In 2017, the num­ber of folks who report­ed hav­ing gone hik­ing or back­pack­ing in the Unit­ed States tal­lied a whop­ping 47.2 mil­lion. That’s a lot of boots on the trail, and a lot of poten­tial ground to cov­er when it comes to our expec­ta­tions for polite behav­ior. Whether you’re brand new to the out­door lifestyle or would just like a quick refresh­er, here are our tips for basic hik­ing etiquette.

Right-of-Way
Fig­ur­ing out who yields to whom on the trail can be a lit­tle com­pli­cat­ed, espe­cial­ly since the rules typ­i­cal­ly aren’t as hard-and-fast as, say, the rules of the road. The first thing you’ll want to be aware of is with whom you’re expect­ed to share the trail. Some per­mit foot traf­fic only, but oth­ers are mul­ti-use trails designed for hors­es and moun­tain bik­ers too, and come snow sea­son you may also be look­ing at the pos­si­bil­i­ty of skiers, snow­shoers, and snow­mo­biles. As a gen­er­al rule, vehi­cles, bik­ers, and snow­mo­biles always yield to hik­ers, and every­body yields to hors­es. Addi­tion­al­ly, down­hill hik­ers yield to uphill hik­ers. This is a cour­tesy that allows uphill hik­ers to main­tain their pace and momen­tum. Yield by step­ping just off the trail on the down­hill side where pos­si­ble, or to the right if the ground is even.

A quick note about groups: if you’re lucky enough to hike with a group of bud­dies — when it is safe to do so — it’s impor­tant to go sin­gle-file on estab­lished trails. This gives oth­er hik­ers room to pass on your left, whether they’re out­pac­ing your group or sim­ply com­ing from the oppo­site direc­tion. And while more may be mer­ri­er, keep in mind that larg­er groups tend to be nois­i­er, so take extra care to keep the vol­ume low so that both you and your fel­low out­door recre­ation enthu­si­asts can appre­ci­ate the nat­ur­al sounds of the wilder­ness around you.

Woman Hiking With Dog

Leave No Trace
Some of the most basic hik­ing eti­quette requires adher­ence to the prin­ci­ples of Leave No Trace. Remem­ber the say­ing “take only pic­tures, leave only foot­prints”? That’s the gist of it. Remem­ber that you’re a vis­i­tor in that wild blue yon­der, and take care not to leave evi­dence of your pas­sage. This means no graf­fi­ti, includ­ing scratch­ing your sweetheart’s name into pic­nic tables or tree bark. Also, no lit­ter­ing, includ­ing uneat­en food and bags of dog poo you total­ly intend to come back for lat­er. And speak­ing of poo, if you’ve got to go and you’re not in an extra-sen­si­tive area where you’re expect­ed to pack it all out, dig your cathole about forty paces off the trail. Oth­er­wise, stay on the path. Cut­ting switch­backs might save you time, but it’s not worth adding trail ero­sion to somebody’s main­te­nance back­log. Leave cairns as you found them, espe­cial­ly if they’re mark­ing trails, and don’t build new ones. If you’re back­pack­ing or in trails-what-trails back­coun­try, walk and camp on durable sur­faces to avoid dam­age to vegetation.

Leave Wildlife Wild
If you’ve ever been dive-bombed by an over­ly-aggres­sive gull at the beach, you’ll under­stand why some folks get irate when oth­er folks just can’t help but feed the adorable squir­rels. Look, we get it, the siren call of Insta­gram love for pics of cute crit­ters eat­ing right out of the palm of your hand is mighty tempt­ing. Just keep in mind that those adorable squir­rels are prob­a­bly laden with han­tavirus, and those grey jays are prob­a­bly car­ry­ing sal­mo­nel­la. Deer kick, chip­munks bite, and by def­i­n­i­tion, no wild ani­mal is “safe.” Feed­ing them just embold­ens them to approach and harass hik­ers, back­pack­ers, and pic­nick­ers. Also, the food you’re giv­ing them is prob­a­bly bad for them anyway.

Be Friend­ly
Last but not least, say hel­lo! You’re not required to become BFFs with every­one you meet on the trail, but par­tic­u­lar­ly on more seclud­ed or less well-trav­eled routes, it can make the out­doors feel just that lit­tle bit friend­lier when folks are will­ing to see one anoth­er and offer a kind greet­ing. Plus, if you find your­self in need of res­cue, those folks just may be the last peo­ple to have known your where­abouts, so it pays to make a good impression.

