The Beginners Guide to Hiking
Hiking and trekking can be truly life-changing and uplifting activities. Going beyond your comfort zone awakens a passion for the outdoors, and it can improve mental and physical health. Instead of using a home exercise bike, try a hike in the wilderness and step away from the comforts of home. These countless benefits can be taken by anyone but must be taken cautiously. Preparing adequately allows for safe self-improvement, and with more experienced trekkers can lead to unchartered territories beyond which no human has ever been. Staying safe, hydrated, and clear-headed will make all the difference to you, and your companions.
What is Hiking and Trekking?
We start our Beginners Guide to Hiking with an understanding of the differences between Hiking and Trekking. Both are equally as important to prepare for.
But as anyone who is passionate about hiking will tell you- words like these are inadequate in capturing the exhilaration hikers feel at the realization of their passion. To hike is to share yourself with the world. It is to achieve true freedom. And as with all freedoms, it comes at the cost of security. Whether you are hiking for 5 days or 5 hours- a checklist of the essential provisions is a must.
Hiking and trekking are many different things to many different people, it is what separates and unites us all. It has always existed in the same form, with a simplicity which has been consistent over millennia. It is our need to satisfy a primordial curiosity at the cost of our safety, to find something, we have not found before.
Do you have sufficient insulation to cross the river? Do you have enough provisions to wait out a blizzard? Were those bear tracks that you just saw? If the time comes, having answered questions like these affirmatively is tantamount to survival.
What to pack for a hike
Whether it’s a short local hike or an adventurous journey into the unknown, pack well with essential items and don’t leave yourself short for an unexpected scenario.
Map-making is one of humanity’s oldest recorded sciences. Being able to be guided by them is a very useful skill in hiking and trekking. It is very important to be aware of your direction, gradient, and proximity to civilization at all times.
While some have resolved to write this piece of equipment off as obsolete in favor of GPS devices, the compass is a truly remarkable instrument tested by time. It can be submerged, dropped, and beaten. It will never run out of battery and is tirelessly reliable.
The humble compass is sophisticated in its simplicity and has saved the lives of countless adventurers in the face of adversity.
Sun protection is easily overlooked by beginners. Exposure is not to be underestimated and even in mild climates, the sun can be a brutal adversary to a hiker. This category may also be expanded to include protection from the wider elements. If you know you are up against the cold, pack a thermal blanket. The elements are merciless, it pays to be prepared- rain or shine.
Extra clothing protects us from exposure of the elements, and in doing so can become wet. This can cost us dearly through an increase in weight demanding more energy from us or we can freeze and cost us heat energy. Conversely, keeping cool requires lighter clothing. Being aware that conditions vary is of great importance so be sure to pack extra clothing for any given scenario on your hike.
Darkness presents an obstacle to humans. Animals will often hunt at night with better night vision than humans do.
The means of conjuring fire is, in most environments crucial. It will generally keep predatory animals at bay, is an excellent means of preparing meals, drying clothes and keeping warm amongst other things.
Some choose to use flint, as it is more durable than a lighter or matches. An additional pack of matches or lighter doesn’t hurt and provides extra utility in their ease. The importance of this element cannot be understated.
Keeping a knife affords protection and comfort. With a knife, traps can be built, trees can be marked, huts can be built, or bush can be cleared. What type of knife you choose depends on your purpose, a dual-edged serrated blade can be extremely useful for the cutting of trees or building of a bivouac. A folding blade can afford extra space in a backpack.
For overnight trips, food is essential. It is important to ensure yourself and others are well fed, hunger might weaken you, making terrain more challenging. It might cause for conflict where companions become terse. Extra provisioning for the event of stranding is wise.
Hiking Gear for Beginners
For beginners, caution is advisable. Taking on too much can result in failure. Becoming accustomed to conditions while on a track takes experience. Planning a 4-day trek with little or no hiking experience is bound to be dangerous, or at least uncomfortable. Nonetheless, everyone must start somewhere and learn at their own pace. A few essential pieces of kit are mandatory when any hiker begins their career. Take note of advisable gear in our beginners guide to hiking below, essential items will set you off on the right track for any hike or trek.
For beginner hikes of shorter lengths in hospitable conditions, up to 24-liter packs are ideal. They are large enough to fit the essentials outlined above. Your pack should be supported by a frame, be waterproof, have easy-access pockets and provide good back support. Backpacks with waist straps will reduce the stress on your shoulders and afford a more comfortable trek.
Weatherproof clothing is invaluable on a hike. It will protect you from the elements, rain or shine. Windbreakers prevent exposure. In windy climates, facial protection can spare you from painful cracked lips, nostrils, and cheeks.
Cotton is easily waterlogged and can weigh you down or drain your heat. Conversely, polypropylene layers are light and will help you retain warmth despite being wet.
Having reliable footwear is crucial when embarking on a hike. If you are going far, wearing worn boots can lead to a slow, painful ordeal if they cannot rise to the challenge. Making sure you wear the best hiking boots can keep your feet warm and dry and will protect your skin from blisters and infections.
Keeping your feet comfortable allows you to be more aware of your surroundings and will allow you to trek further and faster.
Humans can survive up to three days without water. It is essential for metabolic functions and must be readily available at all times. Always provision wisely when it comes to water.
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