Are you going on a trail hike in the near future, or perhaps looking into doing it regularly? It can be difficult to start, and you may not know where to begin to properly prepare yourself for the adventure. With that said, we can break it down into 4 simple rules that make hiking very easy to plan for and enjoy.
First and foremost, whatever you do, respect the hike and other hikers. If you take away only a single point from this list, let it be this one. Don’t litter, and this means anything from wrappers to vegetable stems to fruit peels. The experience should be just as you left it, with no trace that you were there other than footprints. As hiking sees a rise in popularity, it is no wonder that a lot of newer hikers may not know some basic etiquette. Avoid leaving the official trail, try to not disturb the environment around you, even things as innocuous as breaking branches unnecessarily should be avoided. On top of not disturbing the environment, don’t disturb other hikers also on the trail, so try not to play loud music, be excessively boisterous or obnoxious in general.
A simple mistake that far too many beginners trap themselves with – is overestimating their boundaries and overdoing it. This means picking a hike that is either too long for their current ability or has too much rough terrain and climbing for them to handle all at once.
If you are a complete beginner, try looking for a hiking route that is roughly 5 miles or lower, with minimal climbing. This will make your first experience as enjoyable as it can be, and less of a chore. If you really do want to take on a more advanced hike, create a mini training plan in advance that adequately prepares you for the route you wish to take.
You should also take into account not just distance but how much of it will be climbing because 5 miles of flat hiking is far different from 5 miles of mostly uphill hiking. Battling the terrain is a key part of hiking, and not easing yourself into it will make for a grueling experience.
It cannot be overstated that having the right gear with you can make or break a trip. This is everything from sunscreen and headwear to energy snacks and footwear. If you don’t prepare yourself for your journey, it will be increasingly hard to finish.
You want to prepare for the weather, wear what is appropriate, bring ample water to stay hydrated, and of course, pick up a pair of specifically designed trail shoes. These shoes will work wonders as you elevate yourself to increasingly difficult hiking trips. They are designed to keep your feet, legs, and lower back comfortable through the ride, while also giving you ample traction and support on precarious terrain. For that reason alone it would be wise to use trail running shoes specifically, not to mention that regular runners would simply not last as long.
Also, if you’re going on a very long hike, be prepared for the dark, and the lowered temperature of the night.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at just how many people put themselves in harm’s way for not being attentive on a trail. This comes down to knowing what animals are around you, to how you should be traversing the terrain ahead of you.
For example, if you intend to do a rougher hike, get a good footing on the rocks and objects in your way, as improper footing is the easiest way to twist and hurt your ankle.
If you are not going on a more serious hike, then all you really have to worry about is the wildlife. Making sure you’re not stepping on a stray animal is important. Most rattlesnake bites, for example, occur when they are unintentionally stepped on by inattentive hikers. Ideally, pay close attention to your feet whenever possible to avoid injury as well as unforeseen wildlife contact.
With all that said, if you follow these four pretty simple rules, you’ll have an excellent time hiking. The more you hike the more you will get used to these things and it will simply become second nature to pack well, check your surroundings, and mentally prepare for even the toughest terrain.