More than great exercise, or a fun way to spend a day off, hiking is an opportunity to develop a multitude of survival skills.
Back in the day, I was a Boy Scout (Troop 54 in Bessemer City, NC). Regrettably, I lacked the personal discipline to work my way up to Eagle Scout. I only made it to Star, which is two ranks below Eagle. Really, I just wanted in on the fun of camping and hiking.
I still enjoy hiking today. Its fun, relaxing, and a great way to stay physically fit. Many preppers and survivalists enjoy hiking for the same reasons. Many also see it as good practice for bugging out. But hiking can be more than just a fun way to stay fit. Did you know that there are different kinds of hikes, each teaching different sets of skills?
Different Hikes. Different Skills.
Dusting off my old Boy Scout Handbook, my memory, and my imagination, here are some different types of hikes you may want to incorporate into your prepping to not only improve your fitness, but to expand your knowledge and skill sets.
The Day Hike - This is the regular hike that jumps to most folk's mind whenever someone mentions hiking. Great for stress relief and physical fitness.
The BoB Hike - Go hiking while wearing your fully-loaded bug-out bag. This is the best way to check the weight, comfort, and durability of your bug-out bag. Afterwards, you may want to make some adjustments (such as lightening the load). Then go on another BoB hike to test it again.
The Town Hike - Live in a small town (or even a city)? Hike around town on the sidewalks (avoid unsafe areas, of course). Not only will you reap the benefits of exercise, but you will learn more about the layout of your town, its landmarks, and all the stuff in it. You'll be surprised what you missed while whizzing by in your car and may discover all sorts of things you didn't realize were there.
The Night Hike - Go hiking at night. Try to be as quiet as possible and use minimal artificial light. You can pretend to be trying to escape detection by a horde of zombies, or a horde of DHS agents. This is a more expert hike, so get some hiking experience first, be familiar with the area, and make sure each hiker has a flashlight and whistle in case they get separated. Remember, this is a practice hike and zombies aren't really after you, so don't take foolish risks!
The Naturalists' Hike - Have each member of your group take a different field guide - birds, trees, mammals, reptiles, wildflowers, whatever - and see how much you can identify. This is a great way to learn about the plants and animals in your area.
(By the way, I much prefer the Peterson Field Guides over the Audubon Guides. This is because their illustrations are often more informative than Audubon's photos, in my opinion.)
The Edible Plants Hike - Take a couple of good field guides on edible plants in your area, and see what you can find. Please be careful. Edible wild plants (and especially edible mushrooms) can be hard to tell apart from dangerous ones. (Two of my favorite field guides to wild edibles are shown at the end of this article.) It would be great to hike with an expert!
The Scavenger Hunt - This could be a variation of the naturalists' hike. Create a list of things to find on the hike (a maple tree, a blue jay, a robin, a rabbit, raccoon tracks, deer tracks, poison ivy, etc.) and check off the items as you see them. A fun way to learn about nature and get some exercise at the same time.
The scavenger hunt could also be done in a town or city using wildlife common in town, as well as landmarks (an antique shop, a salvage store, a graveyard, a church, a fire station, a barber shop pole, an historical marker, a library, etc.). A great way to learn more about your town.
The Tracking Hike - There are a couple of variations on this one. For wildlife tracking, simply see how many different tracks you can find and identify. Or, for tracking people, have someone hike ahead leaving a trail, and see if you can follow them.
The Lost-Child Hike - A child-size doll is planted somewhere in a park or wilderness area before the hike. The purpose of the hike is to find the doll. A great way to learn about search-and-rescue.
Orienteering - Use this hike to develop compass and map reading skills. Can you navigate from point A to point B? After mastering orienteering with a map and compass, try orienteering at night. Or learn methods to navigate without a compass, such as the North Star Method, Shadowless Stick Method, Equal-Length-Shadow Method, and the Watch Method.
The Rules of Hiking
Stay safe by following these Rules of Hiking
1) Always check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
2) Never hike alone. Always let others know where you are hiking and when to expect you back.
3) At least one person in the group should be familiar with where you are hiking.
4) Always wear appropriate shoes and clothing for the terrain and climate.
5) Each hiker should have a whistle and a flashlight in case they get separated from the group.
6) Each hiker should carry water and a small first aid kit with them at all times.
7) Be responsible: don't litter, be careful with fire, follow the rules, respect private property.
Of Interest: The Forager's Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants
Mushrooming without Fear: The Beginner's Guide to Collecting Safe and Delicious Mushrooms