12 Tips for Mental Preparation and Resilience for Extended Hikes

12 Tips for Mental Preparation and Resilience for Extended Hikes

In my previous blog post, I talked about how hiking is my favorite way to stay active and unwind after a busy week at work.

And when you venture deeper into rugged mountains or peaceful forests, hiking becomes a journey of self-discovery and a chance to connect with nature on a deeper level.

Yet, tackling these longer hikes requires more than just being physically fit.

Having the right mindset is equally essential for making your hike successful and enjoyable.

So, in this guide, we'll dive into the mental challenges that hikers will most likely face on longer hikes and share 12 practical tips for getting mentally ready before and during your adventure.

And the coolest thing? These tips aren't just for hiking – they can toughen up your mind for any challenges life throws your way.

So let's get started!

Understanding the Mental Challenges

As I write here, memories of my long hike in the Himalayas flood back to me instantly.

Even though I was part of a team, I encountered numerous mental challenges, not to mention hiking solo.

Prior to the trip, I believed I had a strong mind and could stay calm in any situation.

But the reality is I'm not as mentally tough as I thought.

I wish I had acknowledged the mental challenges and prepared myself for them before the trip.

First off, spending days or weeks in the wilderness can leave you feeling isolated and mentally drained.

It can make you feel cut off from the world, especially if you're hiking solo.

But as someone who enjoys their own company, I find solitude to be a chance for deep thinking and self-discovery. It's a time to recharge and gather my thoughts.

However, for more outgoing hikers, being alone might not have the same effect.

You'll also come face to face with physical discomfort. It's no secret that trekking for long stretches can leave you with achy muscles, blisters, and just an overall feeling of exhaustion.

And let me tell you, those discomforts can really mess with your head and make you want to call it quits.

Then there's uncertainty and fear. Whether it's getting lost, encountering unexpected wildlife, or dealing with tricky parts of the trail, there are moments when fear and doubt sneak in.

In a nutshell, these are the main mental hurdles you'll most likely encounter on long hikes.

But fret not, with the right mental training and preparation, you can overcome them and come out stronger on the other side.

Understanding the Mental Challenges - SilverAnt Outdoors

Mental Training Tips

Alright, let's dive into the mental training tips first.

Train Your Brain

The first tip for mental training is all about boosting your brainpower and mental sharpness.

We owe a big thanks to John Kennedy for introducing us to neuroplasticity training, a method that helps our brains form new connections and work better.

John Kennedy, the brains behind Combat Brain Training, is an expert in this field.

He's helped military personnel, athletes, and business owners alike improve their brain function and mental agility.

Here's a simple exercise he suggests: Grab a book or magazine, but make sure it's not on a screen!

Read through the page, and when you reach the end of a paragraph, pay attention to the last word. Instead of saying that word out loud, say a number instead.

This exercise helps your brain learn to anticipate and act quickly. The aim is to see the word and automatically say the number instead.

Once you've got the hang of it, you can mix things up by reading backward or using colors instead of numbers to make it more challenging.

The goal? Your brain learns to process information quicker by using different parts and making stronger connections between them.

Now, why does this matter for hiking? Well, with a sharper mind, you'll find yourself reacting faster when dealing with uncertainties, staying more focused, and slipping into that "flow state" more easily.

Plus, when your brain is working more efficiently, simple tasks won't tire you out as much because they won't drain as much mental energy.

Picture Success

Visualizing success is another powerful tool to prep your mind when fear, physical discomfort, or mental fatigue threaten to overwhelm you.

Just take a moment to picture yourself handling any obstacles with ease, taking in all the stunning views around you, and finishing your hike strong.

This mental rehearsal can make you feel more confident and less anxious.

To give it a try, simply close your eyes and imagine yourself hiking along the trail. What do you see? How does it smell? Imagine every step of the way, and keep your mind focused on the positive.

The more details, the better!

Accept Failure as Learning

Accepting failure as a learning experience is something many people, especially in Asian cultures like mine in Hong Kong, struggle with.

In our culture, failure is often seen as shameful, and we tend to hide it from others and feel embarrassed when it's brought up.

But through working closely with my partner Shaun, I've come to realize that this mindset isn't helpful.

No one is perfect, and no matter how much we prepare, failure is always a possibility.

Instead of running from failure, it's better to face it head-on and learn from it.

The more we understand our mistakes, the better equipped we are for success in the future.

With this positive outlook, you'll be able to handle any difficulties that come your way, whether it's on the trail or in life.

Practice at Home

Furthermore, you can practice at home to get your body ready and build up your confidence.

For example, if you plan to wake up at 6 AM during your hike, start waking up at that time at home.

This helps your body adjust to the schedule and anticipate what's ahead without feeling physically drained.

You can also practice other aspects of your trip, like how you'll store food and organize your gear in your pack.

Trust me, there's nothing worse than rummaging through your pack on a multi-day hike just to find your long-handled spork buried at the bottom.

Having an organized system saves you time and hassle, so you can focus on enjoying the hike.

All this practice will boost your confidence when you hit the trail. As season hikers say, confidence can make or break a hike.

Track Your Progress

Next, to track your progress, find a challenging hike in your area recommended by seasoned hikers.

Take on this hike at the start of your training. Even if you don't complete the whole thing, that's okay. Then, tackle it again towards the end of your training.

This hike will act as a benchmark to gauge your physical progress.

But it's not just about physical gains. Returning to this benchmark later on will give you a mental boost too.

As you see how much you've improved since the beginning of your training, your confidence will soar.

It's a powerful reminder of how far you've come and what you're capable of achieving.

