Hiking is an excellent form of exercise as it allows you to use every muscle of your leg and occasionally hands as well. Important to mention, Hiking ≠ Walking. Yes, both can help you a few pounds here and there but hiking involves, using much more than strengthening and toning the muscles of the legs and calves that walking does.
Walking is basically putting one of your feet in front of the other and that’s it basically, which is a good exercise without putting in much effort. Even when you walk to the kitchen to get that cookie as well is an exercise in theory.
A Beginners Guide to Hiking
Hiking in essence, is walking on an outdoor adventure and requires more effort and energy depending on the terrain. Hiking may also include walking from a lower elevation to a higher elevation. It is easier and requires uses less effort and energy as compared to trekking.
Why Should You Hike? – Just to get you enticed even further for your next adventure.
- Research from ‘American Hiking Society’ shows that hiking is one of the best ways to lose weight and is a method of stabilizing cholesterol levels.
2. A human body burns about 200 to 250 calories per hour if you’re walking at a rate of 2.5 miles an hour, which is the speed during hiking.
3. The results of 43 separate studies by The Centers for Disease Control showed that by exercising, individuals significantly reduce their chances for heart problems, while those who do not exercise are twice as likely to have coronary heart disease.
4. Physical activity such as hiking lowers blood pressure 4-10 points and regaining a normal body weight can lower it 5-20 points.
All of this while enjoying the beautiful and calm scenery that mother nature has to offer. So you get added health benefits at no cost while hiking for pleasure. Unlike walking across the side-walk, hiking sometimes does include certain unpredictable variables. Of course, these variables make the adventure mysterious, spectacular and enjoyable. It is those experiences that you live to relate to your friends or grand-children after a few decades.
Now, that you are sold on the benefits of hiking itself and why you should hike, how do you get started?
Know your Physique
Hiking as mentioned is fun but does put your body through its limits at certain times. Therefore it is always recommended to start with a hike that has a shorter distance and one that is relatively easy and not challenging and not on an eight-hour hike on your first one, wanting to span the entire Earth on this single hike!
When you first get on the trail, you may want to run and want to climb and have that ‘full steam ahead’ momentum. However, you’ll be a zero by the end of the day if you don’t pace yourself and go slow. Instead, pick a pace you can maintain all day. It might feel a little awkward and dull at first, but after a few miles, especially uphill, once you start climbing you’ll be glad you saved your energy. It is better to come back to your home safe on your first trip rather than making it your last.
This will allow you to judge the amount of time that is required for you to hike a trail for future expeditions and this gives you your benchmark for the even more difficult trails, as by now you know about your body limits. Start out with a trail that has a minimal elevation and give yourself time to climb during the initial trails, as again this allows you to know how best your body performs and what is the bar for your body to perform optimally at high elevations. After you’ve been out once or twice, on a hike you’ll have a sense for what distance and elevation change best for you and you are a pro from there!
Two’s a Company
Walking is easy, hiking isn’t. If you are out the first time or are a beginner, you should hike with a companion or with a group of friends. Not only will it be safer and more fun, you can share others’ knowledge and skills. Clubs and guided walks are also great ways to learn the basics for pretty much anything. You might want to go solo, but the experiences and memories that are to share with your friends on the trips will be worth it and plus you will not be alone in case something terrible were to happen.
Walk in the park is one thing, but a hike in the open is whole another thing. Go too far, choose a difficulty route or without appropriate gear or the right preparation, and an outdoor adventure might turn dangerous.
Depending on the length and remoteness of your hike, whether it is more than four hours or less, pack accordingly. Be sure to customize from the below list as per your needs, as you need to pack light as this will not strain your hike, allowing you to enjoy your hike without worrying about neck/back pain.
Backpack – What Should You Take on Your Hiking Trip?
While this is not the most comprehensive list of hiking gear and supplies, we have included the essential ones and covered more in detail in our guide Essentials For Outdoor Adventure and just included links here in the article, where you can source or get them in case you are in a hurry and want it straight.
- Navigation (map & compass)
- Sun protection (sunglasses & sunscreen)
- Insulation (extra clothing) – Covered further below
- Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
- First-aid supplies
- Fire (waterproof matches/flint)
- Nutrition (extra food)
- Hydration (extra water)
- Electrolyte Tablets (to help with dehydration and that added boost)
- Emergency shelter (tent)
An extra piece accessory, necessary to mention here are walking pools. Walking poles are useful especially for beginners and first-timers. They help in making the hike easier by helping to take the pressure off the feet, legs and knees and back. They also come handy when up or downhill.
Walking poles also work your arms and other parts of the upper body, similar to a cross trainer in a gym.
Dress for the Adventure
Invest in some good light-hiking shoes and socks.
There is no substitute for high-quality hiking boots, paying particular attention to the sole as they provide grip, support the ankles, and take the knocks and bear the weight of the full body.
