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Who would Lewis and Clark, or Marco Polo, or Ferdinand Magellan be without record keeping? Their discoveries and accomplishments would be lost over time (even though Magellan had someone write for him). Writing down your discoveries, observations and record of your hike in a hiking log can be beneficial.
If you like to dream of yourself as an explorer of the world, like me, then keeping a hiking log means more than a report. It is a chance to be creative while recording your nature outings. In some cases, like the Bruce Trail, to receive badges for end-to-end hikes you must send in your hiking logs, to prove that you’ve done it.
I keep a record of all the hikes that I have completed, no matter where I am at the time. I have many entries for hikes from the Grand Valley Trail in Ontario to the Badlands Trail in Alberta or even the Trans Canada Trail that stretches from coast to coast to coast.
This summer I have some big plans, including big hiking trips and small geocaching trips, so I don’t want to forget any details. That’s why I’ve started a hiking log. It helps me keep track of the relevant information, like starting/end points, duration, and observances.
What should you use as a hiking log?
A good log should be something you like to write in (lightweight and waterproof helps too)!
I’m a notorious journal hoarder. I love all the beautiful covers with all sorts of amazing designs. The one I picked for my log is rough and natural as well as small and lightweight.
If you like structure, go for a book with lined pages or even graph paper. If being creative is more your style, try blank paper.
Find your favourite pen and by one hundred of them, because you’re bound to lose it. Seriously where do they all go?
(Side note: Douglas Adams has the answer in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “Somewhere in the cosmos, he said, along with all the planets inhabited by humanoids, reptiloids, fishoids, walking treeoids and superintelligent shades of the color blue, there was also a planet entirely given over to ballpoint life forms. And it was to this planet that unattended ballpoints would make their way, slipping away quietly through wormholes in space to a world where they knew they could enjoy a uniquely ballpointoid lifestyle, responding to highly ballpoint-oriented stimuli, and generally leading the ballpoint equivalent of the good life.” Thank you to Adams for his always-witty writing.)
My personal favourite is a purple liquid pen, but there are many choices – pens, pencils, coloured pencils, watercolours, sharpies – just waiting to be included on your hike.
What should you include in your hiking log?
The best way is to tackle the 5Ws: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. By answering those questions, you cover everything you need to know. After that, it’s up to you. You can include inspiring quotes, sketches and drawings, or even pictures and flora specimens.
Try sketching out your route like a treasure map or writing a poem about whatever inspires you along the way.
For myself, my logs are relatively accurate and include information such as my starting point coordinates, altitude, and weather information because I like to get a scientific outlook of the day.
Figuring out when you should be writing in your log is up to you. Do you like to hike at a slow pace, taking in your surroundings? Then stop every few hours and jot down some notes.
If I’m on a geocaching trip, I sketch out some rough notes on the finds (and did-not-finds). If I’m on a day hike, I might write a log while stopping for lunch, or when I get home. For longer hikes, that’s all up to how you hike.
The most important part is to have some fun! Enjoy your hike and enjoy reliving it through your logs.
Below you can download my hiking log. I pasted it onto the first page of my Hiking Log as a reference guide for each of my logs.
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Do you keep a hiking log? If so, why?
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