Pacific Rim National Park

If you think of hik­ing as some­thing you only do in the moun­tains, think again. These rugged coastal hikes will stretch your per­cep­tion of what life on the beach can mean.

Shi Shi BeachShi Shi Beach to Rial­to Beach, Olympic Nation­al Park, WA
Dis­tance: 35 miles, 5–7 days
Part of Olympic Nation­al Parks, this hike takes you along beach­es, over rugged head­lands on rope lad­ders, and around points that can only be round­ed dur­ing low tide. Sea otters, whales, and col­or­ful tide­pool crit­ters abound along with spec­tac­u­lar sun­sets and sea stacks. You’ll need: a tide chart, a reser­va­tion, and a bear can­is­ter for keep­ing your food away from the aggres­sive raccoons.


Lost Coast, CaliforniaMat­tole Beach to Shel­ter Cove, The Lost Coast, CA
Dis­tance: 25 miles, 3 days
In North­ern California’s fog­gy, “Lost Coast,” this hike through the King’s Range is less rugged than its pre­de­ces­sor, but more iso­lat­ed. Don’t miss the Pun­ta Gor­da Light­house, and enjoy long sandy beach­es with occa­sion­al riv­er cross­ings. A per­mit is required to camp overnight in the Kings Range Wilderness.


Channel Island National Park, CASan­ta Bar­bara Island, Chan­nel Island Nation­al Park, CA
Dis­tance: 5 miles or more
To hike San­ta Bar­bara Island, you first have to get there, which involves a boat ride from main­land south­ern Cal­i­for­nia to this rugged lit­tle nation­al park of scat­tered islands that are home to Ele­phant Seals, sea cliffs, and arch­es. Once you make your way up the steep cliffs from the beach, you’ll find rolling land­scapes and stun­ning vis­tas of a great blue world stretch­ing off into the horizon.


Pacific Rim National ParkThe West Coast Life­sav­ing Trail, Pacif­ic Rim Nation­al Park, B.C.
Dis­tance: 47 miles, 6–8 days
The great-grand­dad­dy of Pacif­ic coastal trails, the West Coast Life­sav­ing Trail from Pachena Bay to Port Ren­frew on Van­cou­ver Island’s west coast, has been described as gru­el­ing, remote and as “an obsta­cle course for adults.” It involves scram­bles over impass­able head­lands, riv­er cross­ings on hand-cranked cable cars, and scram­bles up and down lad­ders. Orig­i­nal­ly cre­at­ed to pro­vide an egress to sailors strand­ed by the many boats that wrecked in the “grave­yard of the Pacif­ic,” it fol­lows a road­less, rugged, and reward­ing stretch of the British Colum­bia Coast.

 

©istockphoto/vm

©istockphoto/vm It hap­pens to all sea­soned trail run­ners, soon­er or lat­er: the plateau.

You’ll know it’s hap­pened to you when it feels like no mat­ter how often or how far you run, you don’t seem to be mak­ing any notable progress. If this sounds famil­iar, it may be time to shake up your trail run­ning habits. Here’s what you need to do to get over that hump.

Bring on the Hills
Very few trail run­ners will claim to have mas­tered the arts of run­ning uphill and downhill—there is vir­tu­al­ly always room for improve­ment. In addi­tion to tack­ling hills on your reg­u­lar trail runs, you should also incor­po­rate hill-spe­cif­ic train­ing to gain con­fi­dence and improve your technique.

As painful as they are, hill repeats are an effec­tive way of boost­ing your uphill pow­er. Throw in the occa­sion­al run that takes you up a long, steady climb, and don’t for­get to focus on those down­hill por­tions, too. These runs won’t be as much fun as your typ­i­cal trail run, but they’ll help turn your weak­ness­es into strengths.

Boost Your Effort
It’s hard to sim­ply vow to run faster on trails—unlike roads, the vary­ing ter­rain of trails requires you to inevitably slow your pace at cer­tain sec­tions, like when fac­ing a long uphill sec­tion. Rather than focus­ing on the clock, focus on your effort. You can do this in the form of inter­vals: find a rel­a­tive­ly short, but tech­ni­cal por­tion of a trail and prac­tice run­ning it with greater effort than you’re used to. Take a break, then do it again. Keep these work­outs rel­a­tive­ly short at first, as you’re like to become fatigued much faster when you’re push­ing much hard­er. Over time, increase the num­ber of inter­vals and the dis­tance of the seg­ment that you’re running.

