The outdoors are pretty addictive, this is why a lot of people are really getting into it. If you’re like most outdoorsmen, once you’ve gotten a taste of hiking or trekking, you inevitably want more.
At the onset, three to five-mile hikes into backcountry seemed like an interesting and challenging prospect, but it leaves you yearning for more. Eventually, you will want to take on the challenge of the best hikes in the world.
Can you imagine taking on the Inca trail in Peru? 26 miles through ruins, jungles, and breath-taking mountain scenery, all culminating at MacchuPichu? Perhaps you’ve considered going up Africa’s tallest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro?
Maybe you’ve thought about taking on the Grand Canyon rim to rim? Have you thought about experiencing the most beautiful scenery that Yosemite has to offer? These and so many more of the world’s wonders can be experienced through a multi-day hike.
As with a lot of things in life, the more difficult a task is, the greater the fulfillment that stems from its accomplishment. In the same breadth, the world’s most incredible hikes aren’t for the faint of heart. It will take a lot out of you to accomplish these tasks. So before getting into it, here are a few things you should do to prepare for the best hikes.
Knowing what you’re up against
The first bit of prep anyone needs to do is research. Hearing your buddy talk about this amazing trek took in Southeast Asia might pique your interest. But you can’t rely on that alone to make your decision on making the trip. There are a lot of considerations on when, whether or not to make a trip.
The degree of Difficulty
Some really good hikes are potentially very difficult to complete. You’ll have to consider your outdoor experience vis-a-vis the difficulty of the trek you intend to take on. If you haven’t experienced high-altitude climbs, you can’t expect to be ready to take on Mt. Everest right away.
Get feedback on the degree of difficulty of the trek, the conditions you can expect on the trail and try to see whether it’s reasonable for you to attempt. No this isn’t telling you not to challenge yourself. Just be sure that you can come back unscathed from the trip you intend to make.
This is pretty obvious, and correlates to the degree of difficulty. Longer treks will tend to take a larger toll on you. The best trails will take several days to complete at the least. And some trails like the Appalachian will take months should you decide to traverse it end to end.
So how long you take on the trip has to factor in. If you’re like most people, you probably have a job and/or a family that requires you to be around. Leaving for an undefined period of time is not a good idea. You might want to keep your job. So plan ahead, and file your leaves accordingly.
Needless to say, survival skills are required if you’re intending to take a serious hike and some of the best hikes in the world can potentially take you to some remote locations. However, safety considerations have to be one of the first things you check.
If it’s abroad, you will have to check ahead on the political situation. Are there potential security threats in the area you intend to hike? Politically volatile locations might deserve more scrutiny.
Checking on the weather right before the trip should be mandatory as well. Sure you can check forecasts a week ahead, but those can change. You definitely don’t want to get stuck out in the wilderness when there’s a storm brewing. Getting back home safely is a top priority after all.
Hiking can be pretty demanding. This is especially true if you go on extended treks that last for days, weeks or more. That being said, you will want to prepare your body for the hike. Here are a few of the ways you can build yourself towards physical preparation.
Hit the gym
This might not be the top-of-mind option for many outdoorsmen, it is one of the most accessible options for a lot of urban city dwellers. A good gym will be able to develop several key aspects of physical fitness that will be beneficial for anyone going on a hike.
You can make use of a treadmill, elliptical machine, and climber to simulate the effects of the physical strain of the inclines and declines of a hike. These are also great in building cardio-vascular fitness. Resistance and strength training targeting the lower body and back can greatly benefit you, as backpacking will put a lot of strain on those muscles.
Also, having a jacked upper body might be a liability (as you will be lugging additional weight) but strengthening your upper body is not a mistake because you will have to use these muscles throughout the rigors of camping.
If you can’t afford to, or don’t have the time to hit the gym, there are ways to get in some exercise no matter where you are, no equipment necessary. There are many programs easily available on the internet that you can avail of for free. The added benefit is that you can tailor fit your daily routine to your time constraints and strength requirements.
And if you’re climbing, you can specifically hone in on your back and lower body. Dynamic lower-body exercises such as squats and lunges as well as their variations can help aid your stability and endurance when on the hike.
Calisthenics programs may not be the closest thing to hiking, but they can get your body used to strain. And you will develop a higher level of cardiovascular through this, something that will definitely be useful for your hike.
Go on Short Hikes
One of the best ways to prepare for any grueling physical task is to expose your body to similar activities at lower levels of intensity. This is also true for backpackers. This is recommended even for experienced outdoors men who haven’t been on hikes in a while.
Carrying a day pack and going on a brief walk is a good start. From here, gradually increasing distance as well as pack weight on successive hikes prior to the target hike is a definite way to build your capability to handle the strains of a tough hike.
If you live in the heart of an urban center, where a good trail is inaccessible or a hassle to get to, you can still do the same thing, towns and cities are bound to have inclined locations. Grabbing a weighted pack and footing it around these localities will work nearly just as well as going on short hikes in the wilderness in terms of preparing your body for the task ahead.
As the date of your hike approaches, you should be able to carry your full pack weight as you go on hikes/long walks. If not, then you may encounter trouble when you’re out experiencing the real deal.Those are only some of the ways to prepare your body for the rigors of a hard trek. In addition to these, you can choose to simply live a more active lifestyle.
Make the choice to push your body when you would normally choose convenience. Take the stairs instead of the lift. Walk to the grocery if it’s nearby instead of taking a car. Cycle to work instead of commuting when possible. There are lots of ways to prepare the body for a hike, even if your schedule is swamped.
