Hiking in nature isn’t just good for your body – it’s also good for your mental health. Research shows that just a 50-minute walk in nature can improve your mood, decrease anxiety and even improve your memory. While you may not be able to hike every day, it’s a great way to keep your walking routine fresh and interesting over time.
Hiking definitely does present its own challenges. You’re more exposed to the elements, you may need to take more with you and you can’t simply head back home in a minute or two. For those of you who are interested in hiking, here’s how to have a fun and safe experience while hiking:
1) Drink water:
The first rule of hiking: Hydrate. That means drinking more water not only during the hike but also in the days leading up to it. Many problems that new hikers experience, including feeling tired or weak, can be due to dehydration. Once you become dehydrated, it’s very difficult to hydrate quickly. Avoid this problem by drinking water proactively!
2) Carry water:
Speaking of water, you’ll need plenty of it! Water is essential, so you’ll need to find a good, comfortable way to carry your water with you. Hydration bladders can provide an easy way to bring water, and allow you to drink without stopping. You can simply carry a water bottle, but often it’s more convenient or easy to get a special bottle that clips to your bag or attaches to your gear.
3) Wear the right footwear:
What you wear on your feet is going to determine how easy and comfortable your hike will be. If your feet aren’t comfortable, you’re very likely to have a bad experience. Good footwear can allow you to walk for miles and miles. A good pair of sneakers works fine as long as you’re hiking on a simple trail. For more advanced trails, you may want to invest in lightweight hiking boots. If you’re hiking in a wet area or an area with frequent rain, waterproof or water-resistant boots are a must. You don’t want to hike on soggy feet!
Don’t forget the socks either. To avoid blisters, don’t wear cotton socks. Experienced hikers recommend wool socks. They last longer and breathe well.
For more info on walking shoes specifically, check out this post.
4) Keep in communication:
Being able to maintain communication is extremely important, even if you’re going on a short hike. While you may not need to connect to the wider world, if you do find yourself in any type of peril you’ll be glad you have the ability. If you happen to get lost or injured (which can happen even on short hikes), the ability to get help is crucial!
If you’re going to be out of cell phone service range, you may want to look into a locator beacon or satellite messenger. Outdoor Gear Lab shares some options here. You can also use Pacer’s Routes Live Tracking feature to share your location with friends or loved ones in case you get lost or stuck.
Make sure to use your Pacer Pedometer app to record your steps and elevation climbed along the way!
5) Carry a pack:
Bring a daypack so you can carry important items with you. If you’re going to buy one specifically for hiking, look for an option that has waist and chest straps. These make carrying the pack more comfortable by distributing the load. A water bottle side pocket or bladder compartment makes it easier to carry your water. Carry your water, snacks and more with you in your pack.
If you’re going to be hiking any significant distance, make sure to bring a snack with you. Trail mix or a piece of fruit can be a good way to refuel along the trail. If you’re going to be going on a long hike, you can try taking a granola or energy bar with you. Dry snacks can make you feel thirsty, so bring extra water! You can also get energy gels which are easy to carry and can give you a quick burst of energy.
Make sure you don’t throw out your trash on the trail! Bring a small trash bag with you so that you can collect any trash and put it back in your bag to throw out later.
7) Miscellaneous gear:
A good pack allows you to carry all of the other items you may want to use during the hike. These include a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, band-aids and even bug spray. Bug spray is very important depending on the area and season!
You don’t want to overpack, as a heavy bag will limit your hiking range. Taking some extra items just in case can really make your hike more enjoyable.
8) Be ready for the weather:
Check the weather forecast before you go hiking. Rain can be a big problem on long hikes, so make sure you’re outfitted for wet weather if there’s a chance of rain. Dressing in layers is always a good bet, as you can remove some if it gets too hot. Just make sure you have space in your pack to carry clothes you have to take off. Cotton clothes tend to absorb water, so look for clothes that wick water away.
If you’re going on a long (or steep/dangerous) hike, consider postponing your hike if the weather may be dangerous. If you get stuck out during a thunderstorm or other weather event, your chance of injury or getting lost can increase. Safety is most important, so if you’re unsure about the weather, just go another day!
9) Choose the right trail:
Choose the right trail for a more enjoyable hike. Your trail should be one that matches your skill level. If you don’t have a local reference or recommendations from friends, Gaia is a paid app that has hiking trail maps worldwide. Cairn and All Trails are other free options to try. A good list of hiking navigation apps is available at Hike & Cycle. And, when traveling around the world, check out the Trails Atlas at the World Trails Network.
10) Find a local hiking group:
Find a local hiking group to find hiking partners and hiking routes in your area. When just starting out, it can be very helpful to go with experienced hikers. They can tell you what to bring, give you tips and help you have a better hike. Hiking together is also much safer, and can be a super fun experience!
We’re also creating “Pacer Outdoors,” a global walking, health and wellness community. Pacer Outdoors provides unforgettable, fun, safe hikes for walking and hiking enthusiasts. Check out the latest Beijing Hiking Events organized by Pacer Outdoors.
11) Safety First
Safety, whether on the street or the trail, should be your most important consideration. Don’t hike alone, and make sure you have a way to contact others if anything goes wrong. Take enough water and snacks with you in case you can’t completely your hike as quickly as you expect. When in doubt, carry safety gear with you (night visibility gear, walking sticks or gear, communication devices etc).
You can find walking safety tips on the Pacer Blog. Some of the night walking safety tips and gear apply well to hiking, including headlamps and other gear.
There is a ton of information online on the benefits of hiking. Take 5 minutes, and you’ll see what we’re talking about. Here’s a great place to start!
If you’re thinking about hiking, just get started! There are many benefits to this easy-to-start hobby. Get outside and drink in the scenery around you.
If you haven’t downloaded the Pacer app yet, download Pacer for free (on mobile)! You can also check out our website (mobile or desktop) or follow our blog for more great walking and healthy lifestyle tips.