Cross Train
For many trail run­ners, the great­est short­cut to improv­ing your trail run­ning skills is to put some work in at the gym. Strate­gic strength train­ing focus­ing on your core, legs, and bal­ance and coor­di­na­tion will give you a notice­able boost on the trails. Leg work­outs can include squats, sin­gle leg squats, and var­i­ous types of lunges, while core work can include bicy­cles and numer­ous plank vari­a­tions. Add a sta­bil­i­ty or bosu ball to work on your balance.

Pick a New Distance
Shake things up by chal­leng­ing your­self to run a new dis­tance. For instance, find a goal race that tack­les more mileage than you’ve ever run before. As your long runs become even longer, you’ll sur­prise your­self with what you’re capa­ble of.

But it’s not always about run­ning far­ther: if you’re used to run­ning ultras, why not switch it up—sign up for a short­er dis­tance than you’re used to, but chal­lenge your­self by ramp­ing up your effort. When you’re used to run­ning long and steady, run­ning short­er but faster can be a refresh­ing change of pace.

Swap Out Your Shoes
When was the last time you picked up new trail run­ning shoes? Beyond that, when was the last time you were prop­er­ly fit­ted for trail run­ners? If it’s been awhile, you might be sur­prised at how much of a dif­fer­ence a new pair of kicks can make. Pick­ing shoes that are suit­able to the ter­rain you tread (whether that’s wet, mucky dirt trails or slick rock) can help boost your con­fi­dence. It’s much eas­i­er to throw your­self into those down­hills when you know your shoes will pre­vent you from slipping.

Take a Breather
Don’t for­get to take your rest days! If you’re the type who likes to be on the go, rest days can be even more chal­leng­ing than the hard­est of workouts—but they’re a key com­po­nent to any train­ing reg­i­men and are a must for pre­vent­ing injuries. Remem­ber, rest days don’t mean you need to stay on the couch all day long—you can still do things like go on a long walk or bike ride, or hit up a yoga class.

What dri­ves us to the moun­tains? To the trails? To wilder­ness? These are the ques­tions Anton Krupic­ka asks. As he says, “We can nev­er have enough of nature,” quot­ing Thore­au. This video is all about tak­ing to the trail to expe­ri­ence what it real­ly means to be human, to get back to the pri­mal nature of our exis­tence, and ulti­mate­ly to expe­ri­ence nature first hand. Fol­low Krupic­ka as he races over 100 miles through the moun­tains while reflect­ing on what com­pels us to these nat­ur­al spaces.

 

You may con­sid­er your­self a pret­ty good cook at home, but you have to resort to dif­fer­ent tac­tics when you’re camp­ing.  While it’s always easy to throw your food on a grate over a fire or use a roast­ing stick, there are some tricks you can keep in your back pock­et that are bound to make your friends go “oooooh”.

Here are six handy tips for cook­ing over a camp­fire that we’ve pulled out of the hat in the past, and they’re sure to impress your friends.

1. Wrap meat, cheese, or fresh­ly caught fish in wild leaves
This is a pret­ty nifty lit­tle thing that can impart a fresh fla­vor to your food, but that can also sub­tly impart a unique char­ac­ter­is­tic to your food.  I love cook­ing fresh-caught fish wrapped in ramps or wrapped like a spi­ral with long cat­tail leaves, which taste earthy and bright at the same time.  Trout in wal­nut leaves is espe­cial­ly good.  Sim­ply over­lap the leaves around the fish and tie some wet twine around the whole she­bang to hold it togeth­er (alter­na­tive­ly: if the leaves are long or big enough, sim­ply fold them under and place them fold­ed-side down) and put it right above the coals, or right next to the fire.  The leaves will help the meat steam, and pro­tect its skin from burning.

There are tons of edi­ble leaves you can use to wrap your food in.  Of course there are the peren­ni­al favorites like palm leaves, banana leaves, reed leaves, corn husks, and grape leaves but you can use the leaves from wild gar­lic, sor­rel, lin­den trees, hibis­cus, net­tle, lotus, com­mon mal­low, ramps, cat­tails, pota­to beans, Hoja San­tas, wal­nut trees, sycamore trees, chest­nut trees, oak trees, maple trees, cher­ry trees, and many more (any­one else just think of For­rest Gump?).

