A hike can be an epic adventure, covering thousands of miles on the Appalachian Trail. It can also be a simple stroll in the hills near your home. Hiking doesn’t need to be strenuous, and you don’t need to be deep in the wilderness. Even on a short outing, hiking is good for your health. It builds both strength and cardiovascular fitness.
Everyone should engage in such an adventurous trip at least once a year. The fresh air of the mountains, the people you’ll meet on the way, and traditional food, and the landscapes will certainly exceed your expectations. Plan a trip to the Himalayas and wonder through rocky Nepal, or visit the European mountains and gaze the abundant vegetation. Whatever your choice, hiking is all about enjoying the journey and not about the destination. Here are some tips to help you plan the perfect hike.
Many experienced hikers love to hike alone, feeling that it lets them connect with nature better than when they are chatting to a friend on the trail. However, solo hiking can be more dangerous, especially if you are on a rarely traveled trail, where you are unlikely to meet other people. It’s safest to hike with someone else, especially if you are not very experienced yourself.
Select an appropriate hike
Both printed and online trail guides will provide you with some indications of how hard a trail is – the length, the elevation gain, and often a rating such as “Strenuous” or “Moderate”. While you want to stretch your abilities, don’t be overambitious. If you’re not certain of your level, start with some easier hikes. As you gain experience, you can work your way up.
Pay attention to the weather forecasts, and postpone your hike if it looks like there is threatening weather on the way. Getting caught out in a rainstorm can turn your hike soggy and uncomfortable, but if there’s a lightning storm, it could be downright dangerous. Snow storms or excessive heat can also be dangerous for hiking.
Carry a small daypack
For a hike that doesn’t involve camping overnight, you don’t need a full scale backpack, but you do want to have some essential items along. Carrying a daypack is the most convenient way to do this. If you’re shopping for one, look for something lightweight and comfortable. There’s no sense carrying a bunch of extra weight for the pack itself.
Pack the essentials
The most essential item is water – you always need to pack water and the hotter the weather, the more you need. Also, be sure to bring some food with you. Dried fruit, nuts, and jerky are all good choices. A hat to shield your head from the sun is a good idea, and sunscreen is an essential. A lightweight jacket is also good, in case the temperature fluctuates while you are out. Last but not least, have a small first-aid kit with you. Accidents can happen, so it’s best to be safe.
You may not be able to get cell phone reception everywhere on the trail, but having a way to contact people is one of the best safety precautions you can have. Smart phones also have a GPS and compass, and some apps can show you maps of the hiking trail, or track your route. If you don’t want to carry a separate camera, your phone can also capture pictures. Make sure your phone is equipped with a solid case; purchase a weatherproof one just to keep it away from moisture, sun, and rain.
Always let someone know
If you’re hiking in a popular place, this is not as important, but if you are out in the wilderness, always let someone know your plans. If you are not back when you are expected, they can alert the proper authorities to start looking for you. In case you suffered a broken leg or other injury, it is good to know that somebody will come looking for you.
Hiking is an amazing activity, even for the most inexperienced travelers. However, it’s important that you follow some basic rules to make your journey as comfortable as possible. Apart from a basic backpack and comfortable clothing, you should really invest in a pair of shoes made specifically for this kind of mountain activity.