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Introduction to Hiking

Hiking is one of the most accessible and fun outdoor activities around. If you can walk, you can hike. Hiking can be a social activity, and a great way to spend time in nature and get some exercise. Avid hikers consider hiking the best way to explore remote places, without the distractions of vehicle noise.

Hiking Gear

For a basic day hike, you'll need comfortable shoes or hiking boots, a pair of synthetic (non-cotton) socks, shorts or pants, and preferably a synthetic or non-cotton shirt. Depending on the weather, you may want to wear multiple layers to keep you warm and allow you to adjust to the day's temperature. You may want to consider a pair of synthetic underwear to prevent chafing on the inside of your legs as well. In addition to clothing, you'll need to bring along water, and some food. You also may want to wear a hat or visor to protect you from the sun or rain, and sunscreen. Depending on where you're hiking, it can be a good idea to bring along some bug spray as well.

For longer hikes, the classic '10 essentials of hiking' include: a map, compass, flashlight, food, water, water purification, extra clothing, rain gear, matches, sun protection, pocket knife, and first aid kit. These are all great to have, especially if going on a multi-day hiking and camping trip. You may also want to bring a whistle along, it's a great tool for alerting others if you're in danger.

Hiking Etiquette

When you're out on a hike, there are a few simple rules of etiquette that can help make sure you and the others around you have an enjoyable hiking experience. First and foremost, be friendly. Hikers are typically a friendly bunch, so take the time to say hello as you meet others along the trail. If a group of hikers is coming behind you and going faster than you, let them pass. Hiking is not a competition (usually!). If you meet a group of hikers going in the opposite direction, the hiker coming up the hill has the 'right-of-way over the hiker coming down the hill. Finally, respect your surroundings. An important mantra of hikers is 'leave no trace.' If you carry something into the trail with you, make sure to carry it back out as well. If you see litter from others, take the time to pick it up and help leave the trail even better off than when you found it.

Hiking Safety

Hiking is generally a safe and fun activity, but there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure it stays that way for you. First, plan. You really can't overplan for hiking. Plan your route, and figure out what you'll need in terms of food, water and safety gear. Make sure to bring a map with you so you don't find yourself lost with no means of getting back on trail. Check the weather before heading out, so you know what to expect and have appropriate clothing and supplies. It's a great idea to hike with a buddy or in a group so if you do get into trouble, there are others around to help out. Plus, it's a lot of fun and a great way to get to know people. If you do get lost while hiking, stay put and yell for help. It will be easier to find you if you stay in one place. If you are hiking alone, make sure to tell someone where you're going and when you expect to be back.

Benefits

Hiking has a number of benefits - it's a great way to spend time in nature, a fun, social activity, it's great for your heart, increases strength, balance, flexibility, and endurance, and burns lots of calories to help you lose weight. Hiking can be meditative, giving you a chance to reflect and think through tough decisions. Or it can be a fun, intense workout. It's up to you...