As one of America, and the world's, favorite pastimes, hiking has long enjoyed popularity among people of all ages and backgrounds. But what is hiking,exactly? Hiking involves the act of getting out into nature and experiencing the wilderness with just your two feet to carry you, and it gives many people the sense of freedom and adventure they so long for during their daily grind.
While hiking is a hobby for many, it’s also extremely serious business that requires a lot of preparation and planning to ensure it’s done safely. With so many threats to your health and wellbeing, from sanitation issues to wildlife dangers, good hikers understand just how important it is to know all of the facts before you head off on the trail.
RULE OF HIKING:
Always be prepared!
Hiking has a range of benefits for the body and mind, and whether you want to go it alone or take a trip with the family, there is no shortage of amazing trails and scenery available in our very own backyard. Hiking is the ideal way to switch off from the world and get amongst the wilderness to truly appreciate everything the world has to offer.
By following these hiking tips you can not only ensure your own safety but that of your surroundings, so that the wilderness is there for everyone to enjoy for many years to come. The best hiking trips are those that are well planned and researched, meaning you can relax and enjoy the adventure once you’re on the trail.
With hiking being one of America’s most favorite pastimes, it’s not surprising to learn that over 34 million of us enjoyed hiking trails in this country during 2014. This data collected by the American Hiking Society has proven just how beneficial a good hike can be, with a range of advantages for your health and wellbeing.
No matter your reasons for hiking, you’ll be able to benefit from all of these great advantages and more. For something free and easy to do, there’s no reason not to start planning your next adventure in the outdoors so you too can reap the benefits of fresh air and exercise.
Before packing any of the hiking equipment, you’ll need to know exactly where you’re going. Hiking trails can vary differently around the world, so it’s a matter of starting with your own experience level and working from there. Always begin small with hikes until you learn about your surroundings and just how much your body is capable of before you attempt something more challenging.
Once you know how long you have to commit to a hike and what your skill level is, all you need to do is choose the surroundings you’d most like to see. Whether it’s something rocky, with streams, meadows, or tall mountains, there are plenty of amazing trails available to suit every landscape.
Modern websites such as All Trails have proven an invaluable asset to hikers, as you simply put in your location and it shows you a range of trails near you. With reviews from other hikers, you’re able to get real life advice on exactly what they’re like so you know what to expect.
Before you head out on any trails, though, you should notify at least one person of your intended route. A smart hiker never takes a chance with a spur of the moment hike without careful planning first. If you were to become lost or stuck, someone should always be aware of your location.
The first thing you’ll need before you set off on a hike is comfortable and durable hiking clothes. Some people assume that you can wear your regular clothes and shoes on a hike and have them do just fine, but considering the conditions you’re traveling in and how long you’re planning to be active you’ll need to invest in the right hiking gear.
Hiking boots are a necessity, especially with mountain hiking, designed to withstand long periods of walking over rugged terrain and special conditions such as water and sweat. Depending on your style of hiking, whether it’s mountaineering or ultralight, there’s a specially designed boot for you.
Your clothing choices are just as important, as you’ll need to suit the climate and stay comfortable, but also be prepared for unexpected weather conditions too. Many hikers prefer to layer their clothing, provided it’s breathable and light, so they can add or subtract items as they wish. Synthetic and wool materials are best for this, but be sure to avoid cotton altogether.
Extras such as gloves and goggles should be considered depending on the weather conditions. Provided you have boots, a base layer, and an extra layer of insulation, the rest may not be necessary and will be determined by the climate.
Besides the all-important backpack, shelter, and sleeping devices, there are some other must-have hiking essentials to take along on your trip. Even if you’re only planning a single day trip, these are an absolute necessity for every hiker.
A hiker’s backpack is probably their most prized possession, as it holds all of their valuable supplies within. Choosing the best hiking backpack is a matter of personal preference, though, as each hiker's needs are as unique as their personalities.
The three main areas to consider when choosing a backpack are the size, fit, and any extra features. The size relates to how much you want to carry within, and these can generally be grouped into how long you intend to hike for. A single day hike requires 30-50 liters, where something a week or longer might need 70 liters or more.
The fit of your backpack will depend on your torso length, and these need to be fitted perfectly. With the wrong size, you’re likely to feel unstable on the trail which can lead to an uncomfortable hike and a range of injuries too.
