Hiking is a beautiful, liberating experience, accessible to everyone; it is an amazing way to explore, relax and experience the best the area can offer. Hiking trips vary in duration, difficulty and can be anything from an hour walk to a scenic lake to a challenging multi-day mountain traverse. Outdoors knowledge and skills come with time and many trips under your belt, they are often region, climate and season dependent, but there are some basic things every hiker should know.
Good planning is the cornerstone of your hiking experience
People, especially those, new to outdoors, tend to underestimate the challenges they might face. One of the essential parts of being safe and having a good time in your hiking trips is good planning. Make sure you study your route well, using hiking brochures, websites and topographical maps. Know the main trail features, like big climbs, exposed areas and river crossings. If you are heading on a multi-day trip, set reasonable goals for each day and leave sufficient time to complete the distance, in case it is more difficult than you expected or your get trapped due to bad weather. A well thought out plan will keep you safe and will make it easier to enjoy the experience.
Hiking is the best way to get stronger for hiking
People often worry that they are not fit or strong enough for hiking, especially multi-day trips. I would like to encourage you not to think about this experience in such a limiting way. Doing things makes you better at them – that’s just the way life works. Just choose easier, less challenging trips to begin with, and you will see progress very soon. The thing with hiking trips, especially multi-day mountain trips, is that it is relatively difficult to train for them. Hiking requires certain amount of resilience and “toughness” that can only be earned through experience on trails.
A good rain jacket is your best friend
Remember that! And do not be too cheap on something that might save your life. Every outdoors person should own a good quality hardshell – a relatively lightweight, waterproof jacket. They only weight a few hundred grams, but offer superb protection from the elements and an amazing amount of warmth. Take a proper care of your jacket by washing it with special washes and regularly re-waterproofing them.
Do not fear heavy boots
Lightweight is usually better – general rule for any sport or activity. “Lightweight” is synonyms with faster, more agile, more fun, easier, when it comes to outdoors. Heavier, sturdier boots, however, are an absolute bliss, when travelling on rugged, loose terrain or when carrying a heavy multi-day pack. Stiffer heavier soles and more support around the ankles provide a reliable platform, when traversing snowy surfaces and reduce fatigue in your feet and calves, if you have to walk on rocky uneven surfaces. Heavier boots also provide a counterbalance for a heavy pack and are extremely durable.
Food doesn’t have to be boring – get creative
Tried all possible kinds of snack bars available? Can’t even stand the view of crackers with cheese? There are other options out there and I suggest you don’t give up on hiking cuisine. Try various types of dried fruit and vegetable chips. Take some rice crackers and sip some miso soup to warm up in the evening. Hot chocolate powder and some marshmallows don’t weight anything, and can bring the cozy to any outdoors evening. Go to Asian supermarkets and experiment with dried products and other lightweight seasonings. Take some salt, pepper and seasoning sachets.
A small emergency kit is a safety net
No one is invincible, never forget that. Even if you never use your first aid kit, never leave it behind. Some basic tape, wound covers and antibacterial ointments do not weight much and will help you keep on going in case of an injury. Always have some sort of emergency shelter on you, when hiking, even if just on a short day trip. Emergency/space blanket can be used as an emergency bivy if injured or caught in bad weather. It can serve as very warm layer and a rain jacket. Finally, it is an excellent way to signal for help.
Hiking can be fast
If you find hiking slow and boring, change your hiking style. Get a good pair of trail running shoes and buy a trail running bag. Now go hiking, but alternate walking segments with some fun running. There are few things as enjoyable as a downhill single-track run. Running packs can be big enough to fit enough layers, food and water for a day.
Hiking can be slow
Hiking is not about getting from one location to the other. Hiking is just a way to explore, be outdoors and enjoy the landscapes. Don’t think that you have to be moving all the time, clocking as many miles as possible. Better find the relaxation and meditation of being in the moment and experiencing the freedom and nature.
Leave your intentions with someone
This is a very important point I would like to make. Leave your hiking plans with someone at home. Let them know of what route you will be taking and where are you planning to stop every night. Include information of any side trips or alternative trails you might try, and estimate, when you are coming back. It is also often useful to set a “panic date” after which your friends/relatives should inform the Search and Rescue bodies.
Adopt a trail
Protect places you hike in – stay on designated trails and never leave any rubbish behind, especially in popular trails. I know nature is often considered as our home, but think that it is also home for countless of creatures and plants. Protect and learn to respect the natural words around us.
Hiking is a wonderful experience suitable for people of all ages, fitness and experience levels. Be ready, stay safe and make sure to enjoy!
Onwards and upwards!