Hiking & Trekking Guide
Hiking and trekking are among my absolute favorite activities when I am traveling... and even back at home. I have been hiking for as long as I can remember and I can't imagine planning a trip without at least a couple of short hikes, or ideally a longer trek.
I believe that hiking is one of the most accessible outdoor sports, and one that create unforgettable memories when you are on a trip. Whether you are a complete beginner looking for general advice, an experienced hiker looking for the best gear to buy, or simply browsing nice outdoor trip ideas, you are on the right page!
Enough talking, let's get to the content. Feel free to use the menu below to directly go to the section you want to check out.
The rich dense forest, the pristine lakes, the majestic mountains, beautiful and rare flora, wildlife, majestic waterfalls, rolling plains, and red rock canyons. These are some of the things you can see on a hiking expedition depending on the location. Hiking is more than just making your way through nature. It’s about adventuring, seeing beautiful sights, and the thrill of the journey to beautiful landscapes.
To some, hiking is about alone time, being in the wilderness and taking a break from their predictable day to day routine. For some, it’s about pushing their limits and accomplishing set goals. This is especially for thru hikers that hike established long-distance trails.
As you can see, hiking means different things for different people. But what every hikers can agree on is the sense of thrill and adventure they get when they embark on a hiking expedition. Below, you’ll find my complete guide on hiking.
What Is Hiking?
Hiking is and outdoor activity that involves walking long distances across established trails and paths. Carry all essential gear in your backpack and moving on your feet, you get to set the pace for yourself and take in the beauty of nature as much as you want.
The key to having an enjoyable hiking expedition is to choose a trail that meets your needs. There are websites and guidebooks that can provide you with important information like distance, trail difficulty, water sources, trail features, elevation gain, and whether pets are allowed.
You can also get information about trails from friends that have hiked the trails before. Locals are great and reliable source of information about hiking trails.
What Is The Difference Between Hiking And Trekking?
I already have an article focused on the differences between hiking and trekking. The two terms are often used interchangeably and on the surface level, they may seem to be the same. But there are differences between the two which are summarized below:
Length: Hiking usually involves shorter distances with many hikes lasting less than or just a day, although hikes can also be multi-day. Trekking, on the other hand, is always multi-day and follows a whole itinerary over the course of several days.
Difficulty: Hiking is always on well-established trails or paths. This is not always the case with trekking as the terrains can be really technical or difficult.
Gear: Hiking requires less gear than trekking since it usually lasts for a day or less. But since trekking last for several days, more gear and a larger park are needed due to the need to camp in the wild and change clothes occasionally.
Hiking Essential Gear
Below are essential gear that are needed for any hiking expedition:
Your choice of footwear can make or break your hiking experience. The type of footwear you choose largely depends on the type of terrain you’ll be walking on. Lightweight, low-cut hiking shoes are suitable for well-maintained terrains with few obstacles. You can also opt for lightweight trail-running shoes in the aforementioned conditions. It all comes down to your personal preference.
On the other hand, if you are walking on rugged trails with obstacles like streams, rocks, and roots, you’ll do well to go for sturdy boots for more traction and support.
If you are hiking in warm weather, wear clothing made of quick drying and moisture wicking. This will ensure you stay comfortable when you start sweating and you are bound to sweat at some point during your hike. Wear moisture-wicking underwear, moisture-wicking T-shirts, and quick-drying pants/shorts. You can also wear a long-sleeve shirt to keep out bugs and for protection from the sun. About clothing made of cotton as the material takes a long time to dry when wet. Instead, go for wool or polyester.
If you are hiking in cold weather or when the weather is likely to take a turn for the worse, it’s advisable to carry a waterproof jacket and rain pants.
You need something to carry your hiking gear and extra items. And this is where a hiking backpack comes in. For short hikes, a moderate backpack of about 15 to 20 liters is enough to hold extra clothing, water, and a few snacks. For longer hikes, you’ll need more supplies and it makes more sense to go for backpacks that have a capacity of 30 liters or more.
