The coronavirus pandemic has forced many of us to adapt by making changes to our daily routine. The need to socially distance has meant that those of us who regularly exercise at a gym will have to make other arrangements in order to stay fit. Working out at home has become a normal part of our daily routine for the past 6 months or more and, as with any exercise routine, it is important to break the monotony by changing things up from time to time. A perfect way to break the monotony of a home based exercise routine while maintaining social distancing is to take a hike. However, if we have not been on one before, it is important to know how to prepare for a hike.
In this post, we discuss four must do things in the preparation phase to ensure that we will get the most benefit from this activity. Hiking offers many of the health benefits of other aerobic activities including weight and hypertension control, stress reduction and improved cardiovascular health. Canada has the advantage of numerous wide open spaces that are perfect for hiking activity. Additionally, with the arrival of cooler fall weather, hiking is a lot more pleasant than it would be in the sweltering heat of July or August. If you are able to enjoy and benefit from some hiking activity during the pandemic, you may have discovered a fun pastime to continue enjoying even after things return to normal. Knowing how to prepare properly for a hike can provide benefits that will last for a lifetime.
Know What To Pack For Your Hike
As you prepare for a short hike, it is important to know the essential things that you should take with you. The list should include:
- A navigation aid such as a compass or GPS device will be an important accessory if you get lost or need to find something like an emergency exit or rest area. We would also suggest taking a map that has these areas clearly marked;
- A first aid kit is also an essential item if you are to properly prepare for your hike. It should include items like bandages, kinesiology tape, antibiotic ointments and gauze pads. Blisters may also be a problem during the hike, especially if you are not an experienced hiker. In this case, you should bring some blister pads with you, or second skin squares or circles.
- Other things that you should consider taking with you include rain protection (e.g. a lightweight poncho), safety items (flashlight, firestarter and whistle) and a multi purpose knife or other similar tool;
- If you are vulnerable to sunburn, you may also wish to consider taking sunscreen or another form of protection from UV radiation.
- Other items that you should consider taking with you include a trash bag, bug spray and toiletries such as toilet paper and waste bags. To maintain proper hand hygiene, a hand sanitizer is of course essential if you are to be properly prepared for the hike.
Packing Food & Water For Your Hike
- It is essential to keep fully hydrated throughout the hike. As a result, you should ensure that you are taking adequate water with you. Start taking small amounts of water before your hike and keep sipping throughout it to maintain adequate hydration;
- If your hike will be a long one (say a day or more) you should also take some food with you;
We will discuss the need for packing food & water in more detail below.
Prepare For Your Hike By Dressing Appropriately
After deciding what to pack for your hike, the next key decision is choosing what to wear.
Prepare For Your Hike With Proper Footwear
To be properly prepared for your hike you should choose clothing that is comfortable but that will also help you avoid getting either too cold or warm. Avoid wearing jeans as these will be too uncomfortable if worn for a prolonged period. For hiking in winter weather, use layers to keep warm. Wear long underwear under trousers that are made from a wick friendly material. If you are hiking in warmer weather, wear a pair of lightweight trousers to protect your legs from bug bites or scrapes from undergrowth. Avoid shorts for the same reasons.
When it comes to footwear, you should consider socks that are wickable and also comfortable to wear over a prolonged period. One option that you should consider is hiking socks made from merino wool. They are breathable and temperature regulating, so that your feet will not get too warm or cold during your hike.
Where hiking shoes are concerned, as a beginner, you will likely be hiking over milder and less challenging terrain. To be properly prepared for your hike, you should opt for shoes that are lightweight and comfort oriented. As your hiking progresses and you move on to more challenging terrain, it will be advisable to switch to a more rugged and supportive type of footwear.
In addition to your choice of trousers and footwear, proper preparation for your hike would include wearing a hat to avoid excessive sun exposure. When conditions are sunny, you should also opt for light coloured clothing as this will help you keep cool and comfortable. In addition, you should avoid clothing made from cotton, as it will absorb moisture more readily. Perspiration and rain will also take longer to evaporate, leading to a less comfortable hiking experience.
Choose Your Pre-Hike Meal With Care
To prepare properly for your hike, you should make sure that you eat at least 2 hours before you begin. As with any other type of exercise, your body will need adequate fuel before and during your hike. We have already mentioned the need to be properly hydrated before your hike, but you should also ensure that you consume adequate healthy carbohydrates, including whole grain pasta and cereals, fruits, vegetables and brown rice. Avoid excessive consumption of proteins or fats before your hike, as your body will generally take longer to digest these foods. As a result, you may feel sluggish or uncomfortable during your hike.
Leave protein rich food for consumption after the hike. You will need those foods at that time to repair muscles and tissues that have been torn, damaged or stressed during your exertions. The amino acids in the protein will help to repair your tissues and get you ready for your next workout. These principles are not very different from the ones you probably already follow when choosing what to eat before and after your regular workout.
Prepare For Your Hike By Packing The Appropriate Food
One of the most common errors committed by hiking beginners is under-estimating the amount of water they will need to either consume before they start or take with them on the hike. It is advisable to consume approximately 32 ounces of water before you start to ensure you are adequately hydrated right from the start. In addition, you should ensure that you will have access to around 16 ounces of water for each hour of your excursion.
If you expect your hike to last for more than an hour, you should also pack some food to take with you. Aim for nutrition that is lightweight, nutritious and rich in carbohydrates in order to keep your body properly fuelled. Good examples of these are:
- Trail Mix;
- Dried Fruit;
- Granola bars.
In addition to the advice in this post, we also suggest reading our post on staying safe and healthy during a long hike for additional useful advice.