Trail Tips for Hiking


Trail Tips

  • What makes a good hike or walk?
  • What makes a good leader?
  • What are the ingredients for an enjoyable outdoors experience?

These are some of the many questions we address in our AdventureBuddies’ e-newsletter (sent privately – we do not use or sell your name.) Following are some excerpts.

For more trail tips, get our e-newsletter:


Safety & Etiquette

TBL stalk

Flowers are for everyone to enjoy; please do not pick them.

Russian Thistle
  • We always wear gloves when hiking, even if we’re not using poles. They protect our hands. With poles, gloves significantly improve performance and help prevent chaffing.
  • When hiking (especially with poles) warn others if you intend to stop suddenly in the trail.
  • Hiking in the Rain – beware of slippery rocks and roots (that are your friends when dry)
  • If weather is "iffy" consider a nylon poncho – it’s small and light weight. (mine is red)
  • Wait for your buddies at all trail intersections. This is basic and even experienced hiker leaders can lose buddies by forgetting this. Set a sweep and make sure he or she is visible at intersections before proceeding.
  • Lead hiker has best field of vision and can call "Low Branch" or "Poison Oak in Trail." Hikers behind should pass this back.
  • Lead or sweep hiker can call "Runner" so hikers can step aside. To runners: please tuck your elbows in when you pass a nice person who has stepped off the trail for you.
  • When you step off the trail for a runner, biker or faster hiker, step up hill so you’re not in danger of being pushed off the hillside. Make sure you’re not stepping into poison oak. If it’s not safe when someone wants to pass, they can wait. I’ve fallen on a wet step while rushing to step off the trail for a runner.
  • Don’t step on the edge of wet steps (see fall note above), try to put your foot in some duff.
  • Yield to uphill hikers.
  • Large groups yield to smaller groups.
  • Keep dogs on leash or under voice control.
  • Dogs surprised on trail can get aggressive so, if off leash, keep your dog behind the lead hiker.
  • When encountering dogs or horses on trail, move hiking poles to non-threatening position.
  • Don't feed wildlife; please don’t pick the flowers.
  • Carry a headlamp if you might be out late. It’s hard to use a flashlight when you’re using poles.
  • Use your poles whenever you don’t know the terrain.
  • Cultivate friends who are considerate hikers. Have a nurse on every hike ☺
  • Carry a good first aid kit.
  • Click Here to watch a Trail Tip

Leaves of 3 – Leaf them BE!

Don’t step in Poison Oak or Ivy when letting someone pass.

Knee high sock liners can help protect lower legs from poison oak low in the trail.

Fungus Amongus is amazing for looking, not eating.



  • At the first HINT of soreness or “hot spot,” stop immediately and treat to avoid a blister.
  • To prevent discomfort, make sure boots fit appropriately.
  • Carry moleskin and consider using a sock liner.
  • Know lacing tricks (or hike with a leader who does). So often lacing can be modified to resolve shoe problems.
  • Pre-cut moleskin into useable sizes or carry a blister kit.
  • Cover-roll stretch tape (dressing retention tape), is thin and great for keeping moleskin on tough places (like heels). Pre-cut this as well.
  • Knee high liner socks help protect calves from low-lying poison oak.
  • Carry an extra pair of (dry) socks and replace socks after stopping for lunch or a break.
  • Soaking feet in a cold stream can reduce swelling.



Gear & Supplies

Red Glove

Gloves protect your hands when hiking.

Use finger pockets to remove.

Why are these the best gloves for using with poles?

grey glove
  • Dr. Bonner’s Peppermint Soap is so versatile - great for camping, it rinses quickly and cleanly. Use on self, dishes, etc. Carry small container in your day pack for washing off exposure to poison oak/ivy. Very diluted in water may help keep bugs off. Use to wash vegetables. Found in health food stores and some outdoors stores.
  • Tecnu - found in drug stores and outdoor stores. Apply if you've been exposed to Poison Oak, Ivy or Sumac.
  • Gloves – after years of searching we found the perfect gloves for hiking & walking with poles. The right gloves protect our hands and improve our performance especially on steep terrain.
  • Gaiters are great for keeping rocks, sand, snow and bugs out of boots. Also, when wearing convertible pants, you can store the pant legs in the gaiters when you want to wear. If you start to hike thru chaparral or brush or if it gets cool, you can easily pull the legs back up again. We like gaiters made by Outdoor Research.
  • Bug Repellent: According to a recent NPR segment - Try Cutter Advanced or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. Recipe for essential oil repellent on recipes page.
  • Backpacks: When purchasing a pack, get one that fits you really well. Get a good waist band and make sure it has straps on the bottom for securing your poles. Always zip zippers up towards middle – you’ll know where to find them and you won’t risk losing things out of a slightly unzipped section. For securing poles on pack, see DVD.
  • Consider a small space blanket. Once a person starts shivering, they stop thinking. If a buddy gets cold, wrap them up.


Muscles in contraction can shorten. It’s important that you maintain optimal posture during your hike or walk. We have exercises for posture on both DVD’s. Since most everything we do brings us forward, it’s important to practice good posture every day (not just on the trail) to avoid that hunched over look (“pill-bug posture”).

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Stay cool!

Tips for hiking in the heat
  • Wet your bandana and put it on your head or around your neck. Cool Collars are great!
  • Wear a long sleeve shirt and dip it into a stream to cool your body temp.
  • Plan your hike so you're near a stream or water replenishment.
  • Check your local weather, be prepared!
  • Hydration - very important. Extra water is only heavy at the beginning of a hike and dreadful (and potentially dangerous) if you run out, so carry sufficient fluids and make sure others have enough as well. Ask your faster buddy to carry extra water for you. Bring cookies to remove the sting from this request smiley
  • Start early; get your uphill done early if possible.
  • Excerpt from one of our e-newsletters on heat related conditions.
Lizard in the sun

Rest & Wait in the Shade!



When horses approach on the trail, we calmly hide our poles. Some horses have seemed reluctant to approach people holding something that may appear to be a whip or stick.

Poles Test the Ice
from Mike Cobbold

I recently took my first snow machine trip up a valley in Alaska near Denali and ended up traveling on a frozen river. I had my skis and poles with me. At one point there was a frozen icefall from a hillside merging with the river. At this location there was also the sound of flowing water and wet snow on top of the river ice..."aufeis". I got off the snow machine and used my poles to walk and test the ice ahead. The poles provided good information by revealing "hollow" spots on the river surface. If it had not been for the "probing" of the poles, I would not have known there were some potentially unstable areas.

Magical Duct Tape
from Howard J

Its always good to carry a little bit of extra duct tape for emergency repairs of your tent, etc. Trouble is packing it. One good solution is to wrap a bit of it around the top of one of your hiking sticks (just below the handle). I use the red stucco type duct tape because its much more waterproof and so is better for a tent fly.

One Pole vs. Two?

One pole is better than no poles, but with one you’re not as balanced. Plus you lose the "balanced" upper body workout by using one pole - and people usually use their strong arm. You don't strengthen the side that most needs it and you tend to work your downhill hiking around that side of your body, possibly creating torque in the spine.

We’d love to hear your favorite tip or comment for our e-newsletter smiley