Hiking involves long and vigorous walks on trails through the great outdoors, and it brings a lot of benefits. First, it’s believed to reduce stress levels, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and body fat. It can also improve your mood, mental wellbeing and bone density. Most importantly, it connects you with nature. Nature can heal your soul, and the fresh air can clear your mind. Going outdoors to hike also helps you to get vitamin D from the sun, which is sometimes hard to come by.
Experienced hikers fill their spare time with day hikes and multi-day trips. A long expedition may seem daunting at this point, so here are some tips to get you started.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT TRAIL
Depending on how active you are in your daily life, and the kind of lifestyle you have, you should choose a trail that suits you. One way to select the distance for the hike is to calculate the average distance you normally walk. When planning your hike, start with a little less than you’re used to, as you may be walking on elevated or challenging terrain.
BECOME FAMILIAR WITH THE TRAIL
Before heading out for the hike, it’s advisable to familiarise yourself with the trail. Start by looking up a map of the area online, and analyse all available reports and data. You should be able to spot the intersections where you might be more likely to take a wrong turn and lose your way. If an OS map is available, this will be invaluable on the hike itself. You may also be able to use GPS on your phone, but don’t rely on it in case your battery dies. Downloading the data for the surrounding area will help prevent signal issues.
CHECK THE WEATHER CONDITIONS
It’s always wise to keep a regular check on the weather conditions in the area where you’re planning to go hiking. This will prevent you from nasty surprises during the hike. Leading to the day of the hike, look for weather forecast updates, and don’t be afraid to postpone your trip.
PACK THE ESSENTIALS
There are some essentials that everyone should pack, to be prepared for breakdowns, danger or mishaps. Some of the items that are very helpful during hikes are: strong, comfortable walking shoes, a waterproof, a multi-tool penknife, a first-aid kit, a lightweight backpack, a map, a compass, sunglasses, some form of shelter and a headlight.
WEAR THE RIGHT CLOTHES AND FOOTWEAR
One of the best ways to prepare yourself for any eventuality is to wear the appropriate clothing. You should start with walking boots with a good grip and ankle support. Make sure you’ve worn them in first or you may experience blistering. A rain jacket and over-trousers will keep you warm and dry if the heavens open. Wear layers underneath that are flexible and breathable (think workout wear such as lycra and avoid denim at all costs). 511 tactical clothing and footwear is great for hiking and other outdoor activities.
The most important item of all is a good supply of water. As you’ll be expending a lot of energy, you’ll need to rehydrate. On long hikes, especially in the sun, your body can lose a large volume of water through sweating. This reduces your endurance and wears you out faster. Sipping water at regular intervals will help you make the most of your time. Remember to drink more than you think is needed. Camel packs are a great alternative to water bottles, giving you easy hands-free access to your water.
If you’ve had a good meal before the hike, you should feel enthusiastic and full of energy for the rest of the day. However, it’s just as important to continue to take on fuel as you walk. Light snacks high in energy, such as dried fruit, nuts and energy bars, are a great option and supply your body with the necessary nutrients.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Always listen to your body. If you’re not able to cope with the increasing altitude or dropping temperature, or if new aches and pains are surfacing, take them seriously. Depending on the intensity of the problem, you should either call off the hike or keep track of how it’s affecting you. Minor injuries such as blisters can be treated with second-skin plasters, to prevent them from getting any worse. Make a note of any issues so you can come better prepared next time.