Here’s if hiking is for everyone
Is hiking for everyone? There’s no reason it can’t be. Not all hiking involves days of arduous terrain, camping in all weather, and trekking to the middle of the wilderness. Getting started in hiking need only involve day trips, or part of a day, and places not far from the comforts of home.
A broad spectrum exists between beginner on a day walk and a month-long trip through high mountain trails. But regardless of difficulty level, hiking is open to almost everyone. Once bitten by the hiking bug, people find it refreshing, invigorating, adventurous, and even cathartic.
What is the point of hiking?
Exercise, exploration, fresh air, and connection with nature are just three reasons, but there are others that I will explore later in this article. Hiking attracts those with daring, spirited temperaments, but it also attracts the casual walker wishing to enjoy the glories of the great outdoors. It provides a refreshing, invigorating escape from mundane routines of modern life and modern convenience.
Is hiking boring?
Whether you think hiking is boring depends on you. Sometimes it can be challenging, but there is no need to push to extremes if you are just starting out. Shorter routes that don’t involve overnight camping are a great way to begin, and with moderate terrain, you don’t need to be super-fit either.
Greater levels of physical fitness are required for tougher routes over many days, but this isn’t something for beginners. It is best to start small and gradually build up to the more arduous hiking expeditions. You don’t need to be particularly fit to walk smaller trails.
Is hiking difficult?
Not all hiking involves arduous thirty-mile daily walks over a protracted period. Some simply enjoy a good long walk over one day, and not necessarily over particularly challenging terrain. A hike across Dartmoor is substantially different from a month backpacking in the Himalayas.
To start hiking you don’t need to have spent months in the gym. All that is required is to get up and go! Again, start small, and gradually increase in your own time and at your own pace. In this way, you will gradually build up the fitness required for more strenuous, limit-pushing routes. But there is no need to push for extremes if you prefer to keep things simple.
However, for more challenging routes, it’s worth noting that long hiking expeditions requires careful planning. Guidebooks and the internet provide plenty of information, and you should meticulously research your route and itinerary. It is important to let at least one person know exactly where you are going, and tell them your planned route. For more these tougher hikes, and especially for hiking when camping is involved, it isn’t advisable to go alone. But again – if this doesn’t appeal, then by all means stick to easier walks.
Is hiking expensive?
At a beginner’s level, no. For short, low-level walks on moderate terrain, a simple pair of trainers can be fine. However, over time, as you take to more challenging routes, you’ll almost certainly want to invest in a good pair of walking boots.
A good pair of boots will set you back about $150 on average. But they are a very worthwhile investment. Wearing these boots, your feet will be better protected, especially over rockier paths and during longer walks.
If you continue to hike, and find yourself bitten with the bug, wanting to plan longer journeys over several days, that is the point at which you will need to invest in additional equipment. This outlay can be costly, but again, the investment is well worth it in the long run, if you want to move on to more challenging hiking adventures.
In addition to the $150 for the boots, you’ll need a good rucksack, which is at least another $150. A decent tent means forking out $250 on average. It all adds up, and before long, you’re looking at the wrong end of about $1500. This cost rises significantly the longer the trip (taking into account food resupply, and so forth), but this gear can be purchased gradually, over several months.
Some items can be bought second-hand or borrowed, and it isn’t absolutely necessary to buy everything I discuss in this article. For example, if you aren’t climbing precipitous mountainous terrain, you won’t need ropes, carabiners, etc.
See related: How Much Backpacking Guides Make
Essential hiking investments
What is required for investment in more difficult hiking rather depends on whether you are planning to hike for one day or for longer. As such, I’ve divided this list into two sections. The first section is for day hiking only, so doesn’t detail gear needed for camping and so forth.
These should ideally be leather, waterproof, and provide good support for your feet. It is important to wear these before you go hiking, otherwise, they could prove painful if they haven’t been worn in a little. If necessary, add insoles, and experiment a little with very short local walks, before heading off on anything more ambitious.
It is vital to be prepared for all kinds of weather. Rigorous walking means you will sweat, but at night, especially at high altitudes, you can freeze. For this reason, the three-layer principle is vital: Base, Insulation, and Outer.
- Base – The base layer is worn next to the skin, keeping it protected and dry. Should be lightweight and easy to dry. Cotton is to be avoided as it doesn’t dry quickly.
- Insulation – This layer traps air, keeping warm air in and cold air out. It also manages moisture from the base year through absorption and letting excess escape through fibres. More than one layer can be used in colder conditions.
- Outer – In good weather, fleecy hoodies and trousers or shorts are a good outer layer. However, it is important to be prepared for changes in weather, so pack clothing that provides protection from wind, rain, snow, hail, and so forth. Typically the outer layers need to be waterproof or water-resistant, durable, quick to dry, and ideally breathable. I recommend avoiding denim, as it is incredibly difficult to dry in inclement weather. Waterproof trousers, as well as coats, are a must.
