How To Go Hiking

How Do I Go Hiking?

Here at Bricolage Life we talk a lot about going hiking. I started thinking about this and realized that, maybe, not everybody goes hiking. Maybe not everyone has been exposed to this type of activity. You might read our stories. You may think they’re good stories, but they don’t mean anything to you. You might be asking yourself, what is this hiking thing all about? How do I go hiking? How do I get started? Where can I go hiking? Why would I bother going hiking?

Hiking is simply this: going for a walk. Merriam-Webster says Hike means, a usually long walk especially for pleasure or exercise. That’s it. Nothing more to it than that. When most hikers are talking about the activity, however, they usually mean the act of getting out and walking in nature. Hiking is, to them, a way to get outside of themselves. It’s a way to get some exercise while enjoying the natural beauty surrounding them. Let’s take a few minutes here to answer some of those questions. Then get ready to head out and do some hiking!

What is Hiking?

As the definition above says, hiking is just going for a walk. Usually done in a natural setting. The woods, a trail, the desert, the mountains, are all excellent options. Hiking can be done almost anywhere! If a natural setting isn’t immediately available to you, don’t be discouraged. Part of one of my favorite hiking trails is the Superior Hiking Trail. At one point, the trail goes right through the middle of the city of Duluth, Minnesota. Hiking can truly be whatever you want it to be. 

SHT trail marker from How To Go Hiking
A portion of the Superior Hiking Trail goes right through Duluth, MN

That said, there are some terms associated with hiking that you may hear on occasion regarding the different types involved…

What Types of hiking Are There?

Short hike 

  • This is just what it sounds like. A short distance walk. Everyone gets to determine their own definition of, “short.” For some it may mean 5 or 10 miles, for others it may mean a walk around the block. A short hike is usually something you can do with only minor preparation and a limited amount of equipment. One of my personal favorites is a 1.5 mile walk around a lake that is near our neighborhood. It lasts about 30 minutes, including travel time to get there and back.

Day hike

  •  Again, this is pretty self-explanatory. This is a hike that lasts for the better part of an entire day. The distance is completely dependent on your speed and comfort level. For some, a 10 mile journey is long enough, others can go 30 or more miles in a day. A bit of preparation is required. Bringing along, or having access to, enough liquids to drink is essential. Planning your route is a strong recommendation. Having a map is quite helpful if you are unfamiliar with the area that you are hiking.

Backpacking 

  • Backpacking while hiking is a bit more involved. This is typically a multi-day-long trip in which hiking is the primary means of travel. Bringing along food, water, and a means of sleeping comfortably are usually necessary. Planning ahead is essential for this type of travel. Having a map is necessary if you are not familiar with the territory, and very strongly recommended even if you know the area well.

Trek or Trekking 

  • Trekking is the granddaddy of hiking adventures. This type of hiking is about multi-day trips, to multi-week trips, and even multi-month excursions. Extensive planning is required for trekking. You will need to bring everything with you that you need to be fully self-sufficient. Often, a trek will include a supply restocking plan along the way. 

All of these types of hikes have different requirements for what you will need to take along with you. There are many schools of thought about what is considered essential. Essential items for some might seem frivolous to others. Again, hiking, in any form, is what you decide hiking is for you. We’ll look more at what gear should be considered later in this article.

Why Would I Go Hiking?

I could give you the reasons that I love hiking, but that’s not why you’re reading this. This article, called, Five Ways Hiking Is Good for You, written by Jill Suttie for Greater Good Magazine is the best explanation that I’ve found yet to answer the question of, “why.” 

In her article she lists five items that are the reasons why so many people enjoy this thing called hiking. I’ve listed them here, but I recommend checking out her article for deeper insights. She seems quite a bit smarter than I am.

  1. Hiking keeps your mind sharper than many other forms of exercise
  2. Hiking helps to keep you calm and happy
  3. Hiking helps your relationships
  4. Hiking can increase our creativity
  5. Hiking helps cement a positive relationship with the natural world

I’m not sure that I knew all of that before I started hiking. I just enjoyed going outside.The point is that simply getting outdoors and seeing the world around you, is just a good way to make you feel good.

SHT trail from How To Go Hiking post
Snow on the Trail

Is Hiking Expensive?

Nope. Well, it can be. Once again, hiking is whatever you make it. This is Bricolage Life. Our motto is, grab whatcha got and let’s GO! If you have a pair of flip-flops, a little time, and somewhere to walk – you have all you need to go hiking at a basic level!

