How to Get Into Hiking – Some Most Common Questions

Hiking is a fun activity that is good for the body, mind, and soul. Hikes can last for a half-hour, or they can last for several days. It's a healthy way to relieve stress while giving your body a good workout. There are some cautions to observe because it's not without dangers unless you know what you're doing, and you have the proper gear. I've prepared a guide that tells you how to get into hiking and includes some most common questions. Here is everything you need to know in advance about how to get into hiking while making it safe and enjoyable.

5 Problems That Hikers Can Face And How To Best Avoid Them

The five most common problems that hikers encounter are fatigue, dehydration, altitude sickness, foot pain, and knee pain. If you're new to hiking, these are things that you can avoid if you know the causes and how to plan. These are serious considerations that could have uncomfortable consequences or worse. They're so important that I've broken them down into separate categories to tell you the causes and how to prevent them from a safe and enjoyable outdoor adventure.

Fatigue

Hiking for beginners can be taxing on the body. It's best to start with short day hiking trails that are flat and less challenging. Taking on a challenging trail that goes on for 20 miles is likely to lead to fatigue and exhaustion. If you're physically fit, you'll be able to start with longer trails. Don't bite off more than you can chew when you're a beginner. It's a good idea to build up slowly adding more challenging and longer trails to build your stamina before you attempt a long and steep hiking trail. Start with a mile or so for your first hike.

Keep a few energy bars in your daypack. If you start to feel hungry or weak, eating a bar with carbs and protein can give you a boost and help ease fatigue. If you're planning to hike a long trail, it's okay to stop and take a break along the way. Sometimes a few moments spent observing nature are energizing. Pace yourself on longer hikes and take the time to enjoy your natural surroundings. The key to avoiding fatigue is to get a good night's sleep before your hike, eat healthy foods, and hike trails that are within your abilities and skill level. Hiking poles can also give you more support for challenging hikes.

Dehydration

Dehydration is a common problem for hikers. When hiking in the elements you can quickly work up a sweat and lose hydration through perspiration. You can dehydrate quickly before you realize it. The best solution is drinking pure clean water. Take along enough water to stay hydrated. If you're going for multi-day hikes, it's wise to take along instant water purifiers. Drinking water from lakes and streams can make you sick. It's only safe if you boil it first or use a water purifier. It's a good idea to keep instant water purifier packets or devices in your daypack even for short trails. If you get lost it could help save your life.

Altitude Sickness

Experienced hikers know the dangers of hiking in high elevations. The air is thinner and it is more difficult to breathe. It's best to start your hikes at lower elevations and work your way up. This helps your body to become conditioned to higher elevations gradually. You should always walk high elevation trails with hiking buddies in case you become afflicted with altitude sickness.

Symptoms of altitude sickness are a headache, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and problems with sleep. If you notice any of these symptoms, stop your upward descent, stop, and rest immediately. Avoid hiking higher for a minimum of 24 hours. Drink plenty of water and avoid exercise, alcohol, and smoking. You may also take an anti-nausea mediation such as promethazine, or over-the-counter headache remedies. In extreme cases, you may need to be carried to a lower elevation to alleviate the symptoms. Even experienced hikers are subject to altitude sickness, but it's less likely if you gradually condition your body and tolerances to higher elevations.

Foot Pain

Foot pain can ruin a hike and make your trip miserable. The most common complaint about a beginner hiker is foot pain from blisters. One of the chief causes is ill-fitting footwear or shoes/boots that are not suitable for hiking. Blisters form by friction when a part of your footwear rubs against the skin of the feet. They can develop on your toes, the backs of your heels, and even on the soles of your feet. Another cause of blisters is sweaty wet skin combined with warm temperatures. You can avoid the development of painful blisters by wearing appropriate hiking boots that fit your feet, and wearing hiking socks that wick moisture away from your feet and provide a cushion between your skin and your hiking boots.

Another common cause of foot pain is a sprain or turning the ankle when hiking. If this happens, keep weight off the ankle for a day or two. Use trekking poles to help support the injured foot and keep the weight off of it while hiking. Frequent resting will help minor sprains. Cool water from the creek can also reduce swelling and pain.

