Preparing your body for a hike is one of the most overlooked things that causes hiking injuries. When you go hiking it is important to prepare your gear, plan your day, but always remember to prepare the most important thing… you!
Recently I went on Tamlin_GoHiking_Streama very intense hike and near the end, I had a lot of difficulty because I overlooked preparing the most important thing- myself. The hike up whistlers trail in jasper was an steep climb, and by the end I was so dehydrated that my leg muscles started cramping up. We finished the hike, but had to take a lot more rests than we would have needed to if I had come prepared.
When most people go hiking they come prepared and bring a lot of water along with them. What we sometimes forget though, is to stay hydrated in the hours, or even days prior to a tough hike. Just bringing water isn’t enough… before you go it is essential to ensure you are hydrated.
In this situation I had taken some medication the night before that had dehydrated me completely, and made the mistake of not drinking any water in the car on the way to the hike. In addition, I had a coffee that morning and a relatively salty breakfast so by the time I started the hike I was sucking down water very quickly.
By the time we reached the summit, our water was gone and we had no hope of making the three hour trek down. Very luckily, this particular trail was on the same mountain as the local gondola, so we were able to hitch a ride down. If we had been on any other trail however, the situation would have been much much worse.
The hike was a great experience overall, but it would have been even more enjoyable if I had just kept hydrated in the hours leading up to it. So always remember, when you go hiking, prepare your gear, do your research, but don’t overlook preparing the most important piece of equipment on the hike- your body.
As a beginner, when you decide to start your new hiking hobby, getting started can sometimes seem almost overwhelming. In most places in North America there are an enormous number of great hiking and walking trails, so even having an idea of where you want to go can be a challenging. You should always start by choosing the right hike for your skill level.
When you go hiking your first few times, you will definitely want to stick to well travelled trails in urban areas. You should use these hikes as an opportunity to assess your fitness, and to get the amazing benefit of getting outdoors and enjoying your city. Once you have done this a few times, you can start venturing onto hiking trails in national or local parks. Be sure to pick easy trails that are regularly used- it will be a long time before you are ready to venture out into the backwoods.
Choosing the proper gear for hiking is essential. Having a pair of the best hiking boots will make your treks far more enjoyable. Having improper shoes can lead to very unpleasant experiences, and possibly serious pain to your feet and legs. Clothing is just as important- it is often necessary to wear long pants. Shorts are not idea for hiking unless you are in a dry open area with no grass. Shirts, pants, and socks should be optimized fabric for athletic use. All athletic and running stores will carry clothing like this.
Always be sure to have water available when you go hiking. I personally recommend carrying a small hydration backpack rather than a large hiking bag filled with bottled water (it is better for the environment too!). If you are going to be on treks longer than 5 or 6 hours, you should bring some sort of snack with you too. It is also extremely important to carry a small hiking first aid kit, and a map of the local area showing your hiking trail.
Keep safety in mind at all times and be prepared for the environment you choose to hike in. Never hike alone- always bring at least one friend with you. You may want to join a local outdoor club to find like-minded hikers. You can also try some guided hikes to start you off. Always make sure to tell somebody where and when you are going, and when you intend to be back. That way if anything unforeseen happens, they can get you help more promptly.
When you go hiking, one of the risks you take is sharing the trail with some potentially very dangerous animals. While bears generally try to stay away from humans, there have been instances where hikers were attacked. By taking proper precautions when you go hiking, you can prevent this from ever happening.
Last November, in rural British Columbia, an elderly couple was hiking when they suddenly came upon a female grizzly bear eating a dead deer with her cubs. The bear was startled and charged at the wife before taking on the husband. Both hikers were hospitalized with bites and claw gashes, but luckily survived. A photographer in Denali National Park last August was not so lucky, he was taking pictures of a male grizzly when it noticed his presence and charged and killed him.
In areas where bears are prevalent, bear spray is a must. But not only must you carry bear spray, you should keep it in an accessible place! Having the spray can buried deep in your hiking bag will do you no good if a bear is suddenly charging at you. In bear habitats, keep the spray in its holster on your hip or chest. Make sure you review the instructions its use before you go hiking, and definitely make sure the safety device stays on. You don’t want to accidentally spray yourself in the face.
If you do encounter a bear, your first move should be to make yourself appear as large as possible by waving your arms in the air and making a lot of noise. Don’t run away- you cannot outrun a bear. Also, don’t climb a tree since bears can climb fairly well! As you are making yourself appear large and making noise, back away extremely slowly. If you feel the bear is about to charge, quickly get your bear spray out and spray it in the face. The instructions on the spray will tell you its effective range (again, read this BEFORE your hike).
After you spray the bear, if it continues to charge and attack, lay limp play dead. If you are no longer a threat to it, it has no need to defend itself. If however after you continue to play dead, the bear is still interested in you, this may be a predatory attack. If it is, you must fight back. Predatory attacks by bears on humans are extremely rare, but if it does happen, you don’t want to make yourself an easy meal.
All this talk of bear safety can sometimes scare hikers. Bears are not something to be feared though, they are to be respected. When you go hiking, you are entering their territory, their home. If you let them know you are there, they will most likely stay out of your way. Just don’t tempt them by carrying smelly food in your pack- a bear can even smell something like an apple from far away. Carry well sealed packaged food, and when you are finished your snacks, dispose of wrappings in a bear proof garbage (or bring a large, well sealed ziplock to put your garbage in).
