Ah, the joys of hiking … scenic views, beautiful mountain air, communing with nature, and a great form of exercise. But beware the pitfalls: swarms of bugs, dehydration, uncomfortable chafing, twisted ankles, and did I mention bear attacks? Don’t worry we’ve got your covered with the do’s and don’ts of hiking.
Bug Spray and Sunscreen are your friends. You’ve got ’em, use ’em, or you’ll pay the price. You’ll be outside for hours and even if you’re walking in shaded areas plenty of sunlight will get through. Also, if you’re not used to hiking, be prepared to walk into swarms of bugs somewhat regularly (they tend to be in shady spots). I’ve eaten more than a few bugs this way by not paying attention. Bug repellent is necessary during, say, black fly season (July) in New Hampshire.
Use a good backpack. Once you’ve taken a day hike or two and you know you’d like to do this more often, get a good day pack and, if you’re really going for it, get a separate overnight pack. Make sure it’s constructed well and has lots of pockets. You need to carry a decent amount of gear on you, even for a simple day hike, so make sure the straps are comfy and the weight distributes properly along your spine.
Buy real hiking boots. Boots will protect your feet from the rigors of hiking, particularly on the descent when you’re pounding down onto rocks. Their soles are designed for rocks and inclines so that you’ll have a much easier time sticking onto a ledge then you will in sneakers.
Stay hydrated. You are working pretty hard when you’re hiking; you’re moving uphill, you’re carrying extra weight on your body, it’s quite a bit of work. Make sure you have plenty of water to stay hydrated. Drink before you leave and drink continuously as you hike. Take lots of breaks and keep sipping.
Bring a lot of food. It is very strenuous to hike. You will burn a ton of calories. The average 150 pound person will burn 535 calories per hour doing mountains and hills. You’re going to need a lot of trail mix!
Look at the map before you go. Make sure you have a good map and study it before you begin hiking. It’s not fun to be tired and lost in the woods trying to figure out if it’s the white dot trail or the skyline trail that leads back to the parking lot. Have an idea if you’re going to ascend or descend on the same trails.
Bring friends and family. It’s so much fun to go tramping through the woods! You’ll meet lots of friendly people (hikers are a particularly friendly bunch) and you can have great conversations as you walk around for several hours. Teamwork is required and you can really create or enhance some nice family/friend bonds.
If anyone else has some links to add, please do! What was your favorite hike? Mine was the first time I climbed Mt. Washington in NH.