Considerations For Hiking In A Rural Area | Hikers University

There are several things to consider when hiking in a rural area. For starters, you need to be aware of the dangers that come with hiking in an unfamiliar place.

Hiking can be a great way to get outside and enjoy nature, but if you're not prepared for it, you could end up in trouble. There are a lot of things to consider when hiking in a rural area, especially if you're new to the activity. Where should you go? What should you bring? How long will it take?

Before setting out for a rural hike, be sure to do your research and plan accordingly. Ensure you're familiar with the area you'll be hiking in, tell someone where you're going and when you expect to return, bring plenty of water and snacks, dress appropriately, and carry a first-aid kit.

If you're looking for an outdoor activity that is both challenging and rewarding, hiking in a rural area may be perfect for you! However, before you head out on your first hike, there are a few things you should know. In this article, we will discuss everything from the best time of year to go hiking to what to pack in your backpack. We'll also provide tips on how to stay safe while hiking in a rural area. So, whether you're a beginner or an experienced hiker, this article has something for everyone.

Our experts have been hiking in rural areas for years, and they have some great tips to share. We also took input from our readers, who are also experienced hikers. So if you're ready to hit the trails, read on for everything you need to know about hiking in a rural area!

Table of contents


Assessing Your Physical Condition

If you're planning a hike in a remote or rural area, it's essential to make sure that you and your group are physically up for the challenge. That means taking a close look at your fitness levels and conditioning yourselves as necessary. This will help you determine if hiking is the right activity for you and what level of difficulty you should be aiming for. If you have any health concerns, consult with your doctor before beginning a hiking program.

When it comes to conditioning, start slow and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your hikes. If you try to do too much too soon, you'll quickly become discouraged and may even end up injuring yourself. Instead, start out with short hikes of 30 minutes or less, gradually increasing the distance and duration as you build up your endurance. A good rule of thumb is to add no more than ten percent to your total mileage each week. For example, if you hike three miles one week, aim for no more than four miles the next week. By slowly increasing your mileage, you'll give your body time to adjust and avoid injuries.

You should pay attention to the intensity of your hikes, making sure to include some rest periods during longer or more strenuous hikes. If you're hiking for more than an hour, or if you're hiking uphill for extended periods, it's important to take some rest breaks. This will help your body to recover from the exertion and prevent you from getting too tired. It's also important to drink plenty of water during and after your hike, especially if it's a hot day. Even if you are an experienced hiker, it is still important to take rest periods during longer hikes and to listen to your body if you start feeling fatigued. By paying attention to the intensity of your hike, you can avoid overexertion and enjoy the experience without putting your health at risk. The last thing you want is to end up stranded in the middle of nowhere because you pushed yourself too hard!

Exercises To Prepare You for Rural Hiking

If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, it's important to start exercising several months before your hike. In addition, your cardiovascular system will need to be in good shape to ensure that you can handle the physical demands of hiking. This will help to gradually increase your fitness level and reduce the risk of injury. As you get closer to your hike, start adding in strength-training exercises to build up your muscles. Finally, be sure to do some light stretching every day to keep your muscles loose and prevent cramping.

Walking is a great way to get started, and you can gradually build up to jogging or running if you're feeling ambitious. Start by walking for 20-30 minutes every day, and then gradually increase the distance and duration as you get fitter. If you live near a hilly area, try to include some hills in your walks to get used to hiking uphill. You can also use an exercise bike or elliptical machine if you don't have access to good walking trails. Just make sure that you're working up a sweat and getting your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes each day.

In addition to aerobic exercises, it's important to do some strength-training exercises to build up the muscles in your legs and back. This will help you hike uphill more easily and prevent injuries. Try doing squats, lunges, and calf raises at home or at the gym. Start with two or three sets of twelve repetitions, and gradually increase the weight as you get stronger. For the best results, strength-train two or three times per week.

Stretching is also important, especially if you're not used to being active. Do some light stretching every day, focusing on your legs, back, and shoulders. Yoga is a great way to stretch your muscles and improve your flexibility. There are many beginner-friendly yoga classes available online or at your local gym.

Swimming is often thought of as a summertime activity, but it can be a great way to stay in shape all year round. In particular, swimming is an excellent form of exercise for hikers. Hiking is a great way to get some exercise, but it can put a lot of stress on your joints. Swimming helps to build endurance without putting too much stress on your joints. If you don't have access to a pool, try doing some water aerobics or using a resistance band in the shower.

