“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity”
― John Muir, Our National Parks
With this article, you will learn how to hike in no time, so sit back, relax and enjoy!
When you hear someone talk about hiking, the first thing that comes to your mind is probably a bunch of veteran travelers with their huge backpacks going for an epic adventure through the mountains.
If you’re not in shape for that kind of hiking, don’t despair right away! Don’t let that keep you indoors and off the mountains. Hiking can be long, epic journeys, but it can also be a fun passtime, possibly with your friends or family around a local mountain or even a natural park for 2-3 hours on a Saturday morning.
The important thing to remember about hiking is that it’s supposed to be fun and HEALTHY. If it helps you feel better, build more strength and stamina, then you’re doing it well. Even for people who are slightly overweight, it’s definitely not a problem, start small!If you’re not completely ready for running, then hiking is a great way to get yourself used to the physical activity, for one simple reason – you’re the master of your travelling and your speed, so you can always choose the right challenge for your physical and mental strength.
Here are some useful tips for all of you hiking beginners:
- Will you be traveling alone or with company? This is a question you should ask yourself before you start your first hiking adventure. Both options are useful and great experiences. Hiking alone can be very relaxing and serve as a form of meditation for you. On the other side, hiking with friends can be a great bonding experience. It’s your call.
- Making a decision about the amount of time you’re going to spend hiking. Considering that this is a guide for starters, it’s not very likely that you will hike Mount Everest for your first time, so you should choose something you can do in your own free time, be it two hours, five or six, as long as you’re comfortable with it. As time goes by and your hiking improves, you can even go for those epic journeys!
- Think about your strengths and weaknesses. Are you a physically active person? Or, perhaps, someone looking for a hobby to increase your stamina? Whichever is true, it doesn’t matter. What is important, though, is that you evaluate your strength and stamina. Going for a very long hike on a dificult trail can be very demotivational if you’re not in a good physical shape, so start with something that seems appropriate for your level.
- Telling somebody about your trip. If you’re hiking with a larger group, this might not be a huge concern for you. But, if you decide to travel alone, it’s very important to tell someone about your whereabouts, how long you’re going to be away, etc. We don’t want you to get into any sort of trouble on your trip. This step is very important so that your friend or a family member can contact the local authorities to start a search and rescue group if something were to happen.
- Picking the right adventure! Look it up on the internet or simply ask locals who have former experience in hiking. Good place to look on the internet is Trails.com. You could also ask your co-workers, perhaps? A lot of people enjoy this wonderful hobby, so don’t be surprised if your neighbour is a fellow hiker. You can always, ofcourse,do some real life research on your own. Get in your car and venture off to a local park or maybe a smaller mountain. Nature is full of pleasant surprises, it’s important that we find them.
What gear should I bring?
A quite common question among starters in hiking. But don’t worry, we got you covered.
Starting off with footwear. There are several choices, so here’s a detailed list:
- Vibram FiveFingers. This kind of footwear shouldn’t be rushed into.
The good side of Vibrams is full connection to the nature. A lot of hikers enjoy the feeling of nature’s texture under their feet, making their experience that much better. Also, according to research, they’re quite beneficial for your foot strength. The bad side, though, is that they’re rough. For a beginner, they can be quite harsh for hiking, until you get used to them. Even though they’re quite comfortable and natural, remember – safety first.
- Heavy dedicated hiking boots. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of wearing these on my adventures. The reason for that is, well, they’re heavy and they have slightly too much cushion, mostly. Why is this bad? The answer is – bad foot strike while walking. This can be very detrimental for your health, so I recommend to avoid it. Still, if your pricey hiking boots have a special place in your heart and feel like the most comfortable footwear ever, then by all means, go ahead.
- Slightly worse than boots, actually. There is a very small number of sneakers designed specifically for hiking, unlike boots, so they’re probably a better option here. However, if this is the only footwear you have, then be sure to lace them up firmly and start your adventure! Be careful though, sneakers aren’t the best when it comes to slippery surfaces, so be extra cautious. There is also the option of barefoot trail running shoes, if you like that kind of stuff, but be advised – they have less support usually.If you do go for that option, I suggest Merrel Trail Gloves.
Pants. This one is tricky for some. It might seem like you have loads of options here, but stick to one basic rule – If your adventure is going to be cold, long and harsh, wear pants. You can choose jeans of all fits, whichever suits you best, but beware – you will feel sweaty and sticky in your jeans regardless of their fit if it’s even slightly sunny out there, considering the physical activity.
My personal choice here would be cargo pants – specifically those fitted for hiking and other outdoor activities. A popular choice would be Columbia Ridge pants .They usually dry the fastest, can be transformed into shorts on a sudden hot day, you can also store a lot of gear into them, the multipurpose pants. Usually, wearing shorts is not advised as your skin is exposed, but sometimes they’re appropriate if the terrain is relatively safe and it’s very hot outside. The main problem are plants such as poison ivy. It might be hard to evade each and every one while wearing shorts, and I believe it’s unnecessary to say what kind of discomfort comes with the rash and itchiness.
