7 Essentials for Trail Walking and Hiking: Get Fit Outdoors
Walk a Nature Trail or Enjoy a Day Hike
Hiking and trekking are great ways to see animals and plants in their natural habitat. You can learn about geology and geography first hand. Providing you dress for the weather you can be active outdoors in any season. The difficulty level of hiking, trekking and rambling trips can be tailored to suit all levels of fitness and ability. Just be sure to follow basic safety during your trip; make it memorable for all the right reasons.
- Know your fitness level.
- Take a map and compass.
- Leave a copy of your route at base-camp.
- Dress appropriately and be prepared for bad weather.
- Wear comfortable walking boots.
- Take water, food and a first aid kit.
- Be prepared for the unexpected.
The Golden Rules of Backpacking
1. Be Honest About Your Walking Fitness Level
When the weather’s fine it’s tempting to rush out into the countryside or embark on a trek up a mountain. But you may not be as fit as you should be for the hike. Fitness is a biggie before starting any kind of trek. Even "easy" trails and climbs can be dangerous if you aren't fit. Many of us spend hours sitting, perhaps in an office job or maybe driving, and we’re not often physically active.
Before you go on a big trek, you may need to do a little training to raise your fitness level. Try to do at least half an hours brisk walking a minimum of three times a week. Better still, try to take part in some sporting activity on a regular basis throughout the year. Then when sunshine and blue skies beckon, you’ll be able to enjoy fresh air and walking without any worries.
2. Take a Map and Compass Even for a Day Hike
A map and a compass are essential equipment for any hiker. A map helps you plan a suitable route; gentle slopes for the less energetic and tough rocky outcrops for fitter walkers. A compass is useful if you become disoriented (perhaps due to fatigue or bad weather), and are unable to locate your position on the map.
Even experienced hikers sometimes lose their bearings and need to rely on a compass. A takes up very little room in your backpack and could be a lifesaver. In remote areas you’re unlikely to get a signal for your cell phone. Don’t rely on using a smartphone as your emergency backup plan. magnetic compass
3. Before You Start Walking Tell Someone Your Route
Leave details of your hiking route and planned time of return with a responsible adult. Accidents do happen and if the emergency services are called, it helps if they know where to start their search. In an emergency, the ability of rescuers to find you quickly could make the difference between your suffering a minor injury or dying from dehydration. When you get back to base, make sure you inform the responsible adult that you’ve returned safely so they don’t worry unnecessarily.
4. Wear the Correct Clothes for Hiking
When hiking in wild places be prepared for the weather to change at a moment’s notice. On sunny days, a sun-hat, sunglasses, and sun protection cream are the absolute minimum. You may also want to wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants to protect yourself from sunburn. Lightweight pants made from modern fabrics are cool to wear, but are also made from tough material that also protect your skin from grazes if you trip and fall.
For cold and wet weather, take several layers so that you can add or remove them as the temperature changes. A warm outer jacket, a thinner sweater, and a lightweight rain-mac make a good combination.
5. How to Choose Comfortable Walking Boots
It’s essential your feet are comfortable as you may be walking for many hours. Proper hiking boots and socks are a good investment and will keep your feet happy.
- Try on lots of boots before buying. Your feet must feel comfortable, and different brands will suit different people.
- Decide what kind of hikes you will be doing. The boot you choose should match the expected terrain. A light hiking boot gives stability with flexibility. A heavy hiking boot has a stiffer shoe construction that allows you to carry heavy backpack.
- Break-in new boots before you first long trek. Take short hikes with a new pair of boots; an hour a day, then two hours a day etc. to allow them to take on the shape of your feet.
6. Water, Food and First Aid Kit
You need to drink lots of water on your journey. In hot climates, at least one liter per hour is recommended to avoid fatigue from dehydration. In addition, regular snacks, including salty ones, help keep your energy up as you hike. If you’re trekking in an area where you’re using a lot of energy, (like going up and down steep hills), you should eat twice as much food as you would normally do. You’ll burn the extra calories as you walk.
Take a first aid kit in your rucksack so that you can treat blisters, small cuts, and bruises. Insect repellent spray and anti-histamine cream may also be useful. Make sure everyone in your walking group knows what’s in the first aid pack. In an emergency, any one of you could be called upon to administer first aid to the others.
7. Be Prepared for the Unexpected
There are a few other things that should be in your backpack. They don’t weigh much but could quite literally save your life. They are a flashlight, matches, a whistle, and extra food and water.
If you’ve planned your route, and return from your trek on time, you’ll have no need of these items. However, if you fall or sprained an ankle, it could be useful to be able to light a fire, have an extra snack, and raise the alarm with a whistle.
Many people don't think about planning a hike and the setbacks they may encounter. Too often there are news stories about people getting lost, experiencing hypothermia, suffering blisters, having sunstroke, breaking a bone, or becoming dehydrated. Mists can descend without warning over mountains and moorland. Hiking is a great way to keep fit and it's a very sociable activity. Planning ahead helps make every outing enjoyable, even if the weather changes unexpectedly.
The 10 Essentials: Never Hike Without These (Plus Hiking Tips)
Wearing Bright Colors Versus Camouflage Clothing
Outwear for walking, hiking and trekking is big business. You can buy anoraks, jerseys and waterproofs in virtually any colorway. Serious outdoor people choose their clothing with practical considerations uppermost in their mind. However, fashionistas will go with this year’s “new” color trend.
Sometimes these two ways of choosing result in the same end product, but not always. New trekkers can find their bright clothing makes them stand out from the crowd. But blending in to the environment by wearing muted colors is not always the best choice.
Camouflage outerwear is often aimed at photographers and wildlife hunters. They need to blend into their surroundings so they don’t distract or disturb their quarry. They remain still for long periods in order to get their best shot (in both senses of the word). They may also use a disruptively colored camouflaged "hide" to literally hide inside.
Active walkers, trekkers and hikers, on the other hand, are constantly on the move. They may take breaks or pause to enjoy their scenic surroundings but the nature of their activity means they are in motion. Camouflage clothing is therefore of less relevance them.
There is also the argument that wearing a bright jacket or sweater is safer, especially for solo walkers. If you have an accident and people are searching for you, you’ll be easier to spot from the air if you’re wearing a bold color than if you are wearing army-style fatigues.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.