I get hiking questions all the time, so I decided to compile the most asked questions about hiking and list them here! Hopefully, if you are interested in hiking this will answer some of the many questions I know that you have!
I have never hiked before, where should I start?
At the trailhead. LOL. All joking aside if you have never hiked before and are not typically active I would suggest walking around your neighborhood or an area park for a mile or two until you feel comfortable and have built up some stamina. Then I would start with a 1-mile easy hike and work yourself up to longer more strenuous hikes.
What is the difference between hiking boots & shoes?
Just as the name suggests hiking boots are boots and offer ankle support, as to where hiking shoes have more of a look and feel like tennis shoes or running shoes. They are like a cross between boots and running shoes. Shoes tend to be lighter and more breathable but still offer the rugged outsole of boots in most cases.
What hiking boot or shoe should I get?
You know I see the question asked a lot, but the answer is simple; it is personal preference. Get a shoe that fits properly (you can be sized and try on several at places like REI) and will give you the support you need. The terrain you plan to hike in also will play a factor. I have both lightweight trail shoes and hiking boots. I use the hiking boots if I feel a trail will cause me to possibly roll my ankles such as one with a lot of climbing or rock scrambling or very rough terrain. Boots will not prevent all spraining, although they do offer ankle support. I typically have strong ankles as it is, so much of the time (95%) I am in my shoes, not my boots.
What is the difference between a section hike and thru-hike?
A section hike is when a hiker does a long trail (such as the AT, PCT, or CDT) in sections; which may span over several years. Whereas a thru-hike is when a hiker does a long trail from start to finish at one time or within a year.
What gear should I take hiking?
That is going to depend on the type of hike you do. For shorter / easier hikes just a CamelBak full of water and small first aid kit will suffice. Longer hikes such as thru-hikes you basically need to carry a mini apartment (clothing, food, water, shelter, sleeping bag, cooking utensils, water filtration, etc..). For longer day hikes you could get away with water, water filtration, food, and first aid kit. Again what you take will depend on the trail, distance, and time of year it is. Always research a trail before beginning the hike so you know what to pack.
How can I find out what trails are near me?
There are several apps for your smartphone that can help you find hiking trails near you. My favorites are AllTrails, Maprika, Cairn, and Hiking Project by REI. If you are near the Fort Hood area or in Central Texas, check out 500+ Miles of Hiking Trails near Fort Hood.
Should I take my dog hiking with me?
Absolutely as long as the trail allows it (there are many that do not). Always remember, however, that if you plan to take your dog that it needs to remain on a leash (for their protection and for other hiker’s protection), you need to still pick up after your pet when they poop, and to carry plenty of water for them. Also, make sure they are up to date on their shots before heading out!
Is it ok to hike in the dark?
Yes (assuming the trail is open after dark), just make sure you know where you are going and have a headlamp with extra batteries. Be extra cautious while hiking, as the trail and surrounding area, is harder to see in the dark (even with a headlamp)!
Do I need a backpack?
Well, that depends on how far you will be hiking. You will need to carry water no matter the distance you plan to hike (even if it is a short mile, always carry water). You could either need a Camelbak, a small backpack or a larger one! It all depends on the distance you will be hiking and what you need to carry.
What kind of pack should I get?
One that fits! Seriously, the type of pack you get will be determined by how much you need to carry and how it fits. I love the way Osprey packs fit me, but that doesn’t mean that you will. Head to your local outfitter to try on packs and to be fitted.
What is the difference between backpacking and hiking?
Man, this is a loaded question as there is no defined answer. For me, hiking is when I am out on a trail and don’t need to take a lot of gear because I will be returning within a couple of hours. As to where backpacking means I have my gear because I will be staying out on the trail overnight.
What is a trailhead?
A trailhead is the entry point of the trail from a road or parking lot. Typically this is where the trail begins.
Do I really need trekking poles?
