From introductory day-hikes to multi-day camping trips, executing the perfect hike can be complicated. In this complete hiking guide we’ll cover everything you need to know to hit the trail and enjoy your next hike.
What the Hiking Guide Will Cover
If you’re new to hiking or an experienced hiker there is something in this guide for you. This hiking guide will cover everything from planning and equipment to execution and even what to do after your hike. If you’re just looking for some specific topics about hiking you can click the links below to navigate to the relevant section.
We’ve also listed some recommended articles if you need some more detailed information about any of the topics we cover in this blog. Again, don’t be afraid to jump right into these articles if you need something more specific.
1 Why hike?
If you’re totally new to the outdoors, and to hiking, you may be wondering why you should hike at all. There’s plenty of unanswered questions that could be standing in the way of your first hike. How hard is hiking? Is it tiring? Is it safe? What do I need to hike? Well you can rest assured that all of your hiking questions will be covered in this blog. First let’s answer the question of why you should hike.
Hiking is an activity that is easy for anyone to do, that introduces you to spaces in the outdoors you would otherwise never see and that can help you develop a more complex set of outdoor skills. If you need a little more persuading you can read our ‘Justifying Blisters: Why do Hikers Hike?’ blog.
“Hiking is an activity that is easy for anyone to do, that introduces you to spaces in the outdoors you would otherwise never see and that can help you develop a more complex set of outdoor skills.”
2 Hiking Equipment
The equipment you’ll need will vary depending on the trip that you’re planning. Here you need to consider a few key questions. How long will I be hiking for? What will the terrain be like for my hiking trip? What is the weather likely to be? The duration will help you determine how much food, water, space, clothing and shelter you will need. The terrain will help you decide if you will need a specific type of footwear (such as approach shoes or traditional hiking boots). The weather will give you steer on the types of hiking clothing you may need (such as water or wind proof jackets). We cover all of these questions and the equipment you’ll need in our ‘Trekking and Hiking Checklist’ blog.
Your hiking backpack is a core component of your equipment. It is the one piece of equipment that carries all of your other equipment. It’s also the main item that interacts with your body as you hike. For this reason you need to ensure that you select the right backpack for your needs. Selecting a backpack for hiking will also depend on the type of trip you’re taking. Longer trips require more volume. Elevated trips may require hiking poles therefore a hiking pole attachment is important. Hot weather generates body heat therefore ventilation on your back is required. You can read our full ‘How to Select Your Backpack’ blog for an in-depth look at this topic.
3 Trip Preparation
With your equipment selected, checked and laid out in front of you it’s now time to get into the trip-ready preparation. You could just bundle all the gear in your backpack and throw it over your shoulder, but you’re almost certain to be a little uncomfortable after 30 minutes of walking.
Packing is an art. Sure, we’ve all looked up space saving tips for holiday luggage but packing for a hike is completely different. The location you place the different items in your pack will determine how it is balanced and how that weight transfers throughout your body. Some good general tips are to aim to keep heavier items in the centre of you pack with lighter items above, below and beside. Remember you will be placing your pack on the ground when you rest so avoid breakable items being in the bottom of your pack. Finally, aim to make your pack look long and thin rather than short and fat. A long thin pack ensures that the weight inside your pack is distributed correctly onto your body.
The fit of your pack is the next step. Every Osprey pack has a level of adjustability that can be tailored to the individuals torso length, body type and clothing. We have an extended guide on pack fitting but the core premise is that the weight of your fully loaded pack is distributed into your lower lumbar and legs. This is done by having the correct torso length, by ensuring that your hipbelt is secured on your hips, by tightening load lifters to improve centre of gravity and so the harness and sternum strap secure your pack to your frame. The most integral part of the pack fitting is the hipbelt. It does most of the hard work in distributing pack weight.
4 Where to Hike
Now that you’re ready to hit the trail you’ll need to plan the actual hike. If you haven’t selected your route there are a few considerations to take into account. Your experience, the weather, the amount of equipment you want to carry will all impact the locations and distance of your hike. If you’re looking for a comfortable hike across several days then 20km days are a good benchmark to aim for. That being said, this distance will (and must) vary depending on your own ability, the difficulty of the terrain and many other factors. The key is to remember that the journey, the hiking itself, is the reward and not the destination.
If you need some hiking inspiration we’ve picked some of our favourite British hiking routes to get you started.
We’ve also explored the art of the ‘weekend hike’. If you’re unable to get out for a week or more then there’s still a way for you to enjoy a full weekend or even just a day hike. This ranges from overnight microadventures to full weekends, there’s always a way to get outdoors!
Share your adventures using #OspreyEurope
5 Getting the Most Out of Your Hike
Once you’ve set off on your hike your main goals are enjoyment and safety. Hiking at a good pace is a bonus but if it dampens the experience or risks your safety then it’s all been for nothing. There’s also the ever unpredictable weather to consider. A wet pair of socks can be uncomfortable but a bitter wind, torrential rain and scorching heat can be dangerous. So before the weather turns, here are our top tips for enjoying your hike:
Navigation plays a big role in both safety and enjoyment. The obvious reason for this is that you will need to arrive at your destination in a safe amount of time and with plenty of daylight to spare. The second reason is a little more subtle. You can use maps to evaluate upcoming elevation, find interesting landmarks and points of interest whilst ensuring that your route is the most efficient it can be. You can read our introduction to map reading blog for an in-depth look on map reading basics.
A hiking guide wouldn’t be complete without a reference to the weather. Europe is a fantastic part of the world to experience the outdoors but also brings with it variable weather conditions and differing climates. We’ve discussed equipment earlier in this blog but it’s worth noting that hiking in bad weather has its own requirements. Plan for the weather, protect your gear with internal drysacks and an external raincover and most importantly, accept that you’re just going to get a bit wet.
"Europe is a fantastic part of the world to experience the outdoors but also brings with it variable weather conditions and differing climates."
6 After the Hike
So you’ve made it. You’ve enjoyed every step, every kilometre but now you’re ready for a shower, your sofa and some well-earned Netflix. Do it. But once you’ve recovered a little don’t forget about your faithful backpack and your supporting gear.