Fast hiking is excellent, but the good stuff only happens when you have everything dialed in. Mistakes can multiply as you ramp up your pace and increase your intensity, and your performance can take a nose-dive. Hiking fast requires more than just efficient stride and strong quad muscles—it demands mental strength. With a few simple tweaks, you’ll be able to tackle any trail with confidence, no matter how steep or relentless it gets. Here are five tips from Fast Trackers that will help you make your fastest hike a success:
Tips to Make Your Fastest Hike a Success
Plan Your Fast Hiking Route Before You Hit the Trail
Just like a traditional backpacking route, a fast hiking route will usually fall somewhere between 10 to 20 miles. But unlike a regular trail which can be extended to meet your personal fitness goals, you’ll be looking to cover as many miles per day as possible with a fast hiking route and for hiking you need hiking shoes.
You’ll need to account for this change in length while planning the rest of your trip, including where you’ll camp and how you’ll resupply. With your route planned, you can now begin to explore the area you’ll be hiking in. Look up maps of the site, make sure you know where you’ll be hiking, and imagine how the experience will feel. This will help prepare you for the sensory overload you’ll likely experience when outdoors.
Bring a little more water than you think you’ll need
While hiking fast is a great way to push your limits and reap the rewards of walking longer and harder, it’s also a lousy way to hurt yourself. Add a few different bottles to your pack if you need to hike faster but aren’t sure how much extra water you’ll need to stay hydrated.
It’s better to have too much water than not enough. Hiking fast can cause your body to lose electrolytes and salt faster than rehydration tabs can replenish it. The result can be cramps, dizziness, fatigue, and even heat stroke.
Don’t hike alone
This may go without saying, but you should never hike fast on your own. While walking alone is not unsafe, doing so is unnecessarily reckless. You put yourself at risk of injury, and if you’re fast hiking, you’ll also be providing no one with a break from the trail. If you’re going for a fast hike, combine it with some other hiking activity. A walk with a group of friends would be better than a solo hike. And if you’re a beginner, maybe you should consider joining a class first.
File a trip report
For all intents and purposes, fast hiking is a form of backpacking. It would make sense to file a trip report with your local Forest Service office. This will allow you to keep tabs on your route, record any damage to the trail, and check on trail conditions. As a bonus, you’ll also be contributing to the trail’s long-term maintenance. Many trail crews rely on trip reports to help maintain the course, and filing one is an easy way to support the track.
Follow trail etiquette, aka Leave No Trace
You should always follow all wilderness regulations when hiking in the backcountry. But when you’re following the pack and walking fast, it becomes even more critical to follow Leave No Trace principles. Leave the trail and pick up a rock. Don’t move a stone. Don’t urinate in a bush.
Stay on the trail. Don’t get off the track to pose for photos. These LNT principles are a must for any hiking trip, but they become essential when you’re hiking fast. Suppose you need to leave the trail for any reason, use designated campsites. And when you’re walking fast, try to keep all your camp activities as minimal as possible. Fast hiking, after all, is all about getting in and out as quickly as possible.
Fast hiking is an exciting way to get outdoors, but it requires a commitment to proper preparation and trail etiquette. Make sure you plan your route before you hit the trail, bring enough water, don’t hike alone, file a trip report, and follow LNT principles when walking fast. With a bit of practice and the right tweaks, you’ll be able to tackle any trail with confidence.