Trails

A hiking trail in Thousand Oaks, California, w...

A hiking trail in Thousand Oaks, California, with the Simi Hills in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks.” – John Muir

Ain’t that the truth.

These boots were made for walkin’, and these trails were made for hiking. Hiking is enjoyed by thousands of people every single day, it doesn’t matter where you live, it doesn’t matter how you are, it doesn’t matter how fit you are . . . there’s a hike suitable for you.

What is Hiking?

Hiking is just the same as walking isn’t it? Well, yes and no . . . you see, the mechanics are the same, you put one foot in front of the other and move along at your own pace, under your own steam, but whereas you might walk to the store, or walk to school, or walk to work . . . hiking is walking for the sheer pleasure of it! Hiking helps to free the body, free the mind, free the spirit. Hiking gives you freedom and access to many of the most wonderful and awe inspiring places on the planet . . . places which can only be reached on foot. Hiking gives you a sense of achievement, a sense of wonder, I just love hiking (can you tell)?

Top 5 Reasons Why Hiking is so Popular

Well, if all of those reasons above haven’t convinced you, let’s take a look at just why hiking is so popular these days, and it’s getting more and more popular all the time.  According to a recent survey (okay, I admit it, I surveyed my two best hiking buddies and this is what we came up with) . . . . these are the top 5 reasons why hiking is so great, and popular, and we’re addicted to it.

  1. Hiking is Healthy – we’re all being constantly told that we’re overweight / unfit / need more exercise, and the health benefits of walking and hiking have been well documented. Hiking is a great way to be physically active as well as giving you the potential to reduce the chance of heart disease, lose weight, decrease hypertension, slow down the aging process, reduce stress and anxiety. Yep, hiking is healthy, that’s definitely one good reason why hiking is so popular.
  2. Hiking is Simple – many of us have mastered the rudimentary skills needed for hiking before our first birthday and we’ve been doing it ever since. Hiking really is simple, and the more often you hike the more additional skills you will develop – more strength and stamina. Hiking is so easy to start, and easy to stick to – even beginners don’t often get frustrated like you would, say, trying to learn to play tennis or golf! You can easily control the intensity of your workout, you can hike at your own pace, you can hike as near or as far as you are able.
  3. Hiking is Cheap – compare hiking to many other sports and you’ll soon realize that upfront spending is definitely minimal. All you need is a good pair of hiking boots, some proper clothes, a comfortable backpack and you’re up and running (I mean, hiking). You don’t have to pay to join a club, to use some expensive facilities or buy expensive equipment.
  4. Hiking is in the Real World – many of us spend far too much time on computers, sitting in the office beneath fluorescent lights these days (hands up to that one) – then spend our evenings watching TV and texting our buddies, well, hiking is a step away from the “virtual world” and back to nature. Getting out into the real world and taking a hike is bound to deliver a few surprises along every trail, no matter how many times you’ve hiked a particular trail before.
  5. Hiking is Forever – it really doesn’t matter how old you are, or how young you are . . . you can introduce your kids to hiking at a very early age and they can continue to hike until well into their old age. There are not many sports which you can say that about . . . hiking is low impact, you can easily control the duration and intensity of your workout, you can keep on hiking for many years after your days on the soccer field are nothing more than a distant memory. Okay, so older hikers might not cover as much ground quite so quickly, but that doesnt’ mean that they’re not so good at hiking any more, it simply means that they have more time to really enjoy the environment.

What Do You Need to Hike

I’ve already touched on this a little bit, but let’s see just what equipment you need to get started on your hiking adventure.

  • Hiking boots – or hiking shoes. These are the most important part of your hiking equipment, if you haven’t got a good pair of hiking boots or shoes which offer the proper amount of comfort, protection and support then you’re not going to get very far. Never set off on a hike with new hiking boots, always make sure that you wear them in at home first . . . okay, you might feel a bit silly wearing your new hiking boots around the house but believe me, if you don’t wear them in you could get some painful blisters along your hike – and blisters are one of the hikers worst enemies. Nothing can spoil a good hike and cut it short more than a painful blister.
  • Hiking clothes – hikers don’t worry too much about having the latest styles and named brands, but what is important is that you have some clothes which are suitable for hiking. They’ve gotta’ be comfortable, layers are important, quick drying is equally important, as is moisture wicking – so that you don’t get all sweaty and chaffing in the wrong places! Remember to always carry rain gear with you, even if the sky is a beautiful shade of blue when you set off on your hike. The weather can change mighty quickly, especially if your hike involves climbing to a higher altitude.
  • Backpack – this is important, but the type of backpack you need to carry depends on the type of hiking you’re gonna’ do. If you’re going for a day hike you’ll still need to carry plenty of drinking water, raingear, food and snacks, perhaps a hat, map, camera, torch, basic first aid supplies, sun screen . . . all of that stuff can be carried comfortably and with the minimum amount of effort in a well chosen and fitted hikers back pack.

There’s loads more information about hiking, camping and the gear you’ll need at icamping.com

As you get more and more adventurous and experienced with your hiking, you may feel the need to venture a little further off the beaten track and really pit your wits against nature on an overnight or through camping and hiking trip. Of course, you’ll need a bigger backpack, with more equipment, but hey, you can build that up slowly as you are gradually bitten by the “hiking bug” – oh, forgot to say, you should probably take some bug spray with you too.

Hiking Trips

Hiking trips can be as long, or as short, as easy or as tough as you want them to be. It’s definitely not recommended that you set off on a gruelling through hike unless you’re completely hiking fit and experienced, but then again, there are some great hikes in many of the national parks which are just a couple of miles and can be tackled by even the most inexperienced hiking newbie.

  • Day Hikes – are definitely the best way to start, and very popular amongst the most part time of hikers. In fact, many day hikes are really just afternoon hikes, or morning hikes. Either way, it’s important that you take the right type of hiking stuff with you in your daypack . . . you never know what’s around the corner, even if you’re day hiking in an area where you’ve hiked many times before.
  • Overnight Hikes – are great fun and definitely to be recommended. Of course, you’ll need a bigger backpack ‘cos you’ll have lots more hiking gear to carry – sleeping bag, food, cooking stove and pots, tent or tarp, toilet equipment . . . just organizing an overnight hike is an adventure in itself.
  • Through Hikes – are the ultimate goal of some dedicated hikers, although the organization, time and skills involved is way beyond the talents of the majority of weekend hikers. There are some great through hiking trails which go on for thousands of miles – you’ve probably heard of some of ‘em – The Appalachian Trail, The Pacific Crest Trail . . . many through hikers simply tackle a small part of these trails at one time, they do take many months to complete all in one go!

Hikers all agree . . . it’s not the destination, it’s the journey which makes it all worthwhile.

Visit icamping.com for loads more information about camping, hiking and the gear you’ll need.

Happy Hiking!