If you’ve been hiking for a bit, then you know that the balance between pack weight and physical capability is different for everyone. Some folks can take on up to ¼ or even 1/3 of body weight on their backs for multi-day trips, but that would definitely demand a high level of physical fitness.
But, the body-weight to pack weight ratio really isn’t the biggest deal. It’s important to have a firm grasp on your needs and how much you can carry. How much food will you be able to bring, and how much gear you will need. This is why it’s very important to dry run taking your pack with you on test hikes, just to see how well you handle the strain.
Note that the bigger you are, the heavier your gear will tend to be. If you’re bigger, then you’ve got to pack larger clothes, larger sleeping bag, etc.
Now, it’s also important to pack the basics. Be certain that you have the following items on you prior to your trip.
- Navigational Items – Be sure to have a map and compass. A GPS can and will generally be useful, but nothing beats organic directional skills. Electronics can fail you, so it’s important to be able to use a map and compass and have them on you. Also be sure that the map has a protective container and isn’t just randomly stuffed into your pack.
- Sun Protection – Even if the climate is cool, the sun can do damage. Be sure to have lip balm, and sunscreen on you. A pair of sunglasses can help a lot to manage eye strain when the sun is up. For sunburn remedies you can easily try, see our article for more information.
- Shelter – You’ll be lucky if you can comfortably sleep under the stars while out on your hike. Chances are, however, that you will need shelter. Rain, snow, and local fauna may require you to sleep under a tarp or a tent. Be sure to have these ready. A good sleeping bag is also essential, you will want to recover in preparation for the next day’s pounding. Check our comparison between a hammock and a tent to keep your options open.
- Food & cookware –Food that doesn’t have to be cooked and weighs little is ideal. Survival food like MREs is a good idea. Chocolate bars that can serve to provide a quick sugar boost can be beneficial as well. If you’re going to bring anything to cook, you will want food that is easy to prepare. Also, you will need to have cookware to prep the food.
- Insulation – The right clothes for the climate and weather of where you’re headed is essential. Even if it’s a humid, tropical destination, you will want to have water resistant layers you can put on you if you need additional insulation.
- Knife/Multi-tool – The versatility of a good knife and/or multitool will take you far. You definitely won’t regret having it with you.
- Illumination – Chances are the sun won’t be up the entire time that you will be hiking. This being the case, you will want to have sources of light when it’s dark. Having just a fire to illuminate the campsite will not be sufficient if you have to look around the general area. Generally, it’s not that good idea to move around a lot at night, but if you have to it’s a good idea to have a means to illuminate your path.
- First Aid – Having a means to treat yourself or your buddy in the event of an injury is a must for any trip. A well-stocked first-aid kit will not weigh a lot and will go a long way in the event of an actual emergency. See our tips on how to stock up on your first aid kit for more information.
- Fire Starting – Matches or a lighter does well enough here. You can also use fire starters like a Ferro rod. Survivalists will train to be able to build a fire from scratch when in the wild, but that’s a really tiring prospect. Plus, considering that you will have already walked several hours by the time you settle for making camp. Do yourself a favor and bring something to start a fire with. It helps to keep these items in a watertight container. To find out how to choose the best fire starter, read our review on the this to learn more.
- Hydration – Aside from water, it’ll be impractical to pack enough water to last you days. Hydration packs and canteens are good ideas. You will want a means to purify water. Water purification tablets, a water filtration system so that you can rehydrate safely.
- Passport – When you’re out of the country, this has to be on you.
General tip: try to make your pack as light as possible without compromising the essentials. One to three pounds may seem small but it will have a huge impact over the course of several days of hiking.
These are only a few items but they are the top-of-mind requirements for any trip. You will have to bring a variety of items depending on your location. i.e insect repellent for tropical/swampy environments and bear spray for areas habited by species of bear.
As with most difficult endeavors, physical prep alone tends not to cut it. Sometimes, well, a lot of the time, people succumb to challenges even after extensive physical conditioning. This is why it’s important to be mentally ready for the challenge.
You will have to think about how you’ve managed to handle physical stresses in the past? Can you handle limited food and water? How do you handle sore legs or a twisted ankle? Are large numbers of insects something you can tolerate?
If you begin to feel that you’re out of your depth, it’s important to focus on literally taking one step at a time towards your end goal. Conditioning yourself to keep a positive attitude when faced with difficulty is going to be essential. As an added precaution, you could bring along an experienced buddy who can help motivate you through the hike.
Take a buddy
We aren’t saying that you can’t go on these hikes alone. But, as the old adage goes, there is safety in numbers. In the event that you wind up with a sprain or catch a bug will out in the wilderness, a friend will be able to step in and take some of the load off your back.
Having someone to share the experience of going on the best hikes that the world has to offer will definitely make it more worthwhile. So find a dependable partner who you can take with you. Just be sure that they prep themselves for the journey as well.
Inform people where you’re headed
Aside from what we’ve listed above, there are a few bits of preparation everyone should undertake. One, inform people of where you’re going. Making a journey to unfamiliar environs over a long route that will potentially take you off the grid for days. You will want to make sure that someone knows where you went.
A lot of hikers were recovered because authorities knew where to start looking when someone was reported missing. You never know what could stop you from reaching your end goal. Natural and manmade eventualities are realistic possibilities. Be sure to inform someone of your whereabouts.
These are only some of the things you should do to prepare yourself for the daunting challenge that the world’s best hikes will offer. Nonetheless, the amount of preparation and the hard work you will have to put yourself through will easily be rewarded by the awesome experience you will have.
A lot of people will go through their entire lives without experiencing what you are about to, so make the most of it.