Just started out hiking and don’t know what to look out for? Check up our 18 tried and tested tips that will make your hike an enjoyable experience!
1. Understand the Trail Condition
Read up about the trail; terrain type, distance, gradient, altitude, weather etc. before hitting it so that you know what to expect and can prepare in advance. Understanding the trail condition can also help you in drafting a realistic training plan.
2. Design and Implement a Training Plan
Hiking is awesome; it brings you closer to nature away from the hustle and bustle of city life. However, the less fit you are, the less you are going to enjoy it. After getting a sense of the hiking condition, you should develop an effective training plan and work on it. https://iwannatravel.com.sg/training-hiking
3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
A good night’s sleep is paramount for an enjoyable and safe hike. Getting enough sleep helps you stay alert and energetic during your hike. When you are in bed, try not to think about the next day hike as anxiety can seep in and cause insomnia. During camping, turn in early especially if you need to wake up in the wee hours for the hike. Bring along earplugs as it can get noisy at night in the campsite. If you really cannot fall asleep, try to close your eyes and claim your mind. It is not as good as an unconscious sleep but at least it helps to relax your mind, muscles and organs.
4. Lessen Your Burden
Do not overburden yourself with a heavy pack; bring along only essential items necessary for the hike. Don’t be a Gung ho and carry more than what you can reasonably manage. Don’t be overly conservative and carry 2 days’ worth of food for a one day hike. A heavy load will bog you down easily and cause injury to your back and lower limbs. Utilize your bag’s hip belt (if it comes with one) as it can help to transfer bulk of the weight from your shoulders to the hips, allowing your leg muscles to do the work.
5. Warm-up & Stretches
If you are going to spend at least a few hours on the trail, why not spend a fraction of the time on some warm-up and stretches? A little effort will reduce the chance of an unwanted muscle injury during the hike. While on the trail, it is also a good habit to do put down you backpack and do some stretches during break time.
6. Establish a Steady Hiking Rhythm
Hiking rhythm refers to a stride and speed combination that you are comfortable with and able to maintain over time without requiring too many unscheduled break. A good rhythm is one which allows you to hike at the same intensity level for at least 45 minutes without having to take a break. It lessen the strain on your body and allows it to utilize energy in the most efficient manner; enabling you to last longer on the trail.
7. Short Strides are Preferable than Long Strides
Contrary to what most people think, shorter strides will allow you to go faster and longer than longer strides. A long stride leads to hyperextension of the knees which can cause further stress to your hips, ankles and feet. When going uphill, shorter strides also help to conserve more energy than longer strides.
8. Choose the Path of Least Effort
Between two points, the path of least effort is the one with the least average gradient. Therefore, it is generally less energy consuming to transverse across a long but gentle path than a short but steep path. On very steep ascent to conserve your energy you can consider zigzagging rather than going straight up.
9. Save Your Ankle and Knee
Majority of keen and ankle injuries occurred during downhill and not uphill hiking due uncontrolled descending speed and landing impact and. Control your descending speed by taking a shorter stride and paying extra attention to foot placement. Keeping your center of gravity low and over your legs, and bending your downhill leg slightly on impact will help to promote greater balance and control. If possible, descend via a zig-zag or s-shaped route rather than going straight downhill. You can also lower the landing impact by using hiking sticks.
10. Keep to Scheduled Rest But Not Too Long
To maintain your hiking momentum, you should keep to scheduled rests and refrain from taking unscheduled rests. Scheduled rests can take place at designated checkpoints along the trail or after every 45min to 1 hour of hiking or so. Limit your rest time to 5-10 minutes otherwise your muscles may cool down too much, making it difficult to get back on track.
11. Stay Hydrated
Hydration is probably one of the most important but overlooked factors of hiking performance. Slight hydration can easily lead to muscle cramp while more serve hydration can lead to heat stroke which is potentially fatal. Thirst is a poor indicator of hydration level. Instead relies on your urine colour; the darker its colour, the more dehydrated you are. As a general rule, you should prepare 1 liters of water for every 2 hours of hiking. If you are going for a 6 hours hike, you should carry about 3 liters of water. You should also instill water discipline in yourself; do not overdrink to quench your thirst unless you have readily access to water source along the trail.
12. Start Out Fully Hydrated
Starting from 1-2 days before your hike, drink plenty of water so that your urine is running clear. This will flush out wastes from your body and ensure optimum hydration condition from the onset. Another good practice is to conduct “water parade” (drink-up ritual) just prior to stepping on the trail to preload your body with water.
13. Ensure Your Shoes Are Broken-in
Ill-fitting shoes can cause damage to your feet almost immediately so it is very important to try out and break in new shoes well before the hike.
14. Cut Your Toe Nails
Do trim your toe nails before the hike as long nails might rub against your shoes especially when going downhill causing subungual hematoma which is also commonly known as “black toes”.
15. Protect Yourself from the Sun
Sunburn is caused by Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun which is invisible to the eye and highly penetrating through clouds. Apply sunblock lotions even under overcast condition and reapply every 2 hours or so in order for it to be effective. Consider wearing long sleeve shirt and sun-hat for additional protection. Do not forget to protect your eyes with sunglasses or transition lenses.
16. First Aid Kit & Medication
Never hit the trail without a well-equipped first aid kit and medication. For day hikes, recommended items include Band-Aids, gauzes, triangular bandages, elastic bandages, antiseptic cream, muscle rub, antihistamine (e.g. Claritin), scissors etc. For multi-day hikes, additional items like thermometer, antidiarrheal (e.g. carbon pill), anti-inflammatory (e.g. ibuprofen), moleskins etc. should also be included.
17. Leverage with Hiking Sticks
Trekking sticks provide additional contact points between you and the ground thereby increasing stability and balance and reduce the chance of slipping or falling. Going uphill, trekking sticks allow you to use your arms and torso muscles to propel yourself upwards. Going downhill, trekking sticks help to absorb some shock away from the knees and ankles and help to control the speed of descend over sandy or slippery terrains. They also help you in maneuvering over tricky terrains like steam and dried river bed.
18. Beware of High Altitude Sickness
High altitude sickness can strike anyone at high altitudes, usually above 2400m. The best way to prevent it is to ascend gradually so that your body can slowly acclimatize to the changing altitude. Do not rush the ascent even if you are superbly fit; being fit has no bearing on one’s ability to acclimate to altitude. The prescription medication Acetazolamide (aka Diamox) can also be used to prevent or lesson the effect of high altitude sickness. It works by acidifying the blood which stimulates breathing, allowing a greater amount of oxygen to enter the bloodstream. http://www.traveldoctor.co.uk/altitude.htm