What To Know When Hiking

Another first hike of a new year, and I am sharing what to know when hiking. Here are some lessons I learned the hard way. Make sure you warm up and stretch. Biggest hiking regrets: not wearing the right clothes and not having enough water.

  1. Make sure you warm up and stretch
  2. Biggest hiking regrets: not wearing the right clothes and not having enough water
  3. How to not get lost
  4. Bonus tip: if you take a photo at a weird angle, and your subject looks like half of her body just disappeared. Do this: Just add a special effect (I like to call this one “The Thanos”).

What to Warm Up and Stretch for Hiking

Do you know what can ruin your hike almost as soon as you begin? Pulling a muscle, twisting an ankle, or getting a cramp. Do you know how you can help prevent that? Stretching. It will also give you greater range of flexibility and mobility. You should do each stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds. Your total stretching time should be around 10 minutes. Do some cardio activity for about 10-15 minutes to warm up your muscles before you stretch.
I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. This is the disclaimer to talk to your doctor before starting any stretch or exercise routine.

Anya warming up in her Kuhl Transcendr leggings, and her T shirt from Shop WhereGalsWander
Anya warming up. Wearing Kuhl Transcendr leggings, and her T shirt from Shop WhereGalsWander

What you want to stretch:
Legs (obviously). You want to make sure you stretch all the muscles in your legs and that you stretch them evenly. Pay attention to the hamstrings, quads, calves, achilles, ankle, and knees. Stretches to try: squats, knee lifts, quad stretches, calf stretches using a wall, lunges.

Hips, glutes and groin. These are some of the most common areas of soreness or feeling “tight” after a hike. Warm up and stretch your hip flexors. Fun fact: they say the emotions worry and fear are stored in your hips, so let those out before you start your hike and leave those behind. The pretzel stretch is a great way to stretch glutes, hips and lower back.

Back, neck, core and shoulders. You will be wanting a full range of motion in your neck and shoulders to look, to reach and climb. You will also want to prepare for carrying a backpack (with your water). Make sure your body is strong enough

Stretch before and after you hike. Post-hike stretch immediately. Stretch the same areas as before.
My favorite post hike stretches to include: hamstring, butterfly stretch, and the pretzel stretch.

Biggest Regrets While Hiking

Clothing: What To Know What To Wear When Hiking

When I started hiking, I would throw on a cotton tank top, a pair of shorts or jeans and gym shoes-off I went!

Here’s why that is bad: denim and cotton absorb moisture from sweat and the weather. Not only does this cause chafing, but it gets heavy. It can also trap wet clothes against you in cold weather (keeping you from getting warm) or hot weather (keeping you from getting cool). You want material that wicks water away from you. This includes your socks and underwear too (I don’t think anyone makes denim underwear, but you never know). It will make a huge difference in your comfort. Just as important as your comfort is your mobility. You want a material that will stretch if you have to scramble over a tree or rock. You also don’t want a thin material that will tear scrambling over that tree or rock (or if you fall), but a thick material will limit your mobility.

I thought yoga pants would be the answer. Until I snagged mine on some branches of low lying brush and the brush won. After seeing all of the creepy crawlies that exist outside, I also wanted something that couldn’t crawl up my pants leg (or bare leg). It also had to keep me cool and warm, as needed. I was really hesitant to spend money on what I thought in my head were basically leggings, but after a couple of hikes, the pants I bought in the Wal-Marts, Targets, Old Navy of the world just did not last.

My Favorite Hiking Clothes

Kuhl for women’s pants, specifically the Transcndr legging. I was very skeptical to try a legging, but here’s what caught my eye: a pocket for my phone (for taking photos for WhereGalsWander.com on hikes). Also, a the yoga-style high waistband (it makes me feel more comfortable bending and climbing). I also love the SPF 50 built into the material. The material is nylon, spandex and KONTOUR, in case you were wondering). What I also love is that they are absolutely not see-through! No panty lines, no panty outlines or colors peeking through, even in bright sunlight.

You may remember my blog about convincing my daughter to take her first hike with me up Pinnacle Peak in Phoenix. Now she is a hiking fiend. When Kuhl asked us for a review, I let her describe her first experience with the pants.

At first, she wasn’t used to having the pants that tight, or the material weight being that dense. But when we started stretching, she appreciated that the material moved with her, like a second skin. The pants didn’t twist up, ride up, or “wedgie” (her words). Being as clumsy as I am, she also fell at one point and scraped her knee. Well, the knee should have scraped but the pants held true and didn’t rip!

For tops, my go-to is wool. Full disclosure, I am a brand ambassador for WoolX (here is my affiliate link*, use this link or code WXWGW for a 20% discount) I love their brightly colored t shirts. I always thought merino wool was a winter thing, but it does a great job of wicking away moisture, sweat and odor. Layering is also key to hiking, and the material is light and perfect for layering.

