August “Tips From Tats” – 7 Essential Hiking Tips

With its beautiful mountain ranges and unique volcanic terrain, hiking in Hawaiʻi is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding activities you could participate in when visiting any of its major islands. These suggestions will be helpful to consider when preparing for a hike to better ensure a safe and comfortable experience.

1. Choose the right trail for your fitness level.

  • When planning your hike, think about how many miles you’re comfortable hiking, and try to gauge the amount of time you think it will take you. An average walking pace is about 3 mph, but your hiking pace could be a bit slower, depending on the terrain.

  • The amount of elevation gain can help determine difficulty. If a trail gains 1,000 feet in one mile, that is considered quite steep. For every 1,000 feet of elevation gain, you should add one hour to your trip. Beginners are recommended to keep their hike under 5 miles and 1,000 feet in elevation gain, round trip.

  • This hike calculator can help you determine difficulty, rating your hike from easy to extreme: Calculating Hike Difficulty

2. Map your course.

  • When choosing your hike, make sure you know its hours of accessibility, marked restrooms, turn around points, emergency access locations, and any environmental hazards associated with the area.

  • Always stay on marked trails and keep in mind that your hike can be customized to your own comfort level. You should never feel pressured into completing an entire trail system.

3. Check the weather.

  • If a storm is forecasted, consider hiking on another day – or select trails in a dryer area. The great thing about hiking in Hawaiʻi is that weather rarely affects the entire island. If you have planned a hike on the windward side of an island, consider an alternative on the leeward or dry side in the case that heavy rain is predicted.

  • The Nā Ala Hele Trail & Access Program is a great resource when planning hikes on both the leeward and windward sides of an island.

4. Use the buddy system.

  • It’s ideal to hike with a small group of friends, or at least with one hiking partner. Not only does this considerably decrease associated risks, but it is a unique shared social experience that often strengthens relationships. Another pair of eyes is always helpful, and hiking partners may end up pointing out sights that you could have missed on your own.

5. Notify someone of your whereabouts.

  • It is always important to tell a trusted person where you will be hiking, and how long you plan to be gone. Make sure to check in with your contact to let them know that you have successfully completed your hike, and make a plan with them on next steps if for any reason you do not return at the scheduled time.

6. Wear appropriate attire.

  • Hiking in Hawaiʻi does not require thermal wear unless you are an experienced hiker traversing some of the more difficult trails on mountain peaks. For day hikes, you will want to wear a t-shirt, hat, and long pants or shorts (leggings or hiking pants as opposed to jeans). You will want the material to be breathable and light. Wear closed toe shoes with plenty of traction (sneakers or hiking boots), and save your flip-flops for the beach days!

7. Pack the essentials

  • Navigation tools – phone (100% charged with backup battery), compass, map

  • Hydration – water bladder and portable filter (1 Liter of water for every 2 hours of hiking is the general rule of thumb)

  • Nutrition – dense superfood snacks

  • Sun protection – sunscreen, hat, and lip balm

  • Flashlight or headlamp

  • First-Aid kit

  • Simple tools – Swiss-army knife or similar and a fire starter

  • Watch

  • Signaling device – a whistle and a GPS Beacon, flare gun, or similar

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Bug spray

  • Extra pair of socks

  • Rain jacket

  • Walking stick

  • Rubbish container – bring something you can use to pack your trash to leave no mark, and always try to leave the trail in an even better condition than you found it in, when possible