It seems like the world is slowly starting to look like itself once again. Although it is still too early to claim that we are out of what is a global pandemic, positivity is starting to build up in all of us. Forgive me if I am jumping ahead of myself, but as one of the organizers of HIGHLANDER Adventure of a lifetime, I am exactly that – positive that we will not only win against COVID-19 threat but become better men in the process. We are not made to live within constraints of our four walls. By taking away from us a lot of what we used to take for granted, pandemic reverted us to our roots. We once again found beauty and meaning in nature.

Long-distance hiking is a wonderful way to become one with nature. Carried around by your own two feet, you can discover the beauty of outdoors at your own pace. With just a little bit of planning and physical preparation, this is something that almost anyone can do.

If you always thought that hiking could be an awesome experience, but never quite decided to get your butt out of the chair – now is the perfect time to do it 😊

You should take care of the following:

Find your „partner in crime“

If one of your friends is experienced in hiking, that is ideal. Trails, gear, hiking tips – your friend will give you a lot of info which will be very useful and ease preparation for your little adventure. If you don't have one – never mind. You can easily find a group or hiking buddy in your local hiking club or hiking related sites and forums.

If you plan to go on a hike alone, congrats to you! Solo Hiking can be a life-changing experience. Freedom. Adventure. You name it, but in this case you really must do your homework before the hike itself.

Find your trail

To decide what is the best trail for you, you need to do some research first. Information that you will need can be found here:

Websites and guidebooks: Trail difficulty, distance, elevation gain, directions, water sources, trail features, and whether dogs are allowed... it can all be found here.

Word of mouth: Talk to a friend or friend of a friend. You only need to ask. Use what they already know to your advantage. Word of mouth can be an invaluable source of information.

Local hiking community: Hiking organization in your city or a ranger station in the area where you want to hike – get in touch with them. The hiking community is an expanding one, and people will genuinely try to help you as much as they can. We take care of our own.

Before trail search, decide on:

How much time do you have: A day or two, maybe a week? Or just a couple of hours… this is the single biggest parameter to consider. Also, don’t forget about the time needed to arrive at the location of the trail.

How good is your physical condition: Be honest with yourself. The reason you want to go hiking is to enjoy the physical activity, not to suffer through it. You’ll get into shape soon enough so you can tackle that historic mountain you have your mindset on, don’t worry. Just keep in mind that you need to start on a trail that is suited for you at this moment.

How many miles per day you want to hike: The walking pace is approximately 3 mph. Hiking pace can be slower, depending on your gear, how much stuff you carry in a backpack, or the surface of the trail you are on. Find out what is the optimal distance you want to hike in a day, so you can advance on the trail but not at the expense of becoming too tired or even jaded.  

When do you want to hike: In the spring, maybe some locations will still be under the snow. In the fall, there are fewer hours of sunlight during the day time. Envision surroundings you want to experience during the hike and what does nature has to say about that – is it possible?  

Take the most important stuff – 10 essentials

Every time you step on the trail you should have, and know how to handle ten essentials that represent items for navigation, sun protection, insulation, illumination, fire, first aid, fire, repairs, nutrition, hydration, and emergency shelter.

Since this is something that can’t be explained or described in just a few paragraphs, check the link, or wait for one of our future blogs that will cover the subject in detail.

Choose your Hiking Footwear

I can’t stress enough the importance of choosing the right footwear. Your legs and feet are carrying you around, you depend on them. Every foot is different, every foot feels comfortable in a different kind of shoe. It depends on how you are hiking, and what surface you are hiking on – so deciding to go for supportive high top boots, or lightweight trail runners is a personal choice influenced by your environment as well.

Blisters can be a serious problem as they can turn something that you should enjoy – walking - into a nightmare. To counter this occurrence, wear wool socks (merino ideally) and broken-in footwear.

Choose your Hiking Clothes

Two words: merino wool. It is a hiker's fabric of choice. Base layers, socks, anything that wears directly on your skin should preferably be made out of merino wool. It has antibacterial properties, it is quick-drying and moisture-wicking and helps fight odor. Cotton is a fabric that you should avoid as it takes time to dry.

After your base-layers and underwear are properly selected for the trail, you need to think about insulation clothes clothes which in case of cold weather keeps your body temperature. You can combine everything from puffy-jackets/vests to lightweight fleece pullovers, warm hats, and gloves.

Never come to trial without proper rainwear. Waterproof jacket and pants are a must if you are expecting rain on your hiking adventure.

And of course – a backpack.

What is a hiker without its backpack? Most of your 10 essentials will be carried in a backpack. Varying from 10 – 30 liters in capacity, choose one with optimal storage space depending on how long your hiking adventure is expected to be. Everything from food, water, and gear to extra clothes and underwear will fit in your backpack. Test it while you are still at home and make sure that you can carry around all that weight on your back.  

Food and water

Rule of thumb is that a hiker should eat between 200 and 300 calories per hour. For convenience on the trail, food (and snacks) is ideally lightweight, easy to prepare, and has high nutritional value – think of dehydrated food. Don’t forget to bring some snacks with you, so you can “treat” yourself after a steep or day-long hike.  

Be very careful with water. Drink when you feel your body needs it. Since you can’t carry 100 l of water around with you – make a plan before you hit the trail. Find out where you can replenish your water containers/bottles. Also learn about water treatment systems for purification/filtration so you can be sure that the water you plan on drinking is good.

In the end…

We can write thousands of pages for you to read, but what you need to do is to get out on the trail and simply hike. Make mistakes, learn from them. That is all part of the experience. Only one time you can go on your first hike, so do it on your terms. With every passing hike you will know more. More about your body, more about your gear, more about life in the wilderness itself. And this will not only turn you into an experienced hiker.... but you will feel that nature is your first home. As it always was.

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