For many, a vacation is never complete without properly exploring foreign spaces by foot. There’s a breed of traveller that plans escapes based on a location’s outdoor leisure scene, and it’s so often the case that hiking is one of the best activities on offer. The trail offers what nine-to-five office life does not: pristine views, time away from tech, an adequately difficult workout. With all this said, to be neglectful or careless on a hike can make for a miserable — if not dangerous — time. If you're looking to get reacquainted with nature or hit the trails for the first time, pay heed to the below tips:
1. Know the required fitness level, and don’t underestimate the elevation gain.
Research your route in advance, and be honest with yourself about your fitness and skill level. Are you a beginner about to take on an intermediate-level trek? Sure, you’re an avid yogi, but will your endurance and strength hold up when navigating tricky mountain trails? Starting out with easier trails is not just smarter safety-wise, but it will also make for a more enjoyable experience. (Seriously, you don’t want to be up a cliff and in over your head.) When researching the upcoming adventure, note not just the distance but the elevation gain as well. An eight-kilometre hike may not seem so daunting, but add in 1,000 metres of steep climbing, and it's a completely different story.
2. Purchase a hydration bladder
The world of outdoor gear can be overwhelming, to say the least. But If there’s one item that you really do need, it’s a hydration bladder. Water bottles can be cumbersome and won’t carry enough water for a full day; a hydration bladder, on the other hand, fits nicely into a backpack, stores several litres for your sweaty, all-day hikes, and comes with a drinking tube, which eliminates the need to rummage around every time you need a sip. Plus, when empty, they fold up nice and compact.
3. Don’t even think about breaking in new boots on the trail
Lacing up a brand new pair of boots on the morning of a planned hike is a bad idea, to say the least. You risk having your feet rubbed raw and blistered, and spending the latter half of the hike limping on sore feet is no way to enjoy your trek. You want to have put several kilometres on your footwear before showing up to the trailhead.
4. Take photos of trail maps as you go
When you spot a map, snap a shot. Do this even if your group has done the hike before, and even if the route seems straightforward. Getting lost is, at best, a frustrating experience. Navigational errors happen even to the most experienced — and especially to beginners. Snapping that quick photo takes two seconds, but it can be what saves the day later on. Also, take the photo on more than one phone, in case a battery dies.
5. Sunscreen is essential.
It doesn’t matter if the temperature is cool or if the day is cloudy: slather that sunscreen on thick. Sunburns can be sneaky — especially when hiking high up in the mountains and closer to the sun. Applying that SPF is a preventative measure that every hiker should take. And, of course, the long-term effects of sun damage are a serious concern for outdoorsy people who spend much of their time under the sun’s rays. Establishing proper skin protection routines is one of the wisest moves a novice hiker can make. Note that when the brow gets sweaty, sunscreen can often run into the eyes. To avoid this stinging, use a sunscreen stick specifically designed for the face — and don’t ever let it leave your pack.
6. Accept the fate of your feet: get dirty
Too often will a newbie hiker tip toe around muddy sections or timidly navigate stepping stones through a mountain stream. Enough. Go with proper footwear (and changes of shoes and socks if necessary) and get your feet dirty. When hiking — especially in sloppy conditions — messiness this is inevitable. Trying to avoid a little mud or water is just going to make the experience tougher on yourself (and potentially everyone else). Pro tip: stash a pair of flip flops into your pack to slip into immediately after your trek.
7. Bite the bullet and set the alarm for early o'clock
This tip is purely for the sake of practicality. Scheduling a hike for the morning ensures that the group will be able to tackle the trail at the desired pace without having to worry about sundown. On that note, always assume things will always take longer than planned. The trail conditions could be muddy or the terrain more technical than expected. The group could get lost. Arriving at the trailhead in the morning is smart for these reasons, plus by starting before the sun is at its strongest, you’re minimizing chances of heat exhaustion.
Ready to take a trek? G Adventures can get you there. Check out our Active collection of tours here.