To all our friends, that love being outdoors and going on road trips. Don’t just drive through beautiful landscapes and take pictures from a car park. Get out of your car.
Park your camper. Put on your hiking shoes, pack a light backpack with some snacks, water, an extra sweater, a water proof jacket and go hiking.
Feel the breath of fresh air, the smell of a forest, or the sun breaking through the trees. Walk up a stream, a nice trail to the top of a hill and rest at mountain hut with a beautiful panorama.
But how to get into hiking and what gear is needed?
1) The right Trail!
When planning your next outdoor adventure or road trip, do some research on the web on your destinations if offering nature parks or trails for hiking. Sometimes even guided tours are offered where the guides not only take you to great sights and panoramas but also explain a lot about the local flora and wild life.
Nature parks will offer you various trails for the different levels of difficulties and timing. The trails are usually very good described, have signs of different colors to follow the right path, and maps can be purchased locally.
So, ask yourself on:
- How fit are you?
- How long and how many kilometers should your hike take?
- Is it a day hike or for how many nights you want to stay out?
- What are the weather conditions going to be?
For the first time, you might want to plan a day-hike. For that you don’t need much gear or a super large backpack. Just brink a small backpack that fits your back, some water, a snack, extra layer, a waterproof rain jacket, sun protection, and certainly your comfortable hiking shoes. You don’t want to get blisters!
Ah … don’t forget your camera!
For longer hikes, multi-day hikes, you will need to pack a larger backpack, your camping gear and cooking equipment. This certainly needs good planning. What essentials to bring AND how to pack your backpack considering all the weight of your gear.
2) What close should I bring?
Again, it depends on the weather. Check the weather forecast. The best advice is to dress in layers to be able to take some cloth off when it’s getting warm or sweaty or put some layers back on when it’s getting cold. Definitely make sure that you will bring a water resident rain jacket. It’s awful when getting wet and the weather doesn’t allow your close getting dry, again.
A thermal layer as basic, a fleece around as an insulating layer, and certainly a waterproof jacket on top, to protect you from rain and not to get wet.
In terms of material, there are many options out there. Some are more expensive and some are less pricy. A good mix will do it for the beginning and you can enhance the quality of your hiking cloth step by step, if you are getting more into hiking. It’s also about the experience that you will gain on your hikes.
However, one advice on material is Merino wool. It’s soft, odor resistant, it dries quickly, and is light weight. Sure, more expensive but amazing. The other option is outdoor performance clothing made of synthetic.
3) The Perfect Hiking Shoe
What is the right hiking shoe? … Oh, I am just going to wear my sneakers. I’ve got some high-tops. These should be good enough…
No, no … please, make sure you are wearing good hiking boots when going on your first hike. It is worth it. Take the time to visit a good outdoor shop with professional personnel – trust me – you will be very happy and thankful after you return to your hotel from an amazing day. You will have no blisters, or wet feet, nor any hurting ankles.
Do some research on the web to get a little background on how a hiking shoe is build. What goes into uppers, midsoles, outsoles, or lowers, and other parts of a boot helps a lot when you go to a store to buy your dream shoe. Professional stores mainly have an area where you can even walk on rocks, sand, concrete, or even up or down a small path with uneven ground. It helps a lot!
So, what is the right shoe you need for hiking?
Consider what trail you are going to take. The conditions like rocks, grass, sand, forest floor, or wet because of a small stream or ditch, snow and ice. How much weight are you going to carry with you?
Or what is your preference and comfort zone? Some people don’t like wearing heavy hiking boots and others feel safer with them. If you are not used to walk a lot, the heavy or full boots can make your legs tiring quicker, while walking on regular or soft ground.
Is it a day hike? A short backpacking tour with light loads? You will not carry a lot of gear or a heavy backpack with you. Therefore, a trail running shoe or a regular hiking shoe from mid- to high-cut models are good to go. These require little break-in time and certainly do flex easily. Low-cut models with flexible midsoles are excellent for a day hike. But remember, these are not for the more adventure’s heavy weight day tours on small mountain trails with rocks and cross small streams. The light trail runners lack the support of stout hiking boots.
Are you going for a multi-day hike?
