Fitness Articles

Hike Yourself Fit

The Rules of the Trail

960SHARES

On your skin, bug repellant and/or sunscreen may be necessary in certain months and regions. Consider a repellant made from natural essential oils, such as Green Ban or Herbal Armor. The latter earned "Top Bug Spray" honors in 2006 (Camping Gear Awards), and boasts a National Home Gardening Club’s Seal of Approval for both effectiveness and consumer value. Many hiking experts recommend a wide-brimmed hat and loose-fitting, lightweight, breathable clothing if you’re worried about sun exposure.

Excess Baggage
If you’re just hiking a loop in the city park, you’ll probably have enough room in your pockets for all of your essentials (keys, ID card, cell phone, etc.). But if you’ll be hiking for hours, you might need a carry-on. Use a hip pack, which consists of a zippered compartment attached to a wide belt, when you’re on a short hike and just need a few small items. Day packs will hold slightly more and have shoulder straps (like a backpack), and are suitable for a full day of hiking. The downside is that they aren’t as comfortable as hip packs.

Watered Down
No, you can’t just stop and drink from the creek. Carry water with you always—even in cold weather—to prevent dehydration. For shorter hikes, a small water bottle that holds 24-32 ounces will work well. Attach it to your belt with a carabiner for easy access, or keep it in your backpack. If you’ll be out for hours, consider a hydration pack, which is commonly used by endurance runners and cyclists. A backpack with a built-in “bladder” (water bag) that is connected to a “drinking tube” (long, flexible straw), hydration packs make it easy to drink without stopping to open the backpack or even slowing down. Camelbak, The North Face, and Deuter are common brands.

Mother Nature Rules
Considering everything that Mother Nature is offering to you, the least you can do is to be considerate of her. Follow the golden rule of hiking: Pack out whatever you pack in (i.e. don't leave anything behind). If you’re hiking on a maintained trail, stay on the trail, sparing the vegetation. And if you’re bring food, snacks and drinks along, make sure the only critter you feed is yourself.

The Places You'll Go!
Now that you know what to wear, what to bring, and how to behave, all you need to figure out is where to go. First, check out nearby state parks. You can get information about their trails (and potential fees) on the web. If you live in a city, don’t forget about your nearby city parks—many have hiking trails through wooded areas. For a comprehensive list of trails near you, check out these websites: And while you’re mapping out your journey, make sure you know how to find your way home. Stick to your route, and bring a compass or GPS device.
Continued ›
‹ Previous Page   Page 2 of 3   Next Page ›
960SHARES

Advertisement -- Learn more about ads on this site.

More Great Features

About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • BANNERMAN
    Thanks for sharing. - 6/9/2013 1:26:59 AM
  • Hiking is not for me. - 6/8/2013 10:33:52 AM
  • A good walking stick (or two) will help you out as well, especially on uneven ground. Another thought... know the critters in the area and what to do when you run into them. If you are lucky enough to be hiking grizzly territory, skip the pepper spray and bring something with heavier stopping power unless you wish to provide him a condiment. - 8/22/2012 3:42:22 PM
  • This article is not intended to be a "one stop shop" for everything related to hiking--it is a basic introduction about the fitness benefits of hiking. We've included some additional links about safety, etc. at the bottom in other sparkpeople articles to help paint a more complete picture. - 3/28/2012 10:10:47 AM
  • Everybody, please scroll down and read CamillaParis's comment below. Better advice in four sentences than in the entirety of the original article! - 3/27/2012 10:58:47 PM
  • I really think that the dismissal of sunscreen should be edited for the sake of safety. It's dangerous to suggest that people can go out for hours with no sunscreen. Even if it were true that "most hiking is done in the shade," shade doesn't mean the absence of UV rays. I have gotten some quite spectacular sunburns sitting in deep, full shade; dappled shade from trees is no protection at all. If it's daytime and you're outdoors for more than an hour, you need sunscreen! And since UV exposure increases with altitude, it's doubly important if you're in the mountains (which is the only place you can find shaded trails in my state!)

    I really had to giggle at the idea that bug repellent could be more important than sunscreen. If you only hike in deep forest, they might be equal, but for those of us who hike desert, plains, mountains, or beaches, it's exactly the reverse. Skip bug repellent, have itchy bites for a week. Skip sunscreen, get skin cancer. Hmm.

