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How to get started on your hiking adventure
Sometimes you need to put down the controller and get some fresh air. Modern Hiker editor Casey Schriener shares how.
Hiking is a magical thing. It's literally walking outdoors—but it can feel like you've just revealed a new section of the map in Diablo IV or The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom when you look over a new landscape. All you have to do is get out there and explore.
"There is a big overlap between gamers and hikers," says Casey Schreiner, editor of Modern Hiker. "I'm a gamer too, didn't start hiking until I was in my mid-twenties. Hiking brings out an incredible feeling. It's feels like unveiling unknown territory in your favorite video game."
Schreiner shares his favorite tips on how gamers can get out from behind the desk and enjoy everything nature has to offer.
Don’t go it alone
Hiking alone can be a wondrous, meditative experience, but locating a group to venture out with can provide a number of benefits.
"Finding a hiking buddy or group is a real good first step," Schreiner, who asked his coworker to join him on a hike his first time, said. "You can check out others' gear, see what you need, and it's safer. Plus, veteran hikers may take you places you might not know about.”
They will encourage you to always have a hike on the calendar, which will lead to scheduling another and soon it will turn it into a habit. You'll learn about trails, make friends, and see gear in action before breaking the bank.
Proper gear is essential
Contrary to popular belief, you don't need much to get the most out of your hike to start. A backpack, water, sunscreen, and a good pair of shoes is all that's necessary.
Backpacks: One of the most important items to include on a hike, it allows you to keep your hands free and carry the necessary items—a first aid kit, water, snacks, and extra clothing.
For those who may get dehydrated easily, a Camelbak is a wise investment. With a built-in water reservoir and straw, it’s a convenient way to carry water without stopping or having to remove your backpack.
For intensive hikes, the Osprey is the best as it provides plenty of water to last up to a three-hour expedition. It also provides more features to carry additional supplies for those slightly longer trips.
Clothing: Wool is a great option when thinking about your hiking outfit. It helps regulate your body temperature on those warmer days and won't get drenched with sweat or river water (if you decide to run through it). Icebreaker wool shirts and underwear make for great hiking companions as its one of the more lightweight and odor-resistant options on the market.
Trekking poles: A great addition for those taking it up a notch and venturing out to rougher terrain. It’s like having an extra pair of legs for more support and balance when the ground gets tricky. Montem's Aluminum hiking poles are the best to use with a simple set up, plus it comes with additional accessories, which can be priced separately for other comparable poles.
What about shoes?
Shoes are an entirely different beast. Whether you are an advanced hiker or just starting out, reliable brands such as HOKA, Saloman, Altra, or Merrell offer variety of features that works for any level.
Foot health is incredibly important, so it's worthwhile to visit a shoe store like Fleet Feet that scans your feet to determine the ideal shoes to get you on the right path.
"Good shoes make a big difference, but there isn't one brand that's better than the rest," Schreiner says. "You need to go and try a bunch of shoes together. Personally, I go with hiking boots…high ankle hiking boots."
High ankle boots or trail running shoes?
There are several types of shoes—including trail running shoes and hiking boots of various weights—that serve different purposes on the hike.
Trail running shoes built for hiking have seen a wave of popularity recently. These shoes are great for shorter, low elevation trails that don't have rough terrain.
Hiking boots—most of which cover your ankles—are better for mountains, rougher terrain, and longer hikes. They're great for more advanced hikers but can be used at any level. They'll have more support and protect from cold weather and water.
Know your surroundings
When checking conditions of any given trail, local guidebooks written by professionals are more than worth the investment when getting to know a specific region.
Online resources like All Trails are great to check on a trail’s condition the night before, but the information may not always be reliable.
"Online resources are crowdsourced information, some of it can be wrong with directions and permits. There's nothing worse than driving two hours to a trailhead only to find out that you have the wrong address," Schreiner explains. "Guidebooks are always good because they are vetted by people who know what they are doing."
Beginners should look for flat, shorter trails to start. Guidebooks and All Trails provides the distance and elevation of the trail, as well as other important elements like terrain. It's crucial to start out on easier trails, as getting exhausted on a longer trail can be a recipe for disaster. Look for three-mile trails, especially ones called loops, for the best early hiking experience.
Plan your meal
Depending on the length of the hike, you'll want a healthy amount of snacks.
Trail mix, dried or fresh fruit (bananas, grapes, blueberries), beef jerky, granola and other high energy type foods are great for keeping your muscles restored.
And for when you return to civilization, it’s good to have researched local restaurants for that post-hike feast.
"If there is a place that has an old school tuna melt and an Arnold Palmer then my mouth will be salivating as we get closer to the finish," says Schreiner. "That's another benefit of finding a hiking group—some old timers will show you those mom-and-pop places that you'd have trouble finding on your own."
Post-hike meals probably won't be on the checklist for many new hikers, but it can either be the cherry on top of a great trip or the saving grace for a hike gone wrong.
Find your hiking ‘why’
Some people hike for fitness, photography, or to hang with friends. It's important that you find your “why” for hiking as it will be your motivation to continue to hit the trail over and over again.
“People hike for different reasons, and there are a lot of them,” Schreiner said. “Find yours and lean into it.”
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