There is no doubt that the most beautiful natural places in the world are best seen on foot. The following tips are just some of the many things that I have learnt over the years. Many were learnt the hard way for us... so we have put this list together so you may not have to do the same!
Hiking trips can be some of the best memories in a lifetime, but being properly prepared for them will ensure they don't become one of the worst.
Tip #1 - Choosing A Hike
Pick a suitable track for your fitness level and your experience. This is incredibly important. On our tours, we have seen many fellow hikers on the track who bit off far more than they could chew, which turned what could have been an amazing experience, into a very stressful one. Starting small and working your way up is the best way to go, but don't be afraid to push yourself a little bit.
Tip #2 - What To Carry
These are the things that you should pack to stay safe outdoors. The duration and remoteness of your trip will play a part in what you do decide to take with you. Make sure you pack as light as you can. That means that everything you are taking should be a necessity, and ideally have multiple purposes.
Ten Essential Systems
Navigation (map & compass)
Sun protection (sunglasses & sunscreen)
Insulation (extra clothing)
Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candle)
Repair kit and tools
Nutrition (extra food)
Hydration (extra water)
Emergency shelter (tent/plastic tube tent/garbage bag)
Tip #3 - Study The Maps
I personally spend quite a bit of time on Google Earth before any hiking/camping trip. It not only helps you to understand where the track is, but it will help you to understand where you are in the landscape if something goes wrong, and where the nearest help may be.
There are also many good, detailed maps out there of the well-known tracks. Make sure you print out a copy of a good topographic map if you are going somewhere with limited reception (but it is always good to do this anyway).
Tip #4 - Check The Weather
A hike can become dangerous in changing weather conditions. Weather forecasts can change quickly so make sure you check the most updated forecast you can prior to the trip.
To go further, it is worthwhile gaining a basic understanding of cloud patterns and what they mean. Some clouds indicate rain, some indicate intense storms. On long trips in the bush, this skill may give you enough time to prepare accordingly and avoid catastrophe.
Tip #5 - Inform Others Of Your Plan
Always ensure someone reliable knows of your plan. If you don't have an exact plan, inform them of the possibilities in case of an emergency.
Tip #6 - Look After Your Feet
This cannot be stressed enough! Your feet are one of the most important things to worry about on a long walk. Good hiking boots with ankle support are worth every cent. Ensure you have worn them in and have decent socks to go with them. Many hikers wear 'liner' socks under their main ones, this helps to prevent blisters and makes for more comfortable movement in your boots. You don't need to get specially made liner socks, just any thin, well-fitting socks will do.
Tip #7 - Walking Tip
This one is a bit hard to understand at first but is something that we were taught by a man who has summited Mt Everest many times. In the streets of Kathmandu, this man (unnamed) showed us how to walk more fluidly. That is, walking in more of a zig-zag than just one foot straight forward after the other. He told us to only ever use one walking pole because that assists in your ability to do this. The main point is that this technique uses a larger variety of muscles when walking, thus helping to reduce fatigue in certain muscle groups.
It took a while to get into the rhythm of this on our Everest Base Camp trip but once we got the hang of it, it changed the way we walk forever.
Tip #8 - Drink Breaks
When stopping for a drink break, stop, turn around, and look at where you have come from (rather than dreading the path in front of you). Then, after at least 30 seconds drink a good amount of water (don't sip) and breathe consciously for a minute or so to help reduce your heart rate before continuing on.
Tip #9 - Take It All In
Unless you are in some kind of hurry, there is no need to rush a hike. Slow down and take in your surroundings, listen to the birds, feel the wind, and just be there in the moment. I understand that many people say, "Be in the moment", but many people also don't know what exactly that means or how to do it. It is as simple as breathing. Each breath that comes in and goes out is your only focus, the sounds around you just become the music of nature.
If you practice this regularly on your hikes, you will notice MANY things that others will miss, and it will be a far greater experience.
Tip #10 - Leave No Trace
There is nothing worse than walking a long way in nature to see signs of damage from humans everywhere. It is the responsibility of all hikers to ensure our beautiful tracks stay that way, and if you see someone doing the wrong thing, don't be afraid to speak up, but this is best done in a kind, constructive way.
Last of all, Have Fun!
We hope that this list will help you on your next adventure. If you have any questions at all, please don't hesitate to contact us, we are here to help.