Many people’s first hiking experience is in their childhood when a parent (often a grandparent) takes them for a walk in the backcountry. Such an occasion inevitably remain in a child’s memory for a long time, especially if the experience was very positive (or negative), and has a great impact on his or her attitude towards hiking for a long time.
Others’ first hiking memories are from high school when their geography teacher got them into hiking, taking them and their fellow students to a popular local trail, and probably afterward they became members of the hiking club at school.
A third group of people go walking and hiking for exercise or to stay in shape. Nature offers so many options for spending a great time outside hiking – from beautiful national parks to various natural landmarks and attractions.
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Ten reasons to backpack
People hike for many reasons – for enjoyment, for recreation, for relaxation, for a challenge, for change, to revitalize, to think, to connect with nature. Here are our ten reasons for you to put on a pair of hiking shoes and start your adventure now:
1. The challenge
Let’s face it: hiking can be a challenge – a wet, cold (or hot), nasty, grueling challenge. You never know exactly what is going to happen on the trail. And though this might seem a bit frightening to some people, that’s among the coolest features of hiking and backpacking! A character is built in a place that demands every moment of your attention.
Think of yourself as an adventurous walker rather than anything else and take on the challenge. Your hiking adventure might be tiring but the post-hike energy rush, as well as deep, refreshing sleep, is guaranteed.
2. The uncertainty and discomfort of the unknown
Yes, uncertainty added to discomfort isn’t always equal to an adventure but it may well be. Some people immediately love the adventure and the possibility that they could still reinvent themselves. It also helps if you loath indoor gyms because hiking is an exercise combined with fun, while indoor workouts are often anything else but interesting. In addition, planning your next hiking adventure is much more fun. Yes, it takes time and energy, especially if planning a long hike and/or hiking around the world, but it’s certainly worthwhile.
The uncertainty and discomfort of the unknown are not frightening for those who are properly prepared for the challenges and difficulties that await them on the trail. Those people even welcome them. They know that fear is not an option for an explorer and embrace the unknown just like the pioneers of the past.
3. Connect with nature
Whether on a quiet walk in the summer woods, a long-distance trail hike, an exciting scramble high in the mountains or a journey in the snow and cold of winter, nature has a lot to offer. Follow the so-called “trail etiquette” and practice low-impact hiking to enjoy nature in a sustainable way. Just get away from people and mundane activities and enjoy every minute of your walk in nature – the fresh air, vast wilderness, serenity, magnificent sceneries, and dramatic views. Nature offers all these and more. Nature is authentic. It’s neat, calming, and the beauty of the outdoors can literally make you a new person.
You can hike where you live or thousands of miles away. Many people are surprised when realizing that they don’t need to travel around the world to get to some beautiful natural sceneries. They are often much closer than you think. Walking through a landscape and experiencing it make you, for a time, a part of it, and make you much more grateful for your environment. In fact, the place chosen for the hike isn’t that important. Remember that any place can be special – it’s not necessary to live near the most spectacular mountain or the most beautiful place on earth to go hiking and enjoy it.
4. Watch wildlife
Hiking often gives great opportunities to observe wild animals in their natural habitat. However, try to do it from a reasonable distance and be careful not to disturb or frighten them, especially at watering holes and feeding grounds. The chances of successful wildlife watching are higher on weekday evenings and very early mornings when wild animals aren’t scared to show up. The seasonality is also very important. For example, winter hiking offers quieter trails without huge crowds of tourists, which is highly positive to your chances of seeing various wild animals. Keep in mind that dangerous wildlife encounters are possible so try to avoid unpleasant encounters on the trail by following some simple rules:
- Stay out of the “personal space” of bears, moose, and other large animals.
- Avoid night hiking in bear as well as in snake country.
- Store your food properly and keep food scraps and other waste away from your campsite.
- Carry a bear spray for self-defense.
- Approach wildlife with extreme caution keeping in mind that wild animals are unpredictable.
5. Socialize with friends and meet like-minded people
A hiking trip is a great opportunity to improve the strength and health of your relationships. Sharing your passion for the outdoors with your friends will bring you closer together.
You can also join a hiking club in your area, various outdoor-oriented groups, environmental organizations, Facebook groups, and online bulletin boards. Interaction with the larger hiking community will help you meet hiking-savvy folks who share your love for the great outdoors. The beauty of nature somehow makes it easier to connect with others so hiking together is an easy way to develop new friendships.
