Hiking for Dummies: 6 tips to get off on the right foot on your first hike
If you're the kind of person who feels proud because you walk every day from your front door to your car, maybe it's time you added a touch of defiance to your adventure.
Hiking is a sport accessible to all, according to all tastes and physical conditions.
Like any other activity you practice for the first time, the secret is to enjoy it and go at your own pace in order to have the taste to start again, you will progress without even noticing it.
Worse, you don't start 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've had with flora, you might find the world of nature hiking a little confusing.
Even if this way of moving is natural, I guarantee you that walking in the forest is not like frolicking in a park. There are a couple of little things you need to think about to make sure everything goes smoothly and want to repeat the experience.
You have to admit it to yourself once and for all; The majority of you and your ti-namis live in a world of comfort. And you'll have to relearn how to communicate with nature to appreciate its beauty.
Here are a few things that will get you off to a good start in this new adventure that is hiking outdoors.
1. Find out and leave early
Start by asking yourself what's in your way. Do you really need to be dazzled to feel in harmony with yourself?
There's so much information available on the internet.
You can find out what you have to do on the site before you go.
If you want to have ideas where to start, you can start by checking if there's 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 sites where there are well-constructed trails, there is a reception desk. This is usually the access point to the main trails. The reception staff can tell you about the duration and difficulty of the journeys, but also about the points of interest you may encounter on your way.
In addition, it is an additional precaution, because by registering your presence, you make sure that we will go looking for you if you have problems!
A stop at the reception will also allow you to have up-to-date information on trail conditions.
For example, even if the weather is mild, some trails may be flooded for days due to heavy rains (information that is not always available on the website). It is best to have this information in hand in order to choose your 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 hike too late and are taken by class in the dark and cold in the fall and or heat in the summer.
Aiming for places close to your place of residence (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 object of your quest, ask yourself the question: is it achievable, realistic?
It's best to choose trails based on your experience, fitness and the quality of your equipment. It's just logic, but when you don't have experience, you can tend to minimize the challenge and say to yourself: Well it's just walking!
To allow you to get a little ahead of the issue, here is a short 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 to families with young children.
Easy: dishes, wider, uncovered and usually few obstacles or gradients. Accessible to all.
Intermediate: Usually hilly, can contain relatively hilly ascents, descents and passages. Beginners who are in relatively good physical condition will adapt easily, if they remain attentive to where they set foot.
Advanced or difficult: generally steep, narrow passages, presence of cliffs and slippery rock faces. Avoid where to use with extreme caution for the beginner.
Depending on the degree of difficulty, the progression will not be at the same rate. In general, an unsled beginner manages to travel 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 summit, its pace will be about 2 km per hour.
For your first time, you will avoid jumping on trails of more than 5 to 8 km in order to do a maximum of 3 hours (this includes breaks). If you feel it's too much, there's no problem with that. Choose a distance with which you feel comfortable.
It is always best for a beginner to stick to easy or intermediate trails and short distances, as it is difficult to assess the effort of an ascent when you have never experienced one.
If you absolutely want to reach a summit, do not venture over a distance greater than 6 km, this distance must include your return. Above all, stay on the lookout for your abilities.
Aim for smaller peaks or trails that offer a less strenuous gradient. Some peaks are higher, but easier to reach due to a more favourable elevation.
Topographic maps are the best tool to assess the difficulty level of an ascent.
Consider the inclination and effort you put into the climb. If you have too much trouble, don't hesitate to turn back or take more breaks. You have to keep your strength for the return.
And contrary to what you think, it is especially during the descent that you risk underestimating the danger. It is precisely when gravity pushes you down that you risk making a misstep. The risk of injury is higher, but above all has more serious consequences.
The first mistake of beginner hikers is to overestimate their physical abilities and the risks of using inadequate equipment.
Leave your pride aside and choose your course based on your abilities and the reliability of the equipment you have.
3. Preparing materially
The second mistake is not being prepared enough to deal with the unexpected.
I remind you that in the forest, you are far from everything. And since it's new to you, it's hard to predict what can go wrong. For this reason, I'll give you some tips here.
Preparation is the basis of the pleasure you will enjoy while hiking. This allows you to enjoy the experience, no matter what the conditions of the course have in store for you.
Some of my best hikes were in conditions that would have taped most people in front of their TV.
