New to hiking? Here’s what you need to know

Hiking fulfills one of the deepest human needs to explore one’s surroundings. As one of the oldest forms of adventure sport, hiking requires physical fitness and a will to explore uncharted territory. Here is a list of things you need to get into hiking and enjoy the experience.

Keep your feet happy

Take good care of your feet. Everyone has different feet. High arches, flat or wide feet. What works for one person, may not be suitable for the next. A good hiking shoe will allow your foot to bend and flex naturally as you walk, and a waterproof exterior.

 

 

Wear shoes you’ve worn before so you aren’t dealing with areas that can form blisters from new shoe stiffness. You don’t need a big hiking boot if you are just doing shorter hikes at the local parks. Tennis shoes will do just fine. If you will be going on a multi-day hiking trip, a pair of backpacking boots works well.

Whatever type of outdoor footwear you decide to use, be sure they are going to be comfortable. You don’t want to get 5 or 10 miles into the hike only to find out that you have developed a nasty blister and can hardly walk.

Wear merino wool hiking socks–Wool is a great fabric for wicking moisture away from your foot, which will lessen the chance of blisters forming. Good hiking sock needs to be thick and very hard wearing with terrific thermal properties. Good hiking socks should also have thickened areas around the toe, ankle and heel as these are the area that will get the most wear.

 

 

When you try on the shoe with a sock, it should feel like a house slipper with a firm fit, but very cozy. You will know when you feel it. Once you’ve found the right fit, your whole body will thank you, your outdoor adventures will feel so much better!

Find a good backpack

With comfortable shoulder straps, and easy-to-get-to pockets, a good backpack will fit on your body well. Make sure that your backpack can stand the forces of nature. A backpack has a lot of space will let you have enough room to fit everything you need. Day packs are easy to find almost anywhere these days, so go to your local gear store and try one on.

Water and Food

Take two or three liters of water with you for half a day hiking. Don’t even think of starting on a hike that takes you more than a mile from home without a bottle of water along. If you run out of water, you have only a day or so to figure out a solution. Some people like bottles, some people like hydration bladders. If you are hiking, you are losing moisture and you need to replenish it. Drink water as often as possible, because if you are thirsty on a hike, you are already dehydrated. You can live 3 days without water.

A day hike requires simple, tasty, cold snacks. Pack prepackaged, non-refrigerated food for snacks, like summer sausage, crackers, fruit cups, energy bars, etc. You can also take fresh veggies or fruit and they shouldn’t suffer too much. It’s a good idea to eat a meal before you get out, but always take snacks. Multi-day hikes require much more planning and preparation than a simple day hike.

 

 

Clothing

Use sunblock, wear long sleeves, wear a hat, and bring along a rain jacket when it’s necessary. Once you’ve used some convertible hiking pants, you’ll wonder how you ever hiked without them. There are so many clothing items now available for outdoor activities; find the right things and wear them in layers that you can remove as you get warmer during the hike. The perfect, pack-able way to stay warm in the high altitudes of Montana is to wear fleece jackets. Cotton doesn’t work very well, as it can get damp and stay that way next to your body.

Hiking poles

You may or may not use it. They enhance your stability and support on all types of terrain. Your hips, knees, and ankles take a lot of pressure over the course of a hike. Your key considerations for trekking poles should be weight, price, shock absorption, shaft construction and the type of grip. If you have lower joint issues, hiking poles can add comfort and enhance the enjoyment of a hike–and lessen the soreness after the hike is over.

This seems like a lot of information to share with a first-time hiker, but after getting out on a few hikes, this will all be very routine and just part of the prep for a great day outside.

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