by Diane Spicer
The best trail journals for hikers fall into several useful categories:
Let's consider at least seven hiking journal ideas you can use on your next hike or backpacking trip.
The first (and some say best) reason for carrying a trail journal in your backpack involves great ideas.
If you hike for several hours, and allow your mind to empty out its usual chaos and clutter, you might find yourself coming up with some amazingly creative ideas.
Enter trail journals for day hikers!
And a backpacking journal for recording solutions to pressing problems creates an important archive for future trips.
This is what sets them apart from other journals:
What's not to love?
Jot down your ideas in one of these little beauties:Rite In The Rain Trail Journals
Buying these in a three pack is the way to go!
I use a pencil for my great thoughts, but that means I also carry a small pencil sharpener.
That makes a pen is a great idea.
Try this version instead, to capture all of your doodles and sketches:Rite In The Rain Larger Trail Journal
If you backpack with kids, using a trail journal to keep them occupied while you get food ready and the tent set up makes the day more pleasant for all involved.
One of the classic signs of a newbie hiker is disorganization:
You know the story, right?
The best way out of hiking chaos is LISTS. That's the second great way to utilize trail journals.
If you can train yourself to make lists, and know where they are (hint, hint: journal), and then actually use them - wow! you're in an elite category of prepared, organized, bomb proof hikers.
Examples of lists you can draft and save in your trail journal:
Your trail journal can be Planning Central!
Access points to trail heads can be cut off within minutes, with a big wind storm blocking a road or unannounced road crews forcing you to find an alternate route to your favorite hiking spots.
When you learn of a trail head access problem, jot it down in your trail journal.
Another example of using a hiking journal for navigation: Sometimes a trail is re-routed for maintenance or animal activity.
Do you like to do off trail and/or back country navigation?
Making notes of the terrain to complement your photos and GPS way points is a guaranteed way to build up an archive of spectacular, personalized hiking destinations.
And taking the time to document map discrepancies, seasonal water supplies, or alternate routes will pay off if you revisit that spot later.
So we've covered three more ways to use a trail journal:
Let's see, we're up to five great ways to use trail journals for hikers.
Two more to go!
C'mon, we're burning daylight (or electrons).
Nobody wants to get into a survival situation.
Everyone wants to get out of one.
Carrying pen and paper guarantees you two things in a survival situation:
Some examples will clarify this for you.
You somehow took a wrong turn on the
trail, or missed a sign, or who knows what, but you got separated from
your hiking group or trail buddy.
You might even be lost.
Instead, dig out your trail journal and your map.
NOTE: In less dire situations, it's good to have paper to leave a note about your change in plans, need to turn around sooner than expected, or other information your hiking group needs when you don't turn up at the designated lunch spot.
And sometimes when you're temporarily lost, it's best to sit down and wait for help. Use your best judgment, and your trail journal.
Your hiking partner face plants on the rocks, and there's a lot of blood along with a brief loss of consciousness.
After you deal with seeing all of that blood and using your personal locator beacon to summon help, dig out your trail journal.
notes and metrics will be useful to the search and rescue team.
Benefit to you: writing things down gives you something "real" to do, keeping you from giving in to panic or worry.
A few other ways paper in your journal can help you out in a survival situation come to mind:
Who among us can predict when you'll need a piece of paper??
Be smart, be prepared.
Waterproof hiking journals and all weather pens make great gifts for hikers.
Here's a way to make your favorite hiker's eyes shine with delight: a journal, pen and waterproof zippered pouch to hold them!
This is absolutely the best way to transport and protect those precious notes, lists, sketches and insights.
If you're celebrating someone's birthday or other festive event on the trail, what an appropriate gift to give!
Doodle something sweet inside the front cover to make her smile!
Or include a favorite motivational hiking quote.
How have you used a trail journal?
Please do let me know!
Use this CONTACT link so I can share your trail wisdom right here.
Trail Journals For Hikers
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.
All rights reserved.
Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer except where noted.
As an Amazon Associate, Hiking For Her earns from qualifying purchases.
Hiking For Her: Hiking tips you can trust!