Spending time outdoors is great for you and there is no better way to achieve that than hiking. Are you new to hiking? The guide below is going to help you know the basics and what you need to get started on your hiking adventure.
Assessing your Ability
If you decide to go all-in with your enjoyment, then you will find it hard to go hiking next time. Start by understanding your limits and capabilities before going on your first hike. There isn’t a hike that is too easy. The goal is to start small then working your way up until you can manage the more difficult and longer hikes.
There is a certain level of fitness needed before you can hike. If you are fit, it will be easier for you to walk for longer than those who are not fit. When you have good balance, it is much easier to handle tricky terrain. Ensure you’re good shoes – a good pair of Reebok tactical boots can be a wise idea.
Picking a Partner
It is not good to go for a hike alone, especially if you are getting started with hiking. If you are not confident, then make sure you choose a partner who is experienced. They are going to give you tips before and during the hike. If you are struggling or need help, your companion is going to help you or offer encouragement. It is easier to spot dangers when you are two compared to when you are alone.
Peace and quiet are great, but it can be good to share the outdoors with someone else.
Planning your Hike
Hikes vary because it depends on fitness, inclines, and terrain. The general rule for those with a rucksack is walking 2 miles an hour (for every 1,000 ft of incline, add an extra hour). If you want a 6-hour hike, you can expect to walk 12 miles if there are no inclines. If it is a coastal path, you can easily do 10 miles in that time. The important thing is pacing yourself.
A coastal hike is beautiful, but not the best place to get started. It has an uneven terrain which is not good for your feet. The uneven steps leading uphills are hard. You might look at the distance on the map and think it is easy, but until you tackle the awkward inclines and declines, you will know the hiking trail well. If you still want a coastal hike, then break it into smaller sections. Add more distance with time. Don’t underestimate your ability to avoid discomfort and fatigue because it will help in reducing unnecessary accidents.
An easier place to start is woodland and lowlands. The hike is easier on smoother and flatter footpaths, which is good when you are getting started. Choosing easier hikes will help because they increase enjoyment and confidence. When you are happy and confident, you are more likely to keep on hiking. Just like marathon runners, it boils down to training and persistence.
Maps are going to help in planning distances and routes to make sure you are within your limits. Start off with short hikes. Maps are also needed when planning exit strategies. Maybe you had planned to hike for 3 hours because you thought it would be enough. It is a good idea to have an option to carry on and an option to exit. If you plan well, you can do it throughout an 8-hour hike.
Everyone today relies on technology, but keep in mind that mobile phone reception might not be available and you can use your phone to load the GPS map. When you connect your phone to GPS and the internet, the battery drains fast. Make sure you have a map and compass because they are not going to let you down.
What to Wear
It is important to wear extra layers and waterproof clothes because the weather is unpredictable. Weather can change immediately.
You also have to look at the weight. In winter, wear merino wool base layers are good because of their warmth to weight ratio. During summer, go with thin base layers, micro fleeces, and packing jackets if the weather changes. Make sure you choose lighter options during the summer.
There are some who will take good care of the top, but run it by wearing jeans or leggings. Neither of them is good when hiking. Choose loose-fitting, stretchy trousers because they offer more comfort and breathability.
Your footwear is one of the most important things when it comes to hiking. Whatever you decide to put on, you need to make sure that it is comfortable and broken in! The obvious choice is to wear boots as they provide additional support around the ankle and heel. IsoDry or GORE-Tex boots are more comfortable, and IsoGrip or Vibram soles offer more traction, grip, and durability.
Type of Rucksack
It is good to have a capacity of 20-35 liters if it is a day pack. If it is more than a day but less than a week, then a 40-55 liter rucksack is going to be needed. If it is more than one week, then it is recommended to have 65+ liter capacity.
You need to consider your strength, ability, and fitness level. Keep in mind that fitness and strength are not going to reduce the effects of blisters. More weight is going to make you more uncomfortable, making it a good idea to pack as light as possible.
What to Pack
There are other things you are going to need apart from a rucksack.
If the hike is for one day, then no need to worry about cooking elaborate meals. You can do well with pasta salads and packed sandwiches, and snacks like flapjacks and nuts.
If it is a multi-day hike, you are going to need to think about cookware and other camping supplies. This is going to include a tent, sleeping bag, roll mat, and depending on if you want to cook, camping stove and pans. Be mindful about the food you are going to pack. Tinned food is convenient but heavy. Dried food is lighter.
The goal is to drink about half a liter of water every hour, but this depends on how hot it is. Don’t carry more than 2 liters. If you want to carry a large amount of water, then consider hydration packs. If you are going to hike for more than 4 hours, make sure you plan for water stops. If the only water available is from rivers or streams, then have purification tablets because it kills germs and makes the water safe to drink and cook with.
It is not a must to have walking poles, but they are good for those hiking for the first time. They help in making the hike easier because they share the load of the rucksack and your body. This will help take the pressure off your legs, feet, and back. There are those who find going up and down hills easier when they have walking poles.
Improved balance, posture, stability, and momentum are some of the benefits you can expect from walking poles. They work your upper body include arms, which serves as a good workout.
It can be tempting to use one pole, but it is not going to give you the same benefits you get by using two poles.
Go through the checklist twice. This is important because you will ensure you have packed all the gear and nothing important is left behind. Less is more when hiking, and extra weight is going to hinder you.
Before you go for the hike, make sure you have let someone know the route you are going to use and the estimated time of arrival at each of the points. Time is going to be important if you end up getting lost, so always make sure you are sticking to the plan. If the plan changes in the process, make sure your point of contact knows as soon as possible so that they don’t get worried and get a rescue team.
The most important part is to have fun and enjoy the wonderful countryside, woodlands, and coastal paths. You are going to have a lot of fun and you will be looking forward to your next hiking trip, provided you do it right.