Have you been considering hiking but not sure where to start? I felt exactly the same a couple of years ago: I barely even walked to the shop! Now, two years on, I love a long ramble in the countryside, and although I am no pro, I think it’s worth sharing how I prepared.
Why hike? There are a wealth of benefits to hiking, both physical and mental – other than the obvious benefit of burning hundreds of calories per hour, you spend a significant amount of time in the countryside, surrounded by fresh air which undoubtedly is great for your body. By hiking mountains, you see the views of the country you might never have imagined existed and in some cases, you might feel an overwhelming sense of freedom. Another lesser recognised benefit is building stamina – again, both physical and mental. I’ve not done a single hike where I haven’t wanted to give up mid way through, and I think that’s okay!
So, let’s get prepared!
Step 1: Get the right gear.
It’s by no means glamorous, but when hiking, you need to invest in quality clothing. Don’t make the mistake of trying to walk 7 miles in a pair of Nike Air Force 1s – the balls of your feet, your toes and your ankles will be sobbing! You must invest in a solid pair of hiking boots to save the injury and agony but be prepared that they can be quite pricey. I have a pair of Karrimor boots that are my babies for a hiking trip. Dan had the same, until a local fox stole them, so now he has hiking trainers.
Some people like to wear hiking trousers as they are waterproof, but I am quite happy hiking in leggings tucked into boots. You should also get yourself a windbreaker (like the one pictured) as the British weather can be unpredictable and it can be extremely cold even if you are only 700 metres up.
Step 2: Plan your route.
Only a fool would go hiking in hills or mountains without knowing where they are going. That is literally how people die! There are hundreds of websites that detail directions and maps of popular hiking routes. I would recommend starting on a hike that is only a couple of hours and has a clearly defined path. It’s a bit risky to pick Grasmere to Keswick via Helvellyn as your first walk. My first was the Malham Cove to Janet’s Foss walk, which is very popular and takes only 2 hours.
With shorter, more popular, walks, it means if God forbid you get injured it’s not too far to get help to you; it means you’re less likely to run out of resources; it means you’re less likely to get lost. Thankfully, none of these horrors have happened to me, and hopefully you too.
Step 3: Bring enough resources for the trip.
A huge mistake new hikers make is underestimating the resources you need to take. Every time we hike, we take a litre of water each, a first aid kit, tissues (you know, just in case) and food.
Forget your diet when hiking. Before you go, make sure you eat some slow release carbs like oats, bananas, and nuts, but when packing for the journey, your food needs to be quick release carbohydrate as you will be losing energy after an hour of walking uphill. I often pack a few white bread sandwiches, protein cereal bars, crisps, and a can of fizz.
Every time I have hiked, I have needed to stop to refuel, and there have been the odd occasions where I did not pack enough food, and suffered on the walk back. Don’t forget that your hike is a two way trip, and if you eat a third of the way in, you’ll probably need to eat in the same spot on the way back!
Step 4: End with protein and recovery.
Lastly you need to think about self care. Your muscles will burn and you might have blisters bigger than your thumbs, so you need to make sure you look after your body.
Have a hot bath to relax your muscles and change into clean comfortable clothing. Dress any blisters and injuries properly – popping a blister can be risky even though it releases all the pressure – then make your way to a local pub to have a dinner with protein and carbs. Make sure you eat within two hours of your hike to give your body the best chance at recovery.
Then, end the way I always like to and have a nap!
Here it is; if you follow these four steps to hiking, you might fall in love with exploring the countryside as I did.