Food and Water
Experience will teach you to get the amount of food and water you need precisely right. But for people who are new to hiking, it may be difficult to know how much food and water to carry. For such people, they may calculate for about 200 to 300 calories to be consumed each hour and about half a liter of water per hour.
Of course, the amount of water and food you take also depends on your age, weather, body system, the difficulty of the hike, and so on. But it never hurts to carry extra food and water. If you are embarking on a multi-day hike, it may become impractical to carry all the water you need. And you’ll need to look into water treatment as you’ll need to source water from the environment.
Snacks to pack could be nuts or energy bars. Some people pack sandwiches.
Many hikers don’t know how easy it is to get lost in a dense rainforest or maze-like backcountry setting until they actually get lost. This makes it important for hikers to have some basic navigational skills. For starters, learn how to use a compass or a topo map. There are also several GPS devices available on the market and you are bound not to ever get lost if you invest in a good one.
Health and Hygiene Supplies
If you are on prescription medications, you’ll need to bring the drugs along and use them as recommended by your doctor. If you have any underlying health issues, you should speak to your doctor before embarking on a hike. Female hikers on their periods should pack menstruation supplies.
Hiking & Trekking Gear Guides
Going out in the wild in good conditions often relies on the gear you carry with you. After all, how to trek without good shoes? How to enjoy an evening at camp without a good headlamp? How to do some bird-watching on the way if you don't have the right binoculars?
Just like everything else in life, hiking gear can be great just like it can be full of flaws and low quality. And there is so much gear available that it's not always easy to know what you are really buying!
For that reason, as a hiking lover, I wanted to help you make the wisest choices when it comes to buying new equipment. I will be adding new guides here regularly.
What to Wear Hiking?
I would like to elaborate on hiking clothing in this section. Perhaps the first thing a beginner has to learn about hiking clothing is that denim jeans and cotton are a big no no. Cotton absorbs water and takes a long time to dry. You’ll feel very sweaty in warm weather and chilly in wet or cold weather.
Polyester, merino wool, and nylon are good clothing materials for hiking. They have moisture wicking properties and dry fast.
Trails have several turns and twists and the conditions of the path aren’t always in excellent performance. As a result, you will need to do a lot of manoeuvring and this requires you to wear comfortable yet sturdy pants. Yoga and stretchy tight pants should be avoided since they can shred easily when they come in contact with branches or boulders.
A warm jacket should always be in your backpack especially if weather conditions are cold. If there’s the chance of rainfall, pack a rain jacket.
Brimmed hats are great for keeping sunlight and rain out of your eyes. Sunglasses are another good option.
How to Stay Safe Hiking
It can be intimidating to hike solo at first but after completing your first solo hike, you’ll feel confident to get on the trails alone. The obvious benefit of hiking alone is that you get to choose your pace and not worry about someone else’s pace.
Since you have no one but yourself to depend on, you need to choose terrains and conditions that are well within your limits. Before you set out, inform a reliable friend or family member about your hike making sure to provide as much information about the trails you intend to hike. Give them an estimate of how long you’ll be in the backcountry and call them when you get back to civilization.
Check weather conditions and dress/pack appropriately. Don’t wear headphones. The only music you need is the sound of nature. Hiking with headphones means you may not be aware of changes in weather, other hikers, and animals. If you must wear headphones, leave one earbud out and keep the volume down.
Research about local wildlife, stay on the trails, and trust your instincts.
Hiking With Kids
The outdoors can be extremely fun for kids as it presents an opportunity to explore and have adventures. However, safety is of utmost importance when bringing kids along on a hike.
Utilize the buddy system when hiking with kids and this means someone must be with each child at all times, even if it’s just to take a simple walk to the lake or go to the bathroom. Have each child wear a whistle around their neck or attached to their backpack and teach them to blow it whenever they are separated from the group. One of the most common problems of hiking with kids is the young ones getting lost.
Wear bright colours, stay on marked trails, and have the children in your view at all times.
