Perhaps you view hiking as easy or a “piece of cake” as some would say. Put on some boots, shorts and a shirt and off you go. How hard can it be? Well, walking is not necessarily the same thing as hiking. Ask any experienced hiker.
Now, some hikes may very well be that easy and those hikes should be. Not all hikes need to be a three or four day venture in the mountains, or navigating through forests or across streams and rivers. It is perfectly fine to just want some fresh air and exercise in nature’s surroundings.
But, if you want to expand your hiking there are some things you should consider in preparation.
An outdoor vacation such as hiking tours does not necessarily fit the “vacation” definition as other vacations may. Yes, you will enjoy yourself but do not approach hiking vacations in the same manner you would a vacation to the Caribbean.
First, you will want to get in shape. Try taking brief, more level hikes in your local area to prepare yourself for the longer hikes. If your lifestyle is fairly sedentary, you will want to slowly build your endurance for the more rigorous hikes. Pain is a top reason why many do not stick to an exercise plan, and that pain is often caused by doing too much too soon.
Obviously, your legs will bear most of the initial burden during the hike, but many muscles are involved actually. Begin preparing yourself with some daily leg squats and thrusts to strengthen your lower muscle groups.
Try to hike with at least one partner unless you are very familiar with the area and it is not a challenging terrain. It is especially important to not hike alone if you are in a new, unfamiliar travel destination. Even for the experienced hiker, signing up for hiking tours in the new area can help familiarize you with the terrain before venturing out on your own. The last thing you want is to get lost in an unfamiliar area.
GPS units and other tools can help, but keep in mind that not all GPS units function in all areas. Also, GPS units will not help if you become ill or injure yourself.
Avoid drinking water from creeks or streams. They may be “natural” sources of water but they are more likely than not full of bacteria, animal waste and other unhealthy toxins even if not man-made pollutants.
Stay on clearly marked trails until you are familiar with the area and gain more experience. Though maps are helpful for those who can read them, GPS units are probably a better option for most hikers. Spend some time learning how to use it and verify that it will work in the area you will be hiking.
Hiking can be a fascinating adventure. Start slowly, and soon you will be ready for the overnight or all day hikes through some of the most beautiful parks, forest and mountains around!
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