2. Boil water in a paper cup
Yep, I said it.  Here’s the thing about water–it’s a fan­tas­tic ther­mal con­duc­tor, and as long as it’s under nor­mal atmos­pher­ic pres­sure (15 psi or so), it will not get hot­ter than 212 degrees in its liq­uid form.  Since the paper does­n’t burn until 451 degrees, you can lit­er­al­ly take a cheap paper cup, fill it with water, and put it direct­ly on the coals of a fire. You may have to exper­i­ment with the right brand of cup, but basi­cal­ly, the water will pre­vent the paper from burn­ing. Next time you’re out camp­ing, whip out the old Dix­ie, fill it with water from the local stream, put it right on the coals, and when it’s done, CAREFULLY pick it up, throw in some hot cocoa, and look at your friends like, “Yeah, that’s right, I boil water in paper. Who wants to touch me?”  This tech­nique will work with oth­er mate­ri­als like plas­tic as well (Les Stroud boiled water in his Camel­bak!), but bear in mind any mate­r­i­al that is not direct­ly in con­tact with the water WILL burn, so watch out for extend­ed seams or irreg­u­lar surfaces.

3. Cook an egg in an orange peel
This process uses the same con­cept as the above tip, but uti­lizes it for a sweet break­fast idea. Grab that orange you brought with you, and cut it in half. Carve out the flesh from both sides, being care­ful not to cut through the skin. While you’re enjoy­ing your yum­my fruit, crack an egg or two into each of the two orange peel “cups”, and drop them into a bed of loose coals. When you see the albu­men (that’s fan­cy talk for the whites) set up, grab the cups out of the coal and have your­self a tasty treat. You can do this with whisked eggs, cheese, and veg­gies as well for a lit­tle omelet. Obvi­ous­ly, if you like the yolk hard, leave it in until you get to your desired lev­el of done­ness. It tastes pret­ty damn good, with a hint of smoke and cit­rus. Very cool.

 

5 Campfire Cooking Tips

4. Use a Fris­bee as a chop­ping board
Obvi­ous­ly, you’ll want to clean it when you’re done, but every­one in camp will think you’re clever as hell when you whip out the ‘bee and start cut­ting up wild veg­gies with your swiss army knife!  There’s not a lot of instruc­tion need­ed on this one, just, you know, do it.

5. Learn the art of the ven­er­a­ble hobo meal
Way back in the day you may have learned this tech­nique as a Scout, and may have heard this tech­nique referred to as a “hobo’s din­ner” or “tin-foil din­ner”, but I think the sheer per­for­mance and ver­sa­til­i­ty of this method of cook­ing deserves bet­ter nomen­cla­ture. If you were at home using a sim­i­lar tech­nique in your oven with parch­ment paper, snooty chefs would say you’re cook­ing “en papil­lote” because every­thing sounds bet­ter in French. (Seri­ous­ly, look up the French word for baby seals). I say if we’re gonna be snooty, let’s call this tech­nique “cuis­son dans une feuille d’é­tain” and start ele­vat­ing it to the lev­el it deserves. This is basi­cal­ly a wet-cook­ing method that mod­er­ates the heat of the coals, and all you need is to com­bine some aro­mat­ic veg­eta­bles (cel­ery, onions, gar­lic, mush­rooms, car­rots, leeks, cele­ri­ac, etc.) with your favorite starch (pota­toes, yams, turnips,), some oth­er yum­my veg­gies (brus­sel sprouts, green beans), a pro­tein of your choice, some herbs or spices, some fat or oil, and a small amount of cook­ing liq­uid or some­thing that will release liq­uid (water, broth, wine, fruits, cit­rus slices). Sim­ply fold it all up in a dou­ble-lay­er of alu­minum foil, roll the edges up tight so noth­ing can get out, and drop the whole thing on the coals. How long you leave it in depends on what you’re cooking–my trick is to cut up the pieces so that every­thing comes out at the same done­ness. Meat, for exam­ple, should stay in large pieces, where­as long-cook­ing items like pota­toes should be cut into small­er pieces or thin­ner slices.  This no-clean up method of cook­ing can pro­duce any­thing from steamed salmon with lemon, but­ter and dill, to a bouef bour­guignon, to a chick­en pot pie, or a Moroc­can lamb stew. It’s awesome!

6. Behold the almighty cast iron
Your one-stop shop to the ulti­mate camp­ing uten­sil. Cast iron pans are an amaz­ing and ver­sa­tile tool for camp­fire cook­ing. The best part? You can throw it right on the coals or just as eas­i­ly stack some wood to make a nook for your pan.