Reading on a hike is one of my favorite introvert pleasures. Calming ambiance—check. No distractions—check. A healthy dose of fresh air and sunshine—check.
However, if you don’t prepare correctly, the calming ambiance you were expecting will be shattered by another group of hikers partying it up at the lake. Or maybe you’ll have a million little distractions in the form of a hoard of mosquitoes buzzing around your head. Or maybe you make the mistake that comes back home with you: getting more than a healthy dose of sunshine (i.e. terrible sunburn).
Here are my tips on how to get the most of your reading experience in the wilderness:
Choose a hike that meets your reading needs.
I like to hike far enough that I’m not surrounded by noisy groups but close enough to the trailhead so that when I want to leave, I don’t have to hike two hours out. I avoid popular areas and pick trails that are at least 5 miles long. You don’t have to hike all the way in, but a trail of that length usually ensures you’ll be able to find a relatively quiet spot off-trail about a mile or two in.
Bring nutritious, filling snacks.
Initially, this doesn’t seem important for a quick hike followed by sitting for a couple of hours. But the worst is finally finding the PERFECT spot and then having to leave because you got too hungry.
Get comfy: take a blanket or sleeping pad.
If you are already an avid hiker, I recommend taking a sleeping pad to lay out on (I tend to overlook them because I associate sleeping pads with overnight camping). For those who don’t own camping equipment, grab a blanket. You don’t need one that’s too heavy or bulky, since you can fold a thinner one a few times, and you’ll need to fit it into your backpack. Also, don’t be afraid to move around until you find the perfect spot. It takes some trial and error, but the right spot allows for relaxing and soaking up your natural surroundings.
Prepare for a variety of temperatures.
You’ll likely feel pretty warm during your hike. It’s surprising at how chilly you can feel after 30 min of reading in the shade and letting your sweat cool. Layers!
Protect your skin and eyes from the sun.
Be sure to bring a hat and sunscreen, and/or sit in the shade. If you’ve brought the kind of book you just can’t put down, you won’t even notice that your face is roasting. Initially, I overlooked bringing sunglasses, even on an overcast day. However, I quickly learned when the whiteness of the book pages (even on my ereader) unexpectedly blinded me. You don’t want to add premature crow’s feet to your sunburn either.
Ultimately, you’ll want to plan ahead so that you can be comfortable for your reading hike and can enjoy it as much as possible. After a few trips, you’ll end up tweaking your hiking and reading routine to something that suits you perfectly. Once you find a great spot, visiting multiple times in different weather conditions, seasons, and times adds enough variation to keep it exciting.