Do you love the great outdoors but haven’t been able to fully experience them yet? Or worse, do you hate being out in the wild, but you’re trying to impress someone? Then you probably want to learn how to become a great hiker in 5 easy steps. And you’re on the right page because we’re here to help you with our top advice on the matter.
Get in shape
This is our first recommendation, especially for more difficult hikes. An ascent that lasts for hours demands a good fitness level, and sometimes the descents aren’t a breeze either, always testing your knees, shins, and ankles. If runner’s foot is a known condition, so should be a hiker’s shin.
So the first thing you want is to fortify your bones, making them able to resist long hours walking. That can be done by increasing your bone density with strength training. Besides, if you’re doing supersets, you can burn more calories and increase your cardio resistance too.
Speaking of which, you’ll also need to incorporate cardio into your training routine. You don’t want to be huffing and puffing your lungs out all the way to the top. Therefore, you need to get used to a challenging pace for increased periods of time. That’s why running or Zumba dancing are the perfect activities to start with.
But even if you’re incredibly fit, you might still find hiking very challenging. That’s why a good idea would be to start with short, easy backcountry hikes. These should get you used to the terrain and other trail challenges that might arise.
Get the right gear
Behind every great hiker is a great backpack, literally and figuratively. That means you need to take awesome gear with you, without carrying too much unnecessary stuff. In other words, you need to plan your equipment by considering all the specifics of your hiking trip.
For instance, if you’re going on a longer hike, you will definitely need a great survival straw filter because it’s impossible to carry gallons upon gallons of water, and who knows if you’re going to find clean water on the way?
Then, you can always benefit from a GPS, a satellite phone, a radio and a whistle in case you get lost. For the more difficult ascents, you’ll need some rope and a few resistant carabineers. It’s always a good idea to get a flashlight with plenty of spare batteries and waterproof matches. And don’t forget your first aid kit as well.
Learn survival skills
These provide an amazing start because they make you feel more confident before starting your hike, and a good mood can set the tone for the whole trip. Besides, you might actually need to know this stuff.
A very important skill is building a shelter, which can be done with a piece of tarp or a rainproof windbreaker and a fallen log. However, you have to be careful not to set your shelter in a dangerous place, that’s prone to floods or inside a cave where a wild animal might spend its weary nights.
You should also learn how to make a campfire, but it’s a good start to get those waterproof matches. Make sure you know how to put it out, though, so you don’t start a wildfire by accident.
You should also know how to find water in the wild, but that’s easier in theory. So you can collect dew or rainwater, but you still need that water purifier to make sure it’s totally safe. And don’t forget the first aid skills because packing the first aid kit is just half the job. The other half is knowing how to treat a sprained ankle or a blister.
And don’t forget to learn how to send distress signals and how to protect yourself from wild animals. It can all be as easy as using your emergency whistle and remaining calm, but you still need to plan ahead.
Pack the right clothes
Depending on where you’re going and the length of your trip, as well as the weather, you’ll need different clothes. But there are two axioms of hiking you should always remember: don’t use cotton and wear layers.
Cotton is a no-no for hiking because it’s a moisture-absorbing material. That means it will keep sweat stuck to your skin, therefore making you lose body heat. That can have negative effects that range from a slight discomfort to catching a cold to outright hypothermia.
So what should you replace cotton with? The answer is moisture-wicking clothes, like polyester and merino wool that leave your skin dry. Besides, with their anti-bacterial properties, these don’t let the bacteria found in sweat to multiply, which means you’ll also feel fresh.
Layers are important too, and hikers generally wear three of them. We just talked about the first layer that’s supposed to keep you dry, the middle layer should keep you warm, and the outer layer should keep you insulated from the outside.
So aim for a fleece jacket for the middle layer and a good windproof and rainproof jacket for the outside layer. The same goes for your pants, pick something weatherproof, and don’t wear jeans. You should also get good ankle support for your shoes, so boots and sports shoes it is. Not sneakers or sandals unless you’re hiking on a paved path during the warmer seasons.
Get in the right mindset
But the most important thing of all is to get in the right state of mind. Hiking is an amazing experience, it brings you closer to nature, it has you experience a myriad of feelings, from euphoria to nostalgia to sheer awe.
Besides, you get to test your limits, become more confident and more skilled, you can meet new people at camping spots and learn many things about different cultures. So that means you need to keep an open mind and an open heart because hiking will bring many good things on your way.