Hiking Preparation

A mountain landscape is seen with a person hiking.

Photograph by Krivec Ales on Pexels

Hiking Preparation

Spending your time outside in the fresh air, being active, and taking in the beautiful nature scenes encompass the hiking experience. Maybe you have never hiked before but would like to try it. Preparing for your first hiking adventure involves many tasks, but it is achievable. Start hiking preparation now, and you could soon be ready to hike on some of the country’s greatest trails ranging from simple to strenuous.

What can I physically do for hiking preparation?

Hiking preparation can vary depending on the trail you will be embarking on. It is vital to have good balance and strength to avoid injury while hiking. Experts have multiple exercise strategies you can use to prepare for your adventure. Veteran hikers propose you run or walk in sand to strengthen your muscles, knees, and ankles. Cardio workouts are essential to enduring an increased heart rate and developing a greater lung capacity for hiking. You can vigorously walk around your neighborhood for about 30 minutes at least three times each week or work out on a treadmill or stationary bike to build your endurance.

Maintaining strength in your core muscles will also assist your balance on uneven hiking terrain, so performing crunches, squats, and lunges will be beneficial. You can also exercise with a resistance band to fully extend your muscles. Additionally, stable upper body strength is necessary for the hiker. Performing push-up exercises and lifting weights will help you build strength so you can carry a heavy backpack for a long period. As always, ensure you perform proper exercise techniques and be consistent in your workout routines to be ready for hiking.

What do I pack for hiking?

If you want to hike, you must carry essential items, food, and water to stay safe and preserve your health. Experts recommend those on a day hike should not carry more than 10 percent of their body weight, but the petite hiker will likely carry more than 20 percent. Hikes lasting longer than a day will require a heavier load and should be no more than 20 percent of a person’s body weight.

Hiking professionals have assessed the most crucial items to carry while hiking including:

  • a physical map and a tangible working compass. You do not want to rely on your cellular phone’s map and compass because they may lose power or not work.
  • a headlamp with extra batteries
  • sunscreen, sun-protective clothes, sunglasses
  • first aid; including foot care and insect repellent
  • a knife plus gear repair kit
  • matches, lighter, tinder, or stove
  • emergency shelter such as a bivvy
  • extra food
  • extra water
  • extra clothes

How much food and water should you consume on your hike? You should eat well before, during, and after your hike. It is important to eat two hours before exercising or hiking and to stay hydrated before and during your hike. Professionals recommend hikers consume high-carbohydrate foods and quick-digesting snacks each hour. Even if you don’t feel hungry, your body is using up nutrients for fuel, and you need to eat about 200-300 calories per hour during and after hiking.

What clothes and shoes should I wear while hiking?

Adventure professionals believe you should be well-prepared for quickly changing weather conditions and pack clothes ranging from your head to your feet. They also suggest wearing and packing clothes that do the following:

  • Insulate the body from cold
  • Water and wind resistant
  • Insulates when wet
  • Durable and resilient
  • Breathable to allow body moisture to escape
  • Light and flexible
  • Packable/compressible

Good-quality durable hiking shoes are a must. According to adventure experts, “[l]eather or synthetic boots that are mid-weight and waterproof with medium stiffness are ideal options for hiking footwear.” Ensure you wear-in your new shoes before going on your hiking adventure. Otherwise, you will get blisters while hiking in the great outdoors.  Adventure writers and hiking experts Jonathan Manning and Alex Foxfield suggest applying wax or a waterproofing agent to your experienced hiking boots that no longer have water beading on their surface. The application will restore the boots’ water repellency.

Socks will also play a role in enjoying your hike. The weather may be rainy, cold, or hot, but merino wool socks keep your feet dry in wet and sweaty environments. Hiking pros also advise bringing two pairs of merino wool socks in case one becomes wet.

Be aware of wildlife

Remember you are visiting the habitats of wild animals. While planning your hiking trip, ensure that you are mindful of what kinds of animals are dwelling in your neck of the woods. Pun intended, and I hope you had a nice laugh. Most animals try to avoid humans. If you encounter one while hiking, try to stay clear of the animal by slowly walking around it. Do not try to pet or touch any animals, including the seemingly harmless rabbits, beavers, or deer. They are wild and can attack if they feel frightened. When you hike, experts suggest paying attention to where you are stepping and keeping your eyes ahead of you. Avoid listening to earbuds or headphones so you can be aware of your surroundings. Experts also recommend using a solid walking stick or a trekking pole to hit rocks or stumps to scare off animals hiding there. Hitting trekking poles together to make noise will usually scare off animals. Hiking enthusiasts also suggest singing or talking loudly with your fellow hikers to let animals know you are present. 

Most wildlife creatures are active at dawn or dusk. Some animals like mountain lions roam after dark, so avoid hiking at these hours. Research your hiking destination so you will know about the animals along the trails, how to elude them, and what to do if you are attacked by one.

Remember to pick the trail that is right for your fitness level and degree of hiking experience. Newcomers to hiking need to travel on simpler trails, and it is best not to travel alone.

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About Joey Hinojosa

Joey Hinojosa graduated with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism and a master's degree in mass communications. He began working at Empower Brokerage in early 2022 and enjoys being creative in his writing, photography, videography, and other projects.

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