How To Hike
Need to know how to hike? If you know how to navigate the trails marked off by guide rails at your local coffee shop, but haven't been in nature since your middle school science class took a field trip to the local bog to take water samples and catch tadpoles, stick around and we'll introduce you to hiking. Hiking can be an awesome way to get outdoors, increase exercise and get in touch with the natural environment. With the right preparation and the right approach, hiking is an activity you can take part in your entire life.
To hike, you will need:
- Walking shoes
- Hiking clothes
- A backpack
- A walking stick
- A broad-brimmed hat
- Self-defense tools (in case of attack)
- Wear supportive shoes. First and foremost, when learning how to hike, make sure your shoes support your feet and won't give you blisters. The best way to do this is to walk a lot in the city in the shoes you plan to wear hiking. Walk to work, or take the bus, getting off one stop earlier each day to increase the amount of walking you get in your routine. If you don't have proper shoes, buy them and break them in for at least a week prior to hiking in them.
- Research your hike. An important step in learning to hike is to research local nature trails. Often local, state and national parks provide information on nature trails, the difficulty of each hike, and helpful information about dangers from weather, snow, rock slides or animals in the area. Go online or visit your local parks division office to gather information.
- Pack the necessities. If you plan to hike all day you will need water and food for energy and an emergency kit to handle cuts, bruises and possibly sprains. You will also want to take extra layers of clothing as temperatures can change significantly during the day. Make sure your pack holds all of these items and fits you nicely so it does not become uncomfortable to carry on your hike.
- Dress for any weather. Wear an inner layer that wicks away sweat, a middle layer that will keep you warm and an outer layer that can protect you from rain or snow. Wool is the best, and many new synthetic materials rival the protection of wool. Visit your local outdoor store to see available options. Wear a hat and carry a light piece of opaque plastic that can be stretched out for shade in case you or someone in your hiking party suffers heat stroke. The bottom line: protect against excessive cold and excessive heat, regardless of the season. In the mountains, temperatures can increase quickly under direct sunlight, and drop quickly due to storms, elevation or the setting of the sun.
- Protect your skin. With the risk of sun damage, apply sunscreen to protect your skin. Research the risks and benefits of various types of sunscreen, as research on sunscreens has added a lot to the available information about skin protection over the past years.
- Make a plan. Let someone know where you will go on your hike and when you plan to be back. If you become lost or injured, a plan clearly communicated to a friend or loved one can save your life.
- Wildlife safety. Each environment you hike in can bring its own risks. If you are in bear territory, there are several options including bear repellant (like a big can of mace) and firearms. Moose can be extremely territorial as well. Cougars are like house cats if people are like mice. In areas with poisonous snakes, tarantulas or spiders, it's a good idea to carry a small kit to extract the poison so you can get to a doctor. Talk to a park ranger or your local department of natural resources officer to learn how to mitigate risks and whether there are laws about animal repellant and the appropriate use of firearms in your area.
- Walking uphill or downhill. Hiking on steep grades can be a challenge. Take a walking stick to use as a third leg if you need to go up or down over uneven ground. Hike at a steady pace and don't get out of breath. You'll hike all day.