What is hiking?

Learn everything you need to know about this much-loved pastime, from basic gear needs to safety, benefits and more.

 

We hear the term “going hiking” all the time. But what is hiking, really? In its most basic form, hiking is simply walking in nature. However, it goes beyond a mere stroll in the park. Hiking typically involves tackling diverse terrains such as forests, mountains, and trails. 

Hiking can vary from an easy one-hour walk on a flat path to a challenging multi-day trek over steep mountains and rough terrains.

From The Appalachian Trail in the United States to the Inca Trail in Peru leading to Machu Picchu, and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, there are many famous hikes around the world. Yet almost every city in the world offers its own unique experiences. All you need is the right gear, a bit of knowhow and the energy to get out and explore.

 

What is the difference between a hike and a walk? 

The main difference between hiking and walking lies in the setting and intensity. Walking is usually done in an urban or suburban environment. Think walking down a street or around a park. Hiking, on the other hand, is done in a natural setting and often involves more challenging terrains and longer distances.

 

The right hiking footwear

An essential aspect of hiking is having the right footwear. Sore feet definitely do not make for a great hiking experience. Here are some key features to look out for in a great pair of hiking shoes:

  • Comfort: The boots should feel snug but not too tight.

  • Room for toes: Ensure there's enough space for your toes to move around, especially on downward inclines when your feet might shift forward.

  • Ankle support: This one is down to personal preference. Some people like hiking boots with ankle support, whereas others prefer lower-cut shoes.

  • Waterproof material: If you’ll be crossing rivers or streams, or hiking in changeable weather, consider waterproof shoes. 

  • High-quality sole: A good sole with strong traction is essential for stability on steep or slippery trails.

  • Lightweight: Your boots should be fairly light to avoid tiring you out on long hikes.

So, are Timberlands good for hiking? The answer is: yes. Timberland offers a wide variety of hiking boots and shoes, for both men and women, for every condition and terrain. So whether you’re out on a simple day hike or a more challenging multi-day trek, there are a pair of Timberlands for you.

 

Other hiking essentials

Besides footwear, other necessary gear for hiking includes a good backpack to carry supplies, a map or a hiking app for navigation and suitable clothing that can be layered. You’ll also need a hat, and sunglasses for sun protection, a water bottle, and snacks for energy. 

For longer, more challenging hikes, additional equipment like hiking poles, a compass, and a first-aid kit are recommended. If you're planning a multi-day hike, camping gear such as a tent, sleeping bag, and cooking equipment will be important.

Emergency supplies are also crucial for hiking. These include a basic first-aid kit, a whistle to signal for help, a multi-tool or knife, and a headlamp or flashlight. Always ensure your mobile phone is fully charged, and consider carrying a portable power bank.

The benefits of hiking

Besides being enjoyable, hiking is a great activity for body and mind. Particularly on more challenging treks, hiking is good cardiovascular exercise as it gets your heart rate up. Plus, it’s a great way to build strength and overall endurance levels.

Hiking can also boost mood and relieve stress as you get to immerse in the beauty of nature. Plus, if you’re looking for an easy way to make new friends, hiking groups are a great opportunity.

 

Hiking safety

Hiking might be great fun. But safety should always be a priority. Before you leave on any hike, make sure you let someone know your plans. Make sure to tell them the trail you're taking and your expected return time. You should also avoid hiking alone if possible, especially on unfamiliar or remote routes.

The next key thing to remember is to always stay on marked trails. This can make sure you don’t stray too far and lose your way. It also helps to preserve the natural environment around you. 

When it comes to weather, know that conditions can also change rapidly, especially in mountainous areas. Always check the forecast before you go and be prepared with extra clothing or gear if necessary.

Hiking is also a great opportunity to see some wildlife. But while it's exciting to spot animals, remember to keep a distance. Never feed wild animals, either - this can be bad for their health and alter their behaviour. Always be prepared and familiarise yourself with the animals you might meet en route.

 

Guidelines for a great hike

Looking forward to your next or even first hike? Here are some basic guidelines to make every hike memorable, enjoyable and safe.

  • Leave no trace: Always remember to "leave no trace" while hiking. This includes disposing of waste properly and leaving what you find behind. It also means respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors.

  • Altitude sickness: If you're hiking at high altitudes, be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness. These can include headaches, nausea, and dizziness.

  • Guided hikes: For those less confident about hiking alone, consider joining a guided hike. Many national parks and tourist centres offer these.

  • Outdoor skills: Having some basic outdoor skills can be very helpful when you’re out on a hike. This includes things like reading a map, using a compass, and knowing basic first-aid.

  • Hiking clubs: Joining a hiking club or group can be a great way to meet like-minded people and get social.

In short, hiking is a great way to get outdoors, get fit and experience the beauty of nature. Whether you prefer a quiet stroll through a forested trail or a challenging trek up a towering mountain, there’s a hike out there for you.

But before you head out, make sure you’ve got the right gear. At Timberland, we’ve got a wide variety of hiking shoes, waterproof jackets, backpacks, joggers, accesories and shorts, so you’re prepared no matter what the journey holds.

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