Hiking The Byways
There is something about being surrounded by nature on all sides that is incomparable to any other form of travel.
Hiking not only allows you to reach the top of the mountain but also to enjoy everything along the way. It allows people to become as tall as skyscrapers for a minute and see the land spread out before them like a map for them to explore.
Hiking is a unique form of exploration, because it may not always take you that far from home, but it can show you a whole new world from a vantage point you may have never seen before.
Hiking is a great way to get your heart rate going and to give you a cyclic workout that allows you to balance your intensity as you go along. While a short hike can take you a number of hours, longer hikes can span days or even weeks and cross an entire continent.
Whether you’re just starting out on your hiking adventure, or you’ve been exploring the trails for decades, it’s always important to know what you’re getting into before you start your climb.
Here is an introduction to the basics of hiking, as well as some general advice to help make sure you stay safe out there on the trails, no matter where your travels take you.
Start with the Basics
The idea of hiking doesn’t really need much explanation. By definition, hiking requires following a trail or going out on your own and reaching an increased elevation. With hiking, you get to experience the outdoors in some of its rarest forms, without having to pack for an entire camping trip.
Of course, some of the best places to camp can be found while hiking. Whether you stick to the main trail or you like finding the byways along the way, being prepared is a big part of any hiking trip.
Making sure you have the right gear for hiking is only one part of the adventure. Any form of natural exploration you choose, whether you’re going on a quick trail or spending the night in the woods, it’s always best to make sure someone knows where you headed. Even if you might not have a solid plan for which trail you’ll be hiking, it’s a good idea to make sure someone knows where you are. Otherwise, you may find yourself in for a long hike if you get lost. You should always bring a phone if possible for emergencies, and a backpacking solar charger for keeping it charged.
Of course, you could always just bring a friend with you while hiking, as nothing allows you to enjoy the outdoors as much as having a fellow wanderer with you (take it from John Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt, they knew what they were doing).
Whether you’re just starting out on your hiking journey, or are looking for top-of-the-line gear for your next trek, here are the hiking basics that you should keep with you whenever you head out on the trail.
Get in Gear
The first piece of gear you should keep on you is fairly obvious: a good pair of hiking boots. If you’re choosing a new pair of hiking boots, it’s always best to invest in a pair that are the right size for you. It’s good to leave a little bit of extra room in your hiking boots rather than have a pair that’s too tight. Not only does this let your feet swell up while hiking, but it allows you to wear an extra pair of socks, which is an easy way to avoid blisters on a long hike.
Make sure to take the weather into account before picking up any of your gear, as waterproof hiking boots may seem like a good idea until it’s 90° outside and your socks turn into soup! A good pair of hiking sandals will also prevent sweaty feet on the trail, and aqua shoes are better if you will spend a lot of time hiking in water.
On that note, be sure to bring an extra pair of socks with you as well, just in case. You want to make sure you have good, breathable socks that don’t cause irritation to your feet. It’s also a good idea to wear longer socks so that they don’t fall down during your hike and so they help keep out unwanted insects like ticks and mosquitoes. Bear spray will help you defend yourself in the rare case that you encounter a bear.
While not absolutely necessary, having lightweight gear can make your journey significantly less difficult. Having a lightweight backpacking sleeping bag and backpacking tent is a good idea.
Make sure to have a good idea about where you’re hiking before you head out. The area around you will influence what you need to bring with you, of course.
In general, make sure you have water (A hydration pack could work for this), any food you may need (whether it be a snack or multiple meals cooked on a backpacking stove), and a first aid kit on hand. You should also have a map of the area, a compass, and a backup battery for your phone, even for short hikes. An alternative to this navigational gear is having a reliable hiking GPS. Of course, if you find yourself on a longer hike across the US, you may need to plan ahead to drop off hiking stashes so you can restock along the way.
You should also invest in a good hiking backpack, one that can hold your supplies and doesn’t pain your back, but also is not so heavy that it wears you down on the trail. Check out our hiking gear recommendations to help your next trek be a grand adventure instead of a frustrating letdown.
Hiking the Trails: From the National Parks to Around the World
We could go ahead and list the top 10 national parks to hike at in the U.S., but even the National Park Service can’t agree which park has the best trails (though we’re sure they’re pretty biased)!
Every National Park gives you a unique snapshot of the nation’s landscape. Whether you’re hiking in Bryce Canyon or you’re exploring the wooded trails of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, hiking in a national park is the adventure of a lifetime.
Follow the main trails or take one of the side paths; either way, you’re guaranteed to see something incredible. And while the large national parks like Yosemite are always amazing to visit, you should look into some of the national parks closer to your home. You can easily find a park near you that is less crowded than the major parks, but still well-maintained.
Of course, there are hundreds of thousands of places to hike around the world as well, and some of them are definitely worth having on your bucket list, like the Inca Trail that ends at Machu Picchu. The best thing to do when looking for your next climb is done research on the area your exploring, and make sure travel all the little byways that come up along the way.
So lace up your hiking boots, grab your water bottle, and get your trekking poles, it’s time to explore everything the mountains have to offer.