If you’re blowing wind, sputtering and spitting, heaving one foot in front of the other instead of a steady, crisp walk, a 10-mile hike is probably going to take an eternity. 10 miles is a goodly distance, especially if it’s in the summer and the sun is slowly but steadily beating you down.

When it comes to an experienced hiker, it’s usually the other way around. As such, a 10-mile hike can take anywhere between 4 and 10 hours to complete. Preparation plays a role, as well as how many times you want to take a breather between point A and point B.

The nature of the hiking trail can make and break a 10-mile hike, especially for inexperienced hikers. There is a big difference between hiking the humid, long-distance, but relatively flat nature trails of Florida and the winding, half-climb and half-hike nature trails sprinkled throughout the Smokey Mountains.

Luckily for you, we have the expertise to get you through a 10-mile hike quickly, while being able to enjoy a bit of the nature that you pass, instead of cursing it all because you have a cramp in both sides and you’re about to vomit.

How to properly prepare for a 10-mile hike

Getting prepared for the second #UnsplashExpedition challenge. These are a few of the things that I always take with me on adventures in the woods! Plus I wanted to show off the fancy new Unsplash Expedition backpack by Topo. Sooooo fancy.
Photo by Alice Donovan Rouse / Unsplash

Mountains or flatlands, hills or swamps; it all makes a difference when you’re putting together your pack for a long hike. And make no mistake, 10 miles may sound like chump-change to a seasoned, veteran hiker, but that kind of distance can burn someone out, even at what we would consider a moderate level of experience.

Here are 5 of the things you should place in your bag, from highest importance to moderate, as nothing is of low-level importance when you’re out in the wild:

  1. Lots of water & snacks (here’s how much a bottle of water weighs)
  2. First aid kit & whistle
  3. Emergency shelter & paracord
  4. Change of socks & clothes (preferably not jeans)
  5. Survival kit

Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? Not only are these things imperative, but you also have to do it in such a way that you keep your pack as light as possible. In the Marines, they call it field stripping where everything has to be trimmed down to the bare essentials.

1. Lots of water & snacks

Water is the lifeblood of every living thing on the planet and given the fact that human beings are 60% water, it’s a pretty important part of your pack. At the very minimum, you should pack half a liter of water. If you lack experience, make it a liter.

Food rations are more like snacks but they’re also important if you get lost out there and it takes a lot of extra time to find your way back. It’s also a good excuse to stay put when you are lost.

Experts agree that one of the first things a lost hiker should do is be still. Sitting down and hitting up that chocolate chip granola bar will force you to relax, think, and plot your next course of action.

It will also give you some of the carbs, protein, and energy you need to get going. Just don’t eat heavily or consume more water than you need. When it comes to drinking water, only ever drink what you need to hydrate.

Another key to water is understanding that most of the water that your body uses under physical duress is water that you consumed the day before. Always hydrate well the day before a hike and you’ll have more energy while reaching for your canteen or water bladder less often.

2. First aid kit & whistle

Even the veteran hikers know better than to hike a trail without bringing along a first aid kitand a whistle. The first aid kit can be pretty basic since you’re not hiking over the Andes Mountain range or anything, but it should still have your basic first aid supplies.

The whistle is for getting lost. Screaming out for help is all fine and good until your voice goes out and that’s where the whistle comes in. A shrill whistle that you can blow over and over again is going to get the range and decibels you need, rather than shouting your voice box into oblivion.

3. Emergency shelter & paracord

Emergency shelters are amazing, as most of them come in the form of two-person tents along with tie-downs and everything else you need. For example, the Go Time Emergency Survival Shelter weighs less than a pound and it will shelter two people.

It’s also small enough that you can hold the package in one hand, which means it’s very easy to organize in your pack. If you’re not sure how to properly pack it inside your backpack, give this a read: How to Pack a Tent in a Backpack

The paracord is another essential. It’s lightweight and you can purchase hundreds of feet of it for a relatively cheap price. A single strand of 550 paracord can hold 550lbs before breaking and it’s all encompassed in a single strand that is half the diameter of a small pencil.

Paracord is great for use as a rope, tie-down material, lashing together equipment, and as an emergency tourniquet. So bring it along!

4. Change of socks & clothes

Pack a quick change of clothes in case of an emergency and pack an extra pair of socks to save your poor feet. If you are a beginner when it comes to hiking, you’d be surprised at the amount of heat and friction that will build up in your hiking shoes.

If you’ve never pushed 10 miles before, blisters are an inevitability and the quality of your socks is arguably as important as the quality of your hiking shoes. One of the most important parts of an infantryman’s survival kit is multiple pairs of clean, dry socks.

Once there are sweat pools down in your socks and they’ve absorbed quite a bit of it, they become damp, increasing the moisture and friction inside your shoe. Dropping for a quick change into some dry socks can be a lifesaver or a feet saver at the very least.

As far as shoes are concerned, stick with legitimate hiking shoes from brands like Merrell, Keen, North Face, and Salomon. There are many brands out there but the focus should always be on a “hiking” shoe.

Just because your steel-toed shoes look like you could kill a grizzly bear in one, powerful roundhouse kick, doesn’t mean it’s the shoe for the hiking trail. Also, it will decimate your shin muscles and just because you dream about roundhouse kicking a grizzly bear, doesn’t mean you can. On the flip side, your Converse aren’t going to cut it either. You need hiking shoes!

5. Survival Kit

Your survival kit should be packed for a focus on things you might need in an emergency, in the case that you or a partner is injured or you become lost. It should include a knife, firestarter, compass, physical map, and a flashlight.

The physical map is a necessity more than you realize. You can’t depend on GPS when you are out on the trail, in the middle of nowhere. This is even more important if you’re hiking into an area that you’ve never been to before and have no idea what kind of service your smartphone is going to have.

Why it’s important to get a good hiking backpack

Photo by lucas Favre / Unsplash

What good is carefully judging, field stripping, and analyzing all of your gear going to do if all you have to put it in is your daughter’s L.L. Bean Unicorn Sequin backpack? You need a for-real hiking bag and while your daughter may adore her unicorn backpack, it has no business on the hiking trail.

You’re looking to not spend 5 days hiking the 10-mile trail you picked out, so you want to pack light and the backpack you choose will help you out with that. It’s not the time to go with an ALICE pack unless you plan on being in the wild for days.

Osprey is an excellent brand and their lightweight hiking packs are perfect for throwing in a two-liter water bladder with the long-tube drinking apparatus to boot. The Osprey Talon 22 is an excellent choice for men, while the Osprey Talon 20 is perfect for women.

Both packs are streamlined, designed for quickly throwing them on and off, and are only large enough to carry the things we’ve thrown on this list. The less weight the better and a 10-mile hike will go by much quicker in a lightweight pack than it will in something far bulkier, like a tactical backpack or an ALICE.

These packs are also designed with breathability in mind because you’re going to need some air circulation out there on the trail. They can get away with this because it’s a lightweight backpack and the mesh design isn’t going to hold bowling balls.

Final thoughts

The average time to complete a 10-mile hike is anywhere between 4 and 10 hours. How you pack and prepare for the hike is more than half the battle and will get you down and through the trail much faster than it will if you blindly pack, with little foreknowledge or experience.

Pack light and go with the essentials. Wear the right gear, hydrate, and take care of your feet. If you do all of the above, you’ll be downright floored by how quickly you blaze through your 10-mile journey and you’ll be looking for the next trail to tackle in no time.