Socks. Whatever kind of footwear you decide for on your adventure, remember to choose your socks accordingly. Some socks are too thin and can cause you severe blisters, others might be too thick, making your feet sweaty. If you have a good budget and a good vision about hiking, you might want to consider investing into merino-wool socks . They seem to be the best choice out there for hiking footwear.
Jacket.This part isn’t much different from others – you choose what suits you best as long as it has all the neccesities. My advice is to go with Mountain Hardware jacket , it’s lightweight so carrying it in your backpack isn’t an issue, it’s completely waterproof so that you don’t have problems with weather and also protective enough against harsh cold winds. If you already have a nice jacket that’s durable and has aforementioned characteristics, don’t spend your budget on a new one because the one you have is probably just as good enough. On the other hand, if you are looking for a brand new one, check out stores in your area and try them all on until you find the perfect match. Also, bear in mind, a lot of clothes can be found online a lot cheaper.
Hat. Choosing the right hat isn’t really difficult, just follow these simple guidelines:
- If you’re hiking during nice weather with no strong heat, then you can bring any cap/hat available to you at the moment;
- If it’s sunny and hot outside, then be sure to bring a hat that will keep your neck and ear sides protected from the sun. Another thing to do, in such conditions, is to apply sunscreen to mentioned areas.
Shirt. Safest bet would be to wear some shirt designed for performance, especially outdoors, such as Under Armour, or any other brand that will keep you from sweating and discomfort. Another great choice are clothes made from merino wool, they are usually lightweight, hide body odors and allow your skin to breathe with ease – but be warned, you will be paying highest for them. Before you go pro with your clothes and gear, start with something basic, like an old cotton t-shirt, and save your money for after you get a few hikes completed.
Long story short. Be adaptable. You should never go with just one set of clothes and gear under all conditions, you have to adapt. For example, if the forecast says that it’s going to be sunny and clear that day, then you can bring less gear with you, as you probably won’t need some of it. On the other hand, if the weather is uncertain, then go with versatility – maybe some cargo pants, a lightweight jacket, basic gear, etc. You don’t have to spend your whole budget on buying clothes for every occassion, especially as a beginner. You can always borrow some stuff from fellow hikers if it’s your first or second time, before spending any real money, to get started.
Let the packing begin
What you will put in your backpack depends on a great deal of things, such as:
- How long are you going to hike?
- What does the weather forecast say?
- Is the trail recognized as a difficult adventure or is it appropriate for beginners?
Since you are reading this article, I’m guessing you are a beginner in hiking, after all. So, as you probably won’t be hiking on great mountains on your first trip, here are a few things you should consider packing for your adventure!
Make sure your phone is charged.A phone is absolute a must for some, and for others it’s just another useful gadget. It’s very important to have any form of communication device with you on a hiking adventure, for emergencies. Also, if you have a smartphone that can multitask as some hiking devices, such as a compass, tracker, map, etc., then even better! If it doesn’t have these options, then you should consider bringing a compass and a map on your own. Some people enjoy listening to music while hiking, which is another good reason to bring a phone with yourself.
Asmall backpack. For a beginner level hike, you won’t need too much stuff packed in there, as you will probably be out for only a couple of hours. So, don’t go wild with your money at first buying fancy hiking designed backpack. Go with something rational, something that will be sufficient to hold your basic gear and clothes. After you start hiking like a pro, consider investing money into the good stuff.
Food. How much you want to bring is up to you, every person has different body type and needs when it comes to food. Be sure to always bring enough, though, you don’t want to starve out there in the nature. Try using some high quality, nutritious food to stay strong and healthy on your tripBug repellent. Many people consider this a very important part of the gear. If it is bug’s time of the year, be assured that you will be bitten if you don’t use a bug repellent. Use it evenly on all areas of your body for maximum safety.
A book. Some people really enjoy reading books on a trip, you should try it too! Getting lost within a story somewhere in distant nature is a meaningful experience. If carrying books around with you doesn’t sound like a good idea, you can always try Kindle it’s very convenient for such occassions. As we mentioned before, hiking with a company can be a lot of fun, but some people enjoy the thrill of hiking to a distant place in nature to read a nice book in tranquility.
A camera.Camera is always useful on a trip, you never know what you’re going to stumble upon. You might discover some great things in nature, and what’s more fun than sharing such treasures with your friends and family? Using apps such asCamera+ (http://camera.plus/) or ProHDR) is also a good option. Taking photos during your trip is something you can enjoy when you get older, as each of them is a story to tell.
First aid. Having first aid equipment is a very smart idea when going on an outdoor trip: stuff like band-aids in case you cut yourself on a sharp rock or thorny plants, some sort of disinfectant for cuts or scrapes, and whatever else you feel comfortable taking with you. You could visit REI in case you don’t feel like putting the whole first aid kit on your own, they sell it altogether.
Sunscreen. It’s a wonderful day in nature, it’s sunny but still there’s that nice wind that soothes you, thinking everything is just fine. The truth is, you probably won’t feel how your ears, neck and face are being burned by the sun. You should always use a sunscreen with atleast 30SPF, preferably waterproof, to protect yourself from the sun.
