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All About Hiking

Updated on July 28, 2015

Get Into Hiking and Reap the Benefits

Hiking is described as an outdoor activity consisting of walking in natural environments. Simple enough, but the benefits are huge. Hiking is known to reduce stress and depression. It is also known to help promote good health and better sleep. There are no special skills involved, and hiking trails abound everywhere.

The cost of hiking is low. You would need to invest in some good boots or shoes, a day pack and some small essentials. You will need to fill your car with gas and you may have to pay for parking. But there are no tickets to buy, no fancy meals or drinks to share. And yet, you get the best movie in town, nature in all it's splendor.

When you first start hiking, you may want to join a hiking club and go with a group of experienced hikers. They are always happy to pass along tips for successful trips. Begin by hiking only a few miles with minimal elevation gain. Gage your exertion level before moving on to longer and more strenuous hikes. Hiking can be a social event or hiking can be a form of meditation. The resources below will help you get started.

Health Benefits of Hiking

The most obvious health benefit of hiking is cardiovascular. Regular exercise improves our overall health as well as lengthening our lives. Walking is one of the lowest impact fitness activities. While you benefit from cardiovascular health, you do so with minimum stress, strain and pounding to your body.

Some of the health benefits include:

1. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control showed that regular exercise reduces the chance of heart problems.

2. Hypertension, or high blood pressure affect nearly one third of American adults. Hiking can lower blood pressure by 4-10 points.

3. Diabetes in Americans continues to escalate each year. Lack of physical activity is one of main causes for this rise. You can actually reverse Type II diabetes with proper diet, exercise and weight loss.

4. You burn about 100 calories every mile you walk. Hiking and a good diet can greatly reduce obesity, another statistic in Americans.

5. If adrenaline, which causes the fight or flight symptoms, isn't released from the body, it cause feelings of anxiety. Walking releases this adrenaline, regardless how slow or fast. In fact, walking releases endorphins which can lift your spirits.

6. Hiking or walking can help reverse the negative effects of osteoporosis by increasing the bone density. Just by walking with good posture, muscles and bones are strengthened.

Hiking in Caves Along the Coast

Hiking Gear

Hiking doesn't require a lot of gear. Here are the essentials:

1. Footwear - Do not worry about the brand, worry about the fit. If your boots don't fit right, your feet hurt and your whole trip can be ruined. For hiking, you don't really need a boot, there are many shoes that crossover as day hikers. Try on a lot of different models, walk around in the store, really try them out. Take them home and walk around your house a bunch to see if they're going to work out. Once you take them outside, they're yours to keep. If it's a good fit, they should last for many years. Check out this great article on choosing a pair of boots just for you.

2. Daypack - Every hiker has their own personal preferences in a pack. It will depend on what you plan to bring with you. A few things you will definitely want are: several compartments, side pockets for your water bottle, and a sturdy grab loop on top. You may also want to add a waist band and sternum buckle (hooks across your chest). These two features will keep the weight of the pack more evenly distributed rather than all on your shoulders. Check out a great article, How to Choose the Best Day Pack.

3. Clothing - This will depend on the trip you are planning. If it's summer time and you are just starting out, you may want to pack an extra pair of socks and shirt. When you get more serious and are hiking farther, you may want to also pack emergency rain gear and a hat. In the winter, you will want to wear layers of clothing and bring along that rain gear and a hat.

4. Water - Never leave home without it. Either bring a water bottle tucked into the side pockets of your pack or you can carry a platypus. For longer hikes, you may want to bring along some sort of filtration for extra water gathered along the way.

5. Food - Hiking is great at expanding energy which you will want to replenish. Be sure to pack a lunch for longer hikes or healthy snacks for shorter hikes. Nuts, granola, trail mix, dried fruit, fresh fruit or vegetables all work well.

6. First Aid and Other Essentials - A small first aid kit should always be with you. Other things to consider are: swiss army knife, matches, duct tape, whistle, sun glasses, sun block, bug guard, lip balm, TP, bug bite relief, map, compass, paper, pencil, headlamp, camera and batteries.

