Hiking for the dummies: 6 tips to get off to a good start on your first hike

Saturday, June 29, 2019
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If you're the kind of person who feels proud because you walk from your front door to your car every day, maybe it's time you added a touch of challenge to your adventure.

Hiking is a sport accessible to all, with all tastes and physical conditions.

Like any other activity that we practice for the first time, the secret is to enjoy it and go at your own pace in order to have the desire to do it again, you will progress without even noticing it.

And what's more, you're not starting from scratch, because in theory, you've already mastered the basic movement since you were two years old.

But be careful!

If mowing your lawn is the most daring contact you have had with the flora, you may find the world of hiking in nature a little confusing.

Even if this way of moving is natural, I guarantee you that walking in the forest is not like running around in a park. There are a couple of little things you need to think about to make sure that everything goes well and that you want to repeat the experience.

You have to admit it to yourself once and for all; you and most of your Ti-Namis live in a world of comfort. And you will have to learn to communicate with nature again to appreciate its beauty.

Here are some tips that will help you get off to a good start in this new adventure of outdoor hiking.

1. Inquire and leave early

Start by asking yourself what you're into. Do you really need to be dazzled to feel in harmony with yourself?

There is so much information available on the Internet.

You can find out about the points of interest available on the site before you go there.

If you want to have ideas where to start, you can start by checking if there is a picnic area, striking views of the area, falls, or the presence of a campsite.

All these points of interest can give you a clear goal and motivate you to get out of your city.

In most of the sites where there are developed trails, there is a reception office. This is usually the access point to the main trails. The reception staff can inform you about the duration and difficulty of the trips, but also about the points of interest you may encounter on your way.

Moreover, it is an additional precaution, because by registering your presence, you make sure that we will go looking for you if you have any problems!

A stop at the reception desk will also provide you with up-to-date information on trail conditions.

For example, even if the weather is mild, some trails can be flooded for days due to heavy rains (information that is not always available on the websites). It is preferable to have this information on hand in order to choose the right route on the day of departure.

In addition to the weather, the time of day can also influence the choices you make.

The best time of day to start a hike is in the morning, especially if you are not experienced and do not have a good knowledge of your interests and abilities.

Too many beginner hikers start their hikes too late and are taken by the darkness and cold in the fall and or the heat in the summer.

Aim for places near your home (less than an hour's drive) is a great idea to ensure maximum flexibility in your first adventure in the forest.

2. Recognize levels of difficulty and set realistic goals

Once you have determined the purpose of your quest, ask yourself the question: is it achievable, realistic?

Also be aware of your physical abilities and take the time to understand the level of difficulty of the trails, and the time you have available.

It is best to choose trails based on your experience, physical condition and the quality of your equipment. It's just logic, but when you have no experience, you may tend to minimize the challenge and say to yourself: Well, it's just walking!

To allow you to get a little ahead of the curve, here is a brief description of the rankings usually used:

Multi-use or shared trail: usually designed to allow cyclists and hikers to share the road, these trails are usually wider and better suited for families with young children.

Facile

Flat, wider, open and usually with few obstacles or elevations. Accessible to all.

Intermediate

Usually hilly, it can contain relatively rough climbs, descents and passages. Beginners who are relatively fit will adapt easily if they remain attentive to where they set foot.

Advanced or difficult

Generally steep, narrow passages, cliffs and slippery rock faces. Avoid or use with extreme caution for the beginner.

Depending on the degree of difficulty, the progress will not be at the same pace. In general, an untrained beginner can cover about 2.5 km per hour on an easy trail and 2.25 km per hour if the trail contains some gradients. Constantly climbing to a peak, its rate will be about 2 km per hour.

For your first time, you will therefore avoid starting on trails longer than 5 to 8 km in order to do a maximum of 3 hours (including breaks). If you feel like it's too much, there's no problem with that. Choose a distance that makes you feel comfortable.

