Beginner’s Guide to Hiking

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As spring marks the start of hiking season in North America, fall, with its cooler temperatures and changing colors, is when long-distance hikers are eager to pack their bags. It’s also a great time to dip your toes into a multi-day hike.

Simply put, hiking means walking an established end-to-end trail in one direction, usually over weeks or months, while sleeping (and often camping) along the route each night. In the United States, there are eleven National Scenic Routes considered true hiking trails, including the Appalachian Trail on the east coast, the Continental Divide Trail that runs from Mexico to Canada, and the Pacific Crest Trail, best known to Cheryl Strayed. . Savage.

But you don’t have to walk for months to enjoy the joy of hiking. Many sections of these scenic drives are also accessible to beginners interested in a weekend, or even a night, of trail life. Below, seasoned hikers and gear experts discuss how to safely start long-distance hiking.

Where to start

If you’re a comfortable day hiker looking to push your limits, an overnight stay is an easy first step before moving on to multi-day trips. “Once you have enough overnight and day hikes under your belt to be comfortable with your own abilities, just go for that multi-day hike or even hike a longer trail.” , says Jackie Lastinger, a 28-year-old solo hiker. from Georgia who completed the Appalachian Trail.

There are a number of hiking organizations that can help you prepare, such as American Long Distance Hiking-West, whose mission is to inspire, educate, and promote camaraderie among long-distance hikers. They regularly host Ruck events (after the German word for backpack), which are one-day educational get-togethers to help backpackers of all skill levels prepare for upcoming hikes, with sessions on trail options. , equipment, hiking strategies, stories, etc. .

REI also offers a range of outdoor classes at locations across the country. “One of the best ways to prepare is to learn how to use a physical map and compass,” says Gary Elbert, a REI Adventures trail guide based at the cooperative’s Arizona Adventure Center. Elbert says their map and compass class is the most popular for aspiring hikers.

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