    There's a lot of other safety information missing, as well. This seems to be geared toward hiking in tiny urban parks. Anyone hiking far enough to need a daypack needs to have enough supplies in it to survive the night if they get lost. There are several fatalities each year in our National Parks, and about 90% of them happen because a hiker thinks, "I don't need to take X. I'll only be out for a little while."
    - 3/27/2012 10:54:34 PM
  • I'm glad to see other people disagree with the sunscreen comment. I'd have to say that a great deal of my hiking is in the shade but when you get above the tree line - not so much.

    also a map won't help if you don't know where you are

    and check the weather before you go, nothing ruins the day like getting caught in a storm you were not ready for

    I think I lug too much stuff along but I don't venture out without a backpack full of things I consider essential like my GPS, swiss army knife, flint, rain jacket, first aid kit, water (possibly filter - depends), peanut butter crackers, sunscreen, bug spray, sunglasses, notebook & pen, camera, dog, dog cookies, dog cleanup bags, hand wipes, whistle, tilley hat, extra socks

    and yes I have used every single thing there

    trust me on the extra socks, nothing beats putting on fresh socks halfway through the day - 3/27/2012 9:49:38 AM
  • Anyone who wears sandals to hike is a fool and is looking for an injury. High boots also offer ankle support on uneven terrain. - 2/25/2012 10:18:19 PM
  • I have hiked thousands of miles on trails-including 2000 miles of the Pacific Crest and I rarely wear boots. I keep by pack weight light and use trekking poles-always. I also agree with the importance of carrying a headlamp, map (and skills to use) , rain gear and let someone know where you plan to hike. - 2/25/2012 2:43:42 PM
  • GAMMATUNA
    Great article. I have a great motivator. I use an app on my iphone, together with my HRM and a 60 beat gizmo. That and my nordic poles strapped on and I am off on a trail with the rhythm of some great walking tunes. When I return I can measure my progress, see where I have been on a map and upload it to Runtastic and to facebook. My friends and family are virtually cheering me on and if I wake up and dont feel like going, I just think of them and even though they wouldnt be disappointed, I feel that they might be. Boots on, map and water ready, and I'm off! - 8/9/2011 8:51:20 AM
  • Thanks for a lot of good points!

    As an aside, I'd define hiking as something like a vigorous walking activity in the natural environvent -- and for some of us that natural environment is a city.

    Cities do have hills and other physical challenges; they have a lot of beauty to enjoy; and they certainly offer variety to surprise and stimulate the hiker.

    Are they the best hiking venue EV ER? Maybe not -- but if we keep our eyes open and work for what we went hiking for in the first place, they're not that bad either. Go on out and enjoy YOUR environment, wherever you are, and I promise you'll be glad you did! - 6/13/2011 3:00:30 PM
  • New hikers should learn the 10 Essentials and always pack appropriate gear for emergencies. Ultralight medical & survival kits can be carried for just under a pound combined and just may save your life (if you know how to use the contents!). More than just packing out everything you brought in, learn about Leave No Trace at lnt.org. Always be sure someone knows where you're going and when to expect you back. For longer trips be sure to leave your itinerary under the front seat of your car along with emergency contact info. - 6/13/2011 2:18:34 AM
  • Hiking has become our favorite way to get outside. Our times are longer because we have 2 young children who likes to stop to smell the roses and have shorter legs, lol. But over time we will pick up the speed, right now we go for how far we can go without wearing out the kids. - 5/29/2011 4:12:51 PM
  • PIERDY
    I was excited to see Hiking come up as a article in Sparks. My passion for hiking began several years ago and is one of the best "mental floss" activities I have found. Awesome to see so many like minded people out there. My regular stomping ground is the Bruce Trail in Ontario. Be sure to say Hello if you happen by!!! - 3/7/2011 8:53:38 AM
  • My hiking list includes: my trusty map, a small water to take with me and a large one waiting at the end, a snack, headlamp (lost twice in the dark), MY HIKING POLES which I rely heavily on because I have bad knees, bandaids, sun and mosquito creams as necesary, my excellent hiking hat, camera when I remember, my dog with a thick leash for emergencies, my good hiking shoes and advil. I usually have a change of clothes in the car and have been grateful for them. I always hope for a friend or family member to hike with me but if by myself I leave my itinerary and expected time home. Cell phones are great but often I have no coverage - however I did use one once when facing a difficult dam crossing to tell my pickup to come looking for me if I didn't call back within a half hour. I also used the phone for when I was lost, calling home to have DH look up landmarks I could look for and DH usually brings a GPS which has been useful when we had to make an unplanned shortcut back to the car. I vote fanny pack to allow my arms to swing freely using poles. I do use boots when the hike is anticipated as being slippery or wet but like my shoes otherwise. Also make sure you take enough layers! Being too cold is miserable. Lastly, it is great to have a goal hiking. I am doing the entire Rideau Trail. It has been wonderful for my sanity, my health, and my spiritual wellness. I owe it all to spark people for getting me into hiking! - 11/6/2010 5:20:47 PM
Popular Calories Burned Searches: Treadmill: 15% Incline, 6.6 km/h (9 minutes per km)  |  Treadmill: 15% Incline, 4.6 km/h (13 minutes per km)  |  Treadmill: 15% Incline, 4 km/h (15 minutes per km)

x Lose 10 Pounds by October 10! Get a FREE Personalized Plan