6 tips for a successful first hike

We spend so much of our time cooped up indoors, hunched over in front of a computer, that sometimes, it literally hurts. Our bones and muscles begin to ache from the unnatural positions into which we force ourselves all day, every day. Any sort of physical strength we have feels like it’s getting sucked away by the pull and throes of technology — and this isn’t to say anything about our mental fortitude. Call me dramatic, but I sincerely think that when we lead a life that’s primarily indoors, our spirit suffers as a result.

So what’s the best way to rectify this situation? When you feel trapped, bogged down by technology, and tethered to a world comprised of four walls, cubicles, and horrible fluorescent lighting?

Easy: go for a hike.

Spending time outdoors each day, or even just some days each week, can do wonders for us. Not only can it have a noticeable effect on our physical health, but it can also seemingly work magic on our mental health, too.

Just like with anything though, getting started can be intimidating and a little off-putting. You’ve decided you want to go for a hike; ok, now what? Below, I’ll share in detail some tips to help you get started and to help you be well on your way for a successful first hike.

Here are some tips to help you have a successful first hike, one that will leave such an indelible impression on you that you’ll be coming back for more sooner rather than later:

Decide your parameters.

Before buying new gear or joining a hobby group devoted to hiking, decide on your parameters for your first hike. Will you be staying local, or will you be traveling somewhere? How long do you envision this first hike taking: an hour, a handful of hours, a day, a couple days? First narrowing down how much time you’ll have to spend on this adventure, as well as deciding exactly where said adventure will take place, can make the rest of your decision-making processes significantly easier.

Start researching.

Once you know your parameters, it’s time to jump headfirst into planning. See what’s out there that fits your parameters. Maybe you’ll want to go to a nearby park for your first foray, and you’ll want to go it alone. Perhaps you’ll want to join a group on an organized hike that’s on a bigger scale further afield. Taking a sufficient time to research can help you to feel more in control and more organized and can consequently help to make the planning process more fun and less tedious.

See what type of goods you’ll need.

After you know where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone for, you’ll be able to decide which types of “stuff” you need. If you’ve never done this type of thing before, you may discover that you don’t exactly have everything you need. Similarly, you may realize that you don’t even know what you need! Fear not. As you complete your research and planning for this hiking adventure, talk to hikers more experienced than you — either at local specialty stores or online — to get a feel for what you’ll need to be able to successfully cover your ground. It will be largely dependent on how long you’ll be gone for, the weather where you’ll be hiking, and the actual terrain of the earth you’ll be covering. You’ll still want to include some basics, too, of course — like food provisions, water, sun protection, and basic first aid — but the terrain and weather will dictate the more specialized hiking equipment you’ll need.

Practice with your hiking equipment.

Don’t wait until The Big Day to try your stuff out for the first time. It would be awful to learn partway through your hike that your shoes don’t fit very well, or that you’re having an allergic reaction to a sunscreen you’re using, or that a certain food makes you feel ill. Try all your stuff out before you leave — even if it’s just for a short period of time — and have a back-up plan in place should your original plan crumble.

Tell others of your plan.

When it’s finally go time, apprise others of your plans. Let them know where you’re going and about how long you expect to be gone, and share with them emergency contact info. Some hikers even carry some GPS-tracking devices when they’re gone for long periods of time so that family members can keep track of them from afar. Even if you’re carrying your cell phone with you, your reception and coverage may be poor in certain areas. Informing others who aren’t hiking with you of your intentions will help to allay their fears and can be potentially life-saving should something go awry.

Follow common sense safety precautions.

Finally, when you’re hiking, it’ll behoove you to follow common sense safety precautions. Always be sure to carry a sufficient amount of water with you (plus purifying/filtering agents, if need be). Know what to do in encounters with wildlife. Stay on well-traveled and marked paths. Don’t hike alone, or if you do, let others know of your plans so they know about when to expect you. Obey all local laws where you’re going. Though some of this sounds ridiculous to remind you of, every year hikers get into hot water because they make some silly mistakes that could have ended in far more deleterious circumstances. Don’t let that be you!

With these tips in mind, I have no doubt that you’ll soon be well on your way to a successful first hike. Who knows? Maybe what you discover about yourself out there in the wide open world will lead you to leaving behind the cubicle and fluorescent lights forever. Give yourself a chance, and see what’s out there waiting for you.

Thank you Jane, professional runner, who wrote this guest blog post for us.  She writes reviews and recommendations on Runnerclick, ThatSweetGift, NicerShoes and GearWeAre.

Jane Grates
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