Growing up in a place that is arid, dry and doesn’t promote outdoor activities due to the weather conditions (100-120F daily during the summer months) and a lack of mountain ranges to go to; you can imagine how it was quite the adventure for me to take up hiking and camping as an adult.
Having never hiked before in my life, I fell in love with it the first time I saw the view from the top of the mountain. The only question I had was, “Why hadn’t I done this before?”.
I wasn’t concerned about hitting my head with a tree, the painful blisters on my feet after the hike, potentially twisting an ankle, wearing inadequate clothing that made me feel too hot or too cold, getting wet because of the rain or being overall uncomfortable.
All I cared about was getting out and enjoying the beauty that nature has to offer.
I’ll be honest; the first hikes I wasn’t prepared whatsoever. I didn’t have proper athletic clothing or shoes and what I was lacking most of all was the hiker mentality. I thought it would be like a walk in the park, just ten times longer. I was wrong.
As I became increasingly more and more interested in hiking and being outdoors, I realized that I would need to learn how to do it correctly; although I prefer to call it comfortably.
Since I decided I wanted to incorporate hiking into my lifestyle until I could no longer walk; I knew I had to make some changes. As low-maintenance as I like to be, I know I wouldn’t be able to do what I do at 25 comfortably once I am in my 60’s. By this I mean; tree-bumping my head, wearing uncomfortable shoes, uncomfortable clothing, not bringing enough food or water, getting lost, not knowing what the trail looks like or what difficulty level it is, amongst other variables.
So what do I have to say now, 2 years later in my love affair with hiking? I am way, way, way more prepared! And I want you to be, too!
What do I do to make sure my hikes are always great?
- I don’t ‘wing it’. I know this sounds boring; we all want to have a spontaneous idea and go with it! What I’ve found out is that this is not a good idea when it comes to hiking. I’ve done it and it wasn’t fun; why? Because due to the spontaneity of it, I had no idea what I was going to encounter once I was on the trail. So I left unprepared, found myself scrambling (i.e. ”a walk up steep terrain involving the use of one’s hands” and I’d add, feet as well.), found myself without enough food (because I didn’t know how long it would take me), and almost without enough water. Yay spontaneous hike! (Sarcasm voice). Overall, it wasn’t the worst experience, but if I had to do it over again, I would’ve chosen to do my research beforehand. Nowadays, I do my research! Which may sound tedious, but I promise you it isn’t bad. All I look for is: what type of hike it is (easy, moderate, hard, does it require scrambling? does it cross any rivers?) which helps in case you want to pack an extra pair of socks in case those get wet, how long on average it takes to finish (which helps me know how many snacks and water to take), what are the potential dangers (i.e. spiders, bears, snakes) and prepare accordingly, and finally the weather forecast which helps me know if I need to pack a light jacket, sunscreen, gloves, etc.
- Be comfortable! No need for make-up ladies (you look lovely without it anyways!) and no need for flats or uncomfortable shoes. You want to wear comfortable pants and shirt, whether they’re workout pants/shorts and shirt, or just a baggy shirt and a pair of comfy jeans, all you want to make sure of is that if it gets dirty, stained, wet, or ripped, that it will be OK with you. Because let me be honest, it probably will. The best shoe choice is a pair of comfortable sneakers; no need for hiking boots (they’re heavy and impractical, in my opinion).
- Backup entertainment. If you’re not used to nature and it’s wonderful sounds (people pay for CD’s with the sounds of nature, you know!) you may be a bit overwhelmed if you’re going alone. It’s OK if you don’t enjoy the sounds of nature, it’s biological to be a bit jumpy at first (I’ve been there), and my solution is: turn on your iPod! I did this; and I’m almost ashamed to say it was the middle of the day, but hey, no shame in admitting fear exists. What did I do? I busted out my favorite 80’s playlist, and ta-da! Nature’s sounds disappeared and with it, my jumpiness. Do I always do this? No. But I typically have company during my hikes, and with company, I don’t feel as threatened as when I’m by myself. There is nothing wrong with needing music as a distraction, if it gets you out in nature and you enjoy it, I think it’s a great way to cheat biology.
- Make a list. What are your necessities? TP (toilet paper), sunscreen, sun hat, emergency items (it varies from person to person), extra pair of socks, sunglasses. The list will be your version of what makes you feel comfortable and happy. Just remember, don’t over do it. I would hate it if you ended up with a heavy pack because you’re carrying things you won’t even use! Try and bring only the things you’ll truly use and will benefit from. Here’s a wonderful resource to lighten your pack!
And that is it. It’s easy to have a fun time in nature; but it takes a bit of effort.
Much love, Abby