Take A Course

You never know what might happen on a hike, so it's always best to be prepared before venturing into the wilderness. If you're new to hiking or are planning to hike in a rural area, consider taking a first-aid or wilderness survival course. These courses will teach you how to deal with common injuries and illnesses and what to do if you get lost in the wilderness. You can find courses offered by your local Red Cross chapter or outdoor recreation center. In addition, you'll be able to meet other people who share your interests and can provide support and companionship on your hikes. So whether you're just getting started or are looking to expand your horizons, taking a course or joining a group is a great way to enjoy the outdoors safely.

We recommend you head over to REI and check out some of their free online courses. They have a great selection, and they're very comprehensive!

Planning Your Hike

Now that you've decided to take the plunge and go hiking in a rural area, it's time to start planning your trip. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan:

1.         Choosing The Right Trail

One of the most important aspects of planning a successful hike is choosing the right trail. When choosing a trail, it's important to consider factors like the difficulty of the terrain, the length of the trail, and whether or not you're comfortable hiking alone. First, if you're new to hiking or are unsure of your fitness level, it's best to start with an easy trail. Look for trails that are well-marked and have a gentle grade.

Once you've hiked a few easy trails, you can gradually move on to more challenging ones. Second, consider the distance of the trail. If you're pressed for time or are hiking with young children, you'll want to choose a shorter trail. However, suppose you're looking for a longer hike or are intending to camp overnight. In that case, you'll need to choose a trail that's long enough to accommodate your needs. Finally, think about the scenery. Do you want to hike through a forest or up a mountain? Or do you prefer open meadows and fields? The type of scenery you want will help you narrow down your choices.

If you're unsure where to start, we recommend checking out They have a comprehensive database of trails all over the world, and you can filter by difficulty level, length, elevation gain, and more.

2.         Timing It Right

Another important consideration when planning your hike is the time of year. Different trails will be open or closed at different times of the year, depending on the weather and snowfall. In general, it's best to avoid hiking in the winter unless you're experienced and have the proper gear. Spring and early summer are generally the best times of year for hiking, as the weather is warm but not yet hot, and the vegetation is green and lush. However, late summer and early fall can also be lovely, as the leaves of the deciduous trees begin to change color. Winter can be breathtakingly beautiful, but it can also be dangerously cold, especially at higher elevations. And insect activity can be a nuisance in any season. With that in mind, it's important to choose an appropriate hike for the time of year. For example, a lowland trail in spring or summer will likely be overrun with insects, whereas a high-elevation trail in winter will be subject to extremely cold temperatures. By taking the time of year into account, you can ensure that you have a pleasant and safe hiking experience.

3.         Check the Weather

Before heading out on your rural hike, be sure to check the weather forecast for the area you'll be hiking in. This will help you plan what to wear and what to pack. If the forecast calls for rain, snow, or high winds, you may want to consider postponing your hike. In addition, be aware of the temperature range for the area you'll be hiking in. You don't want to get caught off guard by a sudden drop in temperature or end up being too hot and sweaty on your hike.

4.         Understanding the Maps

When you're looking at maps, pay attention to the amount of elevation change in the area you're considering. If you're not used to hiking at high altitudes, it's best to stick to lower elevations. Also, be sure to consider the distance you'll be hiking each day. It's important not to bite off more than you can chew. In addition, take note of any landmarks or features that might be helpful in case you get lost. And finally, make sure you understand the map scale. This will help you estimate distances and plan your hike accordingly.

5.         Distance From the Trailhead

When you're planning your hike, it's important to consider how far away the trailhead is from your starting point. This will affect how much time you need to allow for your hike and how much energy you'll need to bring with you. If the trailhead is too far away, you might not be able to finish your hike before dark. On the other hand, if it's too close, you might not get the full hiking experience. If you're driving to the trailhead, be sure to factor in the time it will take to get there. And if you're taking public transportation, be sure to check the schedules in advance. The best way to determine the ideal distance is to consult a map and plot out a few different potential routes. In general, it's best to start your hike early in the day so that you have plenty of time to complete it before dark.

