How to Enjoy the Trail
Hiking seems to be a divisive issue. For some people, it seems like nothing could be simpler – they seem to glide up mountains and through deserts with no effort and nothing but a smile on their face. For the rest of us, it may not come so easily. For those who are just getting started, the technicalities in the hiking world can seem like Latin, and even small hikes can feel like treks through the Mojave. Learning any sport takes time, and no matter how experienced you are, there are always new things to learn. In this article, we’ll go over five simple tips for hikers of all levels to make their trips more comfortable – no matter where they go.
#1: Stay Hydrated
This first tip might seem like a no-brainer to some, but we think it’s important enough to mention again – and in detail. We all know that the human body is made up largely of water – but a lot of people don’t realize just how much water we actually lose each day.
Even when we aren’t exercising, we lose water through our natural bodily processes, like sweating and going to the bathroom, and it’s essential to get that water back. When we exercise, it becomes that much more important to hydrate to maintain the delicate balances of our body’s functions.
Hydration while hiking requires two considerations: bringing enough water and drinking enough water. A good rule for most climates is that you’ll want to drink about 2 liters per person, per day. If you’re a large person, expect to be exercising strenuously, or in a hot climate, increase that amount of water. Actually drinking the water you bring is the next step. Don’t be afraid to stop regularly to drink – you’ll look a lot less cool with severe dehydration than you will stopping to take a sip of water.
#2: Hike at Your Own Pace
This next tip is especially relevant for new hikers or slower hikers. While some people start hiking just to enjoy their surroundings, many of us have the desire to push ourselves, mentally, physically, or both. It can be very exciting to test your physical limits, explore new surroundings, and reach new heights – but it’s not worth it to get injured or cause an accident.
Similarly, many people hike socially. Hiking with your friends and family can be one of the best ways to bond, and it’s an incredible way to stay active while staying social. However, you need to keep in mind that everyone’s body is different. If your hiking companions are outpacing you to a point where it’s uncomfortable or even painful for you to keep up – speak up! Your health is much more important than the speed of the group, and group members pushing too hard is a common cause of trail accidents and injuries.
#3: Don’t Hike Outside Your Experience
This next tip relates to the last, but it includes a few more factors to consider. Hiking is a very subjective sport. What one person might consider a breeze could be very challenging for another. Likewise, a trail that one person considers strenuous, another person might use as their warm-up. You are the only one who truly knows what your capacity is going to be for a given trail – so use that information to your advantage.
When picking a new trail or deciding whether to join a group, consider your experience. For instance, have you hiked in the snow before? Have you hiked at high altitudes? If you’re jumping into something new, make sure you feel prepared for it, and your companions know that it’s your first time. You’ll feel better knowing that you prepared for the unexpected, and you’ll be able to enjoy much more of what the trail has to offer – rather than being anxious, worn out, or in over your head.
#4: Hike with A Buddy
We’ve mentioned it a few times above, but maybe the best way to make hiking more comfortable is to bring along a friend. Hiking socially is not only a great way to socialize – but a great way to hike! Companionship allows you to distract from tough parts of the trail, commiserate on unexpected let-downs, celebrate successes, and appreciate the beauty of nature together. Friends can point out interesting sights you may not have noticed, help you find the trail, and so much more.
If you don’t have a go-to hiking buddy, don’t despair! Most cities and towns have groups for hiking where people can meet – and many are separated by fitness level or by interests, like birdwatching, professions, other hobbies, religious groups or relationship status. If you prefer to keep the talking to a minimum, consider adopting a dog, instead – check out this list of the best hiking dog breeds for the low-down on man’s best friend on the trail.
#5: Wear the Right Clothes
Our final tip might seem like an obvious one, but it can actually be pretty tricky. Finding the right clothes can be difficult – and seemingly expensive – for hikers, but having the right gear is one of the best ways to maximize your comfort, safety, and performance on the trail.
The biggest piece of your hiking wardrobe and the one that gets the most attention are your hiking socks and boots. Nowadays there are a ton of footwear options, from fully-waterproof mountaineering boots to minimalist water shoes, and it can be hard to know what to buy. There are plenty of more in-depth guides out there, but here are some general tips:
- In cold weather, you want waterproof shoes or boots
- In snow or rain, you want high-topped boots
- In the desert or other warm climates, more minimal, breathable, or sandal-like shoes are probably a better bet
- All shoes should have good arch and ankle support on any uneven terrain
- Pair your boots with a good pair of hiking socks made from merino wool, or synthetic material that manages moisture and prevents blisters
While your footwear and socks are important, your clothes are, too. Cotton and denim are just fine for casual, short hikes, but these materials don’t stay warm when wet, don’t wick away sweat, and can start to chafe after a long day. Consider investing in some technical gear – shirts, pants, shorts, and jackets – to make sure you stay dry, warm, cool, and comfortable wherever you go.
These five tips are some of the simplest ways to stay comfy on the trail – regardless of your experience and fitness level. Try them out, and let us know how they work for you!