Knee Pain

Hiking can be a strenuous activity for a beginner hiker. Knee pain is a common problem that happens when hiking with a fully loaded backpack and moving up a hiking trail with a steep grade. These two factors put a lot of stress on the knees. Knee pain can also be caused by a sprain, muscle strain, tear in the cartilage, arthritis, or other pre-existing conditions. The best way to avoid knee pain is to eat a healthy diet with foods that contain anti-inflammatories such as oranges, fatty fish, nuts, blueberries, olive oil, leafy green veggies, and tomatoes. Keep your muscles and joints flexible through exercise. Strong leg muscles provide extra support for the knees and help reduce knee pain when hiking.

If knee pain is an issue, consider using hiking poles to help support your weight and give your knees a break. Keep a few handy supplies in your first aid kit including ibuprofen to ease inflammation from knee pain.

Common questions and problems while hiking

The best way to avoid the most common problems while hiking is to prepare in advance. There are 11 questions frequently asked by the beginning hiker, about the basics of hiking, and how to avoid problems. The answers offer more hiking tips to make your experience safe and rewarding.

Best Hiking Clothes and Footwear

Whether you're going day hiking or multi-day hikes, it is essential to choose the right clothing to wear hiking, the best hiking shoes, and hiking socks. Clothing should be appropriate for the season. If you're hiking in cold conditions, you should start with a jacket or flannel that you can remove as the temperature warms. It's ideal to layer your clothing and take off outer layers as needed for optimal comfort and regulating body temperature.

In warm conditions, long-sleeved cotton shirts can provide sun protection for your arms while a hat protects your head from too much sun exposure. If the weather is warm, wear light-colored, breathable clothing. Natural fibers are best for allowing the skin to breathe and for ventilation. Some synthetics are also good for wicking moisture away from the body. Hiking footwear is a matter of personal preference.

The best hiking footwear depends on what you are most comfortable wearing hiking. When deciding which type of footwear to wear hiking, consider the type of hiking trail. For short hikes over flat terrain with low grades, hiking shoes will likely give you the support you need. Make sure that the hiking shoes you purchase are high-quality and provide a snug but not tight fit. If the hiking trail is more challenging, with steep elevations, rocky or uneven surfaces, hiking boots will give you the best protection to avoid falls and other injuries.

What Size Backpack For Day Hike?

Experienced hikers gauge the size of their backpacks by the amount of time they will be on the hike. A hiking daypack can range from 20 liters to 35 liters in size. If your hike lasts 1/2 day, the smaller size should be big enough to cry the clothing, food, and water you'll need on your excursion. If you plan to hike for a full day, you should opt for a 35-liter hiking daypack. Some packs come with hydration packs built-in, to carry water. The main thing is to ensure that there is room for all the food, water, and gear you will need for day hiking. For multi-day hikes of 3-5 nights, you'll need a backpack that holds between 50-80 liters.

Best Hiking Foods

The best hiking foods are those that will provide you with lasting energy. It's best to avoid simple sugars and go with foods that deliver proteins and complex carbohydrates along with healthy fats. Energy bars are good options, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese, sandwiches and trail mix consisting of dried fruits and berries and nuts are good for day hiking. Multi-day hiking requires non-perishable items such as dried fruits and veggies and dehydrated foods that can be reconstituted with water.

How To Use A Compass and Map

Most experienced hikers keep a compass and map of the area in their backpacks. You should carry a compass and a map and learn how to use both. A compass consists of a magnetized needle that points to the magnetic north pole. The rotating bezel has markings on the outer edge in degrees from 0 to 360. It includes the four directions including north, east, south, and west. The bezel rotates around the compass needle. The baseplate is a transparent plate with lines and markings that show the direction of the trail and a ruler to measure the distances on your map. Orienting lines are markings underneath and inside the compass housing that rotates with the bezel. The arrow points to the north on the bezel's ring.

How To Read A Compass

The North pointing end of the compass is always red. Hold the compass so the baseplate is level in the direction of travel so the arrow points away from you. Hold it between your waist and face, close to your body. Look down to see the direction the needle points to and you will find magnetic North.

Orient Your Map

You can line up your compass with your map to find your position. Align the orientation arrow on the bezel with the direction of the travel arrow on the baseplate. Place the compass on the map and make sure the orienting lines and arrow are parallel to the north-south lines. Turn the map until the magnetic needle overlaps the arrow and your map will be pointing north. This is essential in our hiking for beginners lessons.

How To Use Hiking Crampons

Hiking Crampons are easy to put on. Simply pull on the toe strap over your hiking boots, then clamp down the heel lever. Ensure that no loose fabric or laces are hanging around your ankles or near your feet. Secure the straps for your crampons and make sure that your shoelaces are tucked in surely. Tighten the straps to ensure that they make solid contact with the bottoms of your boots. Check them from time to time during your hike, to make sure they don't become loose.

