Going on a thru-hike could provide you with an enthralling and rewarding experience. Completing one is said to give the hiker a sense of accomplishment that not many other activities can provide.
You’ll be out in nature for months, as you build long-lasting friendships, and endure (occasionally) harsh but rewarding conditions. Your first long-distance hiking experience always needs an extra push, but it is certainly going to be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.
Yes, it might be incredibly tough and you might even want to turn back on some days. But completing the hike shows a level of endurance, perseverance, and mental toughness that is simply incredible.
I would like to share a couple of beginner hiking tips to help ensure that your first time thru-hiking is an enjoyable and satisfying experience.
Choose the right hiking trail: If this is your first long-distance hiking experience, then going to tackle a long and hard trail is probably not the best choice. You should search for short and easy backpacking trips in your local area, perhaps a week or two walking a Camino de Santiago if you are in Europe, and use these as stepping stones as you build towards longer hiking trips.
Take good care of your feet: You need to treat your feet like gold during your hike because they are possibly the most crucial part of your hike. During a thru-hike, your feet act as a vehicle.
If not for them, you basically won’t be able to move through that long distance and enjoy the amazing views that the hike would provide you.
Most thru-hikers choose to wear synthetic socks, running gaiters, and lightweight running shoes. These will help to minimize blistering, keep the weight off your feet, and also allow your feet to breathe. You should also ensure that you give a good clean to your boots and dry your hiking shoes each night towards the next day of hiking.
At the end of the day, you need to focus on your own hike. The worst thing you can do is compare your daily mileage to another person’s as this could push you past your natural limitations.
Your body might need to rest for a day and refresh before you start another day of hiking, so pushing it could lead to some very unwanted repercussions.
Plan your route: After you have chosen the trail you want to hike through, then you must plan out the specific routes you will be taking as well as where you intend to sleep during the hike.
Some trails have special campsites along the way while some others allow you to stop anywhere you choose. You can create an exact route plan with a particular distance that you aim to cover each day.
Get in shape: No matter how fit you believe you are, you probably need to step it up a notch if you want to go on a thru-hike. Walking with a heavy backpack for long distances and for a long time can prove to be very tasking.
You can talk to a fitness trainer or any friends you have that are thru-hikers, and they could help you generate a fitness plan that will help ensure you’re in perfect shape for the trail you plan to hike through.
Save some money: Going on a thru-hike is not like other short backpacking trips because it is almost impossible for you to carry all the food that you will need throughout your hike.
All the food that you would need for a couple of weeks is surely not going to fit in a single backpack, and if it does, it would most likely be too heavy for you to carry over a long distance.
So, save some money up before you go on the thru-hike to ensure you can easily buy any food or other necessities that you would require.
Pack light: This is one of the most important beginner hiking tips as it could either make or mar your whole hiking experience. If you forget something important, then you could run into some trouble on the way.
Some of the most vital things that you must not forget include food, clothes, a sleeping bag, water and water filters, a first aid kit, a navigation device or map, and good hiking shoes.
It is also essential that your backpack is not heavy as this could prove to be problematic while hiking through a long trail.
Try out your gear: It is best for you to find any problems with your gear long before you’re out in the middle of nature. This is why you need to try out your hiking shoes or boots as well as any other gear long before you start the hike.
This will also help you ensure that all your gear is in perfect working condition and comfortable for you.
Don’t overschedule: A lot of beginner thru-hikers believe that they can map out the schedule of their trip from start to finish with exact documentation of what will happen and when it will happen during the hike. This is admirable but it is a clear beginner’s mistake.
If you ask any experienced thru-hiker, they would tell you that the first few days might go just as you planned. But, there will almost certainly be unexpected circumstances and events that will slow you down.
One of the most common factors is your body’s condition. If you’re aiming to keep up with a specific and exact schedule, then you might start feeling really tired and possibly even push yourself into an injury. Do not sacrifice your health just for your schedule to be followed.
Don’t quit your hike on a bad day: Any experienced thru-hiker would tell you that there are definitely going to be some days where you want to just turn back and head home. This is absolutely normal and we’ve all been there.
Hard days on a thru-hike are simply inevitable, however, it is very important that you keep your mental fortitude and do not quit on a bad day. It is very easy for you to quit when you’re exhausted or when the weather feels harsher than usual.
So don’t just do it based on the emotions from a bad day. If you do quit, ensure it is for a concrete reason and after serious consideration.
Listen to your body, it knows best: At the beginning of your hike, ensure that you pace yourself and gradually build the number of miles you cover as your legs gain strength.
Your body will sometimes tell you if you need a rest or if you need to go a little slower. When you feel this impulse, listen to your body and take the necessary rest. This is an efficient way to prevent mental fatigue and also avoid injuries.
On a thru-hike, you will have moments where you need to push through pain, but pushing too hard could spell an early end to your hike.
Know the common obstacles of hikers and actively avoid them: The hard truth is that most people that try to complete a thru-hike do not end up going the whole way. Only a few people actually end up completing these hikes, so it is important that you know where others have faced problems on the trails and avoid succumbing to these same pitfalls.
Some of the most common reasons why people quit in the middle of a thru-hike include:
- Mental fatigue: Hiking can be a very difficult experience for your body and an even harder one for your mind. There will be periods of exhaustion, filth, hunger, cold, and many other situations that you will have to deal with. You must be mentally prepared to ensure that you do not give up in these moments of weakness and continue to forge ahead.
- Sickness or physical injury: Going on a thru-hike would put your muscles, joints, and bones under an intense amount of pressure and stress. Your body must be well taken care of during the hike. Also, be prepared to deal with any possible illnesses or injuries you might face during your trip.
- Having unrealistic expectations: One of the most important tips for beginner hikers is to know your limitations and steer away from unrealistic expectations for your hike. Hiking involves a lot of hard work that is not always exciting, although it always turns out to be very rewarding.
- Running out of money or time: This is one factor that can be effectively dealt with when an efficient plan is put in place. You must ensure that your schedule is followed judiciously and that you stay within your budget. Put together a clear plan, track your progress through the trail, and ensure that you always know how much money you have.
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