Hiking With Dogs
There are many pet-friendly trails around the world. You and your four-legged companion can enjoy the beauty of nature. Before hiking with a dog, consider the dog’s physical condition. You can build endurance by taking the dog on long walks in the neighborhood.
Carry plenty of water and prepare for rain and terrain. This may involve packing dog boots for snowy and rough terrain or outlet layers for dogs with short coats in rainy or cold conditions.
During hunting season, it’s advisable you and your dog wear bright and reflective clothing to avoid being mistaken for a target. Also, get your dog an ID that has your phone number and other information that will come in handy if it gets lost.
Finally, let trusted people know where you are going.
Wild Animal Encounters
Sometimes, it can be fun to encounter wildlife on your hiking trips especially those that don’t pose danger to humans. But there are tips to follow whenever you encounter wild animals on your hiking expedition.
For one, never feed wildlife as this can make them dependent on humans for food. Also, don’t take wildlife by surprise and don’t get too close. Don’t threaten wildlife and never turn your back to wildlife , essentially predators like mountain lions and other cats. They have a hardwired instinct to chase a person when they turn their backs to them.
More importantly, research local wildlife before getting on the trails. This is to ensure you aren’t caught by surprise by an animal in the wild. In areas where you are likely to encounter bears, carry bear spray and only use it as a defensive weapon when the animal becomes a threat. Be extra careful when you encounter a mother with their offspring as they are more aggressive due to the strong urge to protect their young ones.
Sometimes, you have to be the aggressor, especially when you encounter animals like wolves and mountain lions. The best thing is to not cross paths with them but when this happens, you may need to show some aggression by standing tall and making loud noises while throwing objects to intimate the animals.
Below is important hiking etiquette:
Right of way
Generally, hikers going uphill have the right of way. So, people descending from the trail have to step aside and let those going uphill pass. Uphill hikers may at times decide to let downhill hikers go first while they catch their breath or just simply out of goodwill. But this decision depends on the uphill hiker who has the right of way.
Bikers are expected to yield to hikers and horses, though sometimes it may be easier for hikers to yield the right of way due to the speed of the bikes.
Hikers are expected to yield the right of way to horses and other pack stock.
Make Yourself Known
A simple hello or head nod to other hikers and trail users goes a long way in creating a friendly atmosphere on the trail.
Stay on the trail and leave no trace
Going off-trail can destroy the ecosystem outside the trails. So, it’s important you remain on the trails. The ‘leave no trace’ principles are about reducing human impact on the environment and includes proper disposal of waste, minimizing campfire impacts, and leaving what you find.
Do not disturb wildlife.
We hike to appreciate the beauty of nature, not to damage it. We just invite ourselves into the wilderness, and we must not forget we are only temporary intruders.
Be aware of your surroundings.
Dangers can take many forms while being out in Nature and hiking. Being careful of where you step, what you touch and what’s around you can go a long way to avoid trouble and stay safe.
How to Pick a Hike For Beginners
The biggest mistake beginner hikers make is choosing a hike that’s too long or involves too much climbing. It’s recommended that beginners pick a hike under 5 miles. The terrain should also be flat as 5 miles on flat terrain isn’t the same as 5 miles on a trail that requires a lot of climbing.
There are many resources beginners can use to find beginner-friendly trails. Sites like GaiaGPS, or AllTrails are great for finding complete information on trails while guidebooks are also great sources of information about trails and hiking conditions.
Benefits of Hiking
The benefits of hiking can be broadly divided into two – physical and mental. Physical benefits of hiking include increased endurance, better fitness, and improvement in general well-being.
Mental benefits include reduction in stress levels. Hiking can also help with depression, anxiety, and some other mental illness since the activity brings calm and peace to people that engage in it.
Hiking & Trekking Tips (Articles)
As I said earlier, hiking and trekking are some of my favorite activities when I travel… and they have become quite addictive. Over the years, I have accumulated a good deal of experience that I am sharing with you here.