Now that you have decided to start hiking – what do you need to know and do?
1. If you live in a city, check with your local Parks and Recreation Department or Tourism Centre to see where there might be trails. Many of these offer trail maps that show the various trails that are available for hiking in your area. They may even identify the level of difficulty – easy, moderate or strenuous. They will also often give distances.
2. If you are just getting started with hiking, start with easy or moderate trails to determine your level of fitness, as well as ability to negotiate various obstacles you may encounter on the trail. If you have health issues, check with your doctor before starting any hiking program.
3. When considering how far to hike, assume that the average person at a moderate pace will walk approximately 2.5 kms/hr. A brisk walking pace will be about 4 kms/hr, and a very fast pace will be about 6 kms/hr (for some this will be jogging). These will adjust up or down depending on whether you are walking on fairly flat terrain or on hilly terrain.
4. Footwear should fit snugly on your feet with no movement of your foot in your shoe/boot when you are walking. If your feet move in your shoes, you will certainly get blisters. If you feel a blister forming on your foot, stop immediately and cover it with a wide bandage (not a normal sized bandage you might use on a cut on your finger). Don’t pop the blisters as the liquid contained in them protects you from infection.
5. Let someone know where you are going, and when you expect to be back. In the event you get turned around, it will be much easier for someone to locate you later. Do not change your location without letting them know, as valuable time could be lost when searchers go to the wrong area.
6. If you are not sure about venturing out at the start, check to see if there is a local hiking club in your area, or whether you have friends that already hike and wouldn’t mind having you go along. There are often numerous people within an office building that would like to hike, and would prefer to hike with others as opposed to by themselves.
Some suggested websites to check out for ideas or things going on in your area – there are many more of course
Maine and Eastern Canada – http://www.gonewengland.org/hikebbc.htm
Get Out There – http://www.getouttheremag.com/index.php – Canadian Magazine for endurance sports, outdoor recreation and adventure
Outdoor Adventure Canada – http://www.outdooradventurecanada.com/ – A web-based magazine with a lot of very good information and ideas
Children and Nature Network -inspired by “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv – has links to clubs where organized hikes and outings are available. http://www.childrenandnature.org/
What to wear
- Loose fitting clothing to allow movement.
- Shirts can be cotton for a short day hike, but if you have shirts made of polyester or merino wool (Icebreaker) they work better as they wick moisture away from your body and dry very quickly. They also don’t absorb sweat so they will not smell by the end of the day.
- Shorts or pants are good for day hikes. I have a pair of nylon pants (North Face and Columbia make good ones) that have a feature that converts them to shorts by undoing the zippers at each knee, and removing the lower half of the pant leg. Not necessary maybe, but a handy item to have.
- Shoes / boots must be comfortable and should be worn in advance of any hiking to “break” them in. This makes sure that they fit your feet well, and will lessen the chance of getting blisters from stiff footwear. If you have boots, the ones that go past your ankles are better as they give ankle support, especially on rougher trails. If they are waterproof, this is a plus, and if not you can waterproof most boots using a Fabric and Leather Proof sponge-on waterproofing. Leather boots work very well once waterproofed, but take a fair bit of time to break in. Boots with Gortex are one of the best for waterproofing, but the cost can be prohibitive.
- Socks should not be cotton. These absorb moisture, causing your feet to stay damp or wet in your boots, which will lead to blisters and sore feet quickly. Purchase a good pair of light socks that are polyester material and have a second pair over them that are designed for hiking (again usually made of polyester or merino wool). These will keep your feet drier and are well worth the investment.
- Your hat can be a baseball cap or something else that is comfortable that stays put on your head if it gets windy. It will keep the sun off your head and provide protection for your face as well. While a baseball cap will keep some rain off you, it will not keep the rain from running down your neck.
- It is always worth taking a jacket along on any hike, as you do not control the weather. Rain storms can come up suddenly, and a good rainjacket will be welcome if that happens. Check when you purchase a rainjacket as many will say water resistant and not waterproof. Water resistant jackets will keep a light rain or drizzle off you for a short period of time, but any extended amount of rain will soak through it. A raincoat with Gortex will keep you very dry in any amount of rain, but make sure it has zippers under the arms (pit zips) to let some of the moisture from sweat out. Otherwise you will get damp under the jacket. Make sure it has a hood, as this will prevent rain from running down your neck and back. Maybe it doesn’t need to be said, but umbrellas or ponchos are not very practical for hiking – even day hikes.
- Depending on how long your hike may be, rain pants are a nice to have. Water running off your raincoat will soak your pants otherwise. Use the same advice as above to determine how much water proofing you wish to have.
What to Bring
1. A day pack is handy to have on a hike, as it leaves your hands free in the event you trip and fall, and it will handle any of the gear you need for the day as outlined below.
2. 1 or 2 bottles of water
3. snacks such as granola bars, granola, fruit leather, jerky, cheese, crackers
4. lunch (unless carrying an ice pack avoid using mayo or chicken as heat can cause foodborn bacteria)
7. map of the trails you are on
8. raincoat or wet weather gear
9. whistle (in the event you get lost)
10. matches and some paper (again if you get lost you may need a fire)
11. first aid supplies
12. insect repellant depending on season
13. tweezers if there are ticks in your area
14. cell phone for emergencies if you are in an area with coverage
15. Hat and sunscreen
That is about it – determine where you are going, pack you lunch, water, snacks and gear, let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back – and have fun.