What better way is there to keep fit and get to know your country than by exploring it on foot.
The advantage you have when hiking is it doesnâ€™t matter about your fitness level. You can start small and build your walks up as your fitness levels increase. Hiking is a great way to get your legs, feet, and body used to strenuous activity â€“ you can cater each walk perfectly based either on length, difficulty or speed to make it the ideal challenge for you.
Tips for Your First Hike:
1. Decide how long you want to hike
As this is a beginners guide to hiking, Iâ€™d suggest starting small. There is nothing worse walking till you are exhausted only to then remember you need to walk 6 hours back to your car with sore feet and no water. The web is packed full of specialist sites that will help you find the perfect location for your first hike.
If you are a total beginner and have never stepped foot outside a city, it might not be the smartest of ideas to launch yourself straight into doing a 92mile 5-day trek across uncharted wilderness. Start small a park or local trail is the perfect starting difficulty something nice and flat avoiding any serious gradients.
3. Decide if youâ€™re going solo or with a friend
Some people prefer to enjoy the great outdoor alone and use it as a means of meditation but for me a walking partner is a must. For me, at least I love walking with a buddy, it gives you someone to complain to when your feet are sore, always which makes you feel that bit better. On top of that you have the safety aspect of having help if anything should go wrong.
By far the most important point is safety. Depending on where you are walking you will hopefully know some of the major risk factors. From snakes, bears, mountain lions, or much less thought about factors such as heat exhaustion, you need to think about your safety. Let someone know where and when you are going hiking.
What to Wear:
My general rule of thumb for hiking clothes is pack light and waterproof. For this Iâ€™ll start from the bottom and work my way up
This entirely depends on the conditions you will be hiking in. Personally, I use two options, an approach type shoe and an over the ankle boot.
If most of your path is going to be flat and mainly dry you can get away with a pair of hiking shoes such as Salomon Speed Cross or Merrell MOABs these are perfect for hot weather walks and are lightweight.
When the going gets tougher or you know the path is going to be very uneven, you are going to want something with much more ankle support. A decent pair of over the ankle walking boots are a must. Trust me, Iâ€™ve made the mistake of going cheap on a pair of boots and had major regrets. A good quality pair of boots should fit like a glove and be light, avoid massive clunky boots that will weigh you down.
If possible, try avoiding running shoes as these will not provide the necessary grip and support over rough terrain. Unless of course, you have no other option, in which case, be a little more cautious.
Along with not going cheap on the boots or shoes this is the second most important thing to spend money on. A nice pair of socks will get you a long way and help to avoid nasty blisters. If you are getting more serious with your hiking Iâ€™d say invest in Merino-wool socks as they are widley recognised as the best socks for any kind of trekking.
Unless you live in a bone-dry country, Iâ€™d avoid anything that isnâ€™t at least water repellent. There is nothing worse than the wonderful chaffing that wet clothing can cause. Resist the temptation to go out in shorts as this will leave you more exposed to tick bites and stings from things like poison ivy.
Avoid cotton, it makes you sweat and holds water far too well for its own good. Try use performance-based materials like polyester that are much lighter and donâ€™t make you sweat.
Now being based in â€śsunny Scotlandâ€ť, I cannot stress enough the importance of a good quality, light-weight water proof jacket. Donâ€™t be afraid to spend a bit on a jacket, because if you look after it properly it will last you years and years.
At the end of the day, you canâ€™t buy â€ścommon senseâ€ť. You donâ€™t want to go for a trek in boiling hot weather dressed head to toe for the Artic and vice versa. Check the forecast before you go anywhere.
This bit is easy. To start with you donâ€™t need some fancy ÂŁ200 pack. You can use what ever you have that is comfortable. As you get more adventurous you can then look into buying something better suited to your needs.
Advice on Preparing Food:
The main thing before you think about packing your bag full of snacks is water. I carry at least a litre of water with me on any hike. You donâ€™t want to get caught hours from anywhere without water, especially if you are hiking somewhere hot.
Snack wise, I like to keep to things that I can eat on the move. I keep a larger meal for my break, usually at the summit of a hill or at the halfway point.
Good snacks to pack are nuts, dried fruits or cereal bars as these are full of energy so you wont get any sugar lows midway through your walk. Avoid chocolate bars and other candy as this kind of sugar wonâ€™t keep your energy levels up for long.
Another firm favourite for me is jerky or biltong â€“ when I can get my hands on it. Itâ€™s a great source of protein and is easy to keep for longer treks. And it tastes amazing.
Hopefully this beginners guide will help you to get outdoors and discover your love for adventure.