Beginner’s Guide to Hiking
Welcome to the beginner’s guide to hiking blog, we think hiking is a great pastime! It’s healthy, cheap and a great way to meet new people or spend more time with family and friends. There are many different levels of hiking from starter hiking to more challenging hikes. If you are a first time hiker, it’s really important you start off a bit easier and then work your way up to more challenging walks.
Beginners Guide to Hiking: So why get into hiking?
Sky+ is great, but since you have been recording absolutely everything, you just keep skipping all those tiresome adverts (except the John Lewis advert). This has freed up at least ten hours a week for other activities, so why should you choose hiking as one of them?
Hiking is a really good way to get back into shape (if you are out of shape that is). Your fitness levels will dramatically increase the more you get out hiking. Just be careful if you are a bit out of shape and start off with some easier hiking routes. Some health advantages include:
- A Healthy and Happy Heart – is your heart in A1 condition? It could be! Walking is proven to reduce cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart diseases. It doesn’t just stop there, your muscles will benefit from the exercise and you’ll soon add some tone back into your body.
- Reduction in risks of cancers and side effects – walking has also been linked with reducing the risk of cancers and also weakens the side effects of chemotherapy if a person does have cancer. It’s all to do with your blood circulation bringing healthy energy into your body. (I’m no doctor so don’t take this as the gospel!)
- Healthy Pregnancy – hiking can ensure you remain as healthy as possible during pregnancy as the walking reduces your hormonal fluctuations and can also help reduce fatigue and body pains.
- Sexual Healing (nudge nudge, wink wink) – hiking can also put the spark back into the bedroom as hiking increases the blood circulation which reduces the risk of impotence and can improve your love life. (I might go off for a little hike now myself)
- Burn Excess Baggage – carrying a few extra pounds? Get hiking and you soon will need a belt to hold your trousers round your waist again. You’ll be able to see your feet again! Hiking is a no brainer for those wanting to lose weight; it can be far more beneficial to your body than jogging.
- Talk to the GP (If you have Medical Concerns) – Before you start any strenuous hiking activity. Please ensure you talk to the GP to ensure you body is up to the task.
Hiking has a positive effect on your physical health, it can also help your mental health by giving you time to think and reflect on life. Stress and anxiety can be released through going for a hike as your mind has time to relax.
We live in one of, if not the most beautiful country on the planet. There are still tons of unspoilt areas with stunning scenery to explore. Sometimes it can be nice to escape the technology and speed of modern life and just go back to basics.
Spend Time with Family & Friends
Hiking is a great way to spend time together as a couple or as a family; walking is also great for making new friends or for enhancing your existing friendships.
Beginners Guide to Hiking: Levels of Hiking & Gear Required
Basic Hiking – a wander round the Local Park or reservoir is a great place to start your hiking journey. Suburbia is a great place to start because you are close to home and you are safe and you can appreciate the local scenery and learn more about the area you live in.
Intermediate – a trip to the lakes or walking the Pennine Way, even the three peaks. A trip like this is perfect for the intermediate walker who has some experience in walking and knows what they are doing. You should not attempt these walks without any experience or on your own. Also always have a MAP and COMPASS – don’t just rely on technology. Technology is rubbish (apart from Sky+), 3G, electronic maps and compasses have often been known to fail to the peril of many hikers and hill walkers.
Beginner Hikers: What do you need?
Hiking boots are essential to your progression in your hiking levels. You need to purchase a comfortable, waterproof and breathable set of hiking boots to ensure that your feet are well looked after whilst walking. Ideally, you need a pair of boots with ankle support to ensure you do not strain or twist your ankle inclining and declining hills.
If you want the best of the best, always be sure to purchase a GORE TEX lined boot as this is the most breathable and waterproof lining on the market (it’s not for everyone though). Always try your boots on before you buy to ensure the fit is good, this will help avoid discomfort, rubbing and blisters. Also make sure you wear your boots in, don’t just go for a ten-mile hike in a brand new pair of boots or you will have blisters or worse! If you are buying a pair of boots for an upcoming hiking trip at the last minute, then buy a softer leather boot as these need less wearing in and are kinder to your feet.
Check out our guide to choosing and fitting hiking boots.
It is amazing the difference a good pair of walking socks makes to a pair of boots. Socks can increase your comfort whilst walking and also ensure your feet stay toasty warm and breathe. There are also double layer socks (1000 Mile), which are designed specifically to aid against blisters and sores on your feet. Well worth the extra bit of pocket money.