Careers with Hiking

So you've fallen in love hiking. You can't seem to get enough of it. You wish you could find a job that involved hiking. Here are some ideas:

1. Park ranger - You will have ample opportunity to hike as a ranger. There are 2 types of park rangers. An interpretive park ranger is responsible for keeping his park guests informed. You may work at an interpretive center, give talks, lead nature hikes or nature programs. A law enforcement park ranger is just like a policeman except you are in a natural area. You are responsible for making sure all laws are followed.

2. Outdoor writer/journalist - If you have the writing talent, you would hike your way all over as a story writer. There are many magazines about natural areas. Or you could write guide books, fiction stores or even a column for a newspaper.

3. Instructor - Use your teaching skills to work at an outdoor school such as Outward Bound or National Outdoor Leadership School. You will be working with kids, educating them about nature as well as leading group activities.

4. Outdoor guide/Naturalist - This would be a seasonal position at one of many national parks. You would lead trips of vacationers, educating them about the area you are guiding. As a naturalist you may also lead educational programs.

5. Work at a national park - Even if you are a dishwasher, you have lots of free time to find all the hiking trails you want. This once again would be a seasonal job.

Oh the Pretties We Find Along the Trail

Volunteering with Hiking

Feed your soul by giving back with your love of hiking.

1. National Trails Day - Check out opportunities in your area for ways to learn about and celebrate the trails by participating in trail clean-up, educational programs, or dedications.

2. Trail Maintenance - Not only will you get to be hiking out in the woods, you will be helping a team to improve the trails. This is a fun way to give back to the community while getting to know others with a great love of hiking. These trips can be from a weekend to a week long. Check your local parks or outdoor stores for opportunities.

3. Trail Safety Patrol - Check your local area for available positions. You simply walk the trails making sure that everyone is behaving safely. You would also report and dangers or repairs that need to be done.

The Perfect Hike

How many miles makes the perfect hike?

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Desert Country is Downright Breathtaking

Fun with Hiking

As if the experience of hiking isn't enough, here are some fun things you can add to your trip.

1. Photography - Whether you just want to record your trips or you want to sell your pictures, photography is an easy addition to your hiking experience. Nature provides lots of those pictures worth a thousand words. Taking pictures will help you remember your experience and can entice others to join you on your adventures. Be sure bring a water proof bag to protect your camera. When choosing a camera, remember that you have to carry it. You will probably not want to lug around a bunch of lenses or other equipment.

You may want to take a class in outdoor photography or join a group Check out Meetup for social groups that enjoy photography while hiking.

2. Letter Boxing - This is fun is you have little ones along or those who aren't really interested in hiking. Some people have become addicted and travel all over to find trails with letter boxing. The fun begins with a treasure map to find the boxes. The treasure is a small box with a notebook and rubber stamp inside. You bring your own rubber stamp. Put your stamp in their notebook and use the stamp to mark in your notebook. Your notebook will become like a passport. For more information on letter boxing, check out Letterboxing for Fun and Adventure.

3. Geo Caching - Similar to letter boxing except you add in technology. There is a treasure map telling you coordinates for finding the cache. You use a GPS unit to locate the cache. You will find a notebook where you can make notes, being sure to hide the cache exactly where you found it. Sometimes there may be a prize with the notebook. If this is the case, you are to replace it with a prize of equal value. When you get home, you record your adventure online. For more information, check out the official Geocaching website.

Hiking Resources

US Outdoor offers a lot of general information on hiking.

Hiking and Backpacking offers information, buying guides, tips, maps, club lists, hostel lists and a "Find a Trail" section.

Adventure Finder also has tons of information on hiking. They include ideas for different types of hiking trips such as those with fishing or family hikes. They also have a section on hiking vacations.

Picture Perfect in the Fall

What's Your Favorite Hike?

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