Extra features in your hiking backpack will depend on what you consider important, so everything from a hydration pack to extra ventilation can be totally customized to your needs. You should always opt for as light as possible, without comprising on quality, so that you can travel with freedom and truly experience life in the wilderness.
Even if you’re planning a day hike and don’t intend to camp overnight, you should at least pack some emergency shelter in your backpack. As SAR staff spend 40 percent of their time rescuing lost hikers, you never know when it might be you stuck in the outdoors.
The most popular shelter for a hiker is a tarp and tent, but these can be adjusted depending on how lightly you want to pack. Provided you have adequate shelter from the elements, the rest will come down to your desired comfort levels.
Tents for hiking can be purchased in terms of how many persons they fit inside. Most solo campers are happy with a one man tent, but for extra room for your supplies sometimes a lightweight two person tent is best. Your tent should be light and easy to assemble, so you don’t need to spend hours each day setting up a campsite.
Just like your hiking backpack, there are a number of additional features you might want to consider. Some tents have ventilation systems and others space for electronics and cords to come through, so it all depends on what will help you reach your optimal comfort levels.
In addition to your shelter choice, you’ll need to decide where you want to sleep. Considering this rest time is when you’ll regain energy for the following day, it’s best not to sleep on the ground entirely.
While sleeping bags have long been a popular choice, the recent trend of camping hammocks is changing things somewhat. With a camping hammock, you can also get rid of the traditional tent and sleep with just a tarp over the top so they’re ideal for ultralight enthusiasts as well.
Depending on weather conditions, you may need to add extra layers for warmth or use a sleeping bag pad. These are especially ideal for tough terrain as they protect the body from a lumpy or harsh ground underneath.
Whichever option you decide on, it’s best to find the lighter option that offers comfort. Ensure that you test out a sleeping bag or hammock before you purchase it get a good idea of how much comfort it can actually offer, though, as this isn’t something you want to discover while you’re out on a hike and it’s too late to change.
Whether you want to buy freeze dried and pre-packaged food or create your own, you should always have enough to meet your caloric needs. Use a free metabolic rate calculator so you can figure out your specific requirements for a hike, ensuring you have enough energy for the journey.
Always select foods that offer energy in short bursts for during the day, so that you can snack along the trail. For meals, you’ll want to load up on carbohydrates and protein so that this can be used the following day for optimum energy.
Just as important as your nutrition is hydration, and not having enough water on hand is a huge danger for hikers. Ensure that you’ve calculated how much water is adequate for your journey, taking into consideration things like the weather, your exertion level, and whether there will be supplies along the way.
Being in the wilderness comes with extra precautions that we need to take, and hiking safety is just as important as packing the right foods and wearing sensible clothing. With everything from sanitation to spiders posing a threat, there are a few precautions you should take on your hike.
For many families, hiking is a group pastime that everyone can enjoy together. However, bringing your kids along on a hike can open up a whole new range of issues to consider. As much as they may enjoy a hike, children have limited attention spans compared to adults so you need to keep them entertained on the trip.
There are some great kid-friendly trails all across the country, so put websites such as All Trails to use and find ones that will suit all age groups. You want to ensure your kids are safe at all times and hiking only to their fitness level, so never assume they can tackle the tougher trails as easily as an adult.
The best way to get kids engaged on a hike is to incorporate a few fun activities along the way. Games such as Follow the Leader or an organized treasure hunt will keep them happy, as well as regular breaks to allow them to eat and regain their strength.
By hiking with kids, you’re ensuring that you pass down the many benefits of this activity in the hopes that they will continue them on their own someday. Bringing your children out into nature is the best way to teach them about wildlife and share important messages about the conservation of our planet.
Hiking during the colder months can come with its own set of precautions, so if you’re planning on winter hiking you should be adequately prepared. Here are a few things to consider before you head off on a trail during the cold season.
After all of your preparation into how you can protect yourself and your loved ones on a hike, it’s just as important to protect the environment too. The Wilderness Society teaches the “Leave No Trace” guideline to hikers, meaning that you should leave the outdoors exactly as you would like to find them.
Be sure to camp on durable surfaces and clean up after yourself carefully so that you can protect the wilderness for others to enjoy now and into the future. A little bit of preparation now means saving the environment from a lot of damage in the future.
By being prepared with a plan and having the right supplies, you can limit any potential risks associated with camping. Just a little bit of forward planning can literally save your life in these situations, so even the most experienced hikers and campers need to be organized.