Hiking is an interesting subject in the outdoor community. Many people will just go right out and say that hiking is not even a working-out effort. Other people that go on difficult hikes will disagree since it takes a lot to be physically prepared to do them. Like everything in life, hiking is also a relative subject. One thing is for certain though, it does take physical effort to do it. And the best thing about it is that everybody can wake up one day and decide to go hiking. You won’t need some extreme gear or clothing if you go on a short and easy hike. The more you get into it, the more new equipment you will need.
But sometimes it’s hard to know how much you can push yourself, right? How to choose your hiking trail? What to look for in a hiking trail? What to bring with you? How to behave while you’re in the mountains? What happens if an emergency occurs?
Don’t worry, we have an answer to all of these questions, and more. Additionally, we asked MAYA MAYA’s ambassadors to tell us which hiking trails are their favorites, and why? What are the conditions there, what can you see that’s amazing there? Without further ado, let’s dive into the article.
1. Test your fitness level
First things first, if you are just starting with hiking or you have been hiking two times per summer each year, a good thing is to determine how fit are you to head to the mountains. This is important because it will directly affect your decision on which hiking trails to take upon. Logically, if you are a real beginner and you are not physically ready to hike a lot, you would be looking for easy trails without any climbing or high elevation levels. The opposite applies if you’re fit and you can endure harder trails.
Good things to think about are how long can you walk or you have walked in the past week, do you have any problems with your joints or ankles, do you have allergies, asthma, or a heart condition, etc. Those of you that have some health issues should always consult a doctor before trying to hike or do any other sports.
After that is settled, you should do a trial hike especially if you’re not sure what your abilities are. Choose an easy to moderate hike that is not too long and is popular or frequented in your area. After you do the hike you will more or less know how much strain did you put on your body and what you can expect from further hikes.
If you are already a fit person that is doing other types of sports and feels confident that hiking will be easy-peasy- you can skip this part.
2. Find company
If you are starting with easy, small hikes that are frequented and many people are on the hikes at all times, you can try it on your own. This applies to city parks, city trails, nearby national parks, etc.
However, if you want to head to a moderate or hard hike and explore a wider area in the mountains, it’s never a good idea to go alone, but especially if you’re a beginner. Some experienced hikers dare to go alone, but it’s generally never advised to be alone in the mountains because accidents happen and you might need help. If you really prefer to be alone and experience the beauty of nature by yourself, then start with shorter hikes that are well known, and always know where you’re going beforehand.
For these purposes, you should take a friend or a family member with you on your hiking journey. If you don’t have somebody willing to join you, there are many mountaineering/hiking clubs or courses where you can try hiking trails with a group and a guide.
3. Choose the hiking trail
When it comes to actually choosing which hiking trail to do, you have many things to take into consideration. The best ways to find out about hiking trails are:
To do research online in the area you wish to hike into. This way you can read reviews and experiences of people that were there, you can know what to expect, what to be careful about, etc.
To ask people that are hiking. If you know people that are passionate about hiking and have been doing it for a while, it’s granted that they would have some knowledge of the hiking trails in the area.
To ask the locals in the area where you plan to go to. Contact local hiking organizations, or national parks and ask them for their recommendation.
What consider when choosing a hiking route
1. How big of a challenge do you want?
You have to think about yourself and your companions. The decision should be made to fit all the involved people’s physical strength. Ask yourself how much time do you want to dedicate to hiking, how much do you want to push yourself. Think about how many kilometers you would be comfortable hiking; which elevation gain can you achieve. If the hike is too steep, it will take more effort and more time.
2. Season and weather
Going on a hike is highly impacted by the season and the weather prognosis. Some trails are not accessible in winter or early spring because they are covered in snow and ice and might be too dangerous to even try. If it’s summer and the weather is too hot, you shouldn’t walk in the sun in the middle of the day. You have to choose a hike that will be maybe covered in shade somewhat, or that can be done by noon so the heat can be avoided. The weather conditions are also very important because they define what clothes you need to wear, and what to carry in your backpack.
Some hikes start at far places. You have to make sure that some of you have an available vehicle to drive you there. Also, some hikes don’t have the same ending point as at the start. You might end up in a different location and you would have to either walk back or have somebody take you back to your car. Planning the hikes well will save you a lot of trouble later when you’re tired and just want to go home and take a shower.
4. What to bring with you?
The equipment for beginners and advanced hikers is more or less the same. No matter the distance, you have to make sure you’re protected and comfortable enough. These are some of the essentials that you have to bring on your hikes with you:
Navigation- the GPS on your phone might be enough, but for longer hikes, a map or compass might be helpful as well.
First aid kit- accidents happen and you better be prepared for it. If you’re hiking a city trail, or somewhere that it’s close to the city you can skip this step, but in all cases, it’s advised to have a first aid kit.
Water and food- plan your water and food quantities based on the length and difficulty of the hike, as well as the weather conditions.
Hiking poles- some hikers prefer walking with hiking poles. If it’s easier for you, then go ahead and take some with you.
Hiking shoes- the shoes are the most important item you can have on your hiking trip. If your shoes are not comfortable or too slippery, you can hurt yourself. There are many different choices of footwear. The choice should be made based on preference, and also taking into account the terrain of the hike.
Proper clothing- when it comes to clothing you have to have breathability in mind. Clothes that are quick-drying, moisture-wicking, and highly breathable. Cotton is a bad idea because it stays wet for longer periods. The layering depends on the weather conditions and the season in which you’re hiking. However, no matter the season it’s always good to carry a waterproof and windproof jacket that will come in handy in case of rain, storm, or snow.
Sun protection- you have to carry sunscreen and other sun-protective accessories like sunglasses, hats, long-sleeve shirts, etc. The sun is always stronger in the mountains, and you can get burned.
Backpack- a good hiking backpack is one of the necessities with hiking. All of these things that we mentioned will be carried in your backpack. The size of the backpack can be determined by the length of the hike. For shorter hikes, 15-20 liter backpacks are okay, but for longer 30 liters and bigger. Also, you have to pay attention to how comfortable the backpack is on your back because you will be carrying it the whole time.
To sum up, there goes more planning in hiking than it meets the eye. At least, if you're doing it properly. Going to the mountains unprepared is never a good idea. Once you're a hiking pro, you can take it to the next level and try trekking. If you're wondering what is the difference between hiking and trekking, read our "Trekking vs hiking: what's the difference" article.