Hiking is a great activity that anyone can get into. There are trails all over the world that range from easy nature walks to intense full-day climbs. You’ll want to properly prepare for any hike you take though, and make sure you have the right supplies and level of endurance.
You should train for about 8 weeks before taking a difficult hike. Focus on strengthening your major muscle groups, building endurance, and improving balance. Stretch and hydrate well before every hike and make sure you bring all the food, water, and safety equipment you’ll need.
There are some hikes that beginners can do with little/no training, but you should always choose hikes that are suited to your level. If you want to take on more challenging hikes, make sure you’re properly prepared! Building a good exercise program and bringing the right equipment will set you up for success.
As much as you might want to, you shouldn’t spontaneously choose a difficult, full-day hike if you’re not used to doing them. Even if you make the whole trip, you will be sore and miserable for a long time afterward, and the overall experience probably won’t be great.
So before you try any difficult hikes, it’s important to condition your body. Generally you can prepare your body for a hike within 8 weeks. This time period gives you time to build muscle and improve your endurance, without being too exhausting.
In the first 6 weeks of training, try to include a mix of strength training, cardio sessions, and rest days. Good hike exercises include jump squats, step-up/climbing exercises, jogging, swimming, and biking. It can also be helpful to take smaller hikes during the training period, but don’t overdo it! Keep most training hikes within 1-2 hours. Make sure you properly stretch before every workout as well.
Once the hike gets closer, use the last 2 weeks of training to do some more intense workouts. Small hikes should become a regular part of your training at this point. Try to take small hikes 3 times a week, with the backpack you’ll use for the real thing.
In the last few days before your hike, take a break to let your body rest, recover, and prepare for the big push. Drink plenty of water and just take it easy!
You can also follow along with the video below for some good stretches and balance-building techniques. There’s something for every level, so feel free to adjust these training tips to your own level.
When the day arrives, you should be feeling pretty confident in your ability to tackle the difficult hike! However, you’ll need to do some preparing right before you take the hike as well.
Stretching should already be a part of your routine during the pre-hike workout period. Stretching improves blood flow, prevents cramps, and can improve your balance and breathing. Leg swings, calf stretches, and lunges are all good ways to limber up before you hit the trail.
You should bring plenty of water on every hike, but you can get a head start if you’re well-hydrated at the beginning. You should try to drink 3-4 cups of water before you ever start hiking. You can also drink juice, coffee, milk, or other beverages if you want to add a bit of flavor. As long as there’s plenty of liquid in your system, you’ll be in good shape for the trip.
Don’t down it all at once though, because this makes it hard for your body to absorb it and it will just make you take a pitstop sooner. Drink the beverages one cup at a time, with 15-30 minutes between each cup. If you have to drive a little while to get to the starting point, this can be a good time to fill up on drinks.
Essentials to Bring
Preparing your body is all well and good, but it’s only the first part of a successful hike. You also need to make sure you bring the right supplies on the trip, or you might end up hungry, dehydrated, or injured. A properly loaded backpack is the best friend of all hikers!
Water is an absolute necessity for hikers. Even if you bring everything else on this list, you can’t have a successful hike without water. Make sure you bring plenty and take the weather and hike length into account. A good rule of thumb is to bring 2 cups of water for every hour that you plan to hike.
If you don’t want a bunch of water bottles swishing around in your backpack, you could always bring a camelback! This makes it easy to stay hydrated as you walk.
Food is another important part of your gear. You’ll be burning a lot of calories on a hike, especially if it’s particularly hot or cold outside. Plus, it’s always nice to have something to snack on during breaks!
When you’re choosing trail food, you should look for foods that are rich in carbohydrates, sugar, protein, and healthy fats. These options give you both immediate and long-lasting energy, plus it’s nice to have something to munch on.
Dried fruit, energy bars, jerky, trail mix, granola, crackers, and dark chocolate are all great choices for trail food. Don’t be afraid to add a few guilty pleasures as well if they will make the hike more enjoyable.
A first-aid kit might seem unnecessary, but you never know what might happen on the trail. It’s definitely better to bring it and not need it rather than need it and not have it. There are small first-aid kits that are made specifically for hikers too, so you won’t necessarily need to go out and buy each individual piece. This FDA approved model is a good place to start.
Every hiker’s first aid kit should include:
- Surgical scissors
- Electrolyte supplements
- Antacids and antidiarrheals
- Allergy medicine
- Disposable gloves
- A thermometer
- Aloe vera
- Antibiotic cream
- Insect treatments
- An emergency treatment guidebook
A hiker’s backpack can fill up pretty quickly, but there are a few other odds and ends that you should bring on every hike. You might not need all of the following items, but they can certainly help you prepare for unforeseen circumstances and have a more pleasant hike. Bring along:
- A pocket knife/ multitool
- A thermal blanket
- A flashlight (with extra batteries)
- A pair of dry socks
- A camera/phone
- A small portable speaker
- An up-to-date map of the area
- A compass
- Bug spray
- A good hat
- A water filter
- Toilet paper/ sanitary wipes
- A rain poncho
Anyone can start hiking and it’s a fantastic activity for people at any skill set. You need to make sure you’re prepared for the experience though, so proper preparation is key. If you take the time to train your body and build endurance, you’ll have a much better experience. As long as you take the right preparatory steps and bring the right supplies, you’ll be ready to tackle more difficult hikes than you ever imagined.
If you get bored during hikes and backpacking trips, you can add some entertainment by listening to music/podcasts, playing games on the trail, setting personal challenges, and collecting trailside items. Traveling by yourself can be boring, so find a friend or a group to go with you.
Hiking is one of my favorite ways to get some fresh air and explore a new area! However, it isn’t always an easy hobby and there are some risks that every hiker has to prepare for. Some dangers are out of our hands, such as bad weather or wild animals blocking the trail. But there are other mistakes that are easy to avoid if you take the right steps!
- REI CO-OP, “How to Train for Hiking” and “Day Hiking Checklist“
- The Adventure Junkies, “How to Train for Hiking“
- advurgent.com “Pre-Hike Preparation“
- shedreamsofalpine.com “Hiking 101 – The Essential Hiking Gear List for 2021“