Backpack / Rucksack
A useful purchase is a backpack, this way you can store food and drinks or waterproof pack-away jackets in the bag. It all depends on the type of hiking trip you wish to undertake, a smaller venture will require a smaller backpack and less equipment. A longer venture may entail buying a larger rucksack to store your equipment in.
In case you had not noticed, we do live in a cold winter country, and a cold summer country for that matter! A useful clothing item in the winter and early spring is a base layer, this is because base layers are really lightweight and offer great warmth.
However, do ensure you buy a Merino Wool base layer as these base layers offer the best warmth and also the best wicking systems (breathability system). Also Merino wool feels really good against your skin and will not irritate the skin like a cheaper fabric might do.
Fleece / Softshell Jacket
The fleece is usually worn as the mid layer jacket, the idea of the fleece is to obviously provide additional warmth around your chest to ensure you stay warm. If your heart is warmer, it will pump warmer blood around your system! So it’s always important to cover your chest and also your head to ensure your body system stays warm. Some different styles of fleece:
- Lightweight fleece – the best middle layer to have to ensure warmth.
- Waterproof fleeces – some fleeces now come water proofed to ensure yoi stay dry whilst out there.
- Softshell Layers – similar to fleeces but more lightweight and water resistant.
Walking Trousers / Over-trousers
Walking trousers provide the flexibility, strength and durability required for hiking. Also, you can buy lined trousers for the colder winter climates to ensure you stay nice and warm. Over-trousers are also useful for when the heavens open and the rain pours. Most over-trousers are packable and can be stored in a daysack and then just used when the weather turns.
A waterproof jacket should do what it says on the tin! There are different levels of waterproofing though so just be sure you get something that will be suitable for the conditions. You need to look for a style of waterproof jacket that fits well, is waterproof and windproof and also has a roll out hood to ensure you can keep your well sculpted hair dry if it pours down.
A Quick Explanation of Waterproofing
Waterproofness is measured by Hydrostatic Head in millimetres. The British legal minimum for waterproofing is 1500mm of water.
What does this mean?
It means that the waterproof item must be able to withstand 1500mm of water pressure without the fabric leaking water.
How Do You Test Waterproofing?
Clothing is generally be tested by using a vice to hold the fabric, then a pump will be used to apply the water pressure. If the fabric sweats or has beads of water come through from the pump then it has failed the water pressure test.
Waterproofing Membranes and their ability to withstand water pressure:
Isotex 5000 – often found in Regatta jackets and boots, a good level of waterproofing but still fairly basic.
Isotex 8000 – often found in the higher quality Regatta jackets and boots
Isotex 20,000 – often found in the highest quality Regatta walking equipment.
HyVent – often found in many intermediate walking jackets and boots. HyVent is a really good waterproofing technology that is capable of withstanding 10,000hh
Gore Tex – 20,000 to 30,000hh – there are different levels of Gore Tex. Gore Tex still remains the walker’s choice when it comes to a waterproof lining, this is why any product with Gore Tex carries a highest price point.
Walking / Hiking Poles
Walking poles can be used to alleviate pressure whilst hiking; they often relieve pressure by up to 30% from the knees, ankles, back and arms. Hiking poles tend to be especially useful for hiking long distances and they can be of great help on uneven or unreliable terrains.
Compass & Navigation
The last but the most important piece of equipment is the map and compass. Earlier in the blog I was harping on about how technology can and does fail regularly. My brother-in-law and my father found this out when they went for a walk in the Peak District and lost their trail on their decline down the hill. Both inexperienced walkers, they were caught out by heavy fog and then their GPS system failed. Luckily they were well prepared and had a map and compass, they were able to find their way home despite this issue. Without the map and compass, they may well of been stranded overnight!
Make Your Hiking Trips More Exciting
There’s an App for That – Download an app which can track the progress of your walk and work out how many calories you have lost on each walk. These apps are great for analysing your hiking trip! You can also check your average speeds and compare them with previous attempts.
Geocaching – great if you are taking the kids hiking, Geo Caching makes a hiking trip a treasure hunt by using GPS coordinates to make the walk more exciting. Check out our blog on Geocaching.
I do hope you take note of the points on our blog: A Beginner’s Guide to Hiking. There’s nothing like a cheesy American quote to end our blog, I’m not sure President Obama is referring to hillwalking or hiking, more likely the economy, but the principle is the same. Take heed of our Beginner’s Guide to Hiking and ensure you are well prepared for your hiking trip. The rest will come naturally!
“If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.” – Barack Obama
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