That's why experienced hikers will rarely rely on the weather to decide when to go out. They are ready for anything and know that the weather is 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 well.
Basic tip for clothing: avoids jeans and cotton that do not effectively remove sweat. These types of fabrics also take a long time to dry.
If you're not equipped with sportswear, multilayer. At least you can remove or put on layers of clothing depending on the weather or your degree of perspiration.
Comfortable shoes should form the element at the base of all this material. Ideally, hiking shoes offer some support at the ankles while having soles strong enough to support your weight and provide you with optimal traction on rough terrain.
If you're comfortable with the idea of going on the trail 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 without gradients, often arranged wider, in rock dust where the surface of the ground is regular. Go on a dry day and cover shorter distances (less than two hours).
When you want to explore more, you'll be convinced right away of the usefulness of a pair of boots, a good backpack and a pair of walking sticks. Your knees will go to the ground to thank you for this act of compassion towards them!
In addition to the equipment to get around, you need a backpack where you can house some useful tips that will improve your comfort in case of a glitch. A savvy 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 their own consumption needs;
- A topographical map of the region;
- A compass or GPS;
- A headlamp;
- A raincoat;
- A replacement garment;
- A first aid kit;
- Minimal food;
- A knife;
- The mousitical hunt;
- Matches or lighters in a waterproof container;
- Toilet paper;
- Hypothermic coverage;
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 allow you to overcome the unforeseen events that may occur along the way and come to 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 you refer to this list when you prepare your bag for your stay in the forest.
4. Learning to repeat yourself
Often people think they get lost because they misread the map or miss a marker, but my experience tells me that it is because they have misjudged their goals and they are ill-prepared.
Getting lost is a bit of a part of the risks (and even pleasures) of hiking and if you are well prepared, you can deal with almost any eventuality.
Yes, yes your last iPhone has a lot of trinkets that can help you, but what are you going to do if you run out of network or your battery falls flat?
If you don't have the time and money for the GPS option, don't be 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 have fun on the marked trails.
It is usually quite easy to find your way around the different routes. In addition to the bollards that indicate the direction to take, you sometimes even have the distance you have to travel to get to your destination.
Leaving 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 cards are damaged.
The compass is especially useful for beginners to know which way to read the map. Without elaborating on the orientation, know that the top of a map indicates the north and that the red tip of the needle on your compass indicates the same direction.
Your compass must be flat to indicate the right direction. The idea is to read your map in the same direction.
5. Go at your own pace
I know I've told you about it before, but I insist that going at your own pace with respect for your abilities is the best attitude to enjoy this activity.
For example, during an ascent, beginner hikers have the reflex to go too quickly 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 sustain a conversation, it's a sign that your beautiful bodysuit is handling the situation.
Taking your time not only adopted a walking speed that suits you, but also granting you the right to take regular breaks.
It's also part of the pleasures of hiking to take the time to observe what's around you and take stock of the state of your strength.
This is the perfect time to empty lactic acid into your limbs by doing some stretching, a few cycles of conscious breathing or even taking a short nap. The micro sleep (a few minutes is enough) works miracles 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 many people can offer themselves.
Then of course, it's the perfect time to take a bite.
It is best to stop more often and for less time at the same time. If you stop for too long without moving, your body goes into "rest" mode and it will be more difficult for you to motivate you to leave.
Be especially attentive to your body and do not take any discomfort lightly. Certain areas such as the back, knees and ankles are more likely to be injured the first few times. Stretching before you leave and at the end of the activity is a good way to prevent injury.
6. Be accompanied
The best way to make informed decisions is to discuss it with someone else. It's even more true when you're a beginner.
The joy of a shared experience also amplifies your happiness factor.
Joining a hiking group is a great way to learn about a safe and motivating environment.
The presence of a guide will allow you to free your mind from all the little hassles. So you have plenty of time to focus on the experience of the moment.
This is a unique opportunity to learn a little more about your own abilities and your level of comfort on different types of terrain.
Now you're ready to hit the trails for the first time. Especially remember that the basic rule and have fun.
If you start quietly and gradually increase the duration and difficulty of your journeys, you will realize that preparation is a step that is done with pleasure. Once you have connected with the benefits of this activity, you will want by all means to extend it.
And that day you will be happy to have read this text that gives you a little idea of what adventure can look like.