It is more of a personal preference. I started out hiking (and still do shorter hikes) without trekking poles. I will say though that I prefer using trekking poles now as they help keep my hands from swelling and also help keep me steady when going up or down in elevation.
What is the best time of day to hike?
Anytime! Except in severe weather of course! Some like hiking early in the mornings, some prefer later in the day, and for some of us (like myself), any time of day or night is the best time! During the summer months here in Texas I do opt for hiking in the mornings before it becomes hotter than hell outside.
What is “Leave No Trace”?
Leave No Trace (LNT) exists to educate people about their recreational impact on nature as well as the principles of Leave No Trace to prevent and minimize such impacts. One principle is to pack out everything that you pack in (to include used toilet paper).
What kind of food should I take hiking?
Food that is easy to cook on a stove or campfire (or pre-cooked) and as lightweight as possible. Typically I will carry Mountain House backpacking meals (my guilty pleasure), tuna pouches, beef jerky, dehydrated food, crackers, etc… The options are almost endless. So, whatever you will eat! Just remember whatever you pack in you need to pack out.
For day hikes I take Tuna kits, beef jerky, my own homemade trail mix, cheese crackers, and PB&J!
Why do hikers stack rocks?
Hiker’s stack rocks (known as cairns) to mark trails.
Why do hikers loose toenails?
Typically those that loose toenails are ones that are on long hikes for multiple days. I day hike almost daily and have never lost one (knock on wood). A lot of the times the reason is either they got a blister under their toenail, improper shoe fit, long toenails, or a combination of those. Basically repetitive trauma to the toenail.
What can I do to prevent toenail loss when hiking?
Wear the proper size shoe. You want to wear a shoe or boot that is about 1/2 – 1 size larger than you normally wear. This, of course, will depend on the time of year you are hiking too and the thickness of your socks. Always try on new shoes with the socks you will be hiking in as well as trying them on later in the day when your feet tend to naturally swell.
Lace your shoes properly. This is especially when going downhill. Your foot should stay securely in place and not hit your toebox when going downhill.
Trim your toenails. Make sure to keep those toenails short!
Why do hikers wear wool socks?
Wool socks can absorb a high amount of moisture before it ever starts feeling wet. That is important in helping in the prevention of blisters but also in colder weather, it keeps its insulating properties even when wet. They help keep your feet dry and temperature regulated. Wool also dries much more quickly than cotton!
Why do hikers wear bells when they are in bear country?
Many believe it will thwart off bear attacks by letting the bear know you are coming and therefore not startling it. In reality, it has shown to be ineffective and just annoy other hikers. Carry bear spray instead.
When do hikers start the Appalachian trail?
Northbounders typically start in March to mid-April. However, optimal time is mid-April to early May if you don’t want to deal with much snow. April 1st is the most popular starting day. Either way, hikers need to be prepared to reach Baxter State Park in Maine before October 15 due to weather conditions (that is the park that has the finish line).
Is hiking safe?
Yes, as long as you take proper precautions of course. Just like with any activity there is a risk of injury or even death. I would rather walk 5 miles in the wilderness than 5 miles in a big city any day! I definitely feel safer out in the woods on the trail, than in a city on a sidewalk!
Do hikers carry guns?
Some do and some don’t. It depends on the hiker and their preference. Keep in mind that if you do plan to carry, you need to follow local and federal laws where you will be hiking. Some trails that run through federal land ban carrying firearms.
Is ok to hike during hunting season?
That depends on the trail. Some trails are closed during hunting season, whereas others are open. Always check before heading out! Those that are open, make sure there are no time constraints (as in they are only open to hikers during certain times). For those that are open to hikers at all times, make sure you are wearing blaze orange (preferably a hat and vest) while you hike the trail. If you are hiking with a dog also make sure they are wearing blaze orange. If you run into a hunter, introduce yourself and let them know you are hiking. Also, make sure to stay on the trail at all times. Another piece of advice is to hike when hunters are less likely to be out (depending on the hunting season).