Hiking 101: The Ultimate Guide for Happy Hikers
Hiking 101: The Ultimate Guide for Happy Hikers
Do you see all of those happy hikers on their trips through the mountains and forests, camping and gallivanting about, and get jealous?
Why can't you get out into the great outdoors like that? Why are you stuck at home playing videogames or watching television when you could be out getting some fresh air and interacting with the local (or distant) flora and fauna?
Hiking can be a fun group activity or something that you choose to do solo (though if you do, pick a short and safe route for your first try). It's healthy, exciting, and you'll get to see some incredible sights if you pick your location right.
Does this all sound good to you?
Whether you're a newbie to the hiking world or you're trying to get back into the swing of things, we want to offer some advice. Keep reading for our adventurer's guide for a happy hike.
Pick a Prime Location
Depending on where you live, there may be a great hiking location just steps from your home (or, more realistically, a few miles).
Not everyone has the luxury to be out in the wild green wilderness, though, so take a look through your options. There are websites and apps available to show you where your nearest options are, or you can enter in a travel destination to see what's available there.
If you're new to hiking, you want to pick something that suits your skill and fitness levels. You probably won't be able to hike many miles uphill if you've been sedentary for a long while, and if you're inexperienced you may struggle with high altitudes.
Many of those apps that we mentioned will have reviews or notes about the trails to make it easier to gauge which one is going to be right for you. Some mention if they're child-friendly (in case you have children that you want to bring along) or pet-friendly (on the off chance that you want to bring your dog along for companionship or protection).
If you want to go swimming or floating, you can see if there are hiking trails that have rivers and lakes that run through them. Some will have waterfalls.
If you're after an impressive view to add to your photography portfolio, reviews will often mention this as well. If you require bathrooms, water stations, or a paved road to the entrance, you'll get your answers.
When it comes to having a good hiking experience, location is everything. Don't choose too quickly!
Pack for Success
Whether you're hiking for an afternoon of you have a multi-day trek ahead of you, you want to make sure that your bag is packed with everything you're going to need. Short trips will require fewer things. You may not need multiple changes of clothing or ways to prepare meals. Longer trips will have more specific needs.
Let's talk about some of the things that you'll want to bring with you on your trip regardless of if it's a long journey through the mountains or a brief glorified nature walk.
Clothing is a big deal when it comes to your hike, regardless of whether it's a long one or a short one. You don't want to feel uncomfortable when you're out, or potentially put yourself in danger.
On short hikes, you're mostly dressing for the current weather. If you know that it's going to be hot all day and all night, wear loose-fitting clothing that's breathable and comfortable. If the weather is cold, or even in the middle (like in autumn), you're going to want layers (and even pack an extra layer even if it's a short trip).
Hikes can go from cold to warm in no time. While you once needed a jumper, you might be sweating by the time you're halfway through your trip!
If you go somewhere that's prone to tick infestations, consider wearing socks and boots or protecting the more sensitive areas of your body. In hot weather, it's also good to wear a hat that can shield your face from the sun, as well as sunglasses.
If you're going on a longer journey, you're going to want to pack any clothes that you think that you might need. You can reuse clothing so you don't overpack, but make sure that you bring things that fit the environment even if you don't wear them when you set out.
It can be good to bring gloves, a hat, lighter layers, and a water-resistant jacket. You never know when rain might happen. Bring a change of clothes or 2, depending on your intentions, and be prepared for your trip to be longer than intended just in case.
Most hikes that are brief won't require much in the way of food. You will probably be pre-fed when you set out, so consider the amount of time that you usually require before your next meal.
One-day trips are often only hours long. They still make you expend a lot of energy, though, so it's good to pack compact and nutritious snacks.
Trail mix is a great choice. You can refine it to suit your needs. If you know you need more protein, add nuts or pieces of protein bars. If you know that you need sugar to keep you going, add sweets. Protein bars themselves are also a great option. They can fit in a pocket and they're easy to eat on the go!
Longer trips require more food (obviously). If you're going to be out overnight, bring enough food to sustain you for dinner, breakfast, and your trek back. You'll still want the energy snacks mentioned previously for when you start to tire out.
Don't forget to bring water as well. Some hikes have areas to rest with water, but most don't. Water can be heavy, but you'll be miserable without it. For a day trip, a single large water bottle should suffice. For a longer trip, assess your needs.
