Seven Things You Need To Know About Hiking
Posted on 25 March 2019
If you’re thinking about plunging into the world of hiking, we salute your decision! You’re about to become a member of a wonderful community.
However, you certainly want to educate yourself about the basics of hiking.
Given the fact there are a lot of misconceptions about this type of activity, we’ve decided to share with you a total of seven things you need to know about hiking.
1. What is hiking?
Hiking is a recreational activity that implies walking for a long distance on man-made footpaths, usually in nature or across the countryside.
Although many people enjoy hiking simply because it provides a nice getaway from the city - this type of relaxing, self-paced exercise has incredible health benefits.
Hiking can be a powerful cardio workout that enables you to keep your weight under control while feeling great. It improves your blood pressure and lowers the risk of heart diseases; it strengthens your core and muscles, especially within the lower body - quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings; overall, it helps your body build stamina.
In addition, hiking makes you feel energised and rejuvenated: surprisingly enough - it significantly boosts your mood.
This physical activity happens to be a natural stress-reliever and a perfect mind-body workout - reserved not only for outdoor enthusiasts but for all those who appreciate beautiful, scenic views and crave a strong injection of fresh air.
But that’s not all.
Studies have shown hiking in nature can actually serve as a cognitive enhancer and improve our memory by 20%.
It directly helps us unwind and gives our brain a chance to “let off steam” in order to fully recover from the everyday tension and stress we’ve been exposed to.
Stunning surroundings such as woods, hills and mountain sceneries, can help us get rid of mental fatigue and regain our focus, make us feel calmer and filled with gratitude, while also restoring our mental balance and keeping depression and anxiety away.
It's no wonder people are drawn to outdoor adventures for ages.
2. A brief history of hiking
It’s fairly difficult to pinpoint the exact time hiking was born, or more precisely said - discovered.
Some say the idea of taking extensive walks in nature emerged in the 18th century and that it became rather popular later on, within the Romantic movement.
Romanticism and its followers were fascinated by the miracles of nature and this adoration found its place in many different artworks.
In the United Kingdom, the idea of walking in nature for personal pleasure was popularised by an English priest named Thomas West, who has mapped out various breathtaking viewpoints around the lakes in his guidebook called Lake District, from 1778. West highly admired the picturesque scenery that this region offered to anyone who wandered through it.
Hiking in Tennesse in 1870. (source: Wikimedia)
Hiking was later on praised by many English poets and writers, such as William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and John Keats. The trend of exploring on foot has introduced a whole new genre in literature - travelogues.
Industrialisation in the UK led to massive migrations to cities, which further induced a wish to walk around the countryside and reconnect with nature.
However, trespassing became illegal, which caused people to become politically active and fight for their “right to roam”. The old idea of hiking survived and people began creating so-called “rambling clubs”. This has lead to the creation of several legislative acts that allowed people to hike across national parks and the countryside.
Fast forward to the 21st century and the official Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, which has significantly extended the rights of hikers on the territory of England and Wales, making a lot of natural sceneries legally accessible to them.
3. Difference between hiking and trekking
Many people think hiking and trekking are basically the same things, but there is a key difference between these two notions.
As we already explained, hiking takes place in a natural setting, usually with defined pathways (or trails). It is a self-paced activity, but it typically comes down to a low-intensity walking exercise.
On the other hand, trekking is more physically demanding and can be quite of a challenge for those who are not in a very good shape. It implies a longer journey with a specific goal of exploring a certain area and its unspoiled wilderness, and it can take up to several days.
While hiking is more of a daily activity that requires basic equipment, trekking implies carrying essentials such as extra food, clothes and tents for sleeping breaks between previously defined destination points.
4. Who can hike?
Hiking is a great physical activity for persons of all ages and fitness levels.
The best thing about hiking lies in the fact its intensity can be adjusted to your individual stamina and physical readiness. If you’re at a beginner level, you can try different fitness-boosting tips to help you get started.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
Start with even terrains and shorter hikes until you improve your physical fitness
Work your way towards light-hilled areas and use walking poles to engage arm muscles as well
Introduce other forms of exercise to progress faster (weight training in the gym, cycling and other cardio workouts can be your great allies here)
Bring a backpack in order to create an additional burden for your body and gradually strengthen your core (plus, a bottle of water and an energy bar come in handy when you feel like freshening up)
- Do not go overboard (hiking hills will increase your pulse, but make sure you keep it between 50% and 80% of your maximum heart rate; if you experience shortness of breath, immediately take a break)
To sum it up, you don’t need to have any special skills in order to try hiking, literally anyone who’s healthy can do it. Just remember to listen to your body and don’t push yourself over the limit, especially if you’re about to go on your first hike ever.
