Hiking is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the outdoors. Transported by your own two feet and carrying only what you need for the day on your back, you can discover the beauty of nature at whatever pace you’re comfortable with. And, with a little planning and preparation, it’s an activity that almost anyone can do.
If you’ve dreamed of hiking, but have yet to try it, it’s time to get out there. Just follow these steps:
- Find a hiking partner
- Choose a hike
- Gear up
- If you have friends who hike, ask them to take you on a trek. Most people are happy to share their expertise, let you borrow gear and introduce newbies to their favourite trails.
- If you don’t know any hikers, many cities and towns have hiking clubs that regularly plan outings. You can find hiking classes, outings and events.
Hiking alone: Experiencing the outdoors by yourself can give you a sense of freedom and adventure that are hard to find elsewhere. But it can also be intimidating and lonely at times. If you’re new to hiking, we recommend finding a companion to keep you company. That person will also be there to lend a hand if you happen to get hurt. If going alone really is your only option, then start out with short trips to popular hiking destinations and make sure someone always knows where you’re going and how long you plan to be gone.
There are several easy ways to find a hiking trail that will meet your needs:
- Guidebooks and websites are great resources because you can get all the stats you need: trail difficulty, distance, elevation gain, directions, water sources, trail features and whether dogs are allowed. Websites often display recent trip reports that may give you a sense for what current trail conditions are like.
- Word of mouth: If you have friends who like to hike, ask them to suggest some locations for you.
- Talk to locals: Contact a local hiking organization in the area where you want to hike. Hiking organisation typically has up-to-date trail conditions and is skilled at suggesting hikes for all skill levels.
Tips for Choosing a Hiking Route
Before you start your search for the perfect hike, it’s helpful to think through a few things, such as:
- How much time you have: Do you have a couple hours or a full day? The amount of time you have can determine where you go. Don’t forget to factor in how long it takes to get to and from the trailhead.
- Your fitness level: Honestly assess what kind of shape you’re in. You want to have an enjoyable time out there rather than suffering through a long, strenuous hike that you’re not prepared for. If you’re not in the shape of your life, don’t be dismayed: There are hikes for everyone.
- Distance: Think about how many miles and hours you’re comfortable hiking. An average walking pace is about 3 mph, but your hiking pace may be slower than that depending on terrain, elevation gain and how much weight you’re carrying on your back.
- Time of year and weather: Some trails won’t be accessible in early spring because they’re covered in snow. If it’s fall and the sun is setting earlier, plan accordingly so you’re not caught out after dark unexpectedly. Always check the weather forecast before heading out so you can dress and pack appropriately.
- Logistics: Certain hikes require a bit more planning. For instance, if you end up doing a hike that starts and finishes at different places, you’ll need to shuttle cars to your start and end points.·The Ten Essentials
- Start by making sure you’re carrying the Ten Essentials. This is a collection of gear and clothing that all hikers should carry whenever they step onto the trail. The collection includes items for navigation, sun protection, insulation, illumination, first aid, fire, repairs, nutrition, hydration and emergency shelter.·
- Hiking Footwear Footwear is one of the most important items you need to choose, and it’s a very personal choice. Some hikers prefer supportive over-the-ankle boots, while others enjoy lightweight trail-running shoes. The terrain you’ll be walking on can also affect your decision. Lightweight, low-cut shoes may be fine on well-maintained trails without a lot of obstacles, whereas sturdy boots may serve you better on a rugged trail with rocks, roots and streams.
- Whatever you choose, make sure the boots or shoes are well broken-in and comfortable for long distances. And wear wool or synthetic socks, not cotton.·Food and water
- As a beginner hiker, it can be tough to know how much food and water you need, A good general recommendation for how much to eat is 200–300 calories per hour. For water intake, about a half liter per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures is a good starting place. These amounts depend heavily on several factors, such as the intensity of your hike, the weather, your age, your sweat rate and your body type. As you gain more experience, you’ll get a better sense for just how much you need.
- It’s always a good idea to carry a little extra food and water in case your trip takes longer than anticipated.
- Personal Health and Safety
- First aid: You don’t need to be a medical pro to take a hike, but it’s wise to know some basic first aid. Always carry a first-aid kit and know how to use it.
Safety: Always leave a detailed itinerary with a friend or family member.
Whether you’ve been hiking for years or you’re gearing up for your first trek, it’s valuable to know some basic trail etiquette.
Right of Way: Following these rules of the trail can help everyone get along:
- Hikers vs. Hikers: Hikers going uphill have the right of way. You may see uphill hikers let others come downhill while they take a breather, but remember that’s the uphill hiker’s decision.
- Hikers vs. Bikers: Mountain bikers are generally expected to yield to hikers. However, because mountain bikers are usually moving faster than hikers, it can be easier for hikers to step aside and yield the right of way.
- Hikers vs. Horses: Horses get the right of way. If you’re sharing the trail with equestrians, give them a wide berth when you’re passing each other and don’t make abrupt movements. It’s generally recommended to step off the trail to the downhill side while yielding to a horse.
Leave No Trace: While most of us don’t intend to harm our natural surroundings, we may not know how to preserve them, or we’re simply overlooking a few important behaviours. 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
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of other visitors