There is nothing quite like the thrill and adventure of the great outdoors. The growth in adventure and eco tourism offers new possibilities for hikers and backpackers to experience nature – and with the latest developments in hiking equipment, the experience is even easier.
For the novice hiker, we offer the following 9 tips to be considered before you travel.
1. Invest in equipment
Investing in the right equipment will increase the comfort and enjoyment of your hiking experience.
Backpacks: invest in high quality, internal frame backpacks suitable for your body size and shape. These will last longer, are lighter, offer better ventilation and will distribute the weight of your pack more evenly. A specialist retailer such as Cotswold Outdoor should be able to demonstrate how to pack, strap and adjust your backpack for maximum comfort.
Shoes: hiking shoes will offer greater comfort than your normal sneakers, especially hiking boots with ankle support to prevent your ankle from twisting on uneven surfaces. Your feet expand a little after hours of walking, so we recommend you try on shoes in the afternoon and wear thick hiking socks as you would normally wear. Choose styles made of breathable, waterproof materials.
Gear: Your hiking shop is a treasure trove of useful items. Must-haves includes: quick-dry, ultra light towels; headlamps (much better than torches as you can keep your hands free when hiking at night); ultra light sleeping bags; base layers; a rain cover; compass; sunscreen; First Aid kit; Swiss Army knife; drink bottles; rip-stop nylon tape. You can do your research and shop online through Cotswold Outdoor.
2. Pack carefully
The key word for packing is ‘multi-purpose’. Choose items that serve different functions and remove duplication, for example: your Swiss Army knife and an additional ‘spork’ (combined spoon and fork utensil available from Cotswold Outdoor) make up your cutlery set so no need to pack an additional knife for your evening meal; your quick-dry towel can also serve as a pillow, etc. Pack the items which will be used the least at the bottom of your pack and those used more frequently at the top for easy access.
3. Plan your trip
Making decisions on the hop can add excitement to the adventure for some, but in most cases careful planning will avoid frustrations. Map your route and plot in suitable rest stops. Research where you can buy food and drinks along the way to reduce the amount you pack. Plan your meals and snacks so you purchased what you need to stave off hunger. Make a contingency plan, just in case. If traveling through different countries ensure you have local currency in small denominations. Take photocopies of your passport with you, and be sure to have travel insurance.
4. Get ‘trip fit’
With hiking, white water rafting, abseiling and rock climbing on offer, it’s tempting for the intrepid traveler to be too ambitious. Start increasing your aerobic fitness prior to departure with cycling, jogging and walking to improve your stamina.
5. Look after your nutritional needs
Complex carbohydrates (wholegrains) will provide you with the energy you need. Consider dried fruits which contain the same nutrients as fresh fruit but are lighter and take up less space. Energy is released from Low GI (glycemic index) foods slower than high GI foods, so choose low GI foods to keep you fuelled for longer. These include nuts, certain cereals, most fruits, most vegetables, legumes and yoghurt. Keep hydrated with lots of water.
Communicate your plans to friends and family and provide them with your itinerary. Touch base regular so they can track your movements. Register with LOCATE, the advisory branch of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Advise LOCATE of your travel plans and they will know how to reach you in emergencies and inform you of travel warnings before you depart.
7. Learn local cultures and laws
The treatment you receive in different countries depends on the respect you show for local customs and laws. Be mindful of appropriate clothing, drinking in public and local law.
8. Be environmentally friendly
The views and scenery when hiking and backpacking can be spectacular – don’t ruin the experience for others by leaving your rubbish behind.
9. Have fun
If you’ve invested in the right equipment, planned appropriately and done your research you have maximized your opportunity to have fun. Capture it all on camera and be the envy of everyone you know.