Be sure to go with a crew cut wool or synthetic socks rather than cotton.
The reason why to go with wool, even in summer or hot months is that the feet begin to perspire. The wool material reduces odors and is stretchy as well, protecting your calves and ankles from cuts or bruises.
Synthetic socks tend to have greater wicking properties, keeping your feet dry, and even airs the sweat out quick.
Smartwool, is a pioneer in creating lightweight, comfortable socks that are even ideal for warmer conditions.
Once you finish with the feet, the next to choose is the dressing. Skip anything that has or is cotton as it gets damp and leaves you feeling moisture-laden. Be sure to wear layers, as you can easily adjust as per the layers – either add or shed depending on the prevailing weather conditions.
The clothing that you choose should protect you from the outdoor elements and should regulate your body temperature while still being lightweight, durable and comfortable.
Layered clothing made from wool or polyester is better than cotton as they tend to be quick-drying, bearing moisture-wicking properties compared to cotton takes a long time to dry when wet.
The correct way to dress as done by professional hikers is as follows:
- undergarments followed by
- under mid-layer
- under shell – added or subtracted as required.
A dependable waterproof jacket is vital and we always recommend, The North Face Thermoball Jacket which has a PrimaLoft technology with synthetic insulation that retains loft and warmth even during chilly nights and the best part, it is lightweight
Also, be sure to check the weather prior to leaving. This will give you valuable information on whether you need to add a few more layers or whether you are packed alright or postpone the plan in case the weather is forecasted to be raining or terrible.
We would be covered in extensive detail about hiking shoes, hiking socks, and hiking clothing in a future edition of our articles.
A Comfortable Backpack
Backpacking is an art and although there is no one right way to pack for your next trip, organizing your pack before you leave will help you immensely during your trip. A good backpack is one that keeps you comfortable and does not tire you out, allowing you to channel your focus on your trip and enjoy the journey.
Food is your fuel, and you need to eat and drink well in order to stay hydrated and be able to function well while climbing etc. Always take more than you need just in case of emergencies.
Also, Be sure to read our extensive guide on What Should a Backpack Contain to get a good idea of what to pack and how much to pack and what your backpack before you go hiking.
Do Not Get Lost
Once you have selected a trail, obtain a map of the area and study it. Unless you’re setting out on easy trails within National Parks or trails used by many hikers and backpackers, it is a good idea to carry a map as a GPS receiver is useless when batteries run out or with no signal.
Take note of any trails that are close by or intersect or you could potentially make a wrong turn. Take note of any scenic landmarks or places that you would like to pass by while on the hike.
Set Out Prepared and Informed
It’s important that someone not on the hike to know your plans, when and where you would be hiking and what and when to worry and call for help.
Another option is to carry an emergency device such as the SPOT tracker, which allows you to summon emergency assistance by satellite and contacting 911 and emergency authorities, just upon pressing the SOS button.
Be sure to check the difficulty, length, ascend and descend of the hike before setting out. You can get all the relevant info and also search for trails on platforms like All Trails and Hiking Project.
If you really want to be a pro in understanding the specifics and micros of a trail and hike, consider getting learning how to read a topographic map and we will be covering this topic in one of our future articles.
Respect the Code of Nature
The beautiful trails we love will only stay beautiful if we care for them. Take time to read the Leave No Trace Seven Principals and follow them. It’s up to every adventurer to take care of these trails and mother nature. Leave No Trace provides seven principles that provide guidance for enjoying the outdoors in a sustainable way that avoids human impacts. The seven principles are:
- Plan ahead and prepare.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
- Dispose of waste properly.
- Leave what you find.
- Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire).
- Respect wildlife.
- Be considerate of other visitors.
Here is some basic trail etiquette, which you should keep in mind when hiking first time as a beginner, in order to make sure everyone feels comfortable and safe when hiking or just out on an adventure.
Following have the right of way and other party needs to yield to the former:
- Hikers vs. Hikers: Hikers going uphill have the right of way. That also gives encouragement to the ones below or just starting, that they can do it, giving them the motivation required to start their journey.
- Hikers vs. Bikers: Mountain bikers are generally expected to yield to hikers. The premise behind this idea is that bikes can stop and go catching up for the speed they lost. However, because bikers are usually moving faster than hikers, it may be precautionary to step to the side and give way to the bikers.
- Hikers vs. Horses: Horses get the right of way. It’s generally recommended to step off the trail to the downhill side while yielding to a horse because they can be unpredictable as well.
So, now that you know have read the Beginners Guide to Hiking, you should be fairly an expert and have considerable knowledge, on the whats and hows of hiking, giving you the necessary skills to be the leader of the pack, when heading out hiking with some friends or with a group.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading and this article should give you some great tips on how to get hiking and be organized for your next trip.
Do let us know your thoughts in the comments below or share what gear do you use while hiking or what are your tips when heading out solo or with friends.
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