Imagine yourself going for a nice hike. What do you think of? Odds are, your mind goes right for some crazy wilderness guys, with giant backpacks, that have been hiking in some foreign mountains for years.
Or maybe you think of a lone traveler with nothing but a small bag getting him by.
Either way, hiking serves as a great way to get some serious exercise. But if you aren’t in the best shape, or you’re still considering making this trip to a healthier life, you may end up talking yourself out of it – and talking yourself right back onto the couch.
While hiking can be a pretty serious adventure, it doesn’t have to be. You can easily make a hiking trip around your neighborhood, or even a park in the surrounding area, a fun adventure on any random day of the week.
What does it really matter, as long as you’re getting outside, and building up some strength and endurance for both your lungs and your legs. This is a great solution for those who are overweight and want to start getting some activity but aren’t ready to run just yet. Hiking is the perfect way to get your entire body, especially your legs and your feet, used to such vigorous exercise.
Because you’re the one who has the controls. You get to decide how fast you want to go and how difficult you want to make it. You always have the choice of picking the challenge that’s right for you.
So we’re going to show you a few key essentials on how to get started and what you need to do.
I Don’t Know Where to Start With Hiking…
Set up a time frame. First things first – figure out exactly how long you have to dedicate to hiking. This is your start guide for hiking, we aren’t just going to throw you in the middle of the Appalachian Trail with a bottle of water and a pack of matches, and say ‘Good luck!’
So instead, you want to find some trails that you can do that won’t take all day, some extra clothes or even a tent.
You want to decide on a hike based around how much time and energy you have for that day.
What about this Saturday?
Could you do the whole day or just part of the day?
Decide on a group. People tend to be one of two things – either a lover of hiking alone or a lover of hiking in groups. There are a couple different things to consider before making this decision. When you’re out alone on the trail, anything could happen – which isn’t always a good thing. So if you have a buddy system, whether it’s with one person or a couple of different people, this decreases the danger. It might be a fun thing to do with your significant other or a close friend because you get some major time to bond. No distractions, no cell phones, nothing – just the two of you and the great outdoors.
On the other hand, some people prefer to be by themselves. When you travel with someone else, or a group, you aren’t just making your own pace. You have to stick with a pace that works for everyone. And you may feel like you’re being pushed too hard or held back.
Decide on your start. If you’ve never hiked before or you aren’t in the best shape, then throwing yourself into a 10-hour hiking spree through completely untouched wilderness isn’t exactly going to be your smartest move. You need to start small and work your way up. Pick various spots in your area that will let you stop with ease and if necessary go back to your car, or your house, in a pinch.
You want to come back from your hike excited and ready to do more; not realizing you did hours of exercise and completely exhausted.
Pick the spot. No need to break out the maps and start searching. You can find a trail near you by going to trails.com and typing in your zip code. You can also just take a nice drive around your area to see if anything pops up or ask your friends if they’ve checked anything out lately.
You can always go to a golf course in the area and go hiking in the woods around it. Or, if you’d rather, simply go to Google and type your town in and hiking to see if anything interesting comes up. There are tons and tons of awesome, interesting and exciting trails within your reach.
Keep in touch. If you decide you’re more of a loner when it comes to hiking, that’s fine – just make sure you let someone know where you’re going. Shoot someone an email or text telling him or her where you are going and what time you plan to be back by.
No need to go into too much detail here – the person doesn’t need to know what you’re wearing or how many rocks you plan on collecting. Just give them the important facts so they can take the appropriate action if they don’t hear from you by a certain time.
What Do I Wear Hiking?
Clothing. What to wear hiking is something that gets asked quite often. Here’s what you should wear – your favorite pair of heels, very short shorts or a skirt, and a skimpy top. OK, you’re ready to go!
While you want to be comfortable, you don’t have to spend an absolute fortune to get the right kinds of clothes for this. Luckily, there are a couple different options to pick from. We’ll start with your feet first.
Odds are, you know those industrial-sized hiking boots. While some people love them, we kind of hate them. They tend to give your feet too much support (yes such a thing exists), much like running in overly cushioned shoes do. Plus, they actually make you have an incorrect foot strike as you’re walking, which is a big no-no with hiking. And to be honest, those suckers are heavy. So we like to pass on those, but what to wear hiking depends on personal preference. However, we’re more likely to pick from chunky hiking boots over plan old sneakers.