It is always better for a beginner to stick to easy or intermediate trails and short distances, as it is difficult to evaluate the effort of climbing when you have never experienced it.

If you absolutely want to reach a summit, don't venture further than 6 km, this distance must include your return. Above all, stay on the lookout for your abilities.

Aim for more modest peaks or trails that offer a less challenging gradient. Some peaks are higher, but easier to reach because of a more favourable altitude difference.

Topographic maps are the best tool to assess the level of difficulty of an ascent.

Consider the inclination and effort you put into the climb. If you have too much difficulty, don't hesitate to turn back or take more breaks. You have to save your strength for the return.

And contrary to what you think, it is especially during the descent that you may underestimate the danger. It is precisely when gravity pushes you down that you risk taking a wrong step. The risk of injury is higher, but above all it has more serious consequences.

The first mistake of novice hikers is to overestimate their physical abilities and the risks that can result from the use of inadequate equipment.

Leave your pride aside and choose your route based on your abilities and the reliability of the equipment you have.

3. Prepare materially

The second mistake is not being sufficiently prepared to deal with the unexpected.

I remind you that in the forest, you are far from everything. And since this is new to you, it's hard to predict what can go wrong. For this reason, I give you some tips here.

Preparation is the basis of the pleasure you will have while hiking. Above all, it allows you to enjoy the experience, no matter what the conditions of the course may hold for you.

One of the pleasures of hiking is to discover quietly all the little gifts that each condition will bring you.

Some of my most beautiful hikes took place in conditions that would have taped most people in front of their TV.

For this reason, experienced hikers will rarely rely on the weather to decide when to go out. They are ready for anything and know that weather conditions are also part of the adventure.

You look at the weather to give you an idea of the conditions you will have to face, this will allow you to choose your clothes properly.

Basic advice for clothing: avoid jeans and cotton, which do not effectively wick away sweat. These types of fabrics also take a long time to dry.

If you are not equipped with sportswear, use multilayers. At least you will be able to remove or put on layers of clothing depending on the weather or your degree of perspiration.

Comfortable shoes should be the foundation of all this equipment. Ideally, hiking boots offer you some ankle support while having soles strong enough to support your weight and give you optimal traction on rough terrain.

If you feel comfortable with the idea of going out on the trails with your running shoes and your teen's school bag, there's no problem with that.

Just have the intelligence to choose easy trails, preferably with no gradient and often wider, made of rock dust where the surface of the ground is even. Leave on a dry day and cover shorter distances (less than two hours).

When you want to explore further, you will be convinced from the start of the usefulness of a pair of boots, a good backpack and a pair of walking sticks. Your knees are going to throw themselves to the ground to thank you for this act of compassion for them!

In addition to the equipment to get around, you need a backpack where you can store some useful tips that will improve your comfort in case of a problem. A wise hiker who is about to spend most of his day in the forest should have in his backpack:

  • A minimum of 1.5 litres of water for your own consumption needs;
  • A topographic map of the region;
  • A compass or a GPS;
  • A headlamp;
  • A raincoat;
  • A change of clothes;
  • A first aid kit;
  • A minimum of food;
  • A knife;
  • Mastic chasing;
  • Matches or a lighter in a waterproof container;
  • Toilet paper;
  • De la corde;
  • A hypothermic blanket;
  • It may not be necessary to buy an expert kit for your first hike. At worst, you can borrow it from someone or grab some stuff you already have at home.

    The idea of having all this equipment at your disposal is to help you deal with the unexpected that may arise along the way and undermine the joy you could derive from this activity. If you plan to venture into the woods for more than 4 hours, I strongly suggest that you refer to this list when you prepare your bag for your stay in the forest.

    4. Learning to spot yourself

    Often people think they get lost because they have misread the map or missed a landmark, but my experience tells me that it is because they have misjudged their objectives and are ill-prepared.

    Losing yourself is part of the risks (and even the pleasures) of hiking and if you are well prepared, you can face almost any eventuality.

