Basics of Hiking

For centuries, writers have waxed poetic about the glories of hiking. Indeed, in our modern, high-tech society, many people get the urge to abandon the computer and head to the woods. Some come prepared. Others do not. Hiking requires a highly unique type of preparation. You will need hiking-specific shoes and clothing, as well as other types of hiking gear. Additionally, there are safety precautions that are unique to the sport.

While many people enjoy multi-day hikes, this is not advisable for beginners. Start with day hikes of short duration. Remember, it's not a walk in the park; it's a walk in the woods. There is a big difference.
Basics of Hiking

Get into Hiking-Specific Shape

Even if you work out on a regular basis, hiking requires specific aspects of fitness. You will need both aerobic and muscular endurance. Some people train for hiking by using a treadmill on an incline, while wearing a backpack. Speaking of backs, ask a trainer to devise a good program for the muscles of your upper back. If these muscles are weak, your posture will be compromised, which will lead to fatigue. Balance and core exercises are extremely important. If you've ever had to cross a stream by walking over a line of rocks, you understand the importance of balance. Be sure to perform exercises for ankle stability, such as balance board and Bosu ball exercises.

Hiking Maps

A map, a compass and possibly a GPS are essential. If possible, get and learn to read a topographic map. If the terrain you are hiking differs from the terrain on the map, you'll know that you have hiked in the wrong direction.


You will need plenty of water, as well as a means to purify it. Camping stores sell hiking-specific water bladders, as well as water-purifying filters and tablets. Never drink water directly from a stream. It may be carrying dangerous bacteria.

Hiking Shoes

Your running or aerobic shoes are not suitable for hiking. You need waterproof, hiking-specific shoes, which have good ankle support. If you buy new shoes, break them in before you hike. Use padded, hiking socks. If you have a history of blisters, apply second skin to your feet prior to hiking.

hiking boot

Hiking Clothes

While some people hike in shorts in warm weather, it might make you more susceptible to sunburn and insect bites. Many camping stores make lightweight, full-length pants, which are suitable for hiking. Make sure to pack rain gear and extra socks, in case of a downpour.

Sunscreen and Insect Repellent

Sunburn and insect bites can put a damper on your hiking pleasure. Make sure to bring them along. However, you don't want those chemicals on your hands when you eat. Bring a small bottle of antibacterial hand wash.


Bring along high-carbohydrate, high-energy snacks. Avoid bringing food that might spoil.

trail mix in hand


If you are planning to go to a high altitude area, spend a day at a lower altitude to acclimate.

Article Written By Lisa Mercer

In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.

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