5. Best places in the UK for hiking
The United Kingdom has some of the most spectacular hiking places waiting for you. We’ve made our top three list especially for you to try out:
South West Coast Path (West Lulworth to Weymouth)
If you want to spend a whole day soaking in the beautiful scenery along the coastline, then a hiking path from West Lulworth to Weymouth might be the perfect choice for you.
Some of the most iconic natural landmarks can be found here, such as the Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door. If you’re feeling kind of adventurous, you can take a break and swim for a bit or stop, get comfortable on the ground and sunbathe. That is if the weather allows it.
Stanage Edge, Peak District
If you want to enjoy peaceful surroundings and a spectacular view, you may want to set off from the village of Hathersage on a hiking trail surrounded by dry-stone dykes and buildings that leave an impression of invaluable cultural heritage. Peak District is amazing. Standing over the highest cliff will evoke a victorious feeling and the landscape will make you feel calm and humble.
Helvellyn, Lake District
Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without the famous Lake District where it allegedly all started. Helvellyn is the third highest peak in England (950m) and it will undoubtedly reward you with an amazing panoramic view. The surrounding summit is very spacious and completely flat, which makes the mountain stand out even more. This hike is for those who are properly physically prepared as it is moderately difficult. Still, it’s fairly romantic and breathtaking.
For more hiking trails in the UK, check out the extensive list of The Long Distance Walkers Association.
6. Best places in Europe for hiking
Europe doesn’t fall behind when it comes to stunning hiking trails. Here are the best three:
Lauterbrunnen, Swiss Alps
Lauterbrunnen makes the perfect place for hiking during any time of the year. The air is incredibly fresh and crisp, while the surrounding greenery looks absolutely surreal. Nature and the landscape seem so powerful that they slow down your heart pulse and really allow you to be present at the moment and appreciate life. Some people choose to climb the Schilthorn Peak, but this could be a bit of a challenge for those at a beginner level.
The Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Within The Plitvice Lakes National Park, you can rest your eyes on numerous beautifully blue, green and turquoise lakes, and enjoy the soothing sounds of the waterfalls that follow you as you climb up the terrain. Crystal clear waters will make your hiking worthwhile, along with the incredible sight from one of the highest waterfalls - Veliki Slap. There are also additional water activities you can try out.
Zillertal in Austria offers dozens of different hiking trails for persons of all fitness levels. If you want to get away from the city lights and enjoy a peaceful, starry night - there’s hardly a better hiking place than this. A plethora of peaks offers many amazing panoramic views while rivers complete your hiking experience with serenity.
For more hiking places in Europe, check out the list made by the Wanderlust.
7. Be prepared with the best hiking equipment
Of course, in order to make the most of your hiking adventure, you need to be fully prepared. This means you want to invest in the best hiking equipment that keeps you safe and truly provides value for your money.
Let’s start with basics:
Hiking boots, the first thing for comfy walks
Finding hiking boots that are both comfortable, aesthetically pleasing, waterproof and functional may seem like a daunting task. You need to prioritize the selection of the best components and ensure you don’t buy an ill-fitting pair.
Uncomfortable boots could turn you off from hiking. Your adventure might become a complete nightmare when blisters and pain appear.
Depending on the type of terrain, we recommend you to check out our online offer and models.
Appropriate socks mean a lot
As funny as it may seem, but proper socks could mean a difference between healthy, dry feet and continuous discomfort or itchiness. In addition, they ensure the boot fits properly and they protect your foot from stiff shoe edges.
In case you choose heavier footwear, you might want to invest in socks with extra cushioning that protect your foot from pressure points, such as The Boot Tech Heavy Mid-calf Sock.
Don’t let such a rookie mistake as choosing a wrong pair of socks ruin your hike.
Hiking jacket, you really need a good one
A jacket is your most important piece of clothing given the fact it protects you from harsh weather conditions, especially wind and low temperatures.
If you plan on going on a mountain hike, you need to keep your body warm. There is a variety of choices when it comes to hiking jacket models, so make sure you choose the one that answers your needs while it also fits into your budget.
Hiking jackets can get a bit expensive due to the high-quality materials that won't weigh you down and allow solid freedom of movement, but they are very good at providing the necessary protection from environmental factors.
Also, keep in mind that weather conditions may change from day to night, which is why it is advisable to layer your clothes.
These are just the essentials when it comes to hiking equipment. You certainly need a great backpack and additional clothes that ensure your planned adventure doesn’t have any unpleasant surprises.
We sincerely hope you found this hiking guide useful. To discover the best hiking equipment on the market, check out our available collections and shop online with just a few clicks!
Photo credit: Pexels.com