Tips and Tricks of Hiking – Beginners Guide to Hiking

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hiking

Hiking is an outdoor activity that involves taking a long walk along a trail or path through a valley, mountain, forest, nature reserve and other natural landscaped trails. This can often be done either for fun, pleasure, exercise, relaxation, research, etc. Some people hike to the mountain tops in some remote places for sightseeing, bird watching, crops cultivation as well as hunt for animals.

hiking

Hiking goes beyond just walking through some rugged old cliffs or mountains. It involves immersing yourself into nature, soaking yourself into the beauty and awesomeness of nature as you walk through the plains. It also involves enjoying the breathtaking views, discovering new places and getting to know more about nature. 

Hiking has lots of great benefits cutting across physical, mental and psychological aspects. This article features a beginners guide to hiking and everything you need to become an expert in Hiking. This article features tips and trick to hiking some of which are discussed in this article. 

As a beginner, hiking can be a hobby, a form of exercise or something you do in your leisure. However, there are few tips and tricks to note about hiking. It is not something you should just do without knowing the ins and out of it. It requires an understanding of the art, careful planning and preparation. As a beginner, before you begin hiking, you should understand some basic knowledge of hiking before you begin your expedition. This will help avoid any form of danger or bad experience during your expenditure. Following are some of the essential things you should put into consideration before you begin your next hiking adventures.

Hiking Essentials for beginners

hiking backpack

How to plan and begin your hike escapades

You should consider the following key factors when planning for your next hike.

1. The distance you would like to cover; As a beginner, it is recommended that you begin hiking within a short distance that is relatively close to or located near residential areas where you can easily get help if something goes wrong.

2. Understand The terrain or landscape you wish to go hiking; As a beginner, you should understand the terrain you are about to go hiking. Chose a territory with a low topography and less steep trails for the trial period, then progress to trailing steeper terrains as you master the act of hiking. 

3. Know the altitude of the trail you wish to hike; the first step to having an enjoyable hiking experience is to take a yardstick of the elevation you plan to trek and gauge your physical threshold to ensure your strength can carry through, lest the hike becomes a burden.

4. Plan Your Movement and Logistics; Certain hikes require a bit more planning especially if you end up doing a hike that starts and stops at different destinations, you will need to make necessary arrangements for mobility to your start and endpoints. 

5. Understand the Weather and season; When going on a tour, understand the weather condition of the area, plan accordingly so you’re not caught out unexpectedly in bad weather. You should always check for the weather forecast before heading out and do well to prepare for the weather.  

Some general tips on how to begin hiking

hiking

1. Start slow and easy, then build your agility over time: as a newbie, you don’t need to begin with rigorous routines. Go easy on yourself, start short easy walks and work your way up gradually. With time, you can increase the routine as you advance. 

2. Get a Partner: Find a hike companion or join a hiking club or a group of hikers with more experience. This makes your hike experience more fun, guarantees your safety in the course of your hike and avails you the opportunity to meet new people and learn some practical hiking skills and share in the experiences of veteran hikers. 

Also Read – Safety Tips for Smart Travellers

3. Pack pragmatically and avoid taking heavyweight objects; for instance, use a plastic water bottle instead of one made of steel and wrap food or snacks in nylon bags rather than carrying plates to lighten the weight of your bag so your journey doesn’t become strenuous. 

4. Practice moderation in the duration of hikes you make; you can decide to hike for a few hours, half a day or even one whole day, every hike you make serves as a great compliment to a short trip and always a great way to help you connect with your more natural self. Hikes can also involve a series of days. for such long hiking programs involve over 12 days and covering dozens of kilometres, you should make provision for some lightweight mobile tents for spending the camps or mountain huts. Do not hike more than your body can take at a particular time.

5. Travel Light: If you are hiking for more than one day and require carrying some cooking utensils, carry those that are as light as possible, especially when going on long hikes in hilly terrains. Ensure you make such hikes in a group and distribute implements and ingredients according to the physical capability of each hiker in the group.

6. Understand the Weather: Study the weather and determine which weather is best for the terrain you intend to hike. Weather conditions have a major bearing on hiker happiness. Bad weather can change an adventurous trip into a precarious trial, while intense heat is draining, dehydrating, and can even result in heatstroke. Before you hit the trails, check weather forecasts and while on the trail, keep an eye on the skies, especially in the mountains where weather conditions can transform rapidly. 

