If you have that spirit of adventure and love for nature then hiking in the mountains is definitely worth a try. It’s a great way to lessen the stress of daily life and burn away those calories you’ve been storing up last season.
Although, hiking has become a mainstream outdoor activity, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Whether it be a day hike or a long distance hike, there are basic things to consider when venturing out into the wilderness. If you’ve seen movies like Wild, you pretty much get the idea. But with the right preparations and attitude, you’re good to go.
Planning and Research
For first time-time hikers, it’s advisable to hike with a group and choose a hiking destination which offers trails with gradual ascents. Careful research about your hiking destination should give you an idea on planning your route and preparing the itinerary and equipment you’ll need. You can acquire some basic backpacking knowledge through reading books and blogs.
It is also important to take note of the water sources, camp sites, local flora and fauna and the presence of wild animals. Remember that some hiking destinations such as National Parks will require you to acquire permits in advance.
Think Safety First
Even if you’re out for adventure, safety should still come first if you want this to be a pleasant and memorable experience. Bringing with you a basic first aid kit is a must and much better if you have a thorough first aid training.
Listen to your body, rest if you must and watch out for symptoms of hypothermia, over fatigue or heat stroke. Follow your instinct. If you’re unsure of a trail, a climb, or exposure to weather, withdraw and consider your alternatives.
Communicate your plans to family and friends and always keep with you information of a person to contact in case of emergency.
No beginner or experienced hiker should ignore physical fitness in preparing for a hike. In order to enjoy the scenery and the company of fellow backpackers, one must be in good shape to keep up with them. After all, you’re not just carrying your body up the mountain, you also have a loaded backpack with you.
To prepare your body for the rigorous hike, you can build strength and endurance by doing some running, cycling or whole body workout at the gym prior to your hike.
The equipment required depends on the length of the hike. Aside from comfortable clothing and hiking shoes, a reliable backpack and a sturdy tent, the Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills book recommends ten essential items including navigation, sun protection, insulation, headlamp, first aid, fire starter, knife, food, water and emergency shelter (e.g., space blanket, tarp).
Another reason why hiking with a group is advisable is because you can share the equipment load. You don’t have to buy a complete set of outdoor equipment because you might end up not using some items at all. The idea is to keep your backpack as light as possible.
Food and Water
Proper nutrition and hydration is vital to successful hiking. Provisions for food and water must be planned carefully depending on the length of hike, weather, load, terrain, age and fitness and availability of potable sources along the trail.
A hiker needs to consume high energy foods and about 6 liters water or more to meet the body’s demands during a hike. For long hikes packing ready to eat, dried and high energy food is the best option. Potable water from the wilderness still needs to be treated before consumption to protect against waterborne diseases.
Leave No Trace
As nature enthusiasts, one must make an effort to respect and preserve nature. This includes practices on dealing with food and human waste, minimizing camp fires and restricting camp on established camp sites. As much as possible stay on established trails to minimize environmental impact and so as not to disturb wild life. And always keep in mind "Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time".
So if you’re ready, let’s start making awesome memories!