Packing The Necessary Essentials

One of the most important things to do before heading out on a rural hike is to make sure you have the right gear. Depending on the length and difficulty of your hike and the time of year, you may need to pack different items. For example, if you're hiking in the winter, you'll need to dress warmly and pack extra layers in case of inclement weather. On the other hand, if you're hiking in the summer, you'll want to focus on packing items that will help keep you cool and hydrated. Here is a list of essential items that every hiker should bring:

1.         Water

Hiking is a great way to get outdoors and get some exercise, but it's important to stay hydrated, especially in hot weather. The general rule of thumb is to bring at least two liters of water for a day hike and more if you're hiking in a hot climate or for multiple days. If you don't have enough water, you risk becoming dehydrated, which can lead to headaches, fatigue, and even heatstroke. So before you head out on your next hike, make sure you have enough water to stay hydrated. Your body will thank you for it.

2.         Map

If you're planning to go hiking in an unfamiliar rural area, it's essential to bring a map with you. A map can help you orient yourself and stay on the trail, even if the terrain is confusing or the weather conditions are poor. In addition, a map can be a valuable resource if you need to call for help. By identifying your location, you can provide rescuers with vital information that will help them find you quickly. So before heading out into the wilderness, be sure to pack a map and familiarize yourself with its contents. With a little preparation, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable hike.

3.         Compass

A compass can be a helpful backup to a GPS system, even if you rarely use it. Compasses are small, lightweight, and don't require batteries, making them ideal for carrying with you in the woods or on other adventures. While GPS systems are generally reliable, there are still times when they can lose signal, especially in rural areas where there are fewer satellites overhead. In addition, GPS signals can be disrupted by bad weather, solar flares, and other factors. If you find yourself in an area with a weak or nonexistent GPS signal, a compass can help you orient yourself and find your way back to civilization. So next time you head out into the wild, make sure you pack a compass.

4.         First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is an essential item for any hiker, whether you're hiking in a rural area or not. Accidents can happen anywhere, and it's always better to be prepared. A basic first aid typically consists of antiseptic wipes, gauze, bandages, scissor and pain relievers. For longer hikes or hikes in remote areas, you may want to consider packing more items, such as a snake bite kit or a splint.

5.         Emergency Supplies

In addition to a first aid kit, there are other emergency supplies that every hiker should carry. These include a flashlight, whistle, and extra batteries. A flashlight can signal for help or illuminate the trail ahead when hiking at night. A whistle can also be used to signal for help, and it's loud sound can be heard from far away. Finally, extra batteries are always a good idea in case your flashlight or other electronic devices run out of power. By packing these essential items, you can be prepared for anything that might happen on your hike.

6.         Weather Protection

Depending on the time of year and the area you're hiking in, you may need to pack different types of weather protection. For example, in the winter, you'll want to pack items like a warm jacket, hat, and gloves. If you're hiking in an area that is prone to storms, you should also pack a raincoat or poncho. And if you're hiking in a hot climate, you'll want to pack items like sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself from the sun's rays. By being prepared for all types of weather, you can make sure that your hike is safe and comfortable.

7.         Backpack

One of the most important pieces of gear for any hike is a good backpack. A backpack that is too small will leave you struggling to fit all of your gear, while a backpack that is too large will be uncomfortable and difficult to carry. When choosing a backpack, it's important to find one that is the right size and has enough storage for everything you need. Additionally, make sure that the backpack you choose is comfortable and has straps that distribute the weight evenly.

We recommend going with the Deuter Aircontact Lite 65 + 10 backpack since it's comfortable, has a lot of storage, and is perfect for hikes in the wilderness.

8.         Hiking Shoes

When it comes to choosing the right gear for a hike, few things are more important than a good pair of hiking shoes. Hiking shoes are designed to provide stability and traction on uneven terrain, which can be essential when hiking in unfamiliar or challenging terrain. In addition, hiking shoes typically have high-quality construction and materials that help to protect your feet from the elements and from potential injuries. While it is possible to hike in running shoes or sneakers, doing so can increase your risk of slipping, tripping, or injury. For this reason, it is always best to choose shoes that are specifically designed for hiking. With so many different options on the market, it can be tricky to choose the right pair of shoes for your needs. However, taking the time to find the perfect shoes for your hike will be well worth it in the end.

We recommend going with the Salomon X Ultra 4 Low GTX Hiking Shoes since they're specifically designed for both men and women, offer great stability and traction, and are made with high-quality materials. They are also waterproof, so you won't have to worry about your feet getting wet if you happen to cross a stream or puddle.

