Karsten Don - Wed, 30 Jan 2019 - Start the conversation

10 Hiking tips I learned from the army.

What's next?  A sentence that haunted me for a while, it might be the most daunting question of all. I loved my work and I have been doing it for so long. It felt like I had to break up with someone, being in that environment for so long really gave me a family feeling.

But I knew I had to move on after such a long time. It's a good thing I am good at ripping off a bandaid otherwise I would have been in the army forever.

However the army has been a wise teacher and I  did acquire some knowledge throughout the years, and I wrote some of it down for you.

These are just some army Hiking Tips / Hacks I learned. All of these tips are in random order

Army hiking tips [1-day hike].

  1. Warmth.
  2. Clothing drill.
  3. Be prepared.
  4. Hiking Gear & Equipment check.
  5. Small mistakes.
  6. Prep the food.
  7. Phone & Important Documents.
  8. Keep time in mind.
  9. Sun protection.
  10. Rain comes sudden.

Cover your head [Warmth]

Being (or acting) tough is one of the things you need to adapt to in the army. Luckily you learn certain principles. Something we learned was: 80% off your body heat will leave through your head.

Although this is not true it does address something that is important: the rest of your body is covered with clothing and your head is all out in the open. Fixing this will help you at least keep some of the warmth leaving the head. Like you would when you wear shorts instead of long pants.

It will also help you mentally, nobody likes cold so address it as quickly as you can.

Wearing a hat helps you stay warm during a hike
Wearing a hat or beenie helps you stay warm

Clothing drill.

No, I don't mean that you should go full “soldier” with the drills, but having a couple of routines will really help you. The main focus of these routines is to optimize yourself to the most current situation.

Military man screaming illustrating the clothing drill for hiking tips I learned in the army
Not a drill like this, but a drill to check your layers and insulation

Routines (Colder scenario’s) :

  • In the car: Take as much off as possible (without it being illegal)

You need the warmth for later so taking off layers will help.

  • Start: You can start with everything you need to be warm.

Because after 5 to 10 min you will adjust everything.

  • After 5/10min: Just the basics.

Double check your laces and tour socks, try to feel if there is something in your shoe if so adjust it. Maybe change from beanie/ hat to cap or something that breaths more. Take as many layers off up until the point you are still comfortable when walking. This is also to avoid having to stop again ( to take something off. ) when you are in a nice walking/hiking pace/flow,

  • Shortstops: Put one of the layers back on.

Between 5-10min. you will lose some warmth during this process so it might be helpful to put on an extra layer.

  • Long stops: As many layers you need to be warm and comfy.

As long as you like, because you are not walking for a while the heat you produce will be less so adjust to it. Refill /Repack and restart again.

Be prepared.

I remember these all too well, prepping your backpack for the ahead. But not knowing the location or even the length of your trip is not the ideal situation.

Not having the gear/clothing when sh*t hits the fan will make you rethink the decisions you made.

Translating that to a day hike: look at the weather report for the day and adapt to the possible worst.  A 30% rain/snow forecast is 100% worse if you didn’t bring anything for it.

2 hikers underneath a emergency shelter,, better to be safe than sorry.
Proper preparation made it so we could shelter from heavy rain

Hiking Gear & Equipment check.

Make sure the equipment you bring with you is working the day before. Because nothing is more frustrating than wanting to go but having technical difficulties holding you back.

Some before checks you can do:

  • Charge all your electronic devices the day before.
  • Check your backpack: zippers / straps / bands.
  • be sure you downloaded the right map of the area on your phone.
  • The clothing you want to bring is not in the washing machine (didn’t happen to me at all).
  • The Thermos or water bottles you want to bring is not leaking
  • The First aid kit still filled up and everything up to date.
  • If the Sunscreen lotion is enough for 1 day.

For Photographic Equipment and planning read:

Decide which photography equipment to bring

(We will release our checklist soon, these tips will be in there as well.)

Contents of a hiking bag, you never know when something isn't working anymore.
Double check: you might forget something, or something might not work properly.


Wear a belt. Seriously wear a belt...

Oke, it might not be that life changing but, if you are in a situation where I was:

Being in the forest for a couple of days, your pants already getting a little bit looser (from the lack of nutrition). And from some sudden actions, the button of your pants is done helping you out and left the pants. It will leave you in an awkward place. Just wear a belt, it will hold up your pants.

Belts can safe you from awkward situations
That tight pants might loosen up during your hike, just wear a belt when hiking

Prep the food.

This might not be as useful to you as it was for me, but one of the things I really liked to do: Getting a ziplock back and fill it up with high-calorie food. Think of nuts and chocolate. Grabbing a handful and snacking on it while walking is just great.

It will give you the energy and a little bit of a boost for the road that is ahead of you.

prepare your nutrition, always take food when you are hiking. You might not always starve to death, but it is also good for morale
You burn a lot of calories while hiking, prepare food in advance

Waterproof your phone.

Rain is always a bummer, but it will legit ruin your day when it destroys your phone. You don't need a fancy drybag for it if you don’t have it.

A simple ziplock bag will do the trick. Just make sure you have one with you, better safe than sorry.

When you have documents with you like passport / wallet/ paper drivers license it would be a good idea to put it in a bag as well. Try to do it before it rains otherwise it will defeat its purpose.

Raindrops on an IPhone
Make sure your phone is ready to face the rain

Keep time in mind.

When you are having fun time flies. This fact will be less fun if you are still halfway on your hike and it gets dark. And it gets dark quick in the forest, most trees will block out any daylight still left.

So be wary, have a headlight with you if your hiking days are longer than usual.

Clock with the Amsterdam symbol xxx
You do not have to worry about clocking in, but make sure you keep in mind that it will get dark at some point

Sun protection.

It’s easily forgotten when it’s not summertime, but the sun will be just as harmful in the winter. So always bring some with you when it it’s a clear day. For day hikes it's smart to do it beforehand and just bring some just in case.

Sun protection is 1 of the 10 essentials, if you want to read more about it:

The ten hiking essentials

Sun protector, make sure you have the proper equipment to protect you against the sun.
Be prepared to fight the sun

Rain comes sudden.

In the multi-day hiking blog, I will go a bit more in depth, but a quick hiking tip is to put the clothing you want to grab fast on top. Yes, I understand that this is common knowledge. But when prepping your backpack it just happens. And when it starts to rain that mistake will make you soaking wet, including all your equipment in your backpack. So even though you probably won't use your raincoat put it on top so it can be the first thing to grab.

Prepare yourself for rain, you never know when it will pour out of the sky
It might rain, even if the weather forecast says otherwise

Hopefully, you could take something from my 2 cents. In the coming hiking blogs, I will write more hiking tips (not only the army ones). But these are just 10 quick tips.

Let me know if you have any useful hiking tips yourself. Or you want to know more.

Take from it what you can and have a nice adventure on your next Hike.

On to the Next: Hiking Blogs

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