There are places all over the world where hiking can be done for no cost at all. Hiking can also set you back several to many thousands of dollars. Luckily, the majority of what is known as hiking, lies somewhere in between those extremes. Let’s talk briefly about that…

What things do I need to go hiking?

There are tons of variables to consider, when deciding what to bring with you on any given hiking experience. There are simply way too many to write about in this text. Following is a list of what I consider essentials that I bring with me on different kinds of hikes. It is not an exhaustive list. Nor is it a minimalist list. This is a list of what I tend to bring along with me. Every person, on every hike, is different, and will have different ideas of what is essential and what is frivolous. Essential items also vary dramatically depending on season, terrain, weather, etc. This is only intended to give you an idea…

Short Hike essentials:

  • Comfortable shoes
  • Proper clothing for current weather conditions
  • A bottle of water or other beverage
  • An idea of where you are going

Day Hike essentials:

  • Comfortable shoes or a decent pair of hiking boots/shoes
  • Proper clothing for the expected weather that day
  • A refillable container of water or other beverage
  • A sandwich for lunch
  • Small backpack containing:
  1. Extra water if needed
  2. Extra clothing if needed for weather conditions
  3. Small first aid kit for minor scrapes and bruises
  • A map of the route or the area, or a very strong knowledge of where you are going.
  • A cell phone for emergency use
  • A pair of hiking poles depending on the terrain (optional for me)

Backpacking essentials:

  • Sturdy hiking boots
  • Large backpack
  • Tent appropriate for the season
  • Sleeping bag appropriate for the season
  • Several containers for water depending on expected length of the trip
  • Food and snacks
  • Backpacking stove, fuel, and a lighter (usually two lighters, for redundancy)
  • Cooking pan and a utensil or two
  • Water micro-filter pump or comparable device
  • Waterproof storage bags
  • Map, or maps, of the area and the route (or a guide book)
  • Navigation equipment as necessary for the trip
  • A plan of daily activities and distance goals
  • A waterproof time keeping device for staying on pace (a wristwatch)
  • Cell phone with extra charging device
  • A light source (flashlight, headlamp, or battery operated lantern)
  • Substantial first aid kit
  • A complete change of clothes or two
  • Basic hygiene supplies (toothbrush, soap, washcloth)
  • Pair of hiking poles 
  • A means of packing out waste (human waste and trash)

Trekking essentials:

  • Pretty much everything listed in all the above lists, only more of it!
  • Self-rescue gear if traveling in a remote location
  • Plenty of vacation time from work
  • A lot of determination

Once again, those are just some of the things that I take with me. You will develop your own lists as you experiment in different seasons and weather conditions, and gain experience.

How Do I Get Started Hiking?

Although hiking is arguably the most accessible outdoors activity available, there are some things to think about before you begin. A basic rule of thumb is to start with small hikes and work your way up to more advanced hiking if desired. This link is an amusing story of how Lisa and I started.

Be certain to check off this list:

  • Know where you’re going
  • Check the weather 
  • Have a partner or let someone know what you are doing and when you plan to return
  • Have a plan of what you intend to do
  • Bring appropriate gear for the hike

REI Co-Op at REI.com are excellent outfitters for hiking, among other things. Their website offers this article that goes into much greater depth on the subject of getting started hiking. 

Also, be certain to check with your local outdoors retailer. They usually have the best information on local hikes and can help you find just about whatever you need to get started.

Where Can I Go Hiking?

Hiking can be done almost anywhere that is not private property that you don’t have permission to be on. Some good places to start thinking about are:

  • Local parks
  • Local designated hiking trails
  • State Parks 
  • State Forests
  • Wildlife reserves (if open to the public)
  • National Parks

A simple internet search of, “where can I go hiking?” will give you almost endless ideas of both local places to go and distant hiking destinations.

Again, be certain to check with your local outdoors retailer. They usually have the best information on local hikes and can help you determine an appropriate starting point.

Be creative. Once again, hiking is whatever you choose it to be.

Happy hiking!

Ready to Go Hiking?

I hope this has answered some of your questions regarding this wonderful pastime.If you’re not convinced yet, or for more in-depth reading, check out this article from WebMD called How Hiking Is Good for Body and Mind, written by Kara Mayer Robinson.

Happy hiking!

Now… Grab whatcha got and let’s GO!