7 Hiking Tips for Beginners
Allow us to prepare you for that one amazing journey
By Raphael Mones
November 25, 2015
Life can get tough at times and stress can be draining, which is why we constantly find ways to unwind, even for just a little while. Some go binge eating, read books, watch movies, sip cups of their favorite brew, or fly out of the country to experience what foreign history and culture can do to their weary soul.
On the other hand, there are those who go out of town to be one with nature and to see the world from a different perspective - like from the top of a mountain.
Hiking is a stress-fighting, fun activity that continues to gain attention from a lot of people. It keeps the heart pumping not just from the cardio workout but also from the excitement of discovering the amazing scenery at the summit. If you haven’t tried hiking, now is the time to say yes to what could possibly be your most thrilling adventure yet. But before that, here are some do's and don'ts to remember.
1. Do your research.
What makes a hike successful is proper and extensive research. Hiking is fun and exciting, but it isn’t exactly a walk in the park. It means having to go through rough and uneven terrains, extreme weather conditions, and maybe even coming across insects and wild animals that you may have only seen on TV. Doing research helps you plan your hike accordingly, and ensures that you are safe and unscathed when you descend from the mountains.
Fortunately, there are a lot of research materials that you can find online. A credible website to check out is www.pinoymountaineer.com. The website is run by Gideon Lasco, who has climbed 150 mountains in the Philippines and has hiked in over 20 countries in six continents since 2003.
2. Make an itinerary.
Similar to planning for local and international travels, coming up with an itinerary is highly recommended because it creates a framework for your hike. “It is best to follow a schedule because time is very important in hiking,” says Teej Salvador, a hiker and an SAP professional for a multinational company based in Makati. “You do not want to be wandering in the woods at night without any idea where you are going,” adds Teej, who started hiking as a hobby in 2010.
3. Join hiking groups and attend pre-hiking meetings.
Unless you are an experienced hiker, hiking solo is never advised, so it is best to join hiking groups or start one with your friends, family members, or colleagues.
Hiking groups usually post schedules of their upcoming climbs on their websites. Make sure to check their schedule regularly or follow their social media accounts if available. Joining pre-climb meetings is essential as this is where instructions and important details like hiking conditions and local information are discussed. Individual tasks and responsibilities for the hike are also delegated during the meeting. It is also a good time for you to mingle with your fellow hikers. If you can’t attend pre-climb meetings, joining in their group chats is also advisable.
4. Pack smart. And light!
“When I was relatively new to hiking, I came across one article on the internet that says the maximum weight that one should carry during the hike should be 1/3 of the weight of the hiker,” shares Jemil Cable, a hiking enthusiast who started climbing in 2010. He says that hikers should only bring the essentials such as clothes, food, water, toiletries, medicine, and a first aid kit.
When going for an overnight hike or if you will be out there for a couple of days, you should also consider your camping equipment. Tents are bulky and heavy, and hikers usually take turns in carrying them during the hike. Hikers also usually chip in to buy portable cook sets since they are expensive. Other camping and hiking essentials that you may want to bring are ropes, ribbons and a Swiss Knife.
When packing, include only the necessary pieces of clothing. A jacket or sweater is important as it might get chilly up in the mountains, especially at night. Investing in good trekking shoes is a good idea but rubber shoes with thick soles should be ok, especially for beginners.
Make sure to bring medicines such as paracetamols, ibuprofens, and anti-histamines, as well as the drugs you need if you have a medical condition. Bring a first aid kit as clinics, hospitals, or a medical professional might not be readily available. Of course, don’t forget your flashlight, extra batteries, and a whistle.
Pack everything in a durable and waterproof backpack (no shoulder bags, please). If waterproof bags are unavailable, you may bring rain covers or plastic bags big enough to wrap your bags with.
Packing smart will help you climb with ease, prevent injuries like sprain, and lessen the strain on your lower back, hips, and knees. For more information on what to pack, see this comprehensive list from the pinoymountaineer website.
5. Exercise and eat healthy.
Hiking requires strength and endurance, so it is advisable to prepare by exercising and eating healthy. Walking or jogging daily prior to your hike will improve your stamina. Eating a proper diet will nourish you and help you lose (or maintain) weight, which will allow you to climb much easier.
6. Bring trail food and water.
Energy bars, nuts, and dried fruits are some of the more common trail foods brought by hikers. Trail foods will keep your stomach full and replenish your energy.
Although new to hiking, IT Specialist Ynna Matute shares that she always brings a small pack of salt during her climbs. “I learned that tip from a fellow hiker. When you get cramps during the hike, take some salt and you will feel that the cramps will almost instantly go away.” Salt, however, will dehydrate you, so bring enough water. Jemil also adds that he always brings sports drinks with him during hikes. “It really replenishes your strength,” he attests.
7. Document the memories away.
Nothing beats the spectacular view that greets hikers once they reach the summit. “The reason why I fell in love with hiking is because of the view that you see once you get to the top; it’s really worth it,” shares Ynna. “The starry skies look like a desktop wallpaper, the endless hues of greens and browns, the stunning sunrise, the breathtaking sunset, these are things that you have to see to believe."
A gathering for campers, called “socials,” usually happens at the summit. This is where you share meals, tell stories, and bask in the glory of reaching the top of the mountain with your fellow hikers. Be sure to bring your cameras (handy ones preferred) and journals to capture the stunning view, and document those precious moments respectively.
Bonus Tip: Leave No Trace!
All hikers, both experienced and beginners, should always abide by the Leave No Trace (LNT) policy during the climb. Littering, vandalizing and stealing items inherent to the mountains are strictly prohibited. There might be some people living in the mountains who are very protective of the land, so it is only proper that you respect their home.
Hiking is a hobby that requires you to be ready mentally, physically, and also financially. However, the chance to bond with nature, the amazing view from the top, and the friendships that you will build are just some of its priceless rewards.With that, we leave you with the golden rule that hikers live by: "Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, and kill nothing but time".