Hiking 101 for Beginners: Essential Tips to Make Your First Hike a Success

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Hiking 101 for Beginners
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If you have been cooped up in your home for a long time, practising caution, the chances are that you’re experiencing lockdown fatigue. Lockdown fatigue is the state of exhaustion caused by the prolonged state of confinement and isolation. While there are several methods to deal with it at home, the best option is probably to get out and take a short trip to a nearby holiday destination.

But with the pandemic still far from over, it’s still not safe to venture out to vacation without meticulous planning in place. What if we tell you that you can get out of the house, have complete control of your surroundings, and experience the outdoors? Hiking is the answer to this problem. It’s a fun and relaxing way to experience nature and the outdoors with your friends and family. The best part is you can maintain social distancing protocols and practise caution while hiking.

This might intrigue you and tempt you to go on a hiking trail to get away from the confinement. However, if you have never hiked before, the idea might be intimidating. Here’s a primer article to help you make your first hike a success.

Go Easy on Yourself

Remember, hiking could be an excruciating experience if you are a novice. It can quickly turn from a dream to a nightmare in a matter of a couple of hours. There is no point in piling on physical fatigue on top of the lockdown fatigue you were trying to escape with the hiking trail.

Therefore, while planning a hike, pick a trail that’s slightly smaller than the distance you can comfortably walk on a level or paved surface. Additionally, consider a walking pace of around 2-miles every hour and add 60 minutes to the estimated hike time for every 1,000 feet of altitude. This is a rough draft, and once you’ve been on several hikes, you will have an accurate estimate of what distance and elevation alteration works for you.

Research the Trail

Simply put, don’t take on a hike blindly. It would be best to familiarise yourself with the trail to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Once you have selected your preferred hiking trail, get a map of the area, reports, and data. There are some excellent online hiking trails databases like National Recreation Trails for the US, where you can get almost every data you need.

Use this data to figure out if the trail is a loop or whether you’ll have to backtrack your way to the starting point. Mark any interesting pathways which could lead you to get lost by making a wrong turn. You can also use this data to spot and mark places to take breaks, eat lunch, and more. 

Keep a Tab on Weather

We need not say how important it’s to keep a tab on the weather during the days leading up to the hike until a few hours before. You can use a comprehensive website like https://www.tomorrow.io/weather/ to track the weather and forecast for the next few days. 

The website also has a handy weather widget, which will let you keep a tab on the weather right from your home screen without having to do anything. By keeping a check on the weather, you can change your plans if the weather is predicted to be bad, instead of getting stuck in bad weather on the trail.

Have an Emergency Contact

Remember the 2010 biographical survival drama film co-written, produced and directed by Danny Boyle, 127 hours? The movie depicts James Franco as a hiker who gets stuck in a canyon for 127 hours and had to amputate his arm to survive. 

You don’t want that to happen to you. Definitely not. Therefore, it would be best to share your itinerary, timing, and the trail route with someone who is not going on the hike. You can tell the emergency contact to alert the authorities, share the itinerary, and track if they don’t hear from you after a stipulated time. This could be a couple of hours later than your planned finish, but definitely not 127 hours later. 

This way, you can ensure that the help will be on its way if things go south on the hike. Additionally, you can carry a GPS tracker device that will let the emergency contact spot you immediately in case of any mishap.

Pack the Essentials

Tools maketh the man, or so they say. This is particularly true when you are embarking on your first hiking trail. You’ll need to pack some essentials to stay safe in the outdoors. Some essential tools include a navigation system, sun protection, extra clothing, headlamp or flashlight, first aid kit, waterproof matches or lighter, extra food, extra water, and an emergency shelter. These are the most essential supplies required, and as you go on more hikes, you’ll know what you need to carry based on your experience.

Dress for Comfort

Last but not least, pick comfort over fashion for hiking. The main priority should be to pick comfortable and high-quality hiking shoes and socks. If you are purchasing new hiking shoes for your maiden hike, break them in by taking walks in them every day till the day of the trek. 

Additionally, when it comes to socks or clothing, avoid cotton since it gets damp fast and stays that way all the time. This will make you feel clammy and cause chaffing, which will be painful during the hike. Opt for synthetic material, which will stay dry or dry quickly. Lastly, wear layers according to the weather, which can be added or shedded as needed. 

These are the most basic hiking tips that will save you a lot of trouble during your debut hike. Other considerations include keeping your luggage light, walking at a comfortable pace, and not littering the trail.