There are many types of hiking, and it has become a very popular activity over the years worldwide. I have learned to like this activity in my adult years – We were not very active hikers when I was growing up, but we have always been surrounded by forest, sea and nature. This has probably been an underlying reason why I have learned to love hiking – In the woods, on the beach and in the mountains … anywhere basically.
Do you ever dream of tying your shoelaces, packing your backpack and go for a hike in nature? Let’s take a closer look at how to get started with hiking.
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Is Hiking For You?
First of all, you need to find out if hiking is for you. There are many ways to get started, but it’s smart to take it easy from the start. It’s not necessary to go for hikes that are too long in the beginning.
Anyone can start hiking without thinking about prior knowledge. This is exactly what is so nice about this activity – Hiking is for everyone, and nature is for everyone, even people with disabilities can enjoy nature with the right equipment.
Find peace in nature, take in all your sensory impressions; Smell, sight, hearing and taste. I am sure you will find joy and tranquility of nature. It gives you a feeling of meditation, where the brain can relax and rest from everyday stress and hustle. In addition to this, the body receives physical exercise – It is a win-win situation.
When I first started hiking for real, I made sure to have good shoes and clothes that are easy to move freely in. I went anywhere from half an hour to an hour – This is a good start. You may want to start hiking on flat ground in the beginning, and rather go over to slopes and small mountain peaks when you feel ready for it.
You will soon feel the need to hike often, and maybe even daily, and if you are prevented for a day or two (or god forbid several days …) the restlessness creeps in. On days like these I usually go for a quick hike in the local area, just to ease a little on the conscience and restlessness, or do some staircase training. It’s almost like an addiction – But of the good kind.
Ultimately, the key is to start carefully. Do not set too high goals and expectations for yourself at the very beginning, have patience and before you know it you can call yourself a hiker. I really mean that hiking is good for everyone – both mentally and physically.
Why Hiking is Good For You
First of all, I must mention that there are different types of hiking; Mountain hiking, distance hiking, overnight hiking, thru hiking etc. Naturally the benefits will vary slightly depending on the type of hiker you are. No matter what type of hiker you may be, hiking is good for you – Both mentally and physically.
When you walk on slopes, such as mountain hikes and hikes in rough terrain, your heart will pump faster as your heart rate increases. This is very good oxygen supply to the cells in your body – Hiking is called cardio exercise. Like all cardio exercises, hiking is preventative for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, stroke and high cholesterol to name a few.
When you hike, you’re using your own body weight and it’s a whole-body workout. Perhaps a backpack with weight is carried on your journey, which will lead to even more exercise. This type of exercise can be preventative for osteoporosis, as you will strengthen your body’s bone structure in addition to your muscles.
It is a known fact that exploring nature does something special with your mood. When you can lower your shoulders in beautiful scenic surroundings, you will feel at peace of mind. It is the perfect place to clear your mind, find inspiration and replenish your energy storage. I like to call hiking a light mix of exercise and meditation – It’s truly a whole-body workout, where both mind and body are getting healthy exercise.
So, what defines hiking?
There is a difference between walking and hiking. Walking is done on flat ground without major obstacles, while hiking involves longer distances on rocky trails, climbs, mountains, forests and more challenging trails.
Hiking involves more effort than walking – You have to use more muscle, your heart rate increases due to rough terrain and you have to use balance and coordination in a more challenging way. In hiking you are moving to a higher place from a lower starting point.
Five Types Of Hiking:
- Distance Hiking – This group of hikers spend more than three days out in nature on their journey. They want to experience places few or no one else has been before. They pack light but bring the necessary equipment, and have planned the trip carefully in advance.
- Day Hiking – Many people choose this type. You go for a hike with a small backpack, light hiking clothes and hiking shoes. Often the length of these trips is not very long (often between 1.5 – 2.5 miles), although many day hikers go for much longer distances. They return home after the hike is over, and spend the night indoors.
- Overnight Hiking – Follows just after day hiking, only here the hiker has more equipment in his backpack (extra clothes, food and drink, sleeping bag, tent or hammock, etc. – equipment to spend a night out in nature). Overnight hikers often have a specific goal for where they are going, and the distance is usually quite long.
- Fast-and-Light Hiking – A group of hikers who travel long distances – but preferably in the local area or just a short drive away. They concentrate on long hikes, often to mountain peaks or similar, in the shortest possible time. Fast-and-light hikers aim for pace even though the distance can be long, and they do not carry much weight in backpacks.
- Thru-Hiking – Can spend weeks or months on their journey after many hours of planning in advance. They may spend more money on these excursions, as they need more equipment, supplies and even travel to get to the preferred trail Thru-Hikers go under the name; Nomads of the preferred trail.
Hiking Gear For Beginners
Which gear you need to hike depends on the type of excursion you are going on. It does not require a bunch of expensive equipment for the day hikers, but if you are going on an excursion over several days, more gear will be needed.
The basics for day-hiking:
Hiking shoes / boots – Broken in shoes. Choose boots with good ankle support when you are hiking on challenging rocky trails.
Socks – Of good quality and fabric that does not create chafing – Breathable material.
Underwear – Next-to-skin base layers (wool or polyester) These are most relevant on cold and wet days.
Outerwear – Wind and waterproof outerwear that is light and allow you to move freely. Mittens / gloves, ear warmers / hat in cold weather.
Walking sticks – Can be a good support and gives you the feeling of extra safety. Using walking sticks also lead to the arms being exercised, so it is a win-win situation really.
So this is the most basic gear for hiking. Should you go for longer hikes (overnight hikes, distance hikes, thru-hikes etc), you will need more equipment. I will get into these hikes in another post, and take a closer look at what gear is necessary.
As we have seen, there are different types of hiking. It’s all about finding the type (or types) of hiking you like the best. Many people combine several of these hiking types, and variety is always a good thing.
No matter what type of hike you are going to embark on, and what hike group you belong to, it is important to always focus on safety. Always bring some extra equipment in case of an accident. Always have a telephone and / or GPS with you, so that you can get help if necessary. Keep in mind to bring extra clothes for the longer hikes. You also may want to bring a first aid kit, just in case.
It can be nice to share these hikes with someone, so why not ally yourself with a fellow hiker? I myself always bring my dog, Sandra. Sometimes it is also good to hike all alone, and just enjoy nature and all it has to offer – Silence, trickling water, bird songs and the smell of nature. Find your way.
I can promise you that hiking is good for both body and mind. It gives you peace of mind, and you get to train every single muscle in your body. I can highly recommend this. I have a great passion for hiking, and can not do without it – This is my form of therapy and training. Join me, and feel free to share your adventures with me.
I hope you found some inspiration from this article. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
Enjoy the hike!