriptions then monitor a strict departure and turnaround time. If you are going solo then leave a note with someone back at home, share your itinerary with a friend in town so that if you do not return within the scheduled time, the friend or family can contact the rangers to help you.
2. Be visible to hunters
In the Fall season, hikers and hunters can easily meet in the wild. And since Montana is one of the best states for hunting deer, taking precautions will ensure you return safely. Find out the rules and regulations for the particular hiking trip from the trailhead kiosks. Hikers should wear at least clothing in hunting orange for increase visibility and to communicate your presence to hunters. Consider an orange cap or clip the clothing on the backpack for your safety.
3. Pack the ten essential items
These are a topographic map, a compass, first-aid kit, a pocket knife, extra food, matches, extra clothing, flashlight, and firestarter. With the unpredictability of Fall weather, also bring along some form of emergency shelter. Consider carrying hiking poles or ice axes for when you encounter stretches of snow on your trail.
4. Test drive your gear
A short overnight camp in your backyard or hike in familiar trails is essential a day or two before you go for the main hike. This makes you familiar with your gear and gets your team together in case you are a group or family. Pitch the tent in your backyard to check its functionality, inflate the sleeping pad, light your stove and check the headlamp beforehand. Check every item in your comfortable setup and learn how to use them before going out into the unknown.
5. Call ahead
To avoid unnecessary surprises, contact the ranger office nearest your routes to ask about trail conditions, permit requirements, temporary restrictions, animal activity, and road closures. Ask about seasonal regulations, and safety tips that may apply
6. Get fit
At least six weeks before your hiking, start a basic exercise routine to bring you into shape. Cardiovascular fitness and leg strength are very important if you are to complete the hike without any health issues and without slowing others down. Do some running, take long walks and walk uphill with a weighted backpack to simulate your upcoming hike is very good. Consider doing 2 to 3 workouts each week with these simple exercises: wall sits, dumbbell step ups, plank, and squats.
7. Break in your footwear
If you have acquired new footwear for the planned hike, wear them for short walks or to your job to break them in. If you don’t, the 8-mile walk carrying a heavy backpack will leave you with painful blisters making your hiking trip a terrible memory.
8. Partner with an experienced backpacker
An experienced friend can give you peace of mind in your hike. Someone who has been there will make your hike very enjoyable and memorable than going solo. A group of 4-6 people is a great memory-making set. Most trails limit groups to 12 to minimize the impact to the land.
9. Hiking Communication and Electronics
Getting cell phone reception in the wild is only by luck and cannot be counted on. Reception is available only around visitor centers and some national parks, but in the backcountry it is rare. Consider packing satellite phones if you have to communicate with civilization. Satellite messengers for transmitting 1 or 2-way text messages, 2-way radio for groups spread over a large area, and personal locator beacons for transmitting out distress calls can be considered. Since cell phone battery runs out fast in the cold outdoors, carry a portable solar charger.
10. Backpacking Clothing
Avoid cotton as it doesn’t dry easily and consider technical fibers like the moisture-wicking polyester for both underwear and long underwear. Pack convertible pants for when you want more air and sun. Get full or mid-cut boots or even hiking shoes. Avoid urban tennis shoes that are too flexible for the rocky trails. Pack some sandals for lounging in your camp. Choose woolen or synthetic hiking socks compatible with your chosen footwear, avoid cotton. Cover your head with a cap, brimmed hats and bandanas to shield your scalp from the long sun exposure. Ample sunscreen is a must for your package. A rain jacket should always be carried even if the weather forecast says it will be dry. It insulates your vest warding off the early or late day chills in addition to keeping away the bugs off your arms.
Hiking is fun when the adequate preparation is done and everything tested and confirmed. Your safety the whole trip is dependent on planning well, following safety regulations and keeping an open eye. And if you want to get one of the best hiking experiences, Montana has all the fun you seek.
About the Author: Kevin Steffey is an avid hunter and freelance writer. He loves spending time in the field with his rifle more than almost anything else, and occupies his off-time discussing deer and their habits online. He is a regular contributor at deerhuntingfield.com