7. Know Your Limit: There is no need to stretch your hike expedition beyond your limits. There are hikes for everyone and anyone. If you are getting started, there are easy hikes for starters. There are moderate hikes for intermediate hikers. And, of course, there are challenging hikes for those with more experience. Take it one step at a time if you want to get the best from hiking.

Essential equipment to carry on your hike escapade

hiking shoes

1. Cell phone; A mobile phone is one of the most essential hiking tools. It is a must carry when going to hike. With a phone, you can communicate and get information that can help bail you out in case of emergency. A smartphone can serve you multiple purposes ranging from entertainment, maps for location and information, you can use your smartphone to play music or watch movies, view maps of the terrain and browse the internet to get information at your fingertips and most important take beautiful pictures. 

2. Power bank; it can be quite devastating to run out of power when you need to make an urgent call, but having a power bank saves the day. You can power up your phone when you need to use it and can always charge your phone whenever you need to. 

3. Compass or GPS; compasses and GPS systems help you find your way even in the wilderness. They are very essential tools to take on your hike expedition especially when hiking locations that you are not familiar with. GPS and compass help you navigate the terrain and your journey seamless.

4. Paper maps; using an electronic map on your smartphone is dope but having a paper map can also be a smart move. A paper map comes in handy at all times and saves you especially if you can read and understand the landscape which is made easy by looking out for significant landmarks such as rivers, peaks, or forks in the trail. 

5. Satellite Messengers and Personal Locator Beacon; If you’re hiking all by yourself especially at unfamiliar or very remote locations, you should consider carrying a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) or Satellite Messengers that allows you to send an SOS if something serious happens and you are unable to save yourself from the situation.

6. Food and water; food fuels you and helps you to keep firing on all cylinders while the water keeps you hydrated and refreshed. You need to eat well on the trail to maintain your energy levels. However, you should be moderate and not carry too much that would become a burden. Carry a combination of different kinds of foods and snacks such as bread, nuts, chocolates, fruits and normal balanced diet meals. Also, ensure you carry enough water just in case the terrain has no water bodies within. If you plan to stay overnight, pack foods that are high energy, nutritious, compact, imperishable and easy to cook. It is always a good idea to carry a little extra food and water in case your trip extends beyond the number of hours or days you had planned.

7. Fire source; go with a box of matches or a lighter preferably as it is more durable and will not be rendered useless should it get wet as a match would. Even if you know how to make a fire in the wild by striking stones, you should still have a backup. 

8. Water filter and treatment; carrying too much water can make your hike tiresome and not drinking enough water can leave you dehydrated. To balance the equation, you should carry a portable water filter or buy water treatment solutions. With these, you can fetch water from the lakes or rivers, treat it and refill your water reservoir and save yourself the stress of carrying a whole bulk of water about.

9. Electrolytes and energy drinks; drinking excessive water and eating too much food can leave you feeling heavy and tired. You must supplement your water and food intake with minimal amounts of energy drinks and electrolytes. 

10. First Aid kit; you should make adequate preparations for emergencies regarding your health and safety. Your First Aid Kit should contain essential supplies such as mentholated spirit, plasters, cotton wool, small scissors or blade, pain relievers, balm and other immediate treatment options. In case you are involved in an accident (bruise yourself, sustain a deep cute, trip and fall hitting yourself hard on the plains which may result in body aches, etc). If you have emergency situations like a stomach upset, a headache, etc. even if you don’t use it for yourself, situations might pose you the chance to be a good Samaritan on the trail. 

11. Two different pairs of shoes; one pair of strong, waterproof hiking shoes and a lighter pair of sneakers or sandals to provide relief for your feet after the hike.

12. Raincoat, windproof jacket and leather pants; this is subject to weather conditions of the location you plan to go hiking. If you are hiking in a season when there’s no heavy downpour, invest in other suitable clothing. 

13. Sun cream; if you must go hiking on a sunny day, you should consider going with some sunscreen lotion to protect you from the harsh ultraviolet rays. Especially when the terrain is porous and without trees to provide shade. 

14. Headlamp and torchlight; this is a necessity if you plan to go on a long hike that will last late into the night or take several days. 

Benefits of hiking 

Hiking has both physical, psychological and health benefits. Below is a benefit of hiking.