Bears really are majestic creatures, and if you ever have a chance to see one in the wild, you will come to further appreciate their beauty. When you go hiking, be prepared, be respectful, be safe, and I’m sure you will great experiences. Happy Trails!
When you go hiking, choosing the right equipment to bring is probably the most critical factor. Hiking equipment consists of the clothes you choose to wear, the hiking backpack you carry, the boots on your feet, and the supplies you bring with you.
The best hiking boots are those designed specifically for going hiking. I have tried many times to go for a hike in running shoes or cross trainers, but always end up with terribly sore feet. Invest in a pair of some of the best hiking shoes, and your feet will thank you in the days following your hike. Expect to spend anywhere between 100-300 dollars, but trust me when I say that they are well worth it.
It often baffles me when I see people go hiking in shorts on even some of the most backwoods trails. There have been some relatively rocky, open mountain paths that I wouldn’t mind wearing shorts on, but on any type of grassy or wooded trail, long pants are a must. They protect you from scrapes, contact with poisonous plants, and most importantly, contact with pests. The last thing you want is to get a tick on you and risk contracting Lyme disease.
A hat is extremely important, especially if it is sunny out. Covering up your head not only shades your face, but also helps prevent sunstroke. Sunglasses are optional, but recommended on a sunny day for open trails.
I often see many day hikers hauling around huge packs, but I don’t believe this is always necessary. If my hikes are going to be less than 6 hours, I generally only bring a small hydration backpack. I fill it with cold water and insert an icepack into it to keep it nice and cool (it holds approx. 2 litres of water). For longer hikes I also bring an additional one or two bottles of water.
Where I think a larger backpack would be required is if you planning a longer hike where the weather might be variable, you needed to pack a lot of food, or maybe if you were hiking with a large group of people and only one person carried a bag.
Hiking poles are nice, but not really necessary at all unless you expect to climb steep slopes, or need a little bit of extra support when you are walking.
Backwoods hikers should always carry a handheld GPS unit (or at least a map and compass to prevent getting lost). You may even consider a GPS emergency locator system… just in case.
he gear you bring with you when you go hiking WILL have a dramatic impact on the quality of your trip, so pack well, and happy trails!
Some people are really good at planning when they go hiking, and others just jump into the car and go. While I do love to be spontaneous, I have learned over time that proper planning will result in a much more enjoyable hike. Whether you go hiking for a day, or on a multi-day trek, proper planning is one of the most important aspects of your adventure!
Choosing the area you hike in is always the first step, because it will determine what you bring with you, how long you go for, etc… I try and go hiking almost every weekend, and by Sunday night, my mind is racing with ideas for where I want to go hiking next week. When you are picking your hiking trails, be sure to choose ones that match your skill level, as well as the skill level of those who will be hiking with you. You don’t want to ruin somebody else’s love of the activity by taking them on a trail beyond the difficulty that they can handle.
Hiking is all about adventure and exploration, so tackling new trails in unfamiliar areas is highly encouraged in our sport. Because you will be exploring new areas however, it is crucial to do a proper amount of research before you go. Start by going to the website of the national/regional park or the preserve you will be hiking in. These sites usually give detailed information about the hiking area, the length and difficulty of the trails, and extremely important information about potential risks such as bear warnings, eroded trails, or avalanche watches.
I also check to see if I can find reviews online about the trail I want to take- if other hikers have been there before and weren’t impressed by the hike, I choose something else. You can also find great information from other hikers on the conditions of the trail, what you will need to bring with you, and all of the great sights you will see. One time I was saved by one of these reviews when it advised to go really early to avoid large crowds. I was lucky I read this. I had a much more enjoyable hike because of it, and as I saw the large crowds piling onto the trail as I was leaving, I had a huge grin on my face.
Once you know a little bit about the area, you can easily prepare the gear you will need for your hike. Planning what gear you bring is essential- you don’t want to bring too much and be weighted down unnecessarily, but you definitely don’t want to be caught without something you need. There are definitely some standard items you should always bring such as a first aid kit, a survival kit, and a map of the area.
Other items will be based on the hike itself such as extra layers of clothing, the amount of water you will need per person, and whether or not you will bring snacks (be sure to bring packaged food for proper animal safety). Check the weather forecast and base your gear on it, but don’t rely on it completely- be prepared for unexpected weather, especially in mountain environments.
An important safety step before you go is to let somebody you trust know when you will be going hiking, where you will be going, and when you expect to be back. This is especially important if you are hiking alone (not recommended, but some people do prefer it). The day I go, or the day before, I also like to check in with the information center of the park I’m hiking in if it has one. The staff at these centers can give you up to date trail information right before you go hiking. A phone call to trail administrators would also suffice.
When you arrive at your hiking site, take your time getting your gear together and making sure you have everything. Apply your sunscreen and insect repellent, and even stretch a bit if you want. When I get to a hike, I am really excited to get moving, but I force myself to take my time leaving so that I don’t leave anything behind. Knowing you are prepared for any situation is a great feeling, and you can enjoy your hike to its fullest.
I hope this steps will help your with planning your hikes, and please let us know in the comments section below if YOU take any other steps in preparations to go hiking!