There is so much to experience in the great outdoors, and so much to learn about how to make the most of those experiences. If you’re from the city, or even the suburbs, hiking can open up a whole new world from the one you’ve always known. The benefits of hiking are endless. Among the reasons that people dig hiking on hilly or mountainous areas are as they climb, they feel worries and stress leaving the body. It’s a great way to get fit while simultaneously getting much-needed deep thought.
Preparing to go on your first hike? Here are some general tips before you make the climb:
1. Get physically prepped
Make sure you’re in good physical condition for the trek ahead, no matter the height or distance you plan. One reason this is necessary is to prevent injuries. Remember, hiking is a different animal than basic physical activities such as running or biking. You may be a great runner, but your first hike may still be difficult for you as it uses different muscles and levels of endurance.
Start your training well in advance of your hike. Hitting increasingly large hills over time will help you know when your body is prepared, both physical and mentally. Get your lungs fit by cross-training with aerobic activities such as cycling, swimming or running indoors, and find some hills to get those legs trained. Strength train with a focus on your core and legs will help you move efficiently as you make your way to the mountain’s peak. Lunges, squats and step ups will help. Don’t forget your lateral movements as well.
Go on practice hikes if you can. Simulate a hike on the treadmill a few times a week. Start by hiking without your backpack, then after some practice add a filled backpack. If you’re doing cardiovascular training for the first time, or for the first time in a long time, don’t work all the way to exhaustion to avoid the risk of overuse injuries. Even when you’re just getting active for the first time in a long time small amounts of activity can keep you better prepared for the real thing.
2. Get mentally pumped
Maintain a positive attitude about conquering new challenges and opening yourself up to this experience. If you go with nothing but positive thoughts you’ll enjoy your trip much more. Go out there with a negative mind and you’ve already made the hike harder than it has to be. Think of the experience, the sights you’ll see, the photos you’ll come back home with and, most importantly, all of the amazing things nature has to offer. If you plan on making hiking a part of your lifestyle, think about all of the body and mind benefits you’ll gain along the way.
3. Pack the essentials
Pack light and make sure you have easy access to essentials like a flashlight, map, first aid kit, and a fully charged cellphone battery (even a portable charger). The biggest hiking essentials are, water, water and more water. With the combination of the sun, a higher elevation than what you’re used to and an elevated heart rate, you’re sure to get dehydrated faster than usual. Also, drinking lots of it helps you avoid altitude sickness. Drink often and do it before you even start to feel thirsty. Don’t forget food, such as nuts and fruit, bug spray, a hat to block the sun, and a camera for the sights.
Remember that one mountain can have more than one type of weather system. Be sure to pack appropriately. Bring a raincoat (such as ones that folds up to the size of your palm), in case your hike turns out to be a wet one.
Don’t depend on your mobile device for directions as you may not get service on the mountain. Bring a good ol’ fashioned map.
Other useful items: knife, multi-purpose tool, sunscreen and extra food for unexpected circumstances. Finally, bring your trash down the mountain with you and leave the park as clean as you found it.
4. Do your research
Before you head out, check the weather where you’ll be so that you can pack accordingly. Study up your trails and map out your route so that when you get there you’ll have a better handle on where you are going. Know how high you will go beforehand so that way you can plan the timing of your hike and get back down before night fall. Note emergency routes, and make sure friends and family who are not hiking with you know your plans in case something happens.