1. Hiking is a great cardiovascular (aerobic and anaerobic) exercise; hiking is a potent physical exercise that helps you burn fat, strengthen your endurance level and build a firm, beautiful physique. Hiking around for hours is a great way to keep fit as the exercise keeps your legs moving and your lungs pumping in more oxygen than the usual. Since hiking often involves inclines or declines it can be likened to some great treadmill workouts in which you can build gluteus muscles, hamstrings and quadriceps.
It works on all the muscles in your back, lower legs and hips. Add in hiking poles and it becomes a full-body exercise. By walking around trails for hours with even a small backpack on your back, you are burning calories and building muscles. So rather than hit the gym and be confined to some room and stuck with some workout equipment, you can go make a hike and enjoy the fresh air and explore awesome natural landscapes.

It works on all the muscles in your back, lower legs and hips. Add in hiking poles and it becomes a full-body exercise. By walking around trails for hours with even a small backpack on your back, you are burning calories and building muscles. So rather than hit the gym and be confined to some room and stuck with some workout equipment, you can go make a hike and enjoy the fresh air and explore awesome natural landscapes.

2. Muscular and skeletal support; Hiking strengthens your core, that is, those muscles in the lower part of your chest, abdomen and upper pelvis which improves firmness in your muscle and tissues and also provides balance to your skeletal structure. The core muscles are some of the most important ones for health as they play a major role in driving both the upper and the lower parts of your body. And hiking is one of the most reliable exercises that enhance this in the most amazing fun way.

3. Energy pump; hiking is a very energizing exercise. Although you might feel tired in the process of making a hike especially if you are a newbie but trust me, the bust of energy you would feel at the end of your hiking expedition will amaze you. And if you hike regularly, the activity becomes more of a lifestyle than a routine and every hike is made effortlessly.

4. Emotional balance; hiking can help relieve you of stress and improve your mood. Going on a hike is the best opportunity you have to take a break from apprehension and ease off with nature. Imagine the sight of wonderfully carved landscapes, the beautiful sounds of birds, the captivating scenery of colourful, fresh plantations along the trails as you hike and the sweet whisper of fresh air that seems to be saying ‘I’m here to sweep away your worries’. Hiking has a positive impact on relieving anxiety, decrease stress and even stop or manage depression. 

5. Meet the muse; hiking releases your thinking potentials and gets the creative juices flowing. When you hike, your whole body system is active, this helps to power your brain cells the more and makes you think faster. This can lead to increases in productivity as getting away from work helps you to think outside the box and come up with better solutions to seemingly difficult problems. A breath of fresh air can help stimulate your brain cells and greatly improve your ability to think clearly. 

6. Prevention of cancers and cardiovascular diseases; hiking regularly helps elevate your high-density lipoprotein levels and also reduce your triglyceride levels, which invariably, helps lower your risk for cancer and cardiovascular disease. When you hike, you get to exercise your lungs, heart and blood vessels all at the same time. This helps keep you healthier and extends your lifespan. 

7. Regulation of blood sugar and cholesterol levels; Hiking is good for your blood sugar levels. Hiking can be for any fitness level, even if you are diabetic and a bit out of shape, a short hike could be the most ideal way to manage and lose weight. Besides weight management, a good hike can increase insulin sensitivity and carbohydrate metabolism as well as help you burn excess fat. 

8. Building strong bones and preventing bones degeneration; hiking helps increase your bone density thereby making your bones stronger. It also helps in cutting down bone degeneration. Constantly exercising your body in the process of hiking, coupled with the direct sunshine you receive in the course of your hike which increases your vitamin D levels, help keep your bones strong and healthy. 

9. Treatment of insomnia; for the fact that hiking removes your body cells from a redundant state to an active state, makes the body want to relax well after the exercise is over, and of course, there is no cheating nature when it wants to take its toll. You will be able to sleep restfully and wake up feeling refreshed and strong.

10. Socialization and interpersonal relationship; it is almost near impossible to be on the trail and not meet people of like minds. Hiking with others gives you a chance to engage in conversations with other people and make new friends and acquaintances, share memorable moments and experiences.

11. Mental alertness and cognitive function; when you incorporate your trekking meditation habit with hiking, it helps you practice mindfulness and aids your connection to nature. So that you are always aware of your surroundings and your mind too. This will help you stay in the present moment and truly enjoy all the nature that surrounds you even after your hiking comes to a close.

12. Hiking increases your self-awareness; a good hike engages all your senses and opens up your whole mind even as nature helps you focus while also giving your mind space to expand imaginatively. Walking meditation is one of the best natural ways to meditate and connect with your inner self.