Hiking crampons help you to more easily travel when the slope angle gets steeper or when there is firm snow on the ground. Make sure that your steps make the sharp crampon tines sink into the ground or snow. Take slow deliberate steps and don't move the other foot until you're certain that the times have a good bite into the walking surface. The angle of your sole must match the angle of the slope, and keep your feet flat while hiking with crampons. They're not just for mountain climbing. Crampons are also useful hiking gear.

First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is essential for everyone, even experienced hikers. You can find pre-assembled kits or build your own. It should contain essentials for treating any health issues that arise on the hiking trail. It should include adhesive bandages of various sizes, medical tape, ibuprofen, Benadryl, alcohol wipes, antibiotic ointment, sterile gauze, moleskin, and an ace bandage. First Aid kits come in a variety of sizes and shapes. If you plan to make a multi-day hike, make sure that your first aid kit is fully stocked. You may want to include antacids or mediation for digestive issues in case you get sick on the trial. Sun protection such as sunblock is also helpful to prevent sunburn.

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Emergency Communication Devices

It's wise to carry a dependable emergency communication device in case of an emergency. Some trails are in locations that receive a strong cell phone signal. It's wise to confirm this before you leave on your adventure. If you're planning a multi-day hike or one that takes you into the wilderness, you should consider taking a PLB. Personal locator beacons can send a one-way, one-time emergency distress signal in case of an emergency. Satellite messengers are also good for sending messages to family and fines. They also come with a built-in travel feature so people back home can track your position while you hike. Sometimes when you're learning how to get into hiking, you also have to learn how to get out of it.

Dealing With Fear Of Snakes, Spiders, And More

Snakes, spiders, and other creatures live in the outdoors. When hiking, you're entering into their domain. It's a fact of life, and it's wise to be aware of the possibility of running into them. It's best to be prepared if you are stung or bitten by an insect. Mosquito repellent can help keep the blood-suckers at bay. If you're walking through snake territory avoid crashing through the brush and use trekking poles to make your presence known in advance of your footsteps. Most often, a snake will slither away if it hears you coming. It's important to avoid surprising them, however. This is where hiking poles also known as trekking poles can come in handy.

Is It Necessary To Use Special Hiking Socks?

You don't have to use special hiking socks, but it's recommended. Regular thin cotton socks do not provide the cushioning needed to prevent blister formation. You do need the extra cushioning that hiking socks offer to help prevent this. Also, wool and synthetic microfiber socks help to wick sweat away from your skin. The goal is to keep your feet healthy, dry, and comfortable. Choose hiking socks that fit well with your hiking boots. If they're too bulky, they may make the fit too tight.

When and How To Use Trekking Poles

Trekking poles are also referred to as hiking poles. They can be used any time you're hiking, but they're the most useful when you're hiking up a hill, down a hill, or going around corners. They can help to provide you with stability and prevent nasty falls when hiking. There is a trick to using hiking poles. It's best to flick both poles forward, then walk forward. It's called the swing and drop technique. Trekking poles can help to prevent fatigue and give you a little relief when you're carrying a heavy day pack. They're also useful for deterring snakes that might be ahead of you on the trail. Hiking poles can be used by anyone of all skill levels but it's recommended as gear in our hiking for beginners guide when the terrain starts getting steep. If you're on a day hike, it might be best to start with group hikes rather than going out by yourself.

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What If I Get Lost?

If you get lost on a hike, the first thing to do is to stop. Stop moving, stay calm, and don't panic. Mentally retrace your steps and try to look for any familiar landmarks. If you've taken photos, refer back to them and look for landmarks. Observe your surroundings. If you're on a trail, then stay on that trail. Take out your compass and map to find your location and find your way back to the trailhead. Use your emergency contact device to send a message for help, and stay put if you're certain you're lost. You'll appreciate the hiking for beginners tips if they help you find your way back.

If you're into group hikes and you're on the trail with hiking buddies, stay together and don't split up to try to find your way back individually. It's best to stay together and work as a team.

Conclusion

Our hiking for beginners guide tells you how to get into hiking and provides you with tips on everything from taking a day hike to group hikes, with tips on hiking gear and more. The guide covers the basics to tell you how to get into hiking and how to do it the right way, to ensure that you know what to do to stay safe and enjoy your adventures to the fullest.

Michael Ethan
 

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