My favorite WoolX shirt in Apricot. Use WXWGW for a discount

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of good socks. Blisters are HORRIBLE when you’re hiking, and usually for days afterward. Nothing will inflict self-torture faster than the wrong socks, or the wrong shoes, and having blisters. Wear full length socks (wool preferably) not no-show socks. Wear sturdy hiking shoes/boots that support your ankle and can go through all types of terrain and water. Boots should have a good tread so you do not slip.

Water: What To Know When Hiking

Having enough water is probably the number one thing to know when hiking, but if you are reading this and haven’t already asked “why didn’t Zanne put water first?” then this paragraph probably isn’t targeting you. I shake my head when I see people, especially families with young kids, out on a hike without bottles (multiple: bottles) of water for each person.

In the beginning, I also thought, “well, I am just going for a short hike, I can leave my water in the car.” The problem is, when you begin to feel dehydrated, you are already feeling fatigued. What starts as a short hike, can end up longer than expected either because the trail was tougher than you thought; you got lost, you had too much fun or all of the above. There are many articles already out there about the importance of water and hiking. Go read them and know that the minimum 1/2 liter of water for each hiking hour. Kids need 1/4-1/2 liter for each hour of hiking. Bring at least double, per person, of what you think you will need.

What To Know Not To Get Lost While Hiking

I have my phone with me when I hike. It has apps with hiking trails, GPS, a compass and I can call for help. I’m good, right? Even more so than roadtrips, prepare to go where the WiFi is weak, or not at all, and that includes any type of cell service. Stay on the trails at all times. Stop frequently for a drink of water, and make a mental note of what you see around you. Look for nature landmarks or what you see in the distance.

Most of the time, hikers get lost when they step off the trail to use the bathroom. First, always practice “leave no trace”. Second, I always focus on a specific landmark, and commit it to memory and take a photo of it. Then, I stand directly in front of it, with my back to it. As I step, I am walking in a straight line, counting each step. I try to find a spot about 30 steps away.

Learn how to read a map, and use a compass. Although it sounds quite simple, there are some nuances to each to know that are the difference between finding your way and getting more lost. There is a great discussion by Dr. Rob Scanlon on Wander To The Edge where he gives tips on using maps and compasses while hiking, including how to use a compass (I had to ask him, I had no idea). Use the map as you go along the trail, so you can visually recognize where you are. If you wait until you are lost until you use the map, it is much more difficult to try to figure out where you are.

If you do get lost: try to trace your steps mentally first.

Before you hit the trail: learn how to signal for help. Pack your backpack. Your backpack should always include extra water, a flashlight or headlamp (especially if you are not wanting or planning to be out after dark). It should have bug spray, sunscreen and a first aid kit. Make sure someone back “home” knows what trail you will be hiking, and what time you expect to be back home. Check the weather right up until you hit the trail. Recognize different types of flora and fauna, as well as snakes and insects. Understand how to act if you encounter different types of wild animals. Out by me, we have bears, snakes, tarantulas, mountain lions, coyotes and bobcats. I have even had bobcats and coyotes in my backyard!

Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for…

Photography Tips While Hiking

Never sacrifice your safety for the sake of a photo. Be aware where you are in relation to cliffs, edges, water and rocks. Never try to take a selfie with a wild animal.

When I hike with JD or my daughters, we have a rule that we take the photos at the beginning of the hike, but after we get going, any photos taken do not show how gross and sweaty we are. I have a lot of photos of me that my daughter took as she hiked behind me. The exception to this is after we hit our hiking goal. It could be distance, finishing the trail, hitting a landmark to celebrate.

Tips for photography: make sure you are aware where the sun is. Usually you will get a hazy glare if you are shooting right into direct sunlight. I try to hold up a baseball cap with one hand to shade the scene in the frame and do a timed setting with the other to get the shot. Photos are always better being taken more dark than being overexposed. On the other hand, watch where shadows fall on people’s faces.

I have a collection of weird poses as people scramble over objects, or fall, or both. Because of the movement, it can create some really interesting shots. I would post the ones I have here, but my daughter also has a similar album of shots of me as well.

In this photo, she is stretching with her arm grabbing her ankle stretched out behind her. I was focusing on the determination on her face and did not notice the fact half her body seemed to disappear. I added a dispersion effect, hence creating the “The Thanos Snap”.

Summary of What To Know About Hiking

10 minutes of stretching before and after a hike can save days worth of pain.

Safety, practicality, and comfort dictate what to wear, but it’s worth investing in good quality to make a good hiking experience.

You can never have enough water.

Learn to use and bring a map and a compass. Enjoy the hike, but always be hyper-aware of your surroundings.

Follow all of these lessons learned, so you don’t disappear like a Thanos snap!

You can get lost on purpose, just get lost in the right direction

Once you get started hiking, you will find that it tires your body, but heals your soul.
If you have other tips or “need to know”, please drop a comment below or email me at [email protected] to add your own tip!

*content includes an affiliate link-when you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission
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Zanne is the Founder, Editor, Administration, and Publisher of WhereGalsWander along with the title of Chief Trouble Maker. Blame her for everything.

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