Take a moment and picture it. You’ve made it to the top of a very, very high hill. The hike was strenuous, but all along, you knew you could handle it. You stop and take a sip of ice-cold water from your Camelbak filter, feel the breeze on your face, and listen. No cars, nobody talking on a cellphone. Just blessed silence, as you look out on the beautiful view of…
That’s just it, where do you want to go? Do you want to overlook a crystal-blue mountain lake, a butte rising above the desert, or a forest trail that disappears into the bushes? If any of that resonates with you, then you need to get out and get hiking. But before you do that, you need to be prepared. Keep reading for more tips to plan and execute your first hike.
- There are a few things you should always have in your backpack when you hit the trail. You’ll need a map, compass, sunscreen, sunglasses, extra clothing in case the temperature drops, a flashlight or headlamp, first aid supplies, waterproof matches/candle/lighter for making a fire, repair kit and tools, extra food, plenty of water, and an emergency shelter like a plastic tube tent or just a garbage bag. While you might not need all that stuff, you could be in big trouble if you don’t have it.
- Having said that, you want to always try to pack as light as possible. Remember that you’ll be walking for extended amounts of time, so try to pack the lightest versions of the things mentioned in the previous bullet point.
- Speaking of walking, what you put on your feet is a big deal. A great hike can be quickly ruined by aching feet. However, you don’t necessarily have to buy a big pair of boots that take lots of time to break in. There are excellent light boots out there that take virtually no time to be broken in. Along with that, wear quality synthetic or wool socks, but avoid cotton. Just in case of a problem, bring along a few blister dressings.
- Next, let’s talk about clothing. Remember we said to avoid cotton socks. As a matter of fact, don’t wear anything made of cotton. That’s because it can easily get damp and it takes a long time to dry off, which means you’ll have clothing that chafes & feels chilly. Synthetics are a good way to go for comfort. When dressing, dress in layers, so that you’ll be ready for virtually any weather. Finally, bring an extra warm layer just to be on the safe side, and make sure it can block wind.
- Finally, be sure to minimize your impact. Whatever you bring with you needs to be brought out, so make sure to pack up trash, litter, and any leftover foods. It can be tempting to want to bring back a souvenir, but leave natural objects like plants and rocks in place, and the same goes for any cultural artifacts you come across. We get wanting to preserve the memory, and that’s why there’s nothing wrong with taking pictures.