Hiking is a great way to see the world – it allows you to see areas that most people don’t get to see. It is also a great way to keep fit and I’ve found hiking to be a great way to de-stress as well.
So here are 10 quick tips to help you get started on your hiking journey.
This should be a given, but I wanted to say it anyway. As we get older, it can be harder to get back into physical exercise. By checking with your doctor first, you can preempt any possible issues with illness or previous injuries you may have.
Don’t expect to be able to go and hike 20km’s on your first day. Your fitness level may not allow this. Start by hiking a few kilometres that aren’t overly strenuous. Once you’re confident with your fitness level, you can increase the length and difficulty of the hikes you do.
Research places close to home where you can start taking small hikes. These don’t necessarily have to be in forests / bushland. Many cities and towns have great nature paths / walks that you can hike along.
In my home town of Brisbane, we have a number of great bushland areas with hiking tracks. Some of these, such as Karawatha Forest are easier than others, such as hiking up to the top of Mt Gravatt Lookout.
The first major hike we did was the Inca Trail. We did a lot of hiking close to home while getting fit for that hike. But we didn’t start hiking with the gear we took to Peru with us to hike the trail.
For example, when you first start hiking and aren’t doing tracks that are too difficult, comfortable, closed in, shoes are all you need (closed in shoes because you can kick your toe, get bitten by ants, walk through prickles, etc).
While you never want to get hurt while you’re hiking, it can happen. If you have your phone, you can call for help. Also you can get lost (remember that some hikes you do may be outside of mobile phone range). We also download maps onto our phone of the hiking trails we are hiking. Many of the local bushland areas we hike in have multiple paths which means you can easily end up walking a lot further than you originally anticipated if you take the wrong path.
There are a number of hiking / walking / running apps available for free to download to your phone. These are great to map the path you have taken on each hike, the time it takes and your progress as you hike more.
It is important to always carry water and food with you when you are hiking. Even if we are only hiking for an hour or two, we each carry a minimum of a litre of water each. For longer walks, we carry more water and if it is going to be particularly hot we also carry extra water.
It is also important to take snacks. Apples, nuts and muesli bars are easy to pack and are great snacks while walking. Just remember that you need to carry out with you all of your rubbish.
Our first hike at altitude was an 8km hike from our farm stay to Chivay in Peru. It was pretty embarrassing when a herd of alpaca overtook us on the first hill we had to walk up!
If you are hiking in winter, layers are important. Make sure that the layers you will be taking off aren’t too bulky or heavy to carry once it becomes too hot to wear them.
If you are hiking in bushland, even in summer, it is a good idea to wear long pants. You don’t know what you will be walking through such as plants (eg poison ivy, lantana).
You never know what animals you might encounter when hiking. Here in Australia, we commonly come across wildlife such as kangaroos and snakes.
It is also important to remember that some wildlife may “tag along” for the walk and go home with you. Ticks and leaches are common in some areas of Australia. When you return home, check yourself for any “hitch hikers”.
We always hike with backpacks which allow us to carry our water, food, camera gear, first aid kit, the layers of clothes we no longer need to wear, sunscreen etc. But, it is easy to carry too much. While this isn’t usually a problem on shorter hikes, as you build up the distance you hike, the amount you carry can have a major impact on you, both physically and on your enjoyment level.