Set A Goal

Finally, don't forget to set a goal for your hike.

If you're someone like me who always follows instructions, take a moment to delve into your heart and ask yourself, "Why do I want to do this?"

If you're there to enjoy nature, you don't have to push yourself too hard.

If you're there to challenge yourself, then fully embrace that.

And if you're there to reconnect with friends, focus on those connections.

Let your intentions guide your journey so you can fully immerse yourself in the experience.

Trust me, when things get tough on the trail, having a clear purpose will help you persevere.

With these training tips, you'll be all set to tackle your long hike with a sharp, upbeat, confident, and focused mindset.

Mental Training Tips - SilverAnt Outdoors

Tips for the Hike

Now it's time to set off on your hike.

Breathe Deeply

First up, let's talk about breathing deeply.

I picked up this technique in my meditation class, and it's been a game-changer for me when it comes to focusing my mind.

And guess what? It works wonders on the trail too, especially when your thoughts start to weigh you down.

Here's how to do it: Start by counting your breaths. Inhale deeply through your nose for three counts, hold it for a moment at the top, then exhale slowly for three counts.

As you get more comfortable with this, try extending the length of your inhales and exhales.

Not only does deep breathing help center your mind and calm your heart rate, but breathing through your nose is also a fantastic technique for building your cardio endurance.

Stay Positive

Next, staying positive on the trail is just as important as learning from failure. Avoiding negative self-talk can really make a difference.

When things get tough, it's natural to want to complain or blame instead of finding solutions. But once that negativity starts, it's hard to stop.

Trust me, shouting and complaining won't change a thing – they'll just wear you out mentally.

Instead, try showing yourself some compassion to break that cycle of shame and shift your mindset to a positive one.

Like what I told myself: Many Chinese people don't venture out on multi-day hikes, or even one-day hikes. So, just by starting your trip, you're showing real bravery.

And don't worry, you're not lying to yourself – you're rewiring your brain to think positively.

Or, if you're more of a visual person, try this technique: Think back to a time when you faced a challenge and conquered it. What helped you overcome that obstacle, and how can you apply those lessons here?

This practice serves as a reminder that you've triumphed over challenges before, and you're fully capable of doing it again.

So, the next time you encounter obstacles on the trail, your brain will default to positivity instead of endless negativity.

Take Small Steps

Thirdly, instead of feeling overwhelmed by the entire journey ahead, break your day into smaller, manageable goals and savor each moment of it.

We all love the idea of achieving big goals overnight, but that's just something you see in fairy tales.

As you tackle different sections of the trail throughout the day, mark specific checkpoints to celebrate your progress.

It could be following the red arrows on your map, reaching certain landmarks like stream crossings, or simply aiming for your next rest spot.

And if you're really struggling mentally, set even tinier goals – like reaching the next tree or rock.

By focusing on these small achievements, your bigger goal for the day will seem much more within reach.

Believe it or not, I used this approach to finish my Matharon race back in university.

Enjoy Nature's Calmness

And with those small goals, don't forget to take a moment to soak in the serenity and beauty of nature around you.

You're out here in the great outdoors, my friend. Nature has an incredible ability to soothe your mind and bring you into the present moment.

Whenever you start to feel mentally or physically weary, just pause and take a sip of water from your bottle. Let yourself be fully present in the sights, sounds, and smells of the wilderness.

Allow them to wash over you, calming your mind and rejuvenating your spirit. You'll come away feeling refreshed like never before!

And if you're still unsure about nature's healing power, please read my blog post: Nature Connection: Finding Peace and Mindfulness in the Wilderness.

Connect with Other Hikers

But if you're more of an outgoing hiker like my partner Shaun, make sure to connect with other hikers you come across.

Forge friendships with fellow hikers along the trail, swapping stories, experiences, and words of encouragement.

Knowing that you're not alone in tackling the challenges of the journey can give you a real sense of camaraderie and support.

Write Things Down

But if you happen to not cross paths with any fellow hikers on your journey, don't fret! Keeping a journal can be a wonderful alternative.

By jotting down your experiences and emotions, you essentially engage in a conversation with yourself, alleviating feelings of loneliness along the way.

Plus, your journal will serve as a timeless chronicle of your adventures throughout your lifetime.

Moreover, when you encounter challenges, reaching for your notebook can be incredibly beneficial.

It's my personal favorite method because, oddly enough, once you transfer your worries onto paper, they don't seem as overwhelming. From there, it's just a matter of finding solutions.

Throughout your hike, keep writing down any tough situations you encounter.

Then, after your hike, take some time to reflect on how you handled each challenge. You can use this reflection to tweak your approach for next time.

And your journal will become your go-to guide for problem-solving, boosting your confidence for future long hikes.

Now, your mind is all geared up for the long hike ahead.

Tips for the Hike - SilverAnt Outdoors


In summary, going on a long hike requires more than just being physically fit; you also need mental strength and resilience.

During your hike, you'll encounter challenges like isolation and solitude, mental fatigue, physical discomfort, and uncertainty and fear.

But by using mental training tips such as training your brain, imagining success, and setting a goal, you can develop a clear, positive, and confident mindset.

Additionally, with tips for the hike like breathing deeply, taking small steps, and writing things down, you'll cultivate the mindset needed to conquer any trail with confidence and enjoyment.

So, lace up your boots, pack your backpack, and embark on the adventure of a lifetime, knowing that you're mentally equipped to overcome any obstacle that comes your way.

And don't forget to bring along titanium gear built for a lifetime of adventure.

What are your strategies for staying mentally resilient? We'd love to hear from you in the comments or via message.

To your next adventure


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