Travelling is becoming trendier for a whole host of people, and with majestic mountains and meandering moors around the world becoming more accessible every day, hikers are joining the club. There are plenty of hiking opportunities gracing the planet, with a catalogue of diverse options: one-day hikes, overnight jaunts, and even paths and pilgrimages which can be undertaken over many weeks and months.
It’s important when hiking to consider your needs – and that different routes have different requirements. Before you lace up your boots, it’s a good idea to think about the type of hiking you’ll be doing. Areas that might take your fancy include:
Forest hikes, wooded regions, and grassy areas
Wet and watery beaches, rivers, lakes, and waterfalls
Rolling hills and farmlands
Arid, vast and dry deserts
All of the above have different needs, and more than one type of terrain can be found in one area. One walk may take you through two or three types of terrain, so it’s really important to be aware of your route, the ground you’ll encounter, and what this means for you, your equipment and your safety. In this article, we consider some things you’ll want to think about before setting off.
· Camping: will your hike be an overnight session? If so, you’ll need a tent. When you’re on the hunt for something suitable, it’s good to think about weight, style, and cost. Depending on where you’ll be camping, you may want to prioritize waterproofing, windproofing and/or breathability. You should also look for something light and portable, and consider how many people will be sleeping in it. When you’re carrying your tent around, versatility is key. Your choice of sleeping bag and sleeping mat should be influenced by similar considerations.
· Clothes: keep your clothes and your belongings safe and dry by using dry-bags if the weather calls for them. You should also ensure that your clothes are windproof, waterproof, breathable and quick to dry.
· Boots: this is a big one. Good hiking boots mean a good hike. It’s important that they’re a good quality, with good windproofing and good waterproofing, and that they have excellent traction. You want something robust and well-fitted with good ankle support. Make sure you try on your boots before buying them… the comfort of your feet is of the utmost importance.
· Carry Only What You Need: think about what you really need before packing your bag. You don’t need a beach ball, ten bottles of beer or five-pound book. Packing extras seems fun until you have to carry them around in your pack, so consider, consider and reconsider what is really essential.
· Food and Drink: what you’re going to eat and drink is very important. First, think about nutritional needs. You’ll want some healthy stuff to keep your body in good condition, but you might also want to pack some high-sugar treats to keep your energy levels up. Again, weight here is an issue… pack things which are calorie-dense, meaning that they’ll fill up your stomach without weighing down your bag.
· Water: it’s important to think about how long you’ll be walking, and how much water you need. If it’s a particularly long hike, you should take some water purifying tablets, so you can drink any water you encounter… you can’t always rely on the availability of fresh streams.
· Navigation: ensure you know your route well. Some tracks are marked with signposts and colorful markers, some are marked on maps, and some can be found online. Often, trails might offer a combination of all three, and you should use as many as you can. Getting lost can be very dangerous and very scary, so it’s important to be particularly prepared. Get a good quality map, and speak to locals or other hikers about any routes you wish to take. The more experience you can gather from others, the safer and happier you’ll be.
· Natural Threats: some terrain might feature unfriendly furry locals such as wolves and bears. It’s important to know of any potential foes which might exist, and how to avoid them. Do you research before you go… and if there will be any animals on the trail, make sure you know how to avoid them. With bears, for example, it’s important to make plenty of noise, keep your food off the floor, and sleep up in a tree if you can.
· Creepy Crawlies and Critters: insects and bugs can also be dangerous. Again, you should undertake research to discover which insects might be encountered on your trail. Some spiders, for example, can be fatal, while we all know about the dangers of mosquitoes. Leeches and ticks can also be a threat. Even bugs found in the UK, though are not dangerous, can be hugely irritating, itchy and annoying, so it’s always a good idea to keep yourself protected. Wear high-quality bug spray with at least 50% DEET, use a mosquito net if necessary, and wear long sleeves to keep yourself protected.
· Buddy Up: if you can, take a friend or partner. It’s never a good idea to hike alone, especially over long distances. A partner can be of invaluable help if you get sick, injured or lost. And it’s always nice to have someone to talk to and share memories with.
· Get Fit Before You Go: hiking always seems like a fun idea, and it usually is. But there’s nothing worse than the mental and physical feeling that comes with realizing you haven’t trained enough. If you’re doing something strenuous, make sure that you’re sufficiently fit to do it properly and safely. You’ll enjoy yourself much more if you’re in good shape and capable of taking the challenge.
The above list might make things seem scary or daunting, but if you’re well-prepared, hiking is neither of these things. A lack of preparation can indeed be dangerous, but if you follow our guide, you’ll have great fun, great exercise, life-changing experiences and a whole catalogue of everlasting memories. For the well-prepared, hiking can be one of the most rewarding and exciting adventures in the world. Lace up your boots, pack your bag and roll up your tent. Happy hiking!