Many people long to escape the Rat Race and immerse themselves in wilderness but doing so can be quite overwhelming for the novice hiker.
Perhaps you’re one of them. Do you look at photos on the internet and get a twinge of jealousy that you haven’t witnessed that sunrise over the beautiful horizon in a remote location? Or maybe you have overheard an exciting conversation between two ‘outdoorsy’ types, kitted out in the finest of clothing and dripping with accessories, and just feel like this lifestyle is out of reach?
Well, I’m here to tell you that everyone can enjoy hiking in nature; you just need to know where to begin, so here are a few hiking tips and handy hints to help you get acquainted with nature.
1. Keep it Simple
Don’t aim for Everest. Even better - keep it simple and keep it local. Look around your immediate environment. Take a drive or research places of interest nearby, and make a short bucket list. It’s amazing how many mini adventures and fantastic walks are right on your doorstep.
2. Keep it Safe
Don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation, or take yourself too far out of your comfort zone. You want this to be enjoyable. Bring someone with you if you can. Of course an experienced hiker is a bonus, but even having a friend join you on your adventure is not only great company but it is safety in numbers.
If however you do choose to go alone, make sure you always tell someone where you’re going and an estimated time that you are due back.
The beginner hiker can often overlook the importance of the weather, so check the forecast and decide accordingly. Don’t be afraid to change times and locations, or cancel if needed because nature isn’t going anywhere so you’re always better to be safe than sorry.
3. Be Correctly Kitted
Although you don’t need to have the best of gear and be dripping with fancy accessories, you will need some basics.
Invest in some good walking boots, breathable layers of clothing, lightweight waterproofs, and a backpack with adjustable straps and back support. Hiking boots that have ankle support are best as these will provide extra support on uneven ground and also provide extra protection from wet feet (and let’s be fair, it’s quite possible that you’ll encounter some rain in Northern Ireland!).
That said, walking shoes are often good enough for beginner hikers, so choose what is best for you, but either way, you don’t need to break the bank to get kitted out!
4. Be Prepared
Ensure you are prepared for all weather and eventualities. Depending on how long you’ll be out exploring and where you are going, consider the following in your bag – waterproofs, hat, gloves, warm thin layers, suncream, spare socks, basic first aid kit, money, food and water, fully charged mobile phone. And remember to tell someone where you’re going and when you’re due back. Don’t be caught out!
5. Be Respectful
Remember to respect the nature around you, and ‘leave no trace’. Bring home all your rubbish to dispose of properly, be careful not to damage the surrounding natural area and wildlife, and always leave the environment as you found it. Leave nothing but footprints and take home nothing but memories.
Bonus Tip: Embrace it!
Probably the most important of all. Although it certainly is fantastic to take loads of photos and videos to document your adventure (and indeed your achievement), it’s important to remember what you’re doing it for! It’s for YOU.
So remember to stop for a while, put your camera and mobile phone away, and appreciate the time you have in nature and take in all the sights, sounds and smells around you.
Be mindful if you feel your tension and stress melt away and remember to store these feelings and images of amazing scenery in to your memory bank. Taking away these memories and life lessons, will surely enrich your experiences each and every time you embark on a new adventure.
So start local and start simple. The first step is to grab a map of your local area or make a list of nearby locations that appeal to you such as coastal paths, beaches or clearly marked pathways through rolling fields.
So go and grab your pen and paper and start planning! Adventures await you…..