If lounging in the sun or dragging your heels around a theme park isn’t your idea of holiday heaven there’s every chance you might be happier slipping into a pair of boots and setting out on a hiking trip. Hiking holidays offer a combination of exercise and sightseeing that other vacations just can’t touch, and wherever you are in the world there are guaranteed to be excellent hiking opportunities suitable for beginners and experts alike. Before setting off, however, there are some very important things to remember. Such as…
You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete or a seasoned explorer to go hiking, but basic fitness is essential. You should already be walking or running regularly, and if your planned trip involves walking significant distances daily you should build up to this in the preceding weeks, so that it won’t come as too much of a shock. It’s also important to remember the terrain in which you’ll be hiking. Walking 4 or 5 miles around a fairly level park is very different to walking the same distance up a steep hill, so factor this into your fitness regime.
We shouldn’t need to point this out, but good quality outdoor gear is one of the most-if not the most-important things to remember. The expected weather is a major factor here, as you won’t want to carry any unnecessarily heavy clothing. Your jacket should be lightweight, waterproof and windproof, but the density of it will depend entirely on local conditions. Most importantly of all, you should invest in the appropriate footwear. Sandals, sneakers and high heels are not appropriate! Hiking boots should have thick soles and padding, be completely waterproof, and most important of all should fit comfortably. And remember to wear them as often as possible before the trip to get used to them and “break them in”. Similarly, if you’re hiking and camping make sure that you’re comfortable with the size and weight of your pack.
As we’ve already said, you should pack light, and not take anything you’ll never need, but some items are indispensable. A basic travel sewing kit, multipurpose knife and first aid kit with dressings and painkillers are all portable and, in case of emergencies, a very sensible addition to your pack. Cellphones may enjoy greater coverage now than ever before, but they break easily and run on batteries, unlike the more “old school” compass and whistle. Both items are compact and lightweight, and can literally save lives if things don’t quite go to plan! If you’re lucky enough to have good weather wherever you’re going, remember to pack sunblock. It’s easy to forget you’re catching the sun when hiking, but without sunblock you’ll burn just as surely as if you were lying on a beach!
Know Your Route
Most hiking destinations will offer a number of trails, some harder than others. It’s wise to choose the trail you intend to follow well in advance, and familiarize yourself with it as best you can. Make sure you have the appropriate maps, and if possible read up on your route. Look online for personal accounts of the trail you’re following, as these can often provide the useful and specific tips and pointers that more general guides might miss.
Pack Some Snacks
…Though not just any old snacks will do. We’re not talking about a tube of Pringles and a bag of M&Ms, here! You should take high energy snack bars to give you a boost along the way, and preferably anything that offers a slow release of energy rather than a quick hit. High sugar snacks are great for short bursts, but can leave you sluggish soon after. Similarly, anything doughy should be avoided altogether. Seeds, nuts and oats-based snack-bars are better, and there are countless brands to choose from, so find the one that suits you best.
David Llewellyn is a writer based in the UK.