The best option will be full hiking or mid-cut boots. For a longer hike, the full boots will certainly be of comfort and these high-cuts will support your ankles, or assist for a good stand when carrying a heavy back. They are more durable and supportive, with stiffer midsoles than lighter footwear, they are suitable for on- or off-trail travel. That’s what you want to wear in bad weather, tough trails with rocks and streams.
Did you buy your shoe or full hiking boot?
We suggest to visit the store for a perfect fit rather at the end of the day. Your feet normally swell during the day and will be bigger in the evening. This can help to not buying boots that are too tight. Please, make sure to wear appropriate socks for hiking boots when trying on your dream boots. There are several thicknesses of socks for cold and warm, hot weather, and what kind of shoe you will wear. Ask! By the way … with slow-drying cotton socks you might get blisters easier.
O.k. make sure the boots fit perfectly. Break your boots in, when you get home from the store. Wear them around your house. Trust me, it’s better than crying half way on your hike. They should offer room for moving your toes, not be tight but should fit snug everywhere.
4) What about hiking socks?
Honestly, we talked about not getting blisters because it’s awful when it starts hurting half way up on your trial to the top. When you are going to buy your hiking shoes or boots, we recommend to get a couple pairs of good hiking socks. Thy will perfectly fit to your feet, provide cushioning, and will keep your feet dry.
Don’t wear cotton socks! It takes a long time for cotton socks to dry out. So, on a wet trail or having sweaty feet, cotton socks certainly increases the chance to get blisters.
5) What to do to not getting blisters
Uuuuuhhh … and here we go. I am sure everyone experienced a walk with blisters before. But what to do to prevent from those horrible bastards?
- When you buy new hiking shoes or boots, break them in. Wear them at home before you go on your hike. If your boots are too big your feet will slide around. And if they are too small they will press on the sides and for sure give your pain.
- Socks – Get a good pair of hiking socks. Look also into the next advice, talking about “hiking socks”! Don’t wear cotton socks! It takes a long time for cotton socks to dry out. So, on a wet trail or having sweaty feet, cotton socks certainly increases the chance to get blisters.
- One good advice, that I always followed is to put your feet in cold water before putting on your hiking boots in the morning. It always helped me, also when skiing with tight ski boots. The skin of your feet shrink in cold water and will swell later in your warm boots to fit.
- Or put a light layer of vaseline on your feet before putting on your socks, that your socks will not be rubbing on your feet. Check with your local pharmacy for lubricants or special powder.
- You can also pre-tape the problem areas, that usually get blisters, with a zinc oxide tape. Taping your problem areas can also be done during a hike and you discover a hot spot before getting a blister.
But what causes blisters?
Wet skin, sweaty feet, or high skin temperature, and the sweat moisture including the rubbing of socks in not perfectly fitting shoes increases the chance of getting blisters.
6) Your Backpack
The right size of your backpack is always a good question when planning a tour. It surely depends on the days you plan to hike. Is it just a day tour or a multi-day hike with camping, or staying at a hut overnight? The capacity (volume) of your backpack is measured in liters.
- Make sure your backpack is waterproof. You don’t want your extra cloth to get wet in a rain.
- For a day trip a small backpack to carry some extra cloth, a pair of extra socks, snacks, water, and a first aid kit will do. It shouldn’t be heavy.
- 1-3 nights, a 35-50 liters backpack
- 3-5 nights, a 50-80 liters
- and there is still a 70 liters’ option.
When hiking with kids:
We loved having our own little backpack when we were kids. It was packed with a small first-aid-kit, the “survival-kit” – loved it – an extra sweater and cloves when it was getting cold.
→ Check our list on how to pack a backpack.
7) First Aid Kit
Don’t forget that it can happen that you are still getting a blister, although you have done everything to prevent from one. Or just a small scratch or catching a thorn from a plant, or a sliver from wood … You want to have your little first-aid-kit with you. Basic essentials:
Medical tape, adhesive bandages – there are different sizes, sterile gauze, antibiotic ointment, and alcohol wipes for disinfection.
Check with your pharmacy or your local outdoor store. They often have pre-assembled kits.
8) Hiking Poles?
