Hiking is an excellent way to see nature, experience the great outdoors, and get in a good workout. You can hike just about anywhere, from local parks and trails to mountain ranges and national forests all over the world. Serious hikers will embark on trips that can last anywhere from several days to several months. Whether you are a novice hiker or a more experienced one, there are several different things to keep in mind, from personal safety to having the right gear to making sure you’re in top physical condition.
Before you go on your hike, make sure you let someone know where you’re going and how long you plan to be gone. It is always a good idea to bring along a buddy as well so if you get lost, you’re not alone. Bring comfortable shoes and plenty of water as well as snacks to keep you moving. A flashlight, a lighter (for campfires), and a cell phone or GPS tracker are all good items to pack. Make sure you also bring a jacket if you’re staying overnight in case the temperature drops. Bring along a first aid kit as well in case you need it for cuts or minor injuries. Map out your trek ahead of time so you stay on course and avoid getting lost or confused.
- Outdoor Hiking Safety Tips
- Hiking Safety: Stay Safe!
- Hike Safe: It’s Your Responsibility
- More Hiking Safety Tips
Conditioning and Stretching
Just like any other exercise, hiking can be physically demanding. You should always warm up before heading out on the trail. This can be done by performing a few simple warm-up and stretching exercises. Make sure your feet and calves are warmed up and in good condition. Stretch for about 15 to 20 minutes minimum before you get ready to walk. Squats and back stretches are a great way to ensure that your leg and back muscles are ready for the long journey. This is recommended for everyone, not just those who are new to hiking. It’s also important to train leading up to a big hike. Getting a run in on a good treadmill will help you condition your lungs, but even better would be working out on an incline trainer where the steep grade emulates that of a hike.
- Conditioning Exercises for Hiking
- How to Prepare for a Long-Distance Hike
- List of the Best Incline Trainers
- Physical Conditioning
- Conditioning for Winter Hikes
- Stretching Basics (PDF)
When going out on a hiking excursion, it’s essential that you have the proper gear with you. Bring a comfortable backpack to store all of your gear in, and do not overload it to the point where it becomes too heavy or uncomfortable to carry. You should always have a basic first aid kit, sunscreen, and sunglasses with you. Plenty of water is an absolute necessity as well. A whistle is a good idea in case you need help, since it can be heard from a long distance. Snacks are great to bring along to help keep you moving. A knife and material like a lighter or flint in case you need to make a fire are essential. Bring a map of the trail you are hiking so you know exactly what route you are taking.
- What to Bring on a Day Hike
- Equipment List for Hiking and Rock-Climbing
- Personal Equipment and Clothing List
- Equipment List for Backpack Trips
- Selecting Clothing and Gear
- Recommended Gear for Winter Day Hikes
There are literally thousands of different places to hike all across the globe. Whether you are going on a short two-day trip or attempting to hike the Appalachian Trail, there are plenty of helpful guides and maps available to help you along the way. You can even sort through the many different trails to find ones that offer biking, fishing, and campsites along the way. Each trail has different features, so find one that will best suit your personal needs. You will be amazed at the beauty of nature you will encounter as you go along your hike, no matter which trail you choose.
- Trail Maps for Hiking and Backpacking
- Yellowstone Trail Locator
- Virginia State Parks Trail Quest
- Appalachian Trail
- American Trails
- Hiking Near Lake Tahoe
Hiking is such a wonderful way to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors while getting in some good exercise. As long as you have a plan in place to stay safe, plenty of water, a good attitude, and a sense of adventure, you will find that hiking can be rather enjoyable. Make it a fun annual trip with your kids and see how many different trails you can hike. Or just enjoy a day or two out on the trail for some peace and quiet. With some knowledge, you can become a seasoned hiker in no time.