While there is no way to be prepared for all of the adventures that hiking the backwoods may bring, understanding the basics of the sport will go a long way in making your hikes more enjoyable. As your experience level grows from the novice level, your hiking needs will evolve with you. This overview of what beginning hikers need can help you get out on the trail and enjoying all that hiking has to offer.
Understanding Your Hiking Requirements
Everyone has to start somewhere, and for the beginning hiker, that would be determining what kind of hiking they anticipate for the upcoming season. Some hikers prefer to hike in summer months only, while others hike year round, regardless of what type of weather is thrown their way. Before you begin to look for hiking equipment, take a long look at what kind of hiker you realistically believe you will be. Doing so will not only help yo save money on equipment, but you will choose gear that is better suited for your hiking needs.
Evaluating and Choosing the Best Hiking Boots
When it comes to hiking gear, everyone has an opinion on what brands are best. And perhaps they are – for them. Each hiker’s needs are as unique, and there is no one right answer when it comes to choosing which hiking shoe or boots will be right for everyone. But there are signs to look for when choosing which hiking boots best suit your needs.
Hiking boots should feel snug and supportive, without confining the foot or the toes. For this reason, it is recommended that you wear the same socks when you try on your boots as you will where once on the trail. While it may sound like a minor detail, the weight, thickness, and even length of the sock can greatly alter the comfort of a pair of boots.
Hiking boot should have an ample tread on the sole of the boot and a sturdy toe area. While on the trail, rocks, sticks, logs, and other elements are a lot easier to work around when the shoe is better able to cling to them. Ankle-high boots that lace provide additional support for ankles, which tend to get a lot of work during a hike. Investing in a quality pair of hiking boots, and properly maintaining them, will result in a pair of boots that will carry you through miles and miles of trails.
About Hiking Backpacks
Most hikers choose to carry some form of backpack with them while out on the trails. While it used to be that hiking backpacks were a one-size-fits-all operation, that is no longer the case. Backpacks have evolved in many shapes and sizes, allowing hikers of all skill levels to find a hiking pack that is sized just for them.
Backpacks are basically broken down into two main groups: internal frame packs and external frame packs. External frame packs are easily identified because they feature a frame that is visible from the outside. The main compartment and the back and hip straps are all attached to this frame. The frame on internal frame backpacks is sewn into the pack, and is not visible from the outside.
Both styles of backpacks have their own advantages and disadvantages. External frame backpacks tend to hold more, as they typically have more pockets and things can be tied to the frame. Internal frame packs, however, are noticeably more comfortable, as they distribute the weight more evenly.
Size is also an important part of choosing a backpack for hiking. Packs are measured in cubic inches, with most packs ranging from 3,000 to 7,000 cubic inches in size. Beginning hikers who plan to take small day trips will want to opt for a pack that is toward the smaller size, while those who hike for days at a time, camping along their hike, will want something in the mid-to-large range to accommodate all of their gear.
In addition to the space provided by the pack, the size of each can vary by the person carrying it. Backpacks come in a variety of lengths, which are designed for different torso lengths. Qualified salespeople at a store can help beginning hikers find the ideal length and size backpack to meet their needs.
Other Hiking Gear Needs
There are many small items that can make a big difference when on the hiking trail. Every hiker should carry along a basic first aid kit to tend to minor injuries. Adhesive bandages come in handy for a variety of purposes, including blisters, cuts from branches, and sometimes even non-medical reasons. Waterproof matches, a small knife, a flashlight, insect repellent, sunscreen, and a water bottle full of fresh water are also important items to carry along on your hike. Don’t forget to also bring along maps, compasses, and other navigation tools that are specific to each hiking trip.
Hikers may also consider adding a small notebook and writing utensil to their packs to take notes about each hike. It can be fun to look back at the different experiences that have passed over time, and remember the unique views from each individual trail.
Getting on the Trail
Once your gear is in order and your trip has been planned, it’s time to get on the trail. But doing so without a basic understanding of hiking etiquette is a big mistake. Using common sense is the easiest way to make sure that you are setting an example as a good hiker.
Operating under the pretense of “leaving no trace,” hikers should always bring anything that went into the woods out of the woods with them. This means trash and recycling should never be left on a trail or buried in the ground. Some parks and hiking areas allow for fires along the trail, but only burn in designated areas and make sure that a fire is completely out before moving on. If hiking with pets, always make sure that pets are properly leashed and you have all the supplies needed to care for the while hiking. Further, hikers with pets should always yield to hikers without pets, to make sure everyone is comfortable in the same wide open space.
Hiking is a great exercise and outdoor activity that doesn’t require a lot of skill or expensive gear. It is easy to get outdoors and on the trail with a little bit of knowledge and comfortable shoes at your side.