Hiking is a great way to see some of the most beautiful places on earth. It allows you to connect with nature and reach places that you wouldn’t be able to visit otherwise. On top of that, hiking is one of these activities that are great for your health.
Even with little to no experience, hiking is a hobby nearly anyone can pick up pretty quickly. However, there are some things you should be aware of before hitting the trail. This guide will help you understand the basics of hiking in no time.
Choose the Right Trail
There are a lot of different hikes out there, and when choosing one, it’s essential to consider your level of fitness and experience—Research the trail’s difficulty, length, terrain, and elevation before planning your hike. Committing to a hike that’s too difficult can lead to dangerous scenarios for both you and your hiking partners.
That being said, it is possible (and advisable) to increase your fitness level and get in shape for your hike, especially if it’s a more challenging one.
Get the Essential Gear
Now that you’ve picked your trail, it’s time to make sure you have the right equipment. You’ll need to consider the kind of hike you’re going on, the duration, and the weather conditions you’re expecting. If you’re going on a multiple-day trek, you might need to bring a tent and other camping gear too. Other things to consider bringing are hiking poles, a flashlight, insect repellent, etc.
When it comes to packing for a hike, one of the best tips out there is to pack light. This will allow you to hike better and enjoy the surroundings even more.
Test Your Hiking Shoes
Comfortable hiking shoes are one of the most important items to bring with you. Make sure to break in your shoes before hitting the trail, even if they fit perfectly. This is the best way to avoid blisters and other common sores.
To break in your shoes, start out by wearing them inside the house, then, start going on short walks. Once this feels comfortable, it’s time for more serious breaking in on longer walks. Do listen to your feet during the process and make sure you don’t need a larger fit – your feet will thank you later!
Plan Your Route
Prepare yourself and investigate the trail you’re going to hike in advance. Ask yourself the question if the trail is well-marked and easy to navigate. You might want to learn some basic navigation skills, like using a compass and a map in advance.
If you’re planning on using a map on your phone, make sure to download it for offline use beforehand. A lot of hiking trails are in more remote areas without cell phone service. Don’t forget to bring a power bank as well in case your battery runs low.
Check the Weather
It’s important to check the weather to prepare for your hike. This way, you’ll know what gear you’ll need and what type of clothes you’ll need to wear. Learn more about the climate of the place you’re heading to and what weather conditions are expected during your visit.
It’s also important to protect yourself from the sun, especially if you’ll be fully exposed to its rays. Make sure to use sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to avoid sunburns and heat illness.
Bring a Customized First Aid Kit
You never know what might happen, so it’s important to be prepared and bring a first aid kit. Items like bandages, antibiotic ointment, alcohol wipes, etc. are essential to any kit. However, everyone is different, and it’s important to fill the rest of your first aid kit based on your personal medical needs.
Stock Up on Food and Water
It’s crucial to ensure your body has enough fuel to keep moving when you’re hiking. You’ll need to bring enough water, food, and snacks to devour on the trail. How much you’ll need depends on the duration and difficulty of your hike, but bringing high-energy foods is advisable no matter the type of hike. Some great options are dried fruits, nuts, and energy bars.
Don’t forget to stay hydrated too. The rule of thumb regarding how much water you should bring is one litre for every 2 hours of hiking. However, this is greatly influenced by the temperature, the difficulty, and your personal needs. If you’re going on a longer hike or a multiple-day trek, water purification tablets or a water filter can come in quite handy as well.
You’re responsible for your own safety once you’re on the trail. Be aware of the hazards of the region you’re heading to. You may not stumble across wildlife on every trail, but if you’re hiking in Canada, for example, it’s important to know that you may encounter bears, cougars, coyotes, etc. If this happens, you’ll need to know what to do.
Another common danger during the winter months is avalanches. If you don’t know how to spot these, it’s better to stay out of avalanche terrain.
Share Your Hiking Plans
It’s super important to let someone know where you’re heading. Make sure to send them your itinerary and to let them know when you’ll return. This way, they’ll be able to send help in case you’re not back on time. This is even more important if you’re hiking alone. Don’t forget to let them know once you’ve completed your hike safely as well.
Leave No Trace
The Leave no Trace Principles are seven outdoor ethics that are easy to follow. They’re all about respecting nature and other hikers, which are golden rules when it comes to hiking. It’s important to leave the trails as you found them and to keep them clean for future visitors.
You can find the seven principles below:
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of other visitors
- Leave what you found
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Minimize campfire effects