There’s walking, jogging, and running. In autumn, I love to tack on another fun (and challenging) on-foot sport to this series: Hiking.
Whether it’s at the local rail trail or up in the Adirondack High Peaks, off-roading it can refresh your senses, give you an excellent sweat, and become a life-long hobby. But if you’re new to hiking, don’t head up that mountain just yet.
There’s a lot to consider, especially some key information, that can keep you more comfortable, better prepared for the elements, and safe from the variety of situations you might encounter on the trail.
Dress in layers.
I’d say more than with any other type of exercise, what you wear makes a huge difference with hiking. If you’re planning to trek several miles or more (and don’t forget the back journey!) you’ll likely be out for several hours, encountering the cool summer morning, hot noon sun, and any weather systems that pass along the way. Even if the weather seems relatively predictable/stable, dressing in layers is the best way to ensure you’ll remain comfortable.
Treat your feet.
I’d say the first couple times you tackle shorter hikes, a sturdy pair of sneakers could get you by. But if you want to make it more of a habit or head up some serious elevation gains, a good quality of pair of hiking boots is a worthwhile investment. I’ve rolled my ankle enough times now to be a believer. There are a variety of hiking boot styles to meet your needs and budget.
Pack a (light) bag.
What you bring will depend heavily on the type of hike you’re taking. If you’re headed to a well manicured, heavily populated, flat trail — all you may need is water. For more adventurous trekking, pack light, but bring the essentials. If you’re doing mostly day hikes, think about things like maps and a compass (or GPS!) so you don’t get lost, a first-aid kit for cuts and bumps, a few snacks to keep you energized, sunscreen, and plenty of water. A flashlight is a good idea, too — you never know. For longer, overnight trips, here are some items to put on your list.
Be safe. Be smart.
There are a variety of safety measures you can take to make your hike more pleasurable and to keep yourself more secure in the vast expanse of nature. The basics: Don’t hike alone, check the weather forecast, follow all trail markers, never approach wild animals, bring a whistle in case of emergency, pace yourself to conserve energy, and always tell someone your plans for the day.
It may be alluring to make your very first trip a several-days-long backpacking experience. But working your way up from shorter distances to the more extreme is much more in your favor. As with any new activity, going it more gradually will allow those new muscles to acclimate to climbing (and descending) and give you ample opportunity to learn more about the sorts of situations you’ll encounter on longer trips. When you are ready to make the jump, here are five handy tips for transitioning from day hiker to backpacker.
Do you hike? What’s your favorite trail?
Written by Ashley Marcin.