Preparing for Fall Hiking
Well Autumn is in full swing here in New England. For some people that means that the happy days of Summer Hiking and Camping are over – for us it means that there are even more beautiful sights to see in the outdoors. But one thing is sure, hiking in the Fall requires different preparation than the other seasons. So here’s some tips from what we have learned over the years.
Be prepared for shorter daylight hours. Because of this you should plan to start and end your hikes a little earlier. If you are planning a half day hike (e.g. ~6 hours) you probably need to be on the trail by 10:00 AM to give yourself a little buffer. As Fall approaches Winter you probably need to even start earlier since here in New England sunset will arrive between 4:30 and 5:00 PM. When you plan your hike read your guidebook or trail map ahead of time and be realistic in assessing your group’s ability to complete the hike in the allocated time. As always, make sure that you tell someone what your plans are before you depart, especially if you are hiking solo. If your plans change, make sure that you let your contact know.
Be prepared for changes in temperature. Since temperatures can change 20 or 30 degrees during a Fall day make sure that you pack an extra layer in case your hike takes longer than you planned and the temperature begins to drop. Wear polypropylene or other wicking layers. Don’t wear cotton since it can soak up perspiration, mist and rain - and stays wet, making you even colder – especially if it is a windy day. On colder days make sure that you pack gloves and a hat – and perhaps a down or fleece vest.
Make sure that you have the appropriate rain gear. If you unexpectedly get caught out in the rain without a rain shell or poncho an adventurous hike will turn into a miserable outing.
Make sure that you have enough water. Because the air is cooler and moister than in Summer, many people fail to bring the water that they need to stay hydrated on fall hikes. Bring at least 2 quarts of water for any hike longer than two hours.
Make sure that you have some food for energy. It’s always a good idea to have some high energy food with you on a hike, On a Fall hike it’s probably even more important since your body needs to generate more heat to combat the colder temperatures. So take some snacks with you.
Make sure that you take all of your normal Hiking gear – especially your First Aid and Emergency Supplies since your survival may depend on them if there is a problem on the trail and you have to spend the night in the wild.
Check the latest weather reports and trail conditions before you so. Since the weather can be more variable in Autumn make sure that you know what you are getting into before you start. If there has been wet weather lower elevations may be muddy and slippery, while higher elevations may have snow and ice.
If you are in a location that has Fall hunting seasons make sure that you increase your awareness while hiking and take the appropriate safety precautions. Pay attention to trail signs as you enter an area. It’s also probably a good idea to avoid hiking in the early morning or at dusk when most hunters are active.
If you make a fire make sure that you are even more cautious than usual since all of the fallen leaves (assuming that they are dry) increase the chance of a forest fire should something go awry. Keep fires in designated areas, fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
But whatever you do – get out there and enjoy the beautiful Fall weather and sights. You might even want to check one of the online websites that shows when the trees are at their peak Fall colors so that you can experience the full majesty of nature.
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