Some people like them and some don’t. And they are not just for old people! They are indeed of good support when carrying a heavy backpack or just helping to balance when going down on a steep trail. It’s certainly worth trying them and making your own experience.
Number one – you don’t want to get lost Go and get a map from a local store of the town in the area or national park, that you want to go for a hike. The local hiking associations have very good maps with marks and notes of the trails, that might be important for you. And please learn how to read a map. It’s also nice to know how far you still have to walk or what’s coming up after the next curve.
It’s also lots of fun teaching your kids on how to read a map.
To protect your maps from getting wet, you can get a transparent map case. They are not expensive and all outdoor shops offer a variety of such cases.
10) Get in shape
Get in shape before going onto a hike up hill and carrying heavy load. You want to enjoy the hike, the beautiful scenery, the panorama, taking pictures and breath fresh air. You don’t want to be tired and exhausted, stopping and rest every 20 meters.
So, get in shape. Invite your friend or take your dog for a nice walk in the nearby forest this coming weekend. Maybe a short run. Do interval walks, slow, fast slow. Train your legs in your gym. It will help a lot and you will have lots of fun going hiking and not ending up hating your new adventures goals.
11) Safety – watch the bears
Hahaha … we have seen many funny movies in which bears invite themselves to a campfire or steel the hikers breakfast overnight. No, we don’t want to get into these stories. We are sure you will find some real funny ones on the web.
But hiking is still one of the most safety sport activity you can do. And it is healthy!
However, to avoid any risk:
- Follow the advice of local rangers and READ the signs before entering a national park or your trail.
- Be pre-pared and check the weather conditions. There are many good weather apps to download.
- Plan to bring the right gear based on the weather forecast, the length of your hike and difficulty of the trail, descried by the local national park website.
- Bring a map.
- Tell your hotel or campsite, that you are going on a hike, what trail you plan to take, and when you are planning to be back.
12) FOOD and WATER
Food and water is important. You must eat to get energy and drink not to hydrate!
Again, it depends on how long your hike will take. You must consider the balance between preparing a full meal with lots of ingredients and the weight of your backpack, that you need to carry.
For a day-hike you just need to bring some snacks, sandwiches, granular bars, nuts, chocolate and cookies (sugar is good for energy), fruit or dried fruit.
Your outdoor store will also have a supply of dried meals, which can taste good, have enough vitamins, light to carry, and easy to prepare. Especially, when going on multi-day hikes with camping.
Breakfast: tea, instant coffee, fruits or dried fruits, oatmeal, bread, honey or jam, with some butter.
Lunch: Sandwiches, granular bars, bananas, dried fruit,
Dinner: dried meals, instant potatoes, dried ravioli or pasta with sauce, instant rice, bring ginger and garlic, which is very healthy.
We will write more about on how to easily prepare your best camping and hiking meal, soon. Stay tuned and look for our next article.
Don’t forget to drink. You need water, not to hydrate.
So, make sure you will bring a bottle of water and make sure to re-fill your bottle when arriving at a hut or a lodge.
Sport shops, outdoor shops and pharmacies also offer supplementary ingredients for energy.
Don’t just drink the water from the nearby lake or little stream running along your trail. Before doing this, you must make sure and ask the local ranger if the water is safe and has drinking quality. If not, you must boil your water, use filters, or tablets before drinking.
13) Wild Life, the Flora and Fauna
Please respect the wild life and the flora when hiking. You will see birds and deer, wild pork, and other animals. Take pictures, but don’t go to close. Respect their territory. You are just a visitor to their home. Don’t touch any nest of birds or go into a breading area. Be quiet when seeing animals. There are also plants, young trees and bushes that you should not step on. Therefore, you better stay on the trail to safe the nature.
14) Think GREEN and help to prevent our nature and wildlife.
We have been on so many trails, walked along beaches and rivers, beautiful landscapes and are still seeing garbage left behind from people being so ignorant.
To all our friends and new friends, reading our posts and sharing the same enthusiasm on outdoors and nature, please help to safe our nature.
Bring a small container or plastic bag when hiking for our garbage. Don’t leave any of it behind. Pickup your filters of cigarettes. Don’t throw anything away.
The nature, the wildlife and all people walking the trail after you, will thank you a lot for respecting our nature.