It’s been said, usually by non-outdoorsy types, that hiking is really just walking. For the most part, this is true. But longer hikes, especially those involving rocky or elevated trails, usually require some planning. Here are 10 tips for keeping up on a long-distance hike, plus 10 things to bring along to ensure a safe, fun excursion.
- Train: If planning to do more than a few miles or take on a steep terrain, preparation is key. Plan regular cardio workouts such as biking, jogging and walking outside or on a treadmill (incline set to high) for several weeks prior to your trip.
- Plan: Research the route ahead of time. Get detailed trail maps and topographical maps (which include geographical and elevation information) on the Internet, at the bookstore or at park visitor information centers, so you know exactly what to expect.
- Notify: Let friends, family and if applicable, park rangers know your planned route and itinerary.
- Dress: Sturdy, broken-in athletic shoes or walking shoes work for hiking moderate, flat trails. For routes with rocky or uneven trails or a steep elevation, choose hiking boots or thick-soled trail shoes with plenty of ankle support. Depending on climate, dress in several layers that you can add or shed as needed. Be sure to bring along a hat and rain jacket.
- Double up: Bring on the buddy system! Don’t go it alone, especially on long, secluded trails.
- Eat: Prior to a long hike, eat a light, nutritious meal including lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and whole grains. (Great choices: a turkey sandwich, or oatmeal with low fat milk and blueberries.)
- Drink: Bring plenty of drinking water—1.5 liters per person for the day. Avoid drinking from lakes or streams. It’s also a good idea to hydrate prior to hitting the trail. (Aim for 16-20 ounces two hours before departure.)
- Keep on: Follow marked trails. Don’t stray off the path. This is not only a safety tip for hikers, but also helps preserve the area surrounding the trail.
- Pace: Aim for a moderate stride. Start slow, reserving energy for the latter part of the hike. Be sure to stop and stretch several times along the way, but make sure you’re warmed up first.
- Watch out: Don’t pick flowers or eat or touch plants on the trail. Beware of poison ivy and poison oak. Also avoid wildlife whenever possible, giving animals plenty of space.
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