A successful hiking trip starts with a good plan. Hiking and backpacking are rewarding experiences, but it is only natural for beginners to find a hitch. Some experienced hikers will start at a moment’s notice. Such luxury, however, is not to be practiced by beginners who should be more circumspect. Experience is the greatest teacher for hiking, and it is advisable for beginners to be more careful. Here are some tips that can make hiking a more rewarding experience for beginners.
1. Regularly Walk Or Hike At Your Local Park
Hiking takes practice and conditioning. Even if you’re someone who works out regularly, it is better to condition your body to expect the challenges of hiking. It takes regular hikes and walks to keep people in their best shape for hiking. A great way to get started is to visit your local park. This could be a group activity, or you could do it alone.
The goal is to familiarize yourself with walking on trails, build up endurance, and to mentally prepare yourself for a hike. It’s also a great opportunity to try out and test your gear and familiarize yourself with some expectations of a hike. Try to do this at least once a week, and you’ll find yourself prepared for a longer hiking or backpacking experience.
2. Find A Group Or Club For Hiking
Why go solo when you can learn with a group? Being part of a group lets beginners learn from each other, or better yet, from more experienced members of the group. Positive reinforcement and the implied safety of being part of a larger group can be an excellent learning experience. Most groups are fun and motivating.
The good part is that hiking groups are well spread throughout the country, so it can be fairly convenient to join one.
3. Hydrate Properly
Staying well-hydrated is the secret recipe for success in a hike. The best method here is to regularly take sips, rather than wait until you’re feeling thirsty or parched. If you wait till you’re feeling thirsty, you may end up drinking a lot of water in one go. That isn’t very helpful for your hike. Pace yourself and take sips along the way at regular intervals.
Several brands offer quality water bottles with suitable attachments for hikers. Brands like Hydro Flask and Yeti are most popular, but there is a fair amount of quality options available as well. Take your pick and get a cap/lid best suited for hiking.
4. Get Comfortable Footwear
Feet take the brunt of the work during a hike. Care well for them and make sure you have footwear that has good support for your feet. Beginners sometimes pick walking or jogging shoes. What you should be wearing are hiking boots. Waterproofing, build quality, and support or heels and ankles are important measures of choosing a hiking boot. Quality boots can be fairly expensive, but there are also cheap and comfortable hiking boots to look for.
Take a similar approach for socks as well. Say goodbye to cotton socks and ankle-length socks, they’re not your friends on a hike. Synthetic performance socks with at least 30% wool blend are the best pick. The socks you choose should reach somewhere around the mid-calf. Packing blister bandages and dressing is also a good idea and they are very likely to come in handy.
5. Stay Steady With Your Pace
Strive to maintain a steady pace on your hike. Moderation is a recurring theme for hiking, whether for hydration, snacking, or for maintaining your pace. Don’t spend a burst of energy rushing through a section of your hike. Instead, take your time, enjoy the views, and stay focused on keeping a good pace. Staying steady works better for endurance. Do not tire yourself going too fast and don’t waste precious time lagging on the trail.
6. Maintain A Good Posture
People often tend to start slouching after a small distance on the hike. This could be due to feeling tired, getting a feel of the weight in the backpack, or just a desire to look carefully where they plant their feet. Hunching or slouching are poor companions of a hiker, especially when going uphill.
Bad posture makes it difficult to breathe and negatively affects a hike. Some end up blaming these breathing difficulties on increased elevation. That problem does not happen until you’re over 2000 meters over the sea level. And if you find yourself in a hike at that altitude, it becomes more important to have a good posture.
7. Let A Friend Know Your Hiking Plan
Someone who is not hiking with you should know your hiking plan and itinerary. Whenever possible, reach out to this person and let them know your location and where you plan to go next. This person should be prepared to reach out for help and call authorities if you do not show up where you should be.
8. Learn To Read A Map
Most of us rely on GPS for directions. However, a hiker may not have the luxury of charging their device, and GPS may prove unreliable on trails. Detailed paper maps are easily available. Knowing how to read a topographic map will make it possible to pinpoint your location and deciding on the path to take. It’s a basic skill for hikers, and one you’ll find yourself using often.
9. Dress Well
Dress for your hike. Be sure to dress according to the weather and keep extra clothes with you. If you’re setting up camp for the night, change into a fresh pair of clothes rather than sleeping in your hiking clothes that may be wet from sweat. Layer your clothing to stay warm and comfortable during your hike.
10. Learn From Other Hikers
Imitation is a great form of learning. Watching other hikers can be a great way to learn a lot of things. Packing light, layering your clothes well, or even setting up camp. There’s a lot to learn and even experienced hikers will pick tips from others. Some hikers may have their hacks and tricks to get something done, and it may work better than a conventional method. It is worthwhile watching others and learning from them.
For some extra lighthearted tips to hiking, also check out Sling Adventures 10 Commandments of Hiking.