Gloves, scarves, and hats are recommended for anywhere cold (for example in mountains).
Depending on how many days you intend to hike, spare/extra clothing is vital.
You don’t want to be stuck in the wilderness dealing with sunburn. Sun cream, a cap, and sunglasses can prove vital to keep you from degenerating into a crispy-fried amateur hiker.
First Aid Kit
Whilst you don’t need the contents of a hospital, it is important to bring bandages, medical tape, antiseptic cream, antiseptic wipes, pain killers, tweezers, and safety pins. You might also want to consider an anti-diarrhoea for longer journeys, in the event of food poisoning or the like. A penknife or multitool with a knife, plus an emergency blanket are also vital, along with a headlamp if first aid needs to be applied in darkness. Spare batteries are a must as well.
A large rucksack with plenty of space in the main compartment and extra pocket space is vital. A dedicated section for water storage is advisable.
Water supplies are vital, so plan these carefully. If on anything longer than a one-day hike, plan where you will refurbish water supplies, and bring appropriate water bottles. Plan to carry at least one litre of water per day.
A thermos or other form of insulated drink storage is recommended for cold weather.
Water purification tablets can also be useful if replenishing water from streams in remote areas.
Take plenty of food, energy bars, chocolate, and dried fruits. Eat regularly, and with longer hikes, plan where you can resupply.
Take a spare mobile phone with a full battery, but keep it switched off unless you need it.
Bring a compass and maps if you’re old school. Or if you prefer modern gadgets, a hiking GPS or GPS watch is invaluable. An altimeter can be handy as well, depending on the nature of the hike.
These can be useful for putting over a backpack in the event of rain.
Walking poles, harness, rope, carabiner
These can be useful if ascending steep, exposed, mountainous terrain.
Packing as light as possible is advised, but other items such as tissues, mosquito or tick repellent can be very handy. If you want to take hobby-related items such as a camera or binoculars, by all means do so, but bear in mind the overall weight of the rucksack, and don’t overpack.
Finally, make sure you pack receptacles for removing any litter, keeping the countryside clean for other explorers.
Five additional investments for hikes longer than a day
A good tent that is easy to assemble, and easy to pack to a convenient size for your rucksack.
A warm sleeping bag is vital, and again it needs to be easy to pack and easy to store in your rucksack. Consider hand warmers in your sleeping bag.
A gas-powered stove is great for all-important hot drinks and cooking hot meals.
Camping pots and cutlery
Several compact versions of these, designed for camping, are available. You’ll also need a lighter and ideally waterproof matches.
These can be extremely useful for drying equipment or yourself.
Conclusion: Seven reasons people love hiking
Hiking is a wonderful pastime that can be enjoyed at all levels: beginner, intermediate, and expert. But what is the appeal? Here are seven reasons to consider giving hiking a go.
Hiking provides great exercise, but that doesn’t mean you have to be ludicrously fit to start with. All a beginner needs to do is leave their house and walk. That said, the more you walk, the fitter you’ll get. At a more challenging level hiking can be a great work-out, especially if it involves a lot of uphill or steep climbing.
Connecting with nature
The chance to experience fresh, clean air, and enjoy woodlands, grasslands, moors, rocky mountain slopes, lakes, and other remote locations provides a tremendous getaway from the hustle and bustle of urban life. The pleasant twitter of birdsong, the rushing of a brook, or the vast silence of the wilderness provides a wonderful human reconnection with nature, and reminds us how we are a part of it, not above it.
Freedom in isolation
The isolation of the untouched countryside provides a profound sense of freedom in isolation that is hugely attractive to the introvert wanting to enjoy beautiful scenery in respectful, contemplative silence. At the same time, for the extrovert, a time alone in the wilderness with a close friend or friends can provide a bonding experience they never forget.
In the same way, runners speak of “runner’s high” after pushing past a certain pain barrier, a similar release of endorphins can result for dedicated, experienced hikers who push through the upward slog of difficult, uphill terrain, leading to an exhilarating, extraordinary high. This “burn” has also been cited as cathartic in processing and dealing with trauma. But again – I stress, not all hiking need be this arduous.
Mountaineers often give “because it’s there” as a reason for climbing difficult peaks. That reason also applies to hikers exploring the trails in the great outdoors. Overcoming the challenge of a difficult hiking route has its own reward, but the process itself is what many hikers most love.
On rare occasions, hikers end up being the first person to ever set foot in an undiscovered area. The excitement around such hiking requires no explanation, but obviously, some exploration of this kind can be dangerous (for example, ascending unconquered mountain peaks).
Perhaps the most esoteric reason people are attracted to hiking is that it can involve a process of spiritual growth, of finding oneself, of rebirth in the wilderness. Hikers have been known to experience profound epiphanies about who they are, their purpose, and their priorities when disconnected from cities, technology, and modern conveniences. With the cacophony of media and other distractions silenced, there is room for such contemplation.