No matter what age you are when the majesty of hiking calls your name, everyone begins their career as a backpacker in much the same way: scratching their heads. What should I bring on the trail? Do I need a first-aid kit? Which sleeping bag should I buy? Often times the sheer amount of unknowns can be enough to scare off novice hikers, but never fear! We’ve taken the liberty of putting together a nice little backpacking survival guide that identifies myths, provides guidance and offers tricks to make your first hiking experience as amazing as can be!
Dress for Success
There are many little blunders that occur on a person’s first hike, but the most common and easily corrected mistake of them all is choosing the wrong wardrobe for the outdoors. When choosing a pair of pants, keep to fabrics and clothing that are breathable but also repel moisture. That means avoiding denim and/or jeans, as these fabrics retain a lot of water and can draw off body heat. Convertible pants that allow the pant legs to be removed via zipper or Velcro are ideal, but slacks or shorts work just as well. When it comes to footwear, full to mid-cut boots offer the best protection and traction in the outdoors, but for light to moderate trails many hikers prefer hiking shoes. Whichever footwear you prefer, do NOT skim on your socks; synthetic knee socks will protect your feet from blisters while offering a barrier against insects like ticks and fleas. A smart hiker will also bring a hat, cap or bandana for protection against the sun, and a rain jacket or slicker tucked away in your backpack for unexpected squalls is a good idea as well.
Pack for the Trip
All too often new hikers find themselves severely over or underprepared when they arrive on the trail simply because they didn’t do enough research beforehand, and nothing shows a hiker’s skill level more than his or her first-aid kit. Most novice hikers either forget to bring a first-aid kit on the trail, or else buy the biggest and most expensive medical kit available that takes up nearly all the space in their backpacks. Unless your hike will last several days away from civilization and you plan to go with a large group, hikers only require the most basic of first-aid supplies: various-sized bandages and Band-Aids, ibuprofen, gauze, Benadryl, antibiotic cream and sanitizing wipes. If you think your hike will require more medical supplies than that, consider changing your hiking location to something less dangerous!