As more people flock to the hills for a selfie, it’s important not to blindly move with the crowd. If you’ve never hiked before, you need to read up on the hiking destinations and the right hiking gear to use to avoid costly mistakes. Not that pros don’t make mistakes too, it’s just that a good trail makes the journey seem effortless. An oversight on a hike can become a mistake that can turn a fun trip into a disaster.
Here are 9 mistakes a beginner is likely to make on their first hike:
- Not paying attention to the weather forecast
Naturally, everyone should know that dry season is the best time for hikes. Most people cancel their hike during the rainy season because the trail gets slippery. The tough calls are those days that start out dry and then turns wet in an instant . That is why whenever you are planning a hike, it is important to pay close attention to the weather forecast. Not just the night before, but in the early morning. It can decide whether you can go for the hike or what you should wear for the hike. You can get weather forecasts for cities in Nigeria on local TV shows or from an app.
- Underestimating the trail
In Nigeria, most of our trails are not defined, nor do they have hiking directions. So never try to go hiking alone or you may get lost. It is even safer if you go with a tour group, a practised tour guide or a local who knows the terrain well. We do not have grading systems for the difficulties of trails based on hikers skills in Nigeria; that is why going with someone who has been there or has trained as a tour guide is invaluable.
- Overestimating your capabilities
Hiking requires a lot of stamina. Going up is the hardest part so don’t rush up the trail or climb. Pace yourself, breathe in and out regularly and rest if you need to. Some trails have benches for you to rest, but even if there is none (e.g. at Milliken Hills in Enugu), still sit and gather your energy. When you go with a group on a hike, they may place the slower hikers in front and the faster hikers behind. It helps to ensure no one gets left behind. If everyone is physically fit, it will determine how long you spend on the hike.
- Wearing the wrong clothes and footwear
The wrong outfit can cause more challenge for you on the hike than you expect. Yes, denim may look rugged but it is cotton. When wet, it becomes heavy and takes longer to dry. Get lightweight, breathable materials or waterproof clothing items like wool and polyester-infused clothes. As for your footwear, never wear brand new hiking boots for a trail, otherwise, you will have blisters or sore feet. Break them in by wearing them regularly around the house or for a short run around your compound before the trip.
- Packing the wrong gear
What is the wrong gear? Any item you do not need on your specific hike. Hikes are different and require different types of equipment. For instance, you might not need a hiking cane to climb up a waterfall like Owu falls in Kwara. While we may not have outdoor shops that only sell hiking gears, it is important to make sure you find a place that stocks them. Thanks to the internet you can go online and order for hiking gears from a credible online store like Amazon, eBay, Jumia, etc. Don’t put stuff you may regularly use at the bottom of your backpack.
- Starting the hike too late
The best time for a trip is very early in the morning around 7 – 8 am. If you are travelling from one state to the other for a hike (e.g. travelling from Lagos to Ibadan to climb the Ado Oke Mountain), make sure everyone arrives early. Don’t fix that trip for 2 pm if you have no plans for a sleepover. To save face or extra cost, people ignore good judgement and still forge ahead even when it’s getting late. Always make sure you have an idea how much time is needed for the hike so you can calculate the best time to start the journey. If you arrive late, hold extra cash for hotel fees so you can spend the night and do the hike the next day.
- Not having a turnback time
You need to know when to call it quits. Some people get heady on a trail, believing they can reach the end and see all the attractions at the end. For instance, visiting the Nwgo Pine forest to see the cave and the waterfall. While snapping a picture on top Miliken hill in Enugu at sunset might sound perfect, if you haven’t reached the top before the golden rays of the sun appears, please turn around. The last thing you want is to hurt yourself coming down a trail in the fast descending darkness of nightfall.
- Not taking enough food and drink
Sure everyone remembers to pack a bottle of water and a few snacks, but imagine if an accident occurs and you get stuck up on a trail for longer than expected. We are not advocating that you pack your entire kitchen supplies, just enough food that can sustain you for at least a day. It could be a pack of cereals, nuts, cakes, biscuits, hard-boiled eggs, a smoothie or anything else that can satisfy and energise. We recommend fibre foods and proteins. The food/snacks you choose must be lightweight and not space consuming.
- Forgetting to pack a First Aid Kit
The fear of packing too much can make hikers downplay the importance of certain items like a first aid kit. No one plans for a twisted ankle or a bruised knee on a hike, but it would be nice to have medical supplies on hand to dull the pain and treat whatever medical issues arise. The need for a first aid kit, cannot be overstated.
As a beginner, don’t be afraid of making mistakes or let the mistakes you make put you off hiking. Everything adds to your experience. Learn from it and move on to the next adventure.
Do you have stories of your first hiking experience? Feel free to share it with us in the comment section below.
Feature Image: iamlivingit.com