I went on my first hike this last weekend which turned out to be quite amazing. We went to a place called Suikerboschfontein which is on the way to Nelspruit, Mpumalanga. The scenery was beautiful and I kept on getting reminded about the beauty the surrounds us just a few hours out of town.
Naturally I looked forward to the “workout” I would get from carrying a backpack, full of my clothes and gear for the next 2 days, and walking across tough terrain with many descents and ascents. Technically, I didn’t even break a sweat over the 20 kilometres but below the surface my muscles were getting a great workout – you could tell this by the stiffness I felt on the Monday after the hike.
In essence you are getting a workout through out most of your body including your core because you have to stabilise the 10kg-20kg backpack on your back; even if it’s the frame type with waist support (highly recommended).
Another great reason why it can be such a great benefit to hike is because you’re not prone to sitting done for extended periods (particularly important if you have an office job) and you also train your eyes to look long distances which helps if you have a job that places you in front of a screen all day.
I was fortunate enough to be loaned a backpack suitable from scaling the heights of Kilimanjaro but I did lack a few things that I would recommend are the basis to any hikers basic kit. Here’s a list:
- Backpack – frame type with waist support. The backpack should sit on your waist and not your shoulders.
- Hiking boots – I didn’t have a pair of these so as soon as I got to wet rock or just smooth rock I struggled to maintain grip.
- Layered clothing – don’t dress for a single type of weather. Layering makes sure you’re protected against most of the elements and gives you the ability to change your outfit depending on the situation. Warm rainy weather for example would be horrible in a thick rain coat.
- Water bottles and water bottle holders – these are a must but it’s preferable to have a water pack that goes into your backpack so that you can drink water without having to stop. Pretty handy in a fast moving group.
- Sleeping bag – if you can afford options here I would recommend getting a cold rated sleeping bag and one that’s a bit later for warmer climates. The guys I was with ended up zipping theirs open to cool down.
- Utilities – pocket knifes, matches, sunglasses, hats etc. These are a major requirment.
- Cooking gear – this wasn’t required for this hike but in other hikes you would need to bring your own.
Now with that list there is still something very important to remember: Pack light! Nobody cares if you wear the same shorts for the whole hike. They do care that you have to stop every 500m because you bag is to heavy (nevermind the damage it is doing to your back).
Where are you favourite hiking spots? I’m very keen to do a few 5-day hikes.