13. Save your funds; for the fact that hiking offers several health benefits, fitness and mental benefits. Hiking is one of the healthiest and least expensive leisure activity there is. The cost of buying hiking tools is nowhere comparable to that of paying medical bills on all the possible ailments that hiking can prevent. Even compared to other forms of exercise where you most probably have to pay gym membership fees or buy facilities. Hiking is an economical way out of managing your weight and staying healthy. 

Also Read: How to Save For your Next Travel

14. Inclusive tourism; hiking is a good alibi to visit new places and explore hiking trails. No matter how many times you hike a particular trail, you would most certainly find something new the next time you go hiking there. Hiking also lets you explore places you could never reach via a vehicle. Many of the most beautiful places in nature are located in a remote area, although, it may take a few miles hike to reach these enchanting landscapes. Trust me you would be glad you did.

TRAIL ETIQUETTE

Hiking is a sport and exercise. Therefore, it has its etiquettes for hikers to observe while on the trail.

Below are some of them

Hikers versus Hikers: the trail belongs to the climber. Hikers going uphill have the right of way. It is only a kind gesture if an uphill (ascending) hiker steps aside for a downhill (descending) hiker to go first. So if you are descending from the trail and meet someone mounting it, step aside. They own the trail.

Hikers versus Bikers: if you are hiking, you own the trail whether you are going uphill or coming downhill. No biker has the right to oppress you. But if the speed and sound of their bike are disturbing you, just use your discretion. Mountain bikers are generally expected to yield to hikers. 

Hikers versus Horses: I bet you don’t want to get kicked off the trail by a horse. You would be blamed for that misfortune because horses get the right of way. If you’re sharing the trail with horse riders, do well to give them a wide berth when you’re passing each other and don’t make abrupt movements lest you get stumbled upon.

Leave No Trace Etiquette: this etiquette provides seven principles that guide hikers for enjoying the outdoors in a sustainable way that avoids human impacts on the natural surroundings. The seven principles are: 

  • Be considerate of other hikers
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find on the trail
  • Minimize campfire impacts on plantations
  • Plan and prepare ahead 
  • Respect wildlife
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces

Top Hiking Destinations You Should Explore

destinations
  • Bariloche, in Central Patagonia, Argentina 
  • Everest base camp in Nepal, South Asia
  • Mont Fuji in Tokyo, Japan
  • Mount Yatsugatake in Japan 
  • Selvaggio Blue, along the eastern coast of the Italian island of Sardinia 
  • The Alta Via 1 hiking trail in the Dolomites, Italy
  • The GR20 trail in Corsica, France 
  • The Mythical Mount Olympus, Greece
  • The Picos de Europa National Park in the Spanish Pyrenees
  • The Salkantay trek in the Peruvian Andes, Peru
  • The Yellowstone National Park in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, in the United States 
  • Tour de Mont Blanc in France

Also read: List of Unesco World Heritage Sites

As stated earlier, hiking is very affordable. You don’t have to travel the whole wide world looking for a hiking trail even though hiking notable trails can be invigorating. Small trails around your neighbourhood are no less energizing. The fun of hiking is in the open mind to explore and embrace landscapes. So find a favourable terrain around you and enjoy a delightful hike escapade.

Dangers of hiking

Hiking is not devoid of hazards. Some of the dangers posed by the activity of hiking areas listed below. 

1. Altitude sickness or mountain sickness; this is the major danger associated with hiking. It is a condition caused by reduced oxygen pressure at high altitudes, occurring in hikers as a consequence of making a relatively rapid ascent to higher altitudes where there is no sufficient oxygen. The common symptoms of altitude sickness include headache, shortness of breath, insomnia and sometimes nausea. These symptoms are collectively known as acute mountain sickness (AMS).

2. Falling; the possibility of tripping and falling while on the trail cannot be ruled out completely. No matter how careful one is, accidents do happen and sometimes, these accidents can be so fatal that a hiker could lose control and roll of especially in sloppy terrains.

3. Wild animals attack; hiking lonely, unofficial trails makes you vulnerable to attacks. That is why it is very vital to study the place you intend to hike, know the kind of wildlife present there and practice some defence and escape tactics even if you are hiking with others.

4. Late response to SOS call; if you get injured so bad that you cannot help yourself and your call for help is not expressly received, something could go wrong. To guard against this, you should have several people on your emergency contact list and prepare an SOS broadcast message that can be sent to several people in one click.

 For whatever reason you choose to hike, always remember safety comes first and always ensure you are fully prepared for the hiking expenditure. Apart from all the benefits, you also get to learn a lot about your environment and you become a better person. Wishing you the best on your next hiking adventure. 

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