Right now in the era of social distancing, getting out of the house and enjoying yourself can be a little more difficult than it used to be. Shops, theaters, museums, and other attractions are still largely out of the question, but the good news? There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the great outdoors by going hiking!
A COVID-safe activity as long as you’re away from others, it gets you some much-needed fresh air, sunlight, and exercise, while also helping your mental health and supporting local and national parks. All great benefits, to be sure. However, having a successful and fun hike isn’t quite as simple as just heading out the door. Need a few pointers? Here are seven easy-to-follow tips that’ll guarantee you have a fantastic hike.
While it may not be the most glamourous or fun, good planning is critical if you want to enjoy yourself out on the trails. After all, it’s kind of hard to have a good time if you pick the wrong trail, are stuck in bad weather, got lost on your way to the trail, etc., and all of that’s well likely to happen should you not do your research.
So, make sure to have a thorough plan! There are countless resources out there, including books, websites, and social media groups, that are dedicated to giving you up-to-date knowledge. Difficulty levels, directions, specific trail rules/etiquette, approximate hike length/distance, natural features – everything’s covered if you know where to look. Seek it out and use it to have a stress-free hiking trip.
Bring Enough Water (and Snacks!)
The human body is an amazing thing, but it’s also a delicate one. Go too hard on the trail without enough food or water on your stomach, and you’re in for a world of hurt and maybe even literally. Dehydration, passing out, heatstroke, dangerous blood sugar low – all are possible if you don’t respect your system and take care of it whenever you decide to hit the trail. Not good.
Luckily, it’s completely preventable. Just bring plenty of water and snacks, and be sure to whip them out (particularly the former) regularly. And yes, even on cool days. Regardless of the heat, exertion really sucks the hydration out of you, and you’ll need to make up for it. Not sure how much to bring? Our suggestion is to bring about 2 liters with you and a few hike-friendly snacks like apples, trail mix, and granola bars. This makes for easy packability while also ensuring you always have plenty of water and food on hand.
Wear the Right Clothing
Truly want to have the best hike ever? Well, be smart and practical about the clothes you plan on wearing. There’s no quicker way to ruin a good hike than to suffocate in too many layers or completely freeze just because you didn’t think to grab a jacket before heading out. That means you should pay close attention to the weather forecast and whether you anticipate you’ll run into more shade, sun, rain, etc.
Also, don’t forget to take the altitude into account. Any altitude you gain will ultimately translate to temperature drops, leaving you cold and miserable without the right gear. Take note of this and choose your wardrobe wisely. When in doubt, be cautious. At least pack some light layers if nothing else.
Be Smart with Your Pack
Speaking of packs, there seems to be a misunderstanding of just what you should be carrying on a trip to the trails. Most people opt to take far too much, believing that they’re subscribing to increased preparedness. Unfortunately, the reality’s a little different. Most of these people may have a lot of stuff on them, but they’re usually packing the wrong stuff, leaving them worse off than they would otherwise.
Don’t make the same mistake! It’s true, even short day hikes should see you carrying a small backpack, but you should be smart about what you bring. Bring the essentials and leave out all the rest. This looks like bringing your snacks, water, light layers, first aid kit, a pocketknife, and your phone. Also, don’t forget to bring a compass as the latter of these might not work out in the heart of the wilderness. Need a rec? Check out Urban Designer’s Compass Wood Watch. It’s the perfect accessory for any hike, easy to use, and always right at hand (or, rather, wrist).
Go at Your Own Pace
Some people hike or even run on trails for exercise, and that’s great. It burns calories, engages and builds your muscles, acts as a form of cardio, and gets you out of the house and into fresh air. But that doesn’t mean you have to go all-out if that’s not your jam. As the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race.
A less intensive, slower hike still comes with plenty of wonderful benefits like helping you unwind, gently building up your endurance, and generally giving you the opportunity to enjoy the world around you. So, don’t be afraid to go at your own pace and take your time. Aim to walk steadily, saving energy on flat areas for any hills you might encounter. Remember: think tortoise, not hare!
Always Tell Someone Where You Are
If you thought being hangry and tired was the worst thing that could happen to you on a hike, you’re in for an unhappy awakening. While going out on the trails is usually safe, it isn’t a guaranteed thing. All it takes is one accident, and you could be in serious trouble, and that’s not exactly something you want to play around with.
As such, be sure to take precautions and always tell someone where you are, your general route, and how long you think you’ll likely be gone. Yes, the odds of anything going wrong are relatively slim, making this step seem silly and unnecessary – but trust us. In the event that something bad does happen, you’ll be grateful to have someone in your corner. They can alert the proper authorities and make sure you’re safe and sound.
Get Proper Shoes
We know that you love your old beat-up trainers that practically have holes in them. But those things? They are not going to fly when you’re going hiking. Whatever sneaker you have lying around probably isn’t going to cut it on the trails, either, as the tough terrain calls for something more solid and sturdy. Instead, you’d be smart to pick up a nice pair of hiking boots.
Not necessarily the most fashion-forward thing you could put on your feet, but they’ll provide plenty of shock absorption, extra cushioning, and grip, something that’s a non-negotiable when you’re carrying backpacks around and might be traversing over slippery rocks. Just be sure to break them in first, though, and try to wear synthetic or wool socks to avoid any chafing or uncomfortable blisters.