Tips For The Weekend Warrior (hiking)

The picture I included is from a few years ago while my wife and I were hiking one of my favorite hikes, Table Mountain Trail. It was also the most challenging hike I had been on at the time. It was a 10+ mile hike with a steep incline to the top of Table Rock Mountain. Not only were the views beautiful, but it felt like such an accomplishment to reach the summit that day. It was an accomplishment both physically and mentally to make it to the top. To reach the top of that mountain came with some hard learned lessons leading up to this day…

The first “hike” my wife and I ever took was in the Teton National Park when we first moved out the the northwest. I had been to the park once before, and was eager to show my wife the beauty of the park. You see, we moved from the midwest. We grew up in an area where the speed bumps in Idaho are bigger than most of the hills in our home towns. We also lived our entire lives near sea level until coming out here. Sure, we had been in the woods and taken nature walks before, but never what would constitute as “hiking.”

While at the park that day we decided to take a “walk.” We had a blast. The views were magnificent, the fresh air was rejuvenating, and we even saw a moose for the first time! This “walk” was spur of the moment, with no planning or preparing involved. Some might even say it was “whimsical.” We were having a great day, until about 5 miles in we realized how woefully underprepared we were. Our “nature walk” ended up taking us about 5 miles into the wilderness with nothing but tennis shoes, the clothes on our backs, 2 water bottles, and 2 Gatorades. We were tired, hungry, our feet hurt, and we were staring down the beginning of a LONG 5 mile hike back to the car.


By the end we finally made it back to the truck, exhausted, sunburned, blistered, hungry, and mostly very thirsty! My wife had such bad blisters on her feet she had trouble walking for days after getting home. When I look back at that hike, I am thankful. I am thankful that we made it home safely that day, thankful for the memories, and also very thankful for the lessons learned.

After that experience, we learned some important lessons that have served us well for future hikes. I don’t want anyone to have to learn the lessons we did that day the hard way so that brings me to some of the lessons we learned…

1. Planning: This is a crucial part of a safe and fun trip. Plan ahead what hike you want to take, talk to others that have done it if you can, talk to a ranger, research distance and elevation changes. Check to see if there are barriers (i.e. down bridges). Plan ahead for how much time it might take you so you don’t start too late in the day. (There are apps available to help. I like AllTrails, but I’m sure there are others). Also, plan accordingly if hiking in bear country.

2. Prepare: Make sure you are prepared for the hike you are going to take. Have enough food and water, proper equipment, and let someone not going on the trip know where you’re going incase something happens.

3. Footwear: Very Important! Don’t plan a long hike in the wilderness without proper footwear. I recommend a good firm soled hiking boot that supports your feet. Some people prefer a hiking shoe with a lower cut. However, I prefer using a hiking boot that comes up to my ankle for more support.

4. Backpacks: Fill your pack with necessary items like food, water, first aid kit. You can absolutely get more equipment as necessary. (For the sake of this post, I’m going to address the necessities for a day hike only.) When packing your backpack, place heavier items at the bottom and lighter ones at the top. This prevents your backpack from being top heavy. A top heavy backpack can lead to back pain, shoulder or hip injuries, and make your footing less stable. Also, when wearing a backpack it should be positioned with the bottom of the pack in your low back just above the pelvis. Too low can cause increased shoulder, hip and back strain, and too high can lead to more instability and strain your back as well.

5. Hiking Poles/Sticks: This is a personal choice of course, but I really like using a hiking stick. It helps provide a little more stability when walking over unstable ground. It also can come in handy if you hurt your leg in some way. If you did twist your ankle while out on a hike, but can still bear weight, you can use a hiking stick in the OPPOSITE hand to help take some weight off the injured side.

6. Address that injury first: If you have an injury or pain keeping you from hitting your favorite trail or exploring new ones, give Idaho Direct Physical Therapy a call at 208-557-1470 or email me directly at to find out how we can help.

There you go my fellow weekend warrior friends! My top tips for having a safe and fun day on the trail. Hope this helps!


Disclaimer: This content is for general, informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice.


Dr. Tyler Burke

DPT, Owner and Founder of Switchback Direct PT

We help injured outdoor enthusiasts to stop hurting and start adventuring.

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