Pocket knife. This one is optional, if you’re somewhere in a local park, chances are that you won’t need it. If you’re going deeper into the woods then it would be a good idea to bring one with you.
Sunglasses. Most often, you will go hiking when it’s sunny outside, right? Well, if you don’t want to go blind from the sun, it’d be a good idea to bring some basic sunglasses with you. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on some expensive brand sunglasses, basic five-dollar glasses are just good enough.
Here is a useful list of snacks that you could bring on the trip:
Water. One thing that you should NEVER forget, bring a bottle of water with you! It’s essential to battle strong heat outdoors, and to prevent dehydration in general. A better option from the basic plastic bottles would be stainless steel or aluminium bottles, simply because less bacteria stick to them. You should aim for at least one liter or two, but bringing more isn’t a bad idea if it’s not too heavy for you. Remember to drink water before you start your journey too.
Fruit. Taking some fruits with you is a smart idea as well, a few apples, bananas or raisins solve all your problems when it comes to nutrition. With nuts and fruits you got all the fat, carbs and proteins you need for your adventure. Picking which fruits to bring is a personal preference.
Nuts. These are one of the best choices for hiking, or any kind of outdoor trip for that matter. You could go with almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts…you name it. They have lots of healthy fat and protein, so they’re quite useful for having that energy on the trip. Have in mind though, they are high in calories, so if you’re trying to lose weight don’t eat too much of them, or your trip will be opposite of productive.
Beef jerky. Try making some by yourself or simply go to a store and buy good quality beef jerky. It has loads of protein, it’s easy to pack, and stays well during the travel. Delicious!
Bread and butter. Even though we don’t live in caveman period anymore, if you’re a bread eater, bringing some with you isn’t a bad idea. Bring the basics with you: some wheat or flaxseed bread, a knife, and a jar of butter, whichever you prefer. Even if you don’t like eating bread, you could dip your apples into the butter, it’s a pretty tasty snack.
Trail mix or granola bars. These sound like they’re made for hiking, but that often isn’t the case. They’re usually packed with sugar and processed foods, making them quite unhealthy for you. If you decide to bring a trail mix with you, make one on your own with some dried fruits and nuts.
Tricks and tips for hiking
Urban hiking. Not hiking because you live in an urban area is just an excuse to many. You don’t necessarily need to be surrounded by nature. There is always something to explore, even in the city. A natural park nearby, a street you’ve never been to, a skyscraper. Don’t use shortcuts such as elevators, it kills the fun of it. It might not have the same value as hiking in nature somewhere, but it’s sure enough to get you moving!
Aim for the high ground. Hiking on places like mountains, rooftops, buildings, etc., can give you a big thrill. They always have a beautiful view where you can relax and eat some of those delicious foods you packed. Another great thing about this is that you have an approximate idea of how far you need to go down, since you already went the same way once. Be cautious, though, because going down on a steep mountain can be troublesome. There are usually a lot of difficult rocks/steps to take, so keep this in mind: Shorten your movement, and be sure to land on the balls of your feet and bend your knees, this way you will avoid putting stress on your knees and joints which is a very bad thing for your health.
Make a hiking soundtrack. This is also an optional step for some who enjoy listening to the sound of nature. That sort of thing is really great, too, but if you do opt for man-made music, take into account that you probably won’t be able to hear other things around you, which can be dangerous at times. If you’re in a familiar and safe area then this might not be big of an issue. Best kind of soundtracks for trips and adventures are some epic music soundtracks, but then again that depends on you.
Keep track of it. If you own a smartphone, look up some hiking or running apps to keep track of the distance you’ve crossed. This way you will have a greater feeling of accomplishment and you can approximately decide the next best trip for your level. Some great apps for these kind of things are RunKeeper and EasyTrails.
Check for ticks. Ticks can be very annoying, as many people know who had the unfortunate experience of having them. If you’re going through an area with heavy forest, there’s a decent chance that a tick will grab onto you. Make sure to take a hot bath when you come home and check yourself for any ticks, and also look for marks/cuts/scratches from poisonous plants or other things like that.
Geocaching. When you feel bored just venturing through the forests or mountains, you can always have some fun with the help of technology today! Geocaching is a website where you enter your location, and then decide which cache you’re going to find. Feels like Indiana Jones, doesn’t it?
Don’t pollute the nature. It sounds like common knowledge, but many people don’t care about this and, sadly, they pollute the nature with garbage they throw out. Be mindful and don’t pollute! Anything you bring with yourself, take it back home or to a trash bin. It’s also a nice deed to pick up any trash you find in the wilderness. The nature will be thankful for that.
More good resources about hiking
The purpose of this article is to introduce you to the basics of hiking and develop your interest for it. While you can learn many useful things here, there’s always more to learn! If you’d like more information on hiking, try these out:
Not all wanderers are lost
Now that you know all the basics about hiking, try it out! Make yourself a challenge to cross some mountain, or to explore nearby woods. Be sure to bring all the necessities with you, so that you’re safe and sound. There’s always an adventure waiting for you!