Hit the road! Now that the temps are getting a bit less frigid, you might be exercising outside. Read this beginner’s guide to hiking by guest poster, Cassie.
If working out in the gym isn’t your favorite, you’re probably looking for other ways to stay active during your weight loss journey. Hiking is a great outdoor activity and offers a myriad of health benefits, such as improved mood, better cognition and lower blood pressure.
If you’ve never gone hiking before, even planning a short day hike can seem intimidating. With just a little preparation, though, you can set out on the trail with the confidence to complete your first hike.
Here is everything you need to know before hitting the trail for your first hike.
Hiking has been scientifically proven to offer a wide variety of health benefits. In addition to being a good form of cardiovascular exercise, you can also expect to see improvements in other areas such as:
- Stress reduction
- Improved mood
- Better focus
- Improved cognition
- Increased levels of creativity
- Lower blood pressure
- And much more!
Choosing a Hike
As a beginner, choosing a hike can seem like a daunting task. But don’t worry, there are plenty of resources available to help you locate a suitable hike.
You can start by checking with any friends and family who enjoy the outdoors. They might know about some easy local trails you can hike in a short amount time. There are also apps for your phone, such as AllTrails and MapMyHike that offer information and reviews on thousands of trails across the United States and around the world.
When picking your hike, you’ll want to consider things such as the amount of time you have to hike, the terrain, any elevation changes, your current level of fitness and whether you want to do an out-and-back hike or a circular trail that ends and begins at the same point.
While some gear is designed for all hikes, other items depend largely on your chosen trail and the climate in which you’ll be hiking. Here are some things that will likely come with you on any hike:
- Water: Water is a must-have for any hike, no matter the length. However, a liter of water weighs 2.2 pounds, so you also don’t want to bring too much because you’ll tire yourself out hauling the extra weight. When you first start hiking, plan to bring a minimum of one liter per person, plus another half liter for every hour you plan to hike. As you get more experience, you can adjust your water volume based on your usage.
- Boots: Depending on the area you choose to hike, the trail may not be well-groomed. You’ll want sturdy shoes for navigating rocky paths, mud and other potential hazards along the trail. It’s important to have your boots properly fitted for your hike because nothing will ruin a hiking experience faster than ill-fitting footwear. Try an outdoor store such as REI for a professional to help you get the right boots in the right size.
- Protective Gear: The climate in which you’re hiking will dictate much of what’s required in the way of protective gear. Consider whether you need long pants, long sleeves, a hat, bug repellent or sunscreen when preparing for your hike.
- Backpack: If you’re hiking for any distance, you’ll probably want to bring a backpack for your supplies. A good day pack is light and made of weatherproof material. It will have plenty of pockets for your essentials and enough space to comfortably hold your water and other supplies.
- Technology: There’s a bit of debate among hikers about whether or not technology belongs on the trail. If you want to bring your phone or portable GPS, then, by all means, add them to your pack. Just be sure you also include a regular trail map too because you never know what might happen with your technology on the trail.
When preparing for your hike, there are some precautions you should take to ensure you have a fun and safe experience. Whenever possible, hike with another person. If that’s not an option, or you’re determined to hit the trail alone, be sure to tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be home. That person should know who to contact if you fail to check-in by a certain time.
If you do decide to hike with your phone, you can use an app such as HikerAlert to signal for help in case of an emergency, even if you don’t have reception in the area you’re hiking. It’s a good way to give yourself a little peace of mind if you’re nervous about hiking.
Note: If you do decide to bring your smartphone on the trail, it’s important to take precautions to protect it from all potential hazards. You should purchase a case designed to keep your phone safe from hazards in the great outdoors. You should also consider using a proxy software service to protect your private information in case your phone is lost along the trail.
While hiking does require a little more preparation than a quick trip to the local gym, you’ll find it’s also rewarding.
If you feel overwhelmed, remember you can start small with a short hike and work your way up to more challenging experiences as you gain confidence.
Do you hike for fun and fitness? Share your favorite hiking tip with us in the comments below.
About the Author: Cassie is a freelance health and fitness writer. She has years of experience teaching people about healthy living through smart choices. Since her job allows her to work remotely from anywhere in the world, she loves to spend her free time exploring the best nature has to offer.