Why You Should Keep a Hiking and Backpacking Journal

Going backpacking is a memorable experience in itself. You’re surrounded by novelty, beauty, and breathtaking scenes. But the more you go and the longer it’s been, the harder it becomes to remember all of those experiences. You might remember the lake you hiked to, but what about the backbreaking ascent, or the beautiful patch of wildflowers you stopped to have lunch by?

That’s where journaling comes in, and if you’re not already journaling your hiking trips, there are plenty of reasons to start.

Why You Should Journal Your Hikes

The simplest reason to journal your hikes is to remember them later. I’m sure there are hikes I’ve done that I’ve completely forgotten about, and if I had journaled them I would have a record of it. That would be valuable to me even now, but in 10 or 20 years the value would be immense. Just like going back and looking at old photos, looking at old journal entries is really something special.

Another benefit to journaling is that while you may remember where you went or what you did, you might not remember how you felt. Journal entries are a window into your mind at a specific point in time, and when that point in time is a life-changing backpacking trip, I guarantee that’s something you’ll want to see later. Photos and even videos won’t give you that.

And a third benefit to journaling that isn’t nearly as obvious as the first two is that it can make you more mindful, or more appreciative of the experience in the moment. Taking the time to write down what you’re feeling, as you’re feeling it forces you to be more present, which improves the experience as a whole. On top of that, journaling can help improve your memory of the trip. When you go back and look at it later, those memories will be stronger and you'll appreciate them more.

How to Start a Hiking Journal

For those who don’t journal, it can be intimidating to start (speaking here from experience). You probably don’t know what to write about, and you might think that bringing paper into the backcountry is a bad idea, or that a journal will be too heavy.

Here are some tips to get started, in 3 simple steps.

  1. Get a lightweight, weatherproof notebook

When you have limited backpack space you don’t want to bring a bulky leather bound journal, and on a long hiking trip the extra weight would be a burden. You also don’t want to bring something flimsy and susceptible to being ruined by water.

Instead pick up a lightweight weatherproof one (like this one from Rite in the Rain, which weighs less than 3 oz). It will handle everything you throw at it, and the paper is completely waterproof. Get yourself a keychain pen to go with and you’re good to go.

  1. Get inspired

Writing won’t happen if you’re not somewhere that inspires you. For that reason I recommend that you start by going somewhere you already know and love. It doesn’t have to be the most rugged, intense, or Instagram-worthy spot out there, but you need to love it. You’ll be more comfortable writing and have more to write about in a place you’re familiar with.

  1. Have some prompts ready

The best way to start writing anything is with a prompt. It forces you to think about a specific thing or answer a specific question, and it’ll get your creative juices flowing to continue writing. Here are some of my favorite writing prompts for hiking and backpacking:

  • How would you describe what you like about this trail to someone who’s never seen it?

  • What is unique about this season (smells, colors, weather, etc)?

  • What was your favorite moment?

  • Describe, in detail, an object (peak, tree, flower, bug) you find pretty or interesting.

These prompts will help you get started, but don’t just answer them like a Q&A. Instead, answer them like you would answer a friend, in full sentences and with detail. Write the first things that pop into your head, and don’t worry if it’s not perfect. The ideas are what is important, not that you write like John Muir. Feel free to be weird and make it your own.

My last tip is that above all else, just start writing. There are no rules in journaling, so do what you think is best and have fun with it. Happy writing!

Author: Brady Fraser from Two Trailbirds

Rite in the Rain Outdoor Notebook Rite in the Rain Hiking Notebook