To sum up, the more, the merrier! (No, we don’t think that hiking alone is boring.)
6. Physical benefits
There are many reasons why going for a hike is good for your health. No doubt, hiking is a good way to get exercise and a great workout for your muscles and mind. Trekking can help you improve your overall fitness. It helps you exercise muscle groups and burn excessive calories. For example, a 70 kg person burns approximately 450 calories, while 90 kg person burns around 550 calories per hour of trekking (during more strenuous hikes this number can reach up to 700-800 calories). Moreover, hiking isn’t as hard on your joints as other forms of exercise such as running. Hikes on difficult terrain burn extra calories so head towards the mountains if you want to lose weight faster. Here are some additional benefits for your physical health and well-being. Hiking:
- Helps you exercise muscle groups and strengthens your glutes, quadriceps, and legs in general
- Improves your cardiovascular fitness, decreases blood pressure and lowers the risk of heart disease
- Lowers your blood sugar levels, which reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes
- Develops strong bones and fights osteoporosis and arthritis
- Strengthens your core and improves your balance skills
You’ve probably heard the expression healthy body, healthy mind. Numerous studies show that mind and body are connected so it isn’t surprising that exercising your body keeps your brain cells nourished and healthy.
7. Mental benefits
Spending time hiking in nature brings many mental health benefits. Many studies indicate that urbanization brings stress, depression, and other mental issues while spending time outdoors, in green space, is advantageous for your mental health. Here are some extra benefits to your mental health and well-being. Trekking:
- Boosts your mood, energy, self-esteem, and makes you feel good (by releasing endorphins, the so-called feel-good hormones)
- Relieves stress, fights depression, and improves overall mental health
- Creates special moments that will live in your memory for a lifetime
- Improves your memory and cognitive ability
With so many mental health benefits of hiking, it shouldn’t be surprising that some doctors prescribe the so-called “ecotherapyÓ (spending time in the great outdoors) for patients showing signs of anxiety, stress, and depression.
8. Disconnect with screens and enjoy the sense of freedom
Civilization has good points as well as some bad ones. TVs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones represent a considerable achievement of today’s world but also constantly demand our attention and often are instrumental in making us feel overwhelmed. What’s more, these devices can be very addictive and it can be really difficult to tear yourself away from the screen of your electronic device and enjoy what’s really important in life. Having a hiking excursion in the wilderness is a great way to disconnect with screens, find peace, regain your balance, and feel a sense of freedom. Stop using technology and modern communications for a few days and you will fall in love with the simplicity of being in the great outdoors away from the stressors of urban life and the noise of urban areas.
9. A low-cost form of entertainment
Hiking is an easy and cheap form of entertainment. In addition to being one of the most inexpensive hobbies there are/is, hiking is accessible for pretty much everyone – people from different ages, backgrounds, and cultures like spending time outdoors. Trekking can be very entertaining, especially if you have a companion or two. Hiking can also be very beneficial for your family well-being. For example, hiking with kids is a great way to bond as a family and can make life-long family memories. You can play games, teach the kids about important things, and most importantly – have fun. Just plan your hike carefully and remember that hiking is never boring if you have the right attitude.
10. Relaxation and purpose
It isn’t natural for humans to sit in an office all day, however, today it is typical of so many people to make a living as office workers. The desire to explore the outdoors is both natural and necessary to most people. And there’s a reason for this because walking outside in nature brings real sense of peace and composure and helps you relax the body and mind. Spending a week in the mountains can really recharge your batteries. There you can get relaxation from the constant noise of the city traffic. Moreover, you can also get a sense of purpose. So, it comes as no surprise that outdoor recreation is becoming increasingly popular in recent years. By the way, this trend coincides with increased environmental awareness worldwide.
These are our ten reasons why you should give hiking a shot. It is a great hobby that will give you a chance to relax in nature, away from the stressors of urban life and their impact on your physical and mental wellbeing. Be ready to accept the uncertainty and discomfort of the unknown, clear your head, and recharge your batteries in nature. Hiking is real. It is simple but never boring and that’s why people around the globe love spending their spare time trekking in nature. But there are so many more things that make hiking so specialÉ Actually, there are as many reasons why people hike as there are people. Though one thing’s for sure – whichever reason to start hiking you choose you won’t go wrong.