5 Essential Tactical Skills Every Hiker Should Master

5 Essential Tactical Skills Every Hiker Should Master


Tactical skills and hiking are a perfect match for each other. Tactical training turns you into a resourceful, capable individual who can respond to a challenge adeptly. Hiking offers you an exhilarating outdoor adventure that will test your tactical skills. It’s no wonder that many tactical folks are also nature trek enthusiasts.

What kinds of tactical skills should you master to improve your hiking experience? We’ve got some ideas on that front! In this guide, you’ll learn of five essential tactical skillsets that will serve you well in the great outdoors.

Whether you wish to focus on outdoor adventuring or the tactical lifestyle, it’s a good call to prioritize fitness. Is fitness a skill, though? Well, you can look at it as an umbrella term for a multitude of skills that involve strength, endurance, agility, flexibility and efficient physical exertion. Running, jumping, climbing, hurdling, swimming and lifting all fall under this umbrella.

Hiking itself is a fitness activity, of course. You would not get very far as a hiker if you didn’t train for it. You’ll especially want to work on your walking endurance and breathing efficiency. Regular aerobic exercise will give you the sturdy heart and lungs that are crucial to realizing these fitness goals. With so many varieties of aerobic exercise to choose from, you’re sure to find something that suits you⁠! The options here include running, biking, rowing, swimming, rope skipping, elliptical exercise, CrossFit, and sports such as basketball, football and tennis.

Endurance can be trained by regularly going for a walk or a jog. Stair climbing is a good exercise to perform regularly as well, especially if you intend to go mountain hiking

Rucking is an excellent way to improve your tactical fitness, and it builds your strength and endurance. Originally practiced by the military, rucking has grown in popularity within civilian fitness circles as well. It involves going on a long-distance march while bearing a weighted rucksack on your back. Hiking with a backpack is basically the same thing, which is why rucking is a top-notch option for your training.

When your hike is finished, don’t forget to do your post-hike recovery exercises. These will help you get back into fighting shape more quickly, so you’ll be ready for the next adventure as soon as possible!

Outdoor survival skills are our next area of focus. While hiking is not a very dangerous activity, it does take you into the wilderness. You’ll be out there with no easy access to medical services, people who can help you out, or readily available food and drink. A tactical hiker will have mastered the survival skills needed to get by if necessary. You don’t want to get stuck in the wilderness with no clue of what to do!

Navigation is one of the key outdoor survival skills for hiking safety. Getting lost in the wild can put you in serious trouble. If you know how to arrive where you need to go, you can prevent many a dire scenario. Navigation is something they teach Boy Scouts, so it should be no biggie to learn! You can rely on the sun, the stars and features of the environment to help you orient yourself in the outdoors. Check out our quick guide on how to navigate without a compass or other tools!

Building a fire is another important wilderness skill. It’s fairly simple to learn, although the knack of being able to quickly start a fire comes less easily. You’ll want to practice doing a number of fire starting techniques to ensure that you’ve got the hang of it. Of course, you’ll also need to learn how to control a fire⁠—your hiking safety depends on that.

In case you somehow get stranded in the wilderness, you’ll want to know how to build a shelter and find food and water. These types of skills are not easy to train, so consider taking a survival training course. The best way to learn many outdoor survival skills is to actually go out and do them. It’s something worth doing, for sure! The skills you’ll develop will come in handy if you ever face a major emergency situation.

Training your navigation skills may prove crucial to your survival one day. Getting lost in the great outdoors ain’t no picnic. You’d best know how to find your way home!

Tactical skills will be more effective when you’re equipped with the appropriate gear. Understanding your equipment needs, gearing up smartly, getting the best use out of your gear, and good equipment maintenance are all skills that you’ll want to develop. And these all go hand in hand. 

Hiking is an activity that is highly dependent on having the right tools, equipment and clothing. While it may be possible to go on an outdoor adventure with only minimal gear, that’s not exactly setting yourself up for success. You are bound to have a less stressful and more productive experience when you are suitably equipped for your outdoor trek.

Knowing what to pack and how to pack it is also an important skill. If you’ll check out our handy guide, you’ll be well schooled on packing skills for your next trip! But before you even start packing, get yourself a good tactical backpack to put your stuff in! Tactical backpacks (and tactical gear in general) are great options for hikers because they combine the durability of outdoor gear with military finesse and functionality. Plus you’ll be able to customize the structure and carrying capacity of your backpack due to a built-in MOLLE system⁠—at least if you’re using our 14er Tactical Backpack! That modularity feature makes it a highly versatile piece of equipment. What’s more tactical than that?

Getting back to the question of what to pack, let’s emphasize the key hiking essentials. Navigation tools are on the list, for sure. We’ve already talked about why it’s crucial to know how to find your way in the wild. You can augment your outdoor survival skills with little more than a simple compass. But other tools, like GPS devices, can be good options to consider as well.

Other essentials include appropriate footwear, hiking safety tools, shelter, food and water, sun protection, layered clothing and a knife or multi-tool. An individual first aid kit (IFAK) is a must-have, too. You’ll want to have first aid supplies if you experience a medical emergency. Which brings us

Equipment management involves selecting the right gear and packing the essentials for your trip. Food and water should be at the top of your checklist.

Emergency preparedness is a vital practice for everyone, hiker or not. But it’s a big necessity for an outdoor adventuring enthusiast. It can be bad enough when disaster strikes at home. At least you’re in a familiar place with access to help services and (perhaps) friendly neighbors. When you’re on an outdoor trail, you might not have anyone to rely on besides yourself.

Preparedness begins with knowing the possible scenarios you may face. Gather important information about the trail you’ll be hiking. If something goes wrong on the trail, what does that look like? What emergency scenarios are the most likely ones to happen? It’s good to develop a planned response to a possible situation. You just need to know what you should be preparing for.

First aid training is a crucial component of emergency preparedness. Accidents happen. You could experience a medical emergency. Knowing how to treat an injury or at least keep your condition stable until help arrives is paramount. You should also know how to practice first aid on others. If someone else gets into trouble on the trail, you may be their nearest and best chance for survival.

Learning how to read the environment can help you stay oriented and prepare you for wildlife encounters

Hunting and hiking don’t necessarily go together. But they’re both outdoor-focused activities, and the skills you learn in hunting will also make you better at hiking. We’re not saying that you should pack a hunting rifle on your next nature trek! What we’re saying is that understanding hunting basics will benefit you greatly as an outdoor adventurer. The skills translate to hiking incredibly well.

Hunting involves reading the environment. This can be a very useful thing when hiking. While you’re not tracking any prey, you are attempting to follow a trail. You’ll be able to read the signs in nature and figure out where other people have passed through before you. 

Stealth is another valuable skill learned in hunting. Ever want to get closer to a wild creature so that you can snap a photograph⁠—or simply observe it more closely? Stealth can help you with that. And if the creature moves somewhere else, your tracking skills might help you pick up their trail.

Interested in reading more guides to help you improve your outdoor survival skills? Check out the 14er Tactical Resources Blog for more! Here are a few posts to get you started:

Master Your Tactical Skills: At-Home Training Exercises for Peak Performance

Tactical Gear on a Budget: How to Equip Yourself Without Breaking the Bank

How to Pack Light with Tactical Gear for Spring Trips

How to Pack Your 14er Tactical Bag for a Weeklong Adventure

Fitness Tips for the Aspiring Hiker: Preparing Your Body for the Trail

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