I believe that with experience and natural talent, there is also a responsibility to serve others by teaching and leading. One such way outdoorsmen can do this is by taking their years of expertise and experience on the trail and using that knowledge to lead others on hikes. It takes more than just experience, though, to lead a hike, especially if you’re taking on beginners. Here are a few tips to add to your skillset that we help you better lead when the time comes.
It helps to familiarize yourself with the trail beforehand, so I suggest you hike the trail shortly before the group hike to be aware of any changes that may result in you getting the group lost. Even if you have hiked the trail in the past, things can change at any time in between hikes that may cause confusion or even danger, such as missing trail markers or weather damage. Also watch for natural changes, such as high water, that may result in you needing to take a detour.
Keep an eye on the weather forecast leading up to the hike and notify hikers ahead of time of weather conditions that may result in a cancellation. Make a decision on whether or not the hike will still happen and if you decide to cancel, notify the other hikers at once to let them know and reschedule.
Pack all of your gear the night before to make sure that you are fully prepared. If you’re bringing a GPS unit or a cell phone make sure it is fully charged. Be sure to include a first aid kit in your supplies. If needed, be sure to let your hikers know what bare essentials they’ll need to make sure to bring, such as water. Arrive at the trailhead early to meet your group, and let them know they’re at the right location. Casually inspect their gear to make sure they’re prepared to go on the hike. Also, if you notice any injuries or health conditions among the group that may prevent the individual from safely hiking, it’s your responsibility to talk to them about your concern. If necessary, you may have to tell them you don’t feel confident in their ability to handle the trip.
When you begin the hike, start out slowly to give people a chance to split into columns. If available, appoint an experienced hiker who is also familiar with the trail to bring up the rear and make sure that there are not any stragglers or injured hikers. During the hike, be sure to stop for points of interest so hikers can experience the view, wildlife, or take some pictures. Allow the rest of the group to catch up if you want to share something interesting about the location. Choose one of the points of interest to stop for lunch if you have it scheduled for the hike.
After the hike is finished, it’s a great idea to stick around to answer any questions and talk with the group about the hike itself. During this time, you’ll also hear some feedback on your leadership, so pay attention to anything that you may need to work on.
While you may have years of experience and knowledge concerning hiking, that will only get you half way when leading others. Leaders should think of themselves last and those they lead first, so keep that in mind when it comes to the safety and enjoyment of your group of hikers, and you’ll be off on the right foot!