Hiking 101: The Safe, Fun Way to Get Started
Heading out to the trails in the great outdoors can have plenty of benefits. From spending quality time with family or friends, to being fully immersed in the beauty of nature, there is something on the trails for everyone. Hiking is a fantastic workout for both the body and mind! Whether you’re trying to find some solitude or build some memories, hiking is a great way to achieve either goal.
Day hiking will leave you feeling recharged and longing for another one, but, it’s important to note that a successful day hike requires a few safety steps that all hikers follow. Without them, a beautiful day in the outdoors can quickly take a turn for the worse. But, fear not, these essentials are just as easy to follow for beginners as seasoned hikers. Keep in mind, preparation is key when it comes to hiking. You won’t have to carry much weight in your pack to assure safe travels.
Here are expert hiking tips from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the American Hiking Society to help you stay safe so you can maximize fitness and fun.
Safety in Numbers
Although a walk alone though the woods sounds nice, it’s safer to grab a buddy for many reasons; like a possible injury, getting lost, etc.
Research the hiking spot you wish to enjoy to see the intensity levels. For beginners, go with the “easy” route. Then from there decide if you want a more challenging walk. A map and compass are always handy! Also, start early so that you have plenty of time to enjoy your hike and the destination, and plan to head back so you finish your hike well before dark.
Wear Comfortable Shoes
Look for hiking shoes that are supportive and are already broken-in like hiking boots or sneakers. (Look to REI’s expert guide on how to choose hiking boots.)
Know the Weather Forecast
A sunny day makes for a great hike, storms…not so much. Check the local radar before heading out to see if there is a storm brewing, and also to see if the weather may be too hot or cold that day. Dressing in light layers is a good strategy for hiking.
Pack Snacks and Water:
Hydrating with water pre-hike is important. It’s just as important to bring water on the hike and even bringing an electrolyte drink such as coconut water. Water needs to be 2 or 3 quarts per person. Also bring energy packed snack such as nuts, fruit and bars don’t need to be refrigerated. Consider wearing a backpack with a hydration “bladder” pack, like those by Osprey or CamelBak.
(Check out Our Favorite Snacks for Hiking.)
Blisters are no fun, especially when you have to trek miles back. Packing a few band-aids, tissues, and an ACE™ elastic bandage are ideal “just in case” items to stash in your backpack.
Stay on the Trail
Unless you have excellent navigational skills, it’s easy to get turned around and lost pretty quickly in the woods. Follow the markers and stay the course. This also lowers your chance of being in contact with poisonous plants like poison Ivy. Research poisonous plants. (Check out a guide here to know what they look like).
Don’t Touch the Animals
It’s always exciting to see chipmunks, frogs, and similar animals in their native habitat, and they may seem harmless, but they’re very unpredictable and can be territorial and protective.
A few more things you may want in your pack: A fully-charged cell phone, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, bag for collecting trash or dog stool, quick dry towel (if hot), extra layers (if cold), knife or multi-tool, flashlight, and rain jacket.
Although it might sound like there are a ton of hiking tips to follow, there really isn’t, especially since you are hiking with others and can share supplies and knowledge. Being fully prepared makes for an amazing day in the outdoors where memories are built and minds are recharged!
– By S.J. McShane, Certified Personal Trainer