Hiker on "The Visor," Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California.

10 Tricks For Making Hiking and Backpacking Easier

In Backpacking, Hiking, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , ,   |   14 Comments

By Michael Lanza

When I started hiking, I was like a young baseball pitcher with an overpowering fastball: I hurled myself at every hike with all of my energy. I didn’t think about how far I was hiking, the terrain’s ruggedness, or my pack’s weight. I was young and fit, so my haphazard strategy worked fine.

Now, many years and miles later, I’m more like a veteran hurler who’s honed a repertoire of off-speed pitches. I’ve learned various tricks to soften the blow of hard miles, helping me to hike 20, 30, even 40 miles in a day—even in my 40s and 50s.

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14 Responses to 10 Tricks For Making Hiking and Backpacking Easier

  1. Ralph Miller   |  June 4, 2018 at 5:42 am

    Another one I use is to try to keep my eyes forward when going uphill and spot a path with the smallest increases in vertical. In other words, I try to avoid the rocks, which require steps up, when the dirt terrain will gradually take there. While it may be a few more steps, I find, like you, it’s a lot of little things.

    • MichaelALanza   |  June 4, 2018 at 5:55 am

      That’s a good one, Ralph, and a little more nuanced version of my tip no. 7 above. Thanks for the suggestion.

  2. Alex   |  March 13, 2018 at 12:01 am

    Helpful article, Michael. Some of these techniques are new to me. I will try these techniques on my next hike!

    • MichaelALanza   |  March 13, 2018 at 6:12 am

      Thanks, Alex. I think you will notice the benefits.

  3. CAPT Gary M Andres, USN (ret)   |  November 3, 2017 at 6:53 am

    Morning Michael. I am a 62-year-old retired Navy Officer and USFWS law enforcement officer; I “hung up” my uniform for the last time this past July. As I enter my 4th childhood, I am prepping to complete a lifelong dream of mine: thru-hiking the AT next spring. As a result, I spend no less than an average of an hour a day online researching equipment, techniques, etc., and I happily stumbled across your website. It is simply out-freaking-standing!

    Reading your article on “10 tricks…” I was particularly surprised to see your recommendation to do “mini switchbacks” when transiting downhill. I used to do significant trail-running, and that was something I used to do to save what is left of my knee cartilage. I still do that when hiking (though it does unnerve my Aussie when she is with me!). I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone else mention that!

    Anyway, looking forward to delving deeper into your site! Thanks much, amigo!

    • MichaelALanza   |  November 3, 2017 at 7:24 am

      Hi Gary, thanks for the kind words, and let me say it’s always nice to hear from an old sea dog. (My dad was one, long before you.) You learned one of my tricks from experience. I hope some of the others are new to you. Good luck pulling off your AT thru-hike, and with your fourth childhood and however many more follow (hikes and childhoods). I hope you’ll keep in touch.

  4. Anthony   |  July 17, 2017 at 8:10 am

    Great tips, Michael. I can totally relate to the first two points, be fit and go light. These are the two mistakes I did on my very first hiking trip. I wasn’t fit but I was too excited and din’t want to miss the opportunity. And, my backpack was very heavy which made the things even worst. Somehow I was able to enjoy the trip but I learned a lot from my first trip. Wonderful article, thank you for sharing useful tips.

    • MichaelALanza   |  July 17, 2017 at 8:53 am

      Thanks, Anthony. And your first backpacking trip sounds an awful lot like mine.

  5. Mitch Stevens   |  June 11, 2017 at 9:30 am

    very informative article Michael. Little switchbacks in the trail while going downhill is a technique I’ll try on my next hike!

  6. Jeff Johanson   |  July 25, 2016 at 6:48 am

    Hey, i’d be up for another Pemi Loop ? Nothing like a good old beat down! Love to tag along. Let me know when.

    BTW my Presi Traverse was over well over 70,000 steps according to my Fitbit ?

    Jeff in MA

  7. Jeff   |  July 23, 2016 at 10:53 am

    Great advice! Some should seem somewhat obvious I would hop but #3,5,6,7 I believe are extremely good tips, especially if your dealing with very technical terrain….like my home turf the White Mountains.
    While not for everyone for me I enjoy to also turn hikes into almost little science projects. Quick trail analysis for good lines through techy terrain and those steps above to be safe, effeciant, and conserve energy. Since I live in extreme rock country one game I play when hiking with a slow group is practicing to see how far I can go staying just on top of rocks and not touching the ground. A good skill to practice IMO.

    At 58YO this past June I completed a solo 12 peak Presidential Traverse going south to north in 14 hours flat with breaks. 24 miles, 9,300 feet of elevation. (Longest hike I’d ever done until….)

    “The Pemi Loop” also late June done solo. 32.5 miles (including West Bond Spur to bag that peak for my 4,000 footers) over 9,000 feet of elevation again and just shy of 14 hours with breaks.

    EVERYTHING Michel listed 1-10 had to come into play for me to do these hikes in those times. Fantastic advice that absolutely works!

    Jeff in MA

  8. gemmajaneadventures   |  August 27, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    Great tips! I carried way to much weight on my first solo hiking trip, and i was knackered with sore knees at the end. I’ve now learnt to pack light, and I totally agree that it’s easier to carry a light pack twice as far as carrying a heavy pack half the distance.
    I think it’s also important to walk at your own pace. I’ve been hiking in groups when I’m one of the fastest, and one of the slowest, but trying to walk faster to keep up with a group is also really tiring, it’s better to go at a steady pace, and keep going for longer. After all, it’s a hike not a race. Refueling regularly certainly helps, although when it’s cold i get less hungry, I think it’s because I don’t want to stop and get cold!

    • michaellanza   |  August 28, 2015 at 6:54 am

      Thanks Gemma, I completely agree.

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