Hiking on the open trail can be a fun and enlightening experience. The smell of clean, fresh air and the feel of the earth underfoot while walking among the trees and singing birds can make a person downright giddy with love for nature. But there are a few things that a beginning hiker should be aware of before heading out onto the trails. Keep these tips in mind while preparing for a hike:
1. Stay On the Trail
Staying on the trail will help keep an inexperienced hiker from getting lost. Also, sticking to the trail, even if it is wet or muddy, prevents the creation of a secondary trail, helps prevent erosion of the soil and keeps the fragile flora and fauna from being injured.
2. Leave the Land as You Found It
Respect the land. Don’t litter. Whatever provisions that are brought onto the trail should always be taken with you. It’s very important to be respectful of the land. For those that are smokers, be sure to pick up cigarette butts. A little piece of plastic or a soda can may seem insignificant, but it’s not. Animals can be seriously injured by eating plastic bags or becoming trapped in cans and bottles.
3. Be Prepared
When packing for a hike, consider weather and terrain conditions of the trail that will be hiked. Bring a small poncho in case of rain. Duct tape can be extremely useful in the case of a backpack break or shoe repair. Plenty of water in a lightweight container, snacks, and a small first aid kit are all essential, even on a short hike.
4. Be Considerate of Others on the Trail
On day hikes, it will be likely to come across other hikers, bikers or horseback riders while on the trail. The most commonly understood way to pass others is that bikers yield to hikers and horses and hikers yield to horses. However, this doesn’t always happen, so be prepared to step to the right of the trail and yield to something bigger than yourself.
5. Please Don’t Feed the Animals
They may seem cute and fuzzy on television and in photographs, but wild animals are just that; wild. Getting too close to an unpredictable animal that isn’t tame could bite you or become frightened. Also, take care to behave appropriately around pack animals such as burros and horses. It’s important to have fun, but loud noises and yelling may upset pack animals and wildlife.
6. Keep Dry
Make sure to always stay dry in whatever surroundings that may encountered. Dressing in layers is helpful to stay dry. Wear a breathable, lightweight shirt underneath a waterproof jacket. Bringing along an extra pair of socks may be helpful in case your shoes get wet. Consider bringing a lightweight tarp or a poncho in case of rain.
7. Tell Someone
Don’t forget to tell someone, a friend or family member, where you will be hiking. Leave a copy of the name and location of where you will be hiking and when you are expected to return. In the event of an unforeseen accident, it’s very important that someone will know where to find you. Have a mobile phone in the event you need to contact authorities in an emergency.
8. Know Your Equipment
Hiking boots or sturdy, comfortable shoes, socks and a good backpack are essential for an enjoyable hike. Be sure to check all equipment to make sure it is operational.
9. Consider the Weather
Weather in the wild can be unpredictable. Consider the weather forecast the day before the hike and plan appropriately. In case of severe weather, postpone the hike for another day.
10. Know Your Limits
It’s important not to become overexerted. Take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water. Beginning hikers should choose a trail that has an easy track with a minimum of steep hills and rocky terrain.
So there you have it. A few tips for hiking that any beginner can use. But don’t forget that one of the most important things is to have fun.