9.         Hiking Poles

Another essential piece of gear for any hiker is a good pair of hiking poles. Hiking poles can provide much-needed support on uneven or slippery terrain, and they can also help to take some of the strain off of your legs and knees. In addition, hiking poles can be used to help clear obstacles in your path, such as overgrown vegetation or fallen trees. While it is possible to hike without hiking poles, doing so can make the hike more difficult and increase your risk of injury. For this reason, we recommend that all hikers use hiking poles when exploring unfamiliar terrain.

There are many different types of hiking poles on the market, so it's important to choose the right pair for your needs. We recommend the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Poles, which are made with high-quality materials and offer excellent support. In addition, the cork handles provide a comfortable grip that won't slip even when you're sweating.

10.            Multi-Purpose Tool or Knife

A final essential item for any hiker is a multi-purpose tool or knife. This can be used for various tasks, such as opening food packaging, cutting rope, or even fashioning a temporary shelter. While it is possible to hike without a multi-purpose tool or knife, having one can make the hike much easier and more enjoyable. There are many different types of multi-purpose tools and knives on the market, so it's important to choose the right one for your needs. We recommend the Leatherman Wave+Multi-Tool, which offers 18 different tools in one compact package.

11.            Adequate Food

Of course, no hike would be complete without adequate food. When packing food for a hike, it's important to choose items that are high in calories and easy to eat on the go. We recommend packing snacks like trail mix, granola bars, and fruit leathers. You should also pack enough water to stay hydrated throughout the hike. And if you're planning a longer hike, you may want to pack a lunch or dinner as well. By packing adequate food, you can ensure that you have the energy you need to complete your hike.

What To Wear

Now that you know what to pack for a hike, it's important to consider what to wear. When choosing what to wear, it's important to dress in layers. This way, you can easily remove or add clothing as the temperature changes. We recommend starting with a base layer of lightweight and moisture-wicking fabric. Then, add a mid-layer of insulation for warmth. Finally, top it off with a waterproof and windproof outer layer. By dressing in layers, you can be sure that you'll be comfortable no matter the weather.

In addition to dressing in layers, it's also important to choose clothing that won't restrict your movement. We recommend avoiding clothes that are too tight or restrictive. Instead, choose clothing that is loose-fitting and comfortable. This way, you can move freely and won't have to worry about your clothes constricting your movement.

Strength In Numbers

One of the biggest dangers of hiking is getting lost. 2000 people get lost while hiking each year, so it's important to have someone with you who knows the area. This is more likely to happen when hiking alone, as there is no one else to help you backtrack or call for help. In addition, solo hikers are more vulnerable to accidents and injuries. If you fall and injure yourself, it may be hours or even days before someone finds you. Additionally, hike-related crimes are more likely to go undetected when only one hiker is in the area.

While solo hiking can be a great experience, it's important to remember that there is strength in numbers. If you're planning on hiking in unfamiliar or challenging terrain, we recommend bringing along at least one other person. This way, if you run into trouble, you'll have someone there to help. In addition, hiking with others can be more fun and can help to pass the time on long hikes.

Of course, not everyone has someone to hike with. If this is the case, consider joining a hiking group. This way, you can enjoy the benefits of hiking with others without worrying about coordinating schedules or finding someone who shares your interests. There are many different types of hiking groups, so you're sure to find one that's a good fit for you.

Tell Someone Your Plans

Anyone who enjoys spending time in the great outdoors knows that there are few things as refreshing as a good hike. However, before heading out on any hike, it's important to tell someone about your plans. This way, if something happens and you don't return when expected, someone will know where to look for you. There are a number of ways to let people know about your hiking plans. If you're hiking with a group, make sure to let the leader know your intended route and estimated return time. You can leave a note in your car or at your campsite detailing your plans if you're hiking alone. You can also use a hiking app like AllTrails to share your location with friends or family. By taking these simple precautions, you can help to ensure your safety while hiking.

Be Bear Aware

One of the most important things to remember when hiking in a rural area is to be bear aware. Bears are found in many rural areas, and they can pose a serious threat to hikers. If you're hiking in bear country, it's important to be aware of the risks and take steps to minimize them. First, make sure you understand bear behavior and what to do if you encounter one. Second, avoid areas where there is potential for bear encounters, such as berry patches or carcasses. And finally, make noise while you hike so as not to startle a bear that might be nearby.

