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10 Tips to Become a Better Hiker

If you're like me, the idea of a hike sounds amazing; the beautiful outdoors, fresh air, and a new adventure is the perfect way to exercise and get the most out of a summer day. However, if you're also like me, you may not know the first thing about hiking.

mark scirocco.jpg                                            photo credit: Mark Scirocco

For my first date with my boyfriend he wanted to take me on a hike up Prospect Mountain. I'm more of a wine and dine kind of girl, but this sounded like an exciting alternative to a first date. I wore jeans with no belt, Tom's slip on shoes, and a flannel (looking cute is important, right?) and I was mortified about 30 minutes into our trip.

As I laughed to cover up my shortness of breath, heaved my pants up every two seconds, and found reasons to fall behind (like taking in the view) I realized I was not prepared at all for this journey. I "made up" lunch plans I had with my aunt and ditched out on our date early; as I climbed down the mountain, I prayed that he believed me.
As is evident by my embarrassing tale, there are countless things that go into planning a hike and a ton of ways a person must prepare themselves. So, in hopes of learning a little more about nature trekking we polled our Facebook followers to see what they had to say. Whether you're just beginning your walks in the woods (like me) or you are a seasoned survivor-man, here are some ways to begin tackling the beautiful Adirondacks and tips to become a better hiker.

kevin lenhart.jpg                                               photo credit: Kevin Lenhart

1. Just do it! 
Each hike will make you better, so by simply getting out and doing it you will get better every trip! There is no way to improve better than practice and hiking is no different! You will learn how your body works, what trails are right for you, and what kind of gear best complements your hikes! You don't need to start off with the most challenging peaks or mountains with the most beautiful views from an extremely high summit; start small but think big. Just taking the steps to get outside and begin your hiking career is commendable. With each trip you will gain knowledge, experience, and a love for the sport itself. (David Christensen)

2. Take time to enjoy the view. 
Hiking is all about being active but don't just rush through your journey without stopping to take it all in! Nature is a truly magical thing; it can relieve stress, calm the noise in one's mind, and remind us all of the infinite beauty we connect with while being outdoors. After all that climbing, jumping, and maneuvering through the obstacle course that is nature--you deserve to stop and enjoy the view! Mother Nature has secrets many of us have never uncovered and is just waiting there for us to reveal it. Remember that the need for adventure lies within us all and the only way to quench that thirst is to get out and explore. (Jean Lacosse Stebbins)

3. Know your surroundings and use the buddy system. 
Don't jump into a hike without having a plan. Make sure you are well versed on the area you are choosing to explore and tell others your plans. By preparing ahead of time you will avoid a potentially dangerous situation and others will be able to help in your time of need. Sign in at all registration points and have your trip mapped out ahead of time. Having someone with you will come in handy during sticky situations and the buddy system is always a good plan to follow. Two heads are better than one and when one idea isn't working maybe your partner can offer up some life-saving advice. (Deb McCann Osterhoudt) (Jean McGrath) (Darlene Renz Trowbridge)

Bob Garrity.jpg                                            photo credit: Bob Garrity

4. Don't push yourself past your limits.
Challenging yourself is great and everyone needs to expand their horizons, but when it comes to hiking slow and steady wins the race. The outdoors (especially when alone) are not the place to test your athleticism. Train ahead of time if you are trying to conquer an especially challenging summit and make sure to always hydrate yourself before, after, and during your trip. Doing exercises like yoga will help you with coordination, balance, strength, and endurance for especially tricky hikes while cardio training will improve respiratory endurance. (Deb McCann Osterhoudt) (Maria Wishart)

5. Don't dress to impress. 
Like my story proves, hiking is not the time to be a fashionista. One must think about comfort, safety, and practicality while putting together their adventure attire. Good shoes/boots are a must and will help you safely tackle steep ledges and paths lined with rocks. Make sure you allow the weather to play a role in what you wear, taking into account how your body will adjust to heat/cold during your trip. You want your clothing to aid you in your journey and not to be a distraction or hindrance from reaching the summit. (Dominic Marro)

6. Take a break and take pictures! 
Your body (especially your feet) will thank you for taking a second to breathe half way through your hike. You will not be able to truly enjoy yourself if you are exhausted and in pain! It is not a race and taking the time to breathe will only better your experience. Bring an extra pair of socks and make sure you keep your feet dry. If the weather permits, go barefoot and let your feet breathe and relax! While you are enjoying your pit stop, make sure you have your camera handy. You will want to capture first hand the beauty around you making sure you can share your experience with others. (Samantha Duve) (James Mott) (Jennifer Bogart Bailey) (Kirk Vanderbilt) (Bob Garrity)

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                                                 photo credit: Luke Dow

7. Keep the trails clean.
This was one of the most popular tips we got when we polled our hikers! Making sure you bring out everything you brought in is essential to keeping the trails the way you found them and making sure everyone has an enjoyable experience. Think of those that came before you as well as those that will come after you; if others were ignorant enough to litter pick up after them and make sure you do not add to their mess. Bring things in ziplock bags where garbage can be placed back into and immediately place non-degradable items back into your pack. Don't bring in more than you can carry out. (Jamie Leonard) (Shannon Serio)(Joe Cleveland)(Deidra Knauth)(Barbara Barcomb-Sinnett)

8. Get an early start and plan your time wisely. 
There are only 24 hours in a day and many of us have how we use those hours down to a science. However, when it comes to hiking, you never really know what could happen. A trail could be blocked off, weather may influence the accessibility of a certain area, or a slight detour may take your hike in an unexpected direction. By starting your trek early, you will ensure that you reach your goal by a reasonable hour, allowing yourself and others to get back to the bottom before nightfall. Planning your time accordingly is so important during hiking and a walk through nature should not always be taken lightly. Have a plan and then a back up plan to make sure your hike is safe as well as enjoyable. (Chris Sobik) (Stephanie Ayala)

9. Use your whole body. 
Many times we give our feet all the credit for carrying us up a steep mountain or through a challenging trail, but we have our whole body to thank! Many hikers have found themselves in potentially dangerous situations where they have needed to call on their hands, arms, and even behinds to scoot around the mountain! While scaling rocky ledges or tackling steep ridges, don't be afraid to call on your arms to do some of the work. Balance is important and your legs can become tired especially after a particularly challenging hike. (Caitlin Uhlig)

10.Learn to hike without electronics. 
Conventional tools like compasses, maps, and trail markers are something every hiker should know how to use. Technology is an awesome thing, but we should not rely on it at all times as it can often fall short. Losing service, a dead battery, or an accidental break may leave many of us helpless and literally lost. Learning how to use traditional tools will make sure you are always safe while outdoors, give you resources that are always reliable and making you an even better hiker! (Rich Genett) (Deb McCann Osterhoudt)

whiteface-wildwood.jpgNow that you have the tips, take your trip! It is time to start training and preparing for an upcoming hike. The breathtaking Adirondacks have so much to offer and much of it is at the end of a trail or on top of a mountain! Check out some of our hiking photos in our hiking guide to get inspired! Christopher McCandless famously said that, "The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun."

Let us know if you found our tips helpful or if you have some of your own you'd like to share-Comment below! To stay updated on all things Adirondack, visit Adirondack.net! 

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Love that you mentioned to not dress to impress. Hiking is something where you, in my opinion, become one with nature. You don't have to be dolled up to do that! My favorite "dress" item: my hiking boots! :) Thanks for sharing.

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