Tips for New Hikers
When I am not running, I am hiking. Hiking can provide many health benefits. It can improve heart health, reduce blood sugar, and improve muscle strength in your quads, hamstrings, and lower legs. It can also help to clear your mind and reduce stress levels. All of these things are perfect to those that spend a little too much time pounding the pavement.
Hiking also helps you get back to nature and “unplug” your gadgets for a while. But, hiking takes a little preparation for those who have zero experience with it. It's still an outdoor activity that requires a lot of steps, but it's different from running.
Here are a few tips to help you get started:
Pick and Review Trails Carefully
These are both important steps to take for new hikers. When selecting a trail pick one that suits your particular fitness level. Figure out the distance you can typically walk on a level/paved surface.
Then do some math to determine the estimated time to hike the trail. You should calculate about 2 miles/hour. Another factor to consider is the elevation. Add one hour to the approximate hiking time for every 100 feet. After you’ve hiked 1-2 times, you’ll start figuring out the ideal distances/elevation changes for you.
Before you hike a particular trail, you should also do your homework. Get a map of the region and go over reports/data. Learn if the trail forms a loop or if you must backtrack/spot the second car. You should also look for intersection rails that could cause you to make a wrong turn.
The good news is you can find several online resources today to make the process easier. It makes the process easier before and during your hiking trip.
Use a Good Hiking Pole/Stick
Besides a backpack and hiking boots, a good set of hiking poles is important to provide you with the best experience possible. The main benefit of this hiking gear is it provides extra stability whether you’re on a park path or mountain trail.
In fact, you might be surprised to learn that Nordic walking poles can be used to give your upper body a better workout and burn more calories. When using two poles, it produces a movement that’s similar to alpine skiing.
In fact, a 1981 study showed that walking with “ski poles” can actually lower pressure on the opposite leg by about 20%. They can also reduce the amount of weight the legs support by 8 kg when walking on an incline like a hill or mountain.
What should you look for when picking a hiking staff or trekking pole? Here are some of the main issues -
- Single staff or double poles
- Length: When the pole tip touches the ground you should have a 90-degree bend at the elbow
- Features: Foldability, adjustability, weight, locking, and shock absorption
You should also learn how to use the staff/poles to get around obstacles on trails.
Wear the Right Clothes/Boots
This is more complex than it might sound. Pick non-cotton clothing since it gets wet easily and stays that way, which can cause chafing. Pick synthetic fibers instead. You should also dress in layers (including 1 extra warm layer), so you can add/remove them when you need to.
Pick hiking boots and socks that are high-quality. Consider “light hikers” since they’ll require less breaking in. Again avoid cotton socks and pick wool/synthetic instead. Finally, pack blister dressings.
So there you have it! These three basic tips can help you get a head start for your first hiking treks. Using the right gear and techniques can make your learning curve as steep as Mount Everest. Soon you'll be taking on the longest trails in the world. Happy trails!