Outdoor Skills For Hikers

Outdoor skills for hikers can mean a commitment to a comprehensive series of survival courses like these, or something as simple as preparing with common sense before hitting the trail.

Every time you strengthen your outdoor skills, you are also one step closer to helping your family survive an extreme weather event off trail that may force you from home: hurricane, tornado, flood, wind storm.

Never overlook how versatile and useful your outdoor skill set is for helping overcome adversity.

Let's take a peek at how to develop, and when to deploy, a solid set of outdoor skills as an outdoors woman.

Outdoor skills for hikers:
Start with Leave No Trace

A break in the forest canopy, showing snow covered peaks and a blue lake in the distance

by Diane Spicer

Meet Hiking For Her's Diane

Hikers follow marked trails and routes through forests, across plains and deserts, up mountain sides and along rivers.

So the idea of not leaving a trace seems counter-intuitive at first glance.

After all, the trail is a pretty blatant sign of human activity!

Leave No Trace principles are outlined for you here, in case you've never heard of them.

To be succinct, LNT means that anyone following in your path would never know you were there:

  • no orange peels thrown on the trail;
  • no sunflower seed husks spit on rocks;
  • no candy wrappers from your pockets;
  • no garbage left behind at a camp site;
  • no initials carved onto a tree trunk.

You get the idea, right?

But it goes beyond not being a trail slob.

Leave No Trace hiking implies a skill set that allows you to cook a meal, set up a tent or hammock, take care of personal hygiene needs, and enjoy your environment without leaving a mark on it.

That's a big chunk of learning, and to honest, it will take many backpacking trips and day hikes before you master all of it.

Hopefully, this website will give you some tips on how to become one with the outdoors.

But there are other outdoor skills you need as a hiker. Let's discuss a few of them, shall we?

Outdoor skills for hikers:
staying found

When you take a hike, either solo or with trail buddies, who's in charge of your safety?

Does it surprise you to know that YOU are always in charge?

Regardless of weather, terrain, or your mood that particular day, each and every time you step on the trail puts you on the hook for staying found.

Another, glass-half-empty way to look at this?

  • Not getting lost

So if you "pass the buck" for safe hiking navigation to your electronic device or a hiking buddy, and something goes wrong, you are every bit as responsible for your predicament.

To ensure that you are always exactly where you think you are on the map, take a few moments to read these navigation tips.

Then make it a point to strengthen your navigation weak points on your next few hikes.

  • You might need to invest in a new piece of technology, or want to take a class on compass & map reading.

If not for you, do these things for those loved ones back home waiting for you to finish up your hike and head home to them!

Outdoor skills for hikers:
 customize a survival kit

If you're the type of hiker who enjoys well marked trails within easy walking distance of established camp grounds, roads and other places where help would be easy to find, you don't need a lot in the way of survival gear.

  • However, you should be prepared to stay sheltered in place overnight if the weather turns sour or darkness falls and you don't know where you are.
  • Or, worse yet, you cannot get back to the trail head under your own power.
  • Hypothermia will be a concern except in the mildest conditions.

Always having your ten essentials in your backpack is a great habit to form, and to pass along to up and coming hikers who look up to you.

The extra food, water and clothing can get you through a sleepless night in the woods, long enough for a Search and Rescue team to find you in decent shape the next day.

But if you're a hiker who goes off trail to explore, or takes risks with weather, amount of daylight, or difficult terrain, then you need a survival kit designed for hikers.

  • Read my suggestions for building or purchasing a hiking survival kit here.

Outdoor skills for hikers:
clean water

If you carry only a small volume of water on your hikes, you are cutting a corner that probably shouldn't be cut, in my humble opinion.

Yes, water is heavy.

It's also essential for life.

Don't forget the Hiker Survival Rule of Three:

  • You can survive 3 minutes without air.
  • Three days without water won't be pleasant, but it's possible.
  • You can go 3 weeks (or longer, depending on your fat stores) without food.

So keep up the deep breathing and carry enough water!

"Enough" is a topic for debate, but one liter per hike in moderate weather is my recommendation.

Or, use this alternate strategy to keep your pack weight lighter while you avoid dehydration on a hiking trail:

1. Consult a current map for your planned route, noting where surface water is available.

2. Be sure the water is not seasonal, to avoid disappointment in late summer when streams run dry.

3. Bring water purification technology, and know how to use it.

See any holes in your skill set?

In my experience, women hikers tend to have weak spots in their approach to navigation, back country first aid, survival gear, and the discipline to carry ten essentials.

If reading this page has identified any weak spots in your outdoor skills as a hiker, please do me a favor and get up to speed.

Knowing that you're safe and happy on every trail that you tackle helps me sleep better at night ;)

And a few others, too:

Your local Search and Rescue (SAR) team thanks you.

Most importantly, your loved ones thank you in advance. This is especially true for solo hikers.

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About the author

Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.

She's been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for 5+ decades & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.





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Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer except where noted.

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