You might be the safest and least accident-prone person in the world, but a good first-aid kit is essential when you're going out into the wilderness. This is especially true if you're alone.
It's easier than you think to trip and fall and to require bandages or even a wrap for a sore wrist or ankle. If you get bitten or stung by a bug, you want to be able to manage that on your own.
Bring anything that you might expect to need to clean or wrap a wound, as well as any medications that you take regularly.
Are there any animals or weird insects in the area that you're going to be travelling? If so, it's best to be prepared.
No one is asking you to go out seeking bears or cougars to attack, but it's helpful to be able to defend yourself.
You can buy pepper spray or bear spray if you're worried about large animals in the vicinity, or mosquito or wasp spray if you're more worried about bugs. If you feel the need, you can bring a small weapon with you (though be careful and check the laws in the area that you're travelling).
It's also important to protect your skin.
Regardless of what the weather looks like on your hike, wearing sunscreen and bug spray will help you out. Your skin is sensitive to UV rays, and a cloudy day doesn't stop those rays from bursting through. If you want to avoid skin cancer, rapid ageing, and discolouration (or just sunburn), wear sunscreen.
Bug spray will protect you temporarily from bugs that bite, though it may need to be reapplied frequently.
We have so much modern equipment at our disposal, it would be silly to not bring some of it along with us on our hikes.
It doesn't hurt to have a compass (so long as you know how to use it). It's also good to have walking sticks if you'll be going uphill. If you plan on staying the night, bring a sturdy tent that can withstand the elements of your location.
There are a lot of electronics that you can bring to make your life easier. You might feel like this takes some of the wilderness out of hiking, but it's really just giving you a stronger start. If our ancestors had cellphones, they would use them.
You might not have great service depending on where you are, but you can use your phone as a GPS device and for emergency calls if you need them. You can also use apps for things like compasses or finding your trail if you wander off by mistake. You can even use it to identify strange plants or animals to see if they're dangerous.
When you're bringing a phone it's essential to also bring a portable charger. There are no outlets in the woods. A pre-charged divide will be a lifesaver.
Don't forget to bring a torch and any necessary rope if you're really roughing it.
Are You Going Alone?
Many people go on hikes all by their lonesome, but it can be beneficial to have someone else travelling with you, especially if you don't know the ropes.
The buddy system makes everything safer, and if you're able, consider bringing along a friend. It's a great bonding experience and you'll have more fun on the way.
When you're hiking alone, it's more important than ever to be able to rely on your protection and your electronics. Going out alone in an unfamiliar area is objectively unsafe. Keep your head on a swivel.
Get Some Conditioning In
Before you go on your hike, consider doing a bit of exercise if you're someone who spends a lot of time sedentary.
This doesn't have to be extreme, especially if you're looking at a one-day expedition. Go on brief jogs or uphill walks a few times per week to build some strength and stamina.
For longer hikes, work on your upper and lower body strength. You can do all of this with bodyweight exercises, but a well-equipped gym might be better. You want to be strong and powerful enough that you can keep yourself stable (a strong core is essential for this) and that your legs don't get tired on the way.
You also don't want to be out of breath before you even get started. The mild cardio training we mentioned before is great for this. If you're preparing for a long trip, try using a stairclimber machine until you're able to climb for a half-hour without having to quit.
Always Leave the Trail Clean
When you're on your hiking trip, you should always be respectful of the environment. You're a visitor in these woods or mountains, and you should act accordingly.
You might have some garbage or waste when you're hiking. Organic waste can sometimes be left behind but not all peels and cores are safe for the environment. Check first.
Anything plastic, metal, or otherwise not available straight from the earth should be put in a trash can or brought with you in your pack. This is common hiking etiquette, though you're likely to see trash while you're on your hike from people who choose not to follow these rules.
Picking up trash along the way isn't a necessity, but it is a good way to thank the earth for the awesome sights.
Your goal is to leave no trace, or better, to leave the trail better than you found it.
Join The World of Happy Hikers
You don't have to envy happy hikers any longer. You can join them.
Hiking might seem like a big endeavour, but if you start slow and go with your comfort level, it's a lot of fun! Soon you'll be trekking about like a professional.
If you're interested in picking up some travel gear for your next adventure, visit our site. We have bags, scratch-off maps, and more!