Is It OK for Me to Go Hiking?
Though hiking is one of the lowest impact sports, check with your doctor before you hit the trails, especially if you're over 35, have been a couch potato for several years or have high blood pressure. Your physician can offer the best guidance on working up to a 12-hour trek to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, for example. In general, it's best to start with an easy walk and gradually increase the challenge.
How Much Time Do I Have?
Hiking isn't just for weekends in the backcountry or your annual two-week road trip. You can sneak in a short 20-minute walk up that hill near your office several times a week. Experts say that being active for just two and a half hours a week can gain you a world of benefit. And if you participate in other activities, such as dancing, swimming or cycling, these all add up to your target of 150 minutes of exercise a week.
Keep a simple record of the amount of time you spend hiking. MapMyHike.com is a great place to track your workouts. You'll be amazed at how much incentive you have when you can watch your progress.
Do I Need Special Equipment?
Never leave your campsite, even for a short hike, without at least one bottle of water. Experts recommend at least 2 quarts of water for a hike lasting up to four hours, as you constantly lose moisture to perspiration. You should drink one-half to one cup of water every half hour, even if you don't feel thirsty. Upon your return, you should have finished both quarts of water and have a need to use the restroom. If you don't, then you lost all that water to sweating so you'll still need to re-hydrate.
Other things to bring include:
- A comfortable pair of walking or hiking shoes
- Moisture-absorbing socks
- Appropriate attire (watch for possible weather changes)
- A hat or visor
- Sun block
- A snack
- Cell phone or GPS
While the idea of lugging a mobile phone with you while out communing with nature might make you grit your teeth, it doesn't hurt to throw it in your daypack...just in case.