Home Backpacking A Day On The Trail

A Day On The Trail

by Lisa

I’ve had a number of hikers and non-hikers alike ask me what my routine is like when I’m on trail. I figured I’d share it here with you!

I tend to wake up between 6 and 7 a.m. I never set an alarm, instead letting the changing light cue my brain. Once I’m awake, I put on my hiking clothes (usually having slept in a tank top and long underwear.) I stuff my sleeping bag, and roll up my sleeping pad. I tidy everything into a corner and then do my morning tent yoga routine.

My tent yoga isn’t actually an official yoga for hikers. It’s a daily practice for flexibility and strength that my yoga therapy teacher gave the class last semester. It’s a seated series which conveniently I can do in the tent! It’s really great for working out the kinks of the day before.        {LINK: Yoga flexibility practice}

Once I’m out of the tent I boil water for my oatmeal breakfast. I sit for a few minutes to enjoy my breakfast, then take down my tent, pack my bag, and I’m ready to go!

Campsite at Mig Lake

Once hiking, it’s just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and keeping your brain busy for the day.

Here are a few ways to Keep Your Brain Busy On Trail

  • Play a song in your head on a loop track. See how much of the song you can remember.
  • Try to ID plants and trees along the trail. Alternatively, make up creative names for plants and trees.
  • Look ahead and try to guess where the trail goes next.
  • Look behind and try to figure out where you hiked from.
  • Make up names for mountains and lakes you see.
  • Wonder how many miles you have left. Try and figure it out based on the snippets you remember from your guidebook or map.
  • Start counting your steps.
  • Play a (water) drinking game on switchbacks. “3 switchbacks done. Drink!”
  • When you see any small creature along the trail say hi to it: “Hi slug! Hi frog! Hi chipmunk!”

Spotting different trail markers is always fun

I often take a break 3-4 miles along to have my second breakfast. I choose the break spot with a landmark in mind, such as a lake or a stream crossing.

I’ll have another landmark picked out for my lunch spot, another 4-5 miles down the trail.

After lunch I’m a bit less focused. I usually try to have fewer miles to hike in the afternoon than the morning. I might be having a great day and power through the miles or I might take a break every hour or so.

A great viewpoint is a perfect excuse for an afternoon break

I like to roll into camp around 4. Sometimes I’ve been in as early as 3:30, other days as late as 5. Being in by 4 gives me lots of time to pick my site (I also usually have first dibs), set up my tent and do chores like cleaning my socks, sewing a popped button or taking a lake bath.

I’ll make dinner around 6. If I’m lucky I’ll have companions in camp, which makes for much better conversation and I’ll stay up until 8 or so. If I’m solo then I’m usually tucked in not long after 7, to study my map and read for a bit before enjoying another well-deserved night’s rest.

The next day, the cycle continues! The best part of being out on longer backpacking hikes is being able to establish a routine. This summer my tent has definitely felt like home, and getting back out on trail after each break home has been easier and easier.

Do you have any routine items that are unique to your hiking days, or ideas of how to keep your brain busy on trail? Share in the comments!

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