Well, the boots have one major thing going for them, and that’s the fact that they were at least designed to hike. Sneakers aren’t. But if you only have sneakers, then just tie them up and get ready to go. Just make sure you’re extra careful on any slippery surfaces because sneakers aren’t going to give you the stability and grip you should have.
Barefoot trail running shoes might be the perfect solution for you. They are a little strange at first, because they don’t offer nearly as much support, but you get used to them. Vibram FiveFingers are a fantastic brand to pick. As you climb rocks and surfaces, you can actually grip them with your feet. But before you decide to make this leap and go for a 10-mile hike, you should get yourself used to these shoes. Your ankles, feet, and joints are going to have a lot more strain on them because of the lack of support. Which is a good thing – over time. You want to build your body up to get used to and comfortable with this different kind of shoe. Your best bet is to start small and work your way up to comfort and safety.
If you decide to go this “barefoot” route, then you won’t need socks. But if you’re sticking with boots or sneakers, then yes you should be wearing socks. This may take some trial and error. You need socks that aren’t going to be too thin and cover your feet with blisters. On the flip side, you also need socks that aren’t going to be thick and make your feet sweaty and uncomfortable.
You can base your decision on socks on how long your hike is. If you’re going to get pretty serious about hiking and plan to go long distances, you may want to look into merino wool socks. They’re the perfect thickness for hiking for hours and aren’t going to give you blisters or make you uncomfortable.
Jeans aren’t exactly the best option. I mean, we all know how uncomfortable and gross jeans get when we’re sweaty. But if the weather is cold, shorts aren’t going to do the job. On the other hand, if the weather is hot, long pants aren’t going to cut it either. Columbia Silver Ridge pants are the way to go. While they look a little strange, the pants themselves are actually extremely light and dry in a flash if they get wet. Major bonus: They can go from pants to shorts back to pants again. However, if you aren’t sure, just stick with pants. It’s better to be hot for one day than stuck with poison ivy all over your body for weeks.
As for your shirt, you want something that is performance-based, such as Under Armour. It’ll keep you from getting all sweaty and gross. Merino also has long wool shirts and t-shirts, which do a great job of hiding odors and keeping moisture away, but are very light. But like we said, if you’re a beginner and just feeling things out, go with an old shirt. If you’re worried about getting cold, grab a lightweight jacket that you can tie around your waist.
Waterproof is an added feature, as it will be a nice addition to have if the weather turns. And as you’re headed out the door, grab a hat. If you’re just starting out, you will want to protect your ears and neck from getting burnt from the sun.
Versatility is the name of the game here. Grab things that can be used for other things – like the pants that transform into shorts or the long sleeve shirt that can have the sleeves rolled up. But don’t go nuts and buy everything until you feel like hiking is something you’re going to stick with.
What Do I Need To Bring When I Go Hiking?
Once you work your way up and start taking longer hikes, you may want to pack some things to go along with you. Any bag is going to be fine for now (until you get into the major camping hardcore area), so just grab a small backpack. Throw your fully charged cell phone in there in case of an emergency. Plus, most phones can now service as a compass, mapper, camera, etc.
You may also want to bring some headphones for music or a book for something to do if you need to rest. Two of the most important pieces of advice we’ve given you so far – bring sunscreen and bug spray. It’s hard to tell when you’re getting sun burnt if there is a breeze or it’s a nice cool day. However, it’s never hard to tell when you’re getting eaten alive by bugs.
You want both of these areas covered, no matter what. A lot of first aid kits have both these items in them (among many other critical items, such as moleskin, Band-Aids, etc.). Other things you will need – a pocket knife, sunglasses, and food.
Don’t go crazy with the food. You can’t pack a 4-course meal in your small backpack. But you can pack things like almonds or walnuts, water, apples, bananas, raisins and beef jerky.
We’ll end with a few fun tricks you can do to make your hike even more enjoyable:
- Keep track of your hike. It’s awesome to keep how far you can go, how far you’ve come, and how much overall hiking you do.
- Make a fun, exciting hiking playlist. There may only be so long you can listen to the sounds of nature. You might get sick of it or need something to help you stay motivated. And that’s where music comes into play.
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