© Photo by Jake Melara on Unsplash
Hiking is an enjoyable outdoor activity suitable for people of many different ages, skill levels, and interests. But beginners in particular should make sure that they are adequately prepared to avoid unpleasant surprises and injuries.
Going on a hike is a special type of physical activity. Unless you are participating in hiking races or competing against others, it is generally a very slow-paced form of exercise. As such, it is uniquely suited to not only keep you fit but also to calm your mind.
At first glance, hiking can seem very straightforward. Just throw on a pair of shoes and off you go! And this is actually fine if all you intend to do is an extended afternoon walk along the Moselle. However, if you are planning to dip your toes into something a bit more "serious", such as a one-day hike or perhaps even a multi-day trekking adventure, you should make sure that your preparation matches your ambition.
First off, DO bring plenty of water, food, and sun protection. This is one of those tips that sounds obvious, but it is surprisingly easy to underestimate what you might need, particularly when it comes to longer activities, such as hiking. Of course, you should avoid overpacking as well, but when it comes to water, food, and SPF, you should double-check that you have enough with you. For water, the rule of thumb is one litre of water per hour that you'll be hiking plus a little extra for emergencies. When it comes to sun protection, use plenty of sunscreen and reapply it frequently.
DON'T hike alone unless you are (very) familiar with the area and know it is safe. If you injure yourself, having another person around you could save your life. This is especially important if you intend to hike in more remote places, such as forests or mountains. As an added precaution, inform at least one person where you are going and when you expect to return.
As far as your hiking outfit is concerned, DO dress in layers in case the weather changes or you get sweaty while hiking. When going on a hike, adaptability is essential. Wearing clothes that can be easily added or removed is the best way to achieve this. If it's warm, remove a layer; if it's cold, put one on. Even if you predict dry weather, bring a rain jacket and warm clothing in case of sudden temperature changes. Consider buying a pair of trousers that can be converted into shorts by unzipping the legs.
Whatever you do, DON'T forget that hiking is primarily walking, so treat your feet well. If you're going on a longer hike, or perhaps several days of hiking, use deer tallow cream to prepare your feet ahead of time. Apply it many times a day for a few days before your hike to create a protective film on your skin.
You also should never underestimate the importance of good footwear – a bad blister can easily ruin a trip. Hiking requires you to be continually on the move, with your feet bearing the majority of your weight. As a result, you should ensure that they are protected by high-quality footwear that will help protect against ankle sprains, which are common when hiking in uneven terrain. If you purchase new hiking boots, make sure to break them in ahead of time. Avoid hiking in sandals or any type of open-toed shoe.
DO leave no trace and be mindful of the environment. It should go without saying that you should not litter or otherwise harm the environment when hiking. Keep an eye out for wildlife and avoid approaching any animals. If you come across any wild animals, slowly back away so they can move on their own.
Avoid trampling on any vegetation, and if you must deviate off the track for whatever reason, do so with caution. Unfortunately, walking on saplings or trampling plants can easily harm vulnerable ecosystems.
Finally, DON'T be afraid to turn back when conditions are hazardous. If you notice that a storm is brewing, put your safety first and cancel the hike. If you are caught in a storm, or if you are too far into your hike to turn back, it is best to seek shelter. However, if you must continue hiking, be sure to use your common sense and do not take unnecessary risks. If there is lightning in the area, don't stand near tall trees or other objects that could conduct electricity. If rain begins falling from above, don't stand directly under a tree or other overhang – instead find cover elsewhere. Remember that you do not have to prove anything to anyone and when in doubt, err on the side of caution.