Hiking and backpacking are wonderful activities that can enrich your life. Most hikes, at least here in the northeastern United States, are fairly tame. You can find many that are short and safe. However, you’ll find hiking that is extreme and dangerous at the other end of the spectrum, especially if you are not knowledgeable and ready. Following some common guidelines will get you started “on the right boot.”
First, if you have never hiked, don’t start on an outing simply because you read about it on backpacker magazine online, and it sounded exciting. Start with something you can do and that will be within your skill, fitness, and comfort level. Remember, if you or your family enjoy a day in the backcountry, you’ll more than likely want to go back.
So ease into it, don’t start with an 8-mile hike on Mount Washington in the Presidential Range, but maybe something less aggressive such as the 3,5 mile Pine Mountain hike with its great views.
Do as much as you can to learn the skills needed to be safe in the backcountry. Understand at least the basics of first wilderness aid and CPR. Learn basic navigation skills and how to plan a trip. Know the right gear to take for the season you’ll be hiking in—hike or backpack with people who are knowledgeable before you head out on your own. Learn how to stay well-fed and hydrated on the trail. In other words, get as much education, training, and guided experience as you can.
Based on your current level of physical activity level or if you have any preexisting health concerns, you may wish to see your doctor and receive medical clearance to participating in an activity as strenuous as hiking or backpacking; There may be a valid reason you should limit your participation or not take part at all.
Remember, safety matters. You becoming sick or injured in the backcountry puts others in harm’s way.
Backwoods wanderer with a passion for backpacking, hiking, kayaking, and exploring the wilds of the Catskills and Adirondacks in New York. A Catskill 3500 Club Member and Adirondack Forty-Sixer. Climbed Mount Rainier. Professionally an Exercise Physiologist.