Hiking Ontario trails isn’t exactly as physically demanding as traversing the Alps, but this doesn’t mean you should just pick a trail and start walking aimlessly. When planning any kind of outdoor excursion, it is always best to adopt the Boy Scout motto and be prepared.
This isn’t to say you’ve got to map your exact route and pack a week’s worth of provisions – merely that you should give some consideration to a few key factors.
How long are you going to be out? An hour, a few hours, overnight? Obviously, what you would bring for an overnight trip (or a multi-night excursion) would be a little more extensive than what you would bring for an hour long hike. Regardless of how long you’re planning to be out, it is always a good idea to bring a first aid kit. For a short hike, a basic kit will suffice. If you’re planning to be out longer, you’ll want more comprehensive back-up. Regardless, you’re going to want to make sure your kit is water-resistance. Mountain Equipment Co-op offers an impressive range of kits, ranging from 1-2 days of first aid supplies to one week. Most of the kits also have a little extra room in case you want to add any of your own supplies.
It is also a good idea to let someone know where you are going and how long you plan to be gone for. Yes, even if you’re only going for an hour or two.
General Geographic Knowledge
The majority of Ontario hiking trails will have brochures that give you basic information about the area. A map is almost always included in this info. Many trails also have signs and symbols posted along the way to help direct hikers. People planning a relatively short hike (a few hours, max) don’t usually plan their exact route, but this doesn’t mean you should just start walking. It is easy to get distracted by nature or conversation, or to get lost in your own thoughts – and let’s face it, after a while, a lot of trees can look the same. This is why you should pay attention to trail signs and have a basic understanding of your bearings. Bring a compass. You don’t have to drop a ton of cash. You can get basic compact compasses at any outdoor sporting store. Many people have compass apps on their cell phones, and this is great, if there’s reception. It’s generally a good idea to bring your cell regardless, in case there is an emergency and you can get a signal.
You don’t have to prepare for the flood, but you should pack a few staples. If you’re only out for an hour, you may think a bottle of water is all you need – and if you are really only out for an hour, then it probably is – but things can change. Maybe the beautiful day will beckon you to continue, maybe you take a wrong turn, maybe you have a kid who gets hungry. The point is, you’ll never regret bringing a snack, but you may regret not bringing one. Of course, if you are out on a longer hike, you’ll definitely want to bring food and water. Some of the best food to bring is compact. Think trail mix, granola bars, energy bars, fruit, pre-cut vegetables, crackers. If you are out for a day or longer, this is when you want to get creative. Pouches of tuna are a great idea, as is peanut butter, rice, beans and dried fruit. Remember to focus on keeping your meals nutritionally complete, but also dense. You want to use your energy for your hike, not for lugging around pounds of food. Remember, keep the trails beautiful and don’t litter!
You need to be properly attired from head to toe. Your choice of clothing will depend largely on what time of year you’re hiking Ontario. Regardless, you’ll want to dress in layers. In the winter, you obviously want to concentrate on comfort and warmth. You want a base layer to keep you dry and transport moisture away from the skin, a mid layer for warmth, and a water-resistance outer layer. In the spring, summer and fall, you’ll want to think in similar terms, but with less bulk. Even in the summer it can be chilly in the morning and in the evening, so don’t head out in a t-shirt and shorts if you are planning on a longer hike. Also be sure to wear protective head gear, suntan lotion and supportive hiking shoes or boots no matter what the season. In the spring and summer, you’ll want to bring bug spray. Another helpful hint: We know the weather man isn’t always right, but check in with the local forecast to glean what you may be up against.
If you’re in the area, come by and check out the beautiful hiking trails we have on the Loughborough Inn grounds