To avoid potential conflicts with bears, make sure to keep your food and garbage stored properly. Additionally, avoid hiking at night, as this is when bears are most active. If you do encounter a bear, stay calm and do not approach it. Slowly back away from the bear and make yourself as small as possible. Avoid making direct eye contact, as this can be perceived as a challenge. If the bear does not retreat, use bear spray if you have it. And finally, if the bear attacks, fight back and focus your blows on its face and muzzle.

While taking these precautions can help to reduce your risk of encountering a bear, it's important to remember that they are not foolproof. If you do find yourself in a situation where a bear is present, stay calm and follow the above guidelines.

Weather-Related Health Conditions

When exploring the great outdoors, it's important to be aware of the risks associated with various weather conditions. One such condition is hypothermia, which occurs when your body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, confusion, and slurred speech. If not treated promptly, hypothermia can lead to injury or death. Hikers should be particularly aware of the risk of hypothermia, as hiking in rural areas often brings them into contact with extreme weather conditions. In order to prevent hypothermia, hikers should dress in layers and make sure to stay dry. If possible, avoid hiking during extreme weather conditions.

Another weather-related condition to be aware of is heatstroke. This occurs when your body temperature rises above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Heatstroke can be caused by exposure to hot weather or strenuous activity in hot weather. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea, and confusion. Heatstroke can lead to organ damage and death if left untreated. To prevent heatstroke, be sure to drink plenty of fluids and take breaks in cooler areas if possible. Wear loose, cooling clothing and avoid strenuous activity during the hottest hours of the day. If you start to feel ill, stop hiking immediately and seek medical help. By being aware of the signs and symptoms of heatstroke, you can help keep yourself safe while enjoying the outdoors.

Handling Digestive Upset

Another consideration for hikers is the risk of digestive upset. This can be caused by consuming contaminated water or food or by coming into contact with contaminated surfaces. Symptoms of digestive upset include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In severe cases, it can lead to dehydration and even death. To avoid this, make sure to boil or filter all water before drinking it. Be careful of what you eat while hiking, as well - only consume foods that are cooked properly and avoid anything that might be spoiled. Finally, make sure to wash your hands often, especially after using the bathroom.

When you are hiking in the wilderness, it is important to follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the environment. One of these principles is to properly dispose of human waste. If you need to dig your own latrine, be sure to keep it at least 200 yards away from any water source and a few hundred feet away from your campsite. This will help to protect both people and wildlife from disease. When digging a latrine, be sure to remove all traces of it before you leave. This includes filling in the hole and covering it with leaves or dirt.

Rain/Lightning Safety

Another concern for hikers is the risk of being caught in a thunderstorm. While thunderstorms can occur at any time of year, they are more common in the spring and summer months. Thunderstorms can cause serious injuries, including broken bones, lacerations, and concussions. They can also lead to fatalities. In fact, an average of 20 people are killed by lightning strikes each year in the United States.

If you hear thunder, that means lightning is nearby. Seek shelter immediately and stay there until the storm has passed. A sturdy building is the best place to wait out a storm, but if you are caught out in the open, crouch down low to the ground and make yourself as small as possible. Avoid standing near trees or other tall objects, as they can attract lightning. And above all, don't touch anything that's metal - including your hiking poles. And finally, if you feel your hair stand on end or your skin tingle, that means lightning is about to strike. Take cover immediately!

Food Safety on the Trail

There are two key factors to keep in mind: avoiding contamination from food or water and keeping their provisions safe from predators. Tainted food or water can cause serious illness, so it's important to pack only foods that are non-perishable and easy to cook. It's also crucial to purify all water before drinking it. To keep food safe from predators, it's important to store it in a secure location, such as a bear canister, and never leave any food out in the open.

Hiking With Dogs

Many people enjoy hiking with their dogs, but it's important to take some extra precautions. First, make sure your dog is up-to-date on all its vaccinations. This will help protect them (and you) from diseases that can be transmitted through the wilderness. Second, keep your dog on a leash at all times - not only is this required by most parks and trails, but it will also help to keep your dog safe. And finally, make sure to pack plenty of food and water for both you and your furry friend.

You might even need a permit for your dog, so be sure to check the regulations for the area you'll be hiking in.



Peter Brooks

Peter Brooks

I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.

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