Hiking For Good: 5 tips on getting started
Hiking in the outdoors is a great activity and one of the simplest ways to get more active. It has many positive effects on both the body and mind.
Exercise, such as hiking, releases the good hormones – endorphins. Endorphins help to reduce anxiety and can have a positive effect on your mood. Walking can also reduce the feeling of stress, as your body becomes better at coping with the levels of cortisol in your body.
Hiking can be as easy or as difficult as you like so it’s not only a great way to exercise but to also support charities by raising money and awareness at the same time.
If you’re new to hiking, here are 5 tips on getting started:
1. Choose a hike suitable for you
Hiking can be done anywhere whether you’re in the city or the countryside. Urban hiking has increased in popularity over the last few years with walkers seeing out city parks, multi-use paths and stairways that connect public roads and unexplored areas of a city.
A mistake some people make is overdoing it either with a hike that’s too long or has too much climbing. Choose a hike you know you can do on the day. If you want to do a longer hike, make a training plan in advance. Do an extra mile or two each week and build up to your target distance.
2. Picking the right gear
Hiking is such an easy activity to get involved with because you don’t really need any special equipment or clothing, you can probably get away with things you already have which means it’s also not expensive. Here are some tips on the right gear:
Clothing: While you don’t specifically need ‘specialist’ clothing, jeans and a regular T-shirt probably isn’t the best choice as they may get heavy and chafe if they get sweaty or wet. Ideally you’d want some workout clothes that are designed for being active. A material that will wick away any moisture and keep you dry is going to be most comfortable. If you’re in the countryside then long trousers are good for making sure your legs don’t get scraped up on bushes along the trail. Likewise, long sleeve shirts will protect you from the elements, but you can roll up the sleeves when it’s hot.
Shoes: A good supportive pair of trainers or trail runners are usually your best bet or a pair of hiking boots depending on the terrain and weather. Remember, whatever footwear you chose, to break them in before going on a long hike to make sure they’re comfortable. Don’t wear brand new shoes or boots on a 5-mile hike as you may get blisters.
Backpack: It’s always good to be prepared regardless of how long you’re planning to hike. The basics would be water and a few snacks but you might also want to consider extra layers and waterproofs in case of rain or temperature changes. It’s always handy to include a hat, some plasters and sun cream.
Trekking poles: These are more of a personal preference than a must-have. Trekking poles are standard equipment for many experienced hikers and having two poles to anchor your way across a series of slippery rocks is invaluable. They can also provide good anchor points to balance against as you hike down.
Some people find that using trekking poles takes the strain off their knees while others prefer to have one less piece of equipment to carry. Poles aren’t essential so if you’re not sure if you want to purchase a pair then you could always borrow some from a friend or a local ramblers’ group.
3. Test your gear
It’s good advice to test any piece of clothing or equipment that you might need on a long walk before the big day. Test them out on shorter walks first to make sure they’re both suitable and comfortable. You don’t want to be just starting an 8-mile hike only to find your trousers keep falling down, your jacket isn’t waterproof, the strap on your backpack rubs your shoulder, or your new trainers don’t have any grip and you keep slipping.
4. Check the weather
There’s nothing worse than leaving the house in glorious sunshine, wearing shorts and vest then, a couple of hours later, being caught in the biggest downpour, miles from anywhere and soaked right through. If you’re going on a hike then make sure you check the full day forecast and take extra clothing in your backpack.
Even if you’re only planning on a short walk of a couple of miles, you might end up taking longer than expected so it’s always advisable to prepare for all eventualities rather than being caught short.
5. Share your experience
Some people enjoy hiking alone for the peace and solitude. It can be a way of unwinding and clearing your mind of any stresses that have been bothering you. It can also be time to catch up on a podcast or an audio book while you walk. If you are going out alone then just make sure you tell someone where you’re going and what time you plan to return so they know you’re back safe.
Hiking can also be a lot more fun with others. Not only is hiking great for all ages and abilities so your family, friends or co-workers can join in, but it’s an excellent way of meeting new people as well. There are lots of walking, hiking and rambling groups around the UK that organise local hikes as well as trips further afield.
Hiking is an easy and inexpensive activity to get involved with so why not try your own hike and turn it into a fundraiser?
You’ll not only benefit from the fresh air and exercise but you’ll meet new people and raise money for a good cause.
Looking for inspiration? Take a look at the walking and trekking events that SANE has spaces at and get involved here!