    Yes, yes, your last iphone has many little things that can help you, but what are you going to do if you don't have a network anymore or your battery runs out?

    If you take the time to understand how to use a GPS, it may be the only tracking tool you will need. With disconcerting precision, it can allow you to plan your route in the smallest details and even to mark and find the places you have particularly appreciated.

    If you don't have the time and money for the GPS option, don't get discouraged, as it's relatively easy to find yourself in most parks, especially if you don't plan to leave the trails.

    And usually, the beginner hiker has plenty to enjoy on the marked trails.

    It is generally quite easy to find your way around the different routes. In addition to the markers that indicate the direction to take, you sometimes even have the distance you still have to travel to reach your destination.

    Starting with a trail map will give you more flexibility if your plans change along the way. This can be very useful if some terminals disappear or if cards are damaged.

    The compass is especially useful for beginners to know in which direction to read the map. Without elaborating on the orientation, know that the top of a map indicates north and the red tip of the needle on your compass indicates the same direction.

    However, your compass must be flat so that it points in the right direction. The idea is to read your card in the same way.

    5. Go at your own pace

    I know I've already told you about it, but I insist, going at his pace and respecting his abilities is the best attitude to adopt to enjoy this activity.

    For example, during an ascent, beginner hikers have the reflex of going too fast without taking a break.

    A good way to find out if you're going too fast is to talk to your hiking partner. If you can have a conversation, it's a sign that your handsome bodysuit is handling the situation.

    Taking your time means not only adopting a walking speed that suits you, but also giving you the right to take regular breaks.

    It's as much a part of the pleasure of hiking as taking the time to observe what's around you and take stock of your strength.

    This is the perfect time to empty the lactic acid into your limbs by doing some stretching, a few cycles of conscious breathing or even a short nap. Micro-sleep (a few minutes are enough) works wonders on the recovery of the body!

    Opening up the luxury of relaxing for a few minutes on a flat rock, or meditating on the sounds of the forest is a privilege that too few people enjoy.

    Then, of course, it's the perfect time to take a bite.

    It is better to stop more often and for a shorter period of time at a time. If you stop too long without moving, your body goes into "rest" mode and it will be more difficult for you to motivate yourself to leave.

    Above all, listen to your body and do not take any discomfort lightly. Some areas such as the back, knees and ankles are at higher risk of injury the first few times. Stretching before leaving and at the end of the activity is a good way to prevent injuries.

    6. To be accompanied

    The best way to make informed decisions is to discuss them with someone else. This is even more true when you are a beginner.

    The joy of a shared experience also amplifies your happiness factor.

    Joining a hiking group is a great way to get started in a motivating and safe environment.

    The presence of a guide will allow you to free your mind from all the little worries. So you have all the time in the world to focus on the experience of the moment.

    This is a unique opportunity to learn a little more about your own abilities and comfort level on different types of terrain.

    There you are, now you are ready to go out on the trails for the first time. Especially remember that the basic rule is to have fun.

    If some of the advice I have shared in this text seems heavy or constraining to you, be sure to remember that only what you feel during your experience will allow you to take the measure of what is necessary for you.

    If you start slowly and gradually increase the duration and difficulty of your routes, you will realize that preparation is a fun step. When you have connected with the benefits of this activity, you will want to extend it in any way you can.

    And that day you will be happy to have read this text that gives you a little idea of what the adventure can look like.

    François Dumaine photo

    About

    François Dumaine

    My mission is to save lives and sedentary people through the outdoors. For me, a sedentary lifestyle goes well beyond sitting in the living room.

    I want to disconnect people from the virtual world to connect them to the real world. I want to reconnect with nature. I want people to stop SURVIVING, and start living! I want to communicate the feeling of freedom, of fulfillment that I live in nature!
    I have the deep desire to help make the world a better place. I would like to leave my imprint on our planet this way. This is the message I want to leave as a legacy to my children! ;-)

    All my work aims to inspire you, to inform you about different outdoor activities. I want to mak...


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