I hadn’t done a lot of hiking and hadn’t trekked at all before when I went off travelling around the world. On that trip, I did a lot of hiking and some serious trekking, which included trekking to Everest Base Camp and the ‘W’ circuit in Torres del Paine National Park. During that time, I saw incredible sights that are only accessible on foot, which fostered my love of both hiking and trekking. However, these aren’t without risk or danger. Each hiking and trekking route is different and has its own peculiarities that you will have to research and be prepared for, such as altitude sickness, and what to do in emergency situations. You never know what is going to happen.
I generally hike with others, although in recent years, I have done a few solo hikes in Europe and Central America. After a recent solo hike up to Mount Snowdon, I thought it would be worth sharing some tips from my experiences of hiking and trekking over the past few years. These are in no particular order.
1. Take a break.
You will want to take a break at some point, but make sure you don’t stop for too long. Once you have warmed up, you won’t want to cool down. The trick is to take frequent, short breaks. I tend to stop frequently, for very short periods of time because I am always stopping to take photos and videos. I also stop to have a drink of water or a quick snack. If you begin to feel cold, it’s time to move on. I try not to stop for that long. If you do, it’s a sign to get moving again. You also want to keep the momentum going. If I stop for too long, it’s harder to muster up the motivation to continue.
2. Food and drink.
It is extra to carry, but you need to make sure you have enough water and food with you whether you are hiking for the day or for a few days. Keeping hydrated is crucial. Don’t wait until you are thirsty. Take small, regular sips of water. It really will keep you going. This is the same with snacking. Eating small amounts frequently is better than eating a mountain of food in one go.
3. Good footwear
You will be on your feet for a long time, walking on a variety of terrain. Wearing a good pair of hiking shoes or boots and socks is important. You could be scrambling up rocks, jumping from one rock to the next as you make your way across a stream, or descending on loose gravel, to name but a few types of terrain. You need to have comfortable, good quality hiking shoes that fit properly, and are in good condition. If you have a pair of hiking shoes or boots, but the tread has gone, you won’t have any grip. I prefer hiking shoes over boots. Boots give your ankles protection, which is important, but I find them too restrictive.
Socks are also important. Get a decent pair of socks that are fit for purpose. Hiking socks that fit well are a good investment. You want to be comfortable and avoid chafing, shearing, and blisters. While on a recent hike up Mount Snowdon, I was wearing an ordinary pair of socks because I hadn’t planned to go hiking. My feet were sore by the end because, when I was descending, the socks weren’t cushioned.
4. Dress for the occasion
Proper hiking trousers are best because they are lightweight, breathable, comfortable, and flexible. I know people who hike in leggings, which is fine, but try to make sure the leggings are breathable. Jeans are no good for hiking. I have hiked in jeans a couple of times when I have gone on unplanned hikes.
I tend to carry waterproof over trousers and a lightweight, waterproof jacket with me. They are lightweight and small to carry, and you never know when you might need them, especially if you are hiking or trekking in the UK.
5. Layer up
You will get warm up as you walk, and you will cool down when you stop, so it’s important to ensure you are wearing layers, so you can strip off and layer up during the hike. One thing I tend not to take in the summer is a hat or cap. Even though it’s a myth that you lose most of your body heat through your head, a hat or a cap can help to keep you warm when you stop, especially when the wind blows.
6. Give yourself plenty of time
Make sure you have enough daylight hours to do the hike. You will have an idea of the average length of time it takes to do a particular route, but that is just a guide. You might do it quicker or it might take you longer. If, like me, you stop frequently to take videos and photos and enjoy the view, make sure you account for that. Also, if you are making a return journey the same day, make sure you add in time for stopping at the summit.
7. Tell someone where you are going
This is particularly important if you are on your own, but still important if you are hiking with others. If no one knows where you are, they won’t know where to look for you. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so make sure you tell someone where you’re going and your route, even if it means phoning, texting, or emailing. Also, make sure your mobile device is charged and take a small portable charger, if you can. That way you can summon help, if necessary.
8. Hike with others
I sometimes hike on my own. I’m certainly not suggesting you hike solo, but when I do I always feel better when there are people in front of and behind me. I don’t feel alone then, and it means there are people around if something happens.
9. Lay a trail of white pebbles
OK, so it isn’t quite Hansel and Gretel, but often there won’t be any or many signs. With or without a map, I have a tendency to get lost. Nonetheless, having a map isn’t a bad idea. Taking a phone is useful because, providing you have reception, you can ring, text, or use the GPS to find out where you are and how to get back. Some trails might have some markings, so look out for that on the way up. Keep your eyes open. Look out for landmarks or anything distinctive that will help you when getting back, providing you are going back on the same route.
11. First aid kit
12. Torch (Flashlight)
I definitely wouldn’t recommend hiking as it gets dark. I got caught out once, and I had to hike down in the dark. Thankfully, I had a torch with me, and a mobile with a torch. I ended up using both because the battery in my torch ran out. It’s good to be prepared.
13. Duct tape
Duct tape is such a useful piece of kit. Once, when I was on a multi-day hike in China, the sole of my shoe came off. I used duct tape to keep the sole on my shoe, so I could finish the hike. I did, and promptly bought a new pair of hiking shoes.
For further information and advice, it is worth taking a look at the Mountain Rescue website.
Have your say
Do you go hiking? If so, what would you add to the list?