If you can walk, then you definitely can hike; and we’ve done a lot of walking so far, right? Hiking is simply taking walking to the next level. And that next level may be… a forest… a national or a county park or even just going up on the hills near your home.
Before you attempt to go hiking, you should be comfortable with walking long distances and you should also give your legs proper workouts. Check the weight training section on all the exercises you can do. As always, check with your physician if you have or think you have knee or any other issues that could prevent you from hiking.
Benefits of Hiking
This probably goes without saying but, besides the benefits of getting you in shape and ready for Doomsday, hiking helps with blood sugar, lowers the risk of heart disease, improves blood pressure and even boosts bone density. There are obvious mental benefits to this as well, such as lowering stress, boosting your mood and making you forget your daily problems.
If you’re wondering about the muscle involved, here’s a quick list, keeping in mind there are lots of other smaller, secondary muscle that are not listed: quadriceps, glues, hamstrings, abdominal obliques, calves and your thighs.
Now, I don’t know if you’re planning on going up in the mountains or if you’re just looking to explore the forest near your home but you’re gonna want proper hiking equipment (which you probably already have as part of your bug out plan).
The first thing I want to discuss are your clothes. You’ll need to dress warm and protect yourself from wind. I’m assuming your trip won’t take more than a day so you’ll only need the clothes you have on you plus whatever you have in your bug out bag which, of course, you’re going to take with you.
The clothes you’re going to wear largely depend on the season in which you’re, the temperatures outside and whether or not you’re going to spend the night in the middle of nature.
Ok, let’s talk a little bit about your hiking boots. By now you should already have a pair of hiking boots attached to your bug-out bag, ready to be taken with your backpack in case of emergency.
But don’t expect new boots to get you through an escape; you need to break into them first, get used to them and notice if they make you feel uncomfortable or give you blisters.
With hiking boots, you really get what you pay for. Of course, you want to save money but getting something cheap is not the way to do it; getting them on sale is. The ideal boots should be lightweight, durable, water resistant and provide you with good ankle support.
Getting Ready to Hike
There’s no reason you can’t make hiking a fun experience, in addition to the fitness benefits. Bring as many friends as you want and make sure the person who’s the slowest will set the pace. The last thing you want is to get into fights which could potentially get some people (especially kids) upset and render your effort useless.
Even better, you can make these hikes part of your survival drills. For example, if your bug-out location is within walking distance from you, you can hike towards it Friday evening, spend Saturday and Sunday there, living off grid, then hike back Sunday afternoon.
Needless to say, your bug-out bag should come with you. You need to find out exactly how many miles you can walk with that thing on your back. In most cases, you might not even make it through the first mile.
Plus, you need to make sure you have enough food and water. Water is extremely important to keep yourself hydrated during this sustained effort. Feel free to make changes to your backpack by removing unnecessary items to make it lighter.
Think about it… if you’re not fit enough and you take your entire BOB hiking, what will you do when you won’t be able to carry it anymore in a real SHTF situation?
You can’t just abandon it on the side of the road. Better to take only what’s necessary (particularly food, water and clothing) and increase the weight the next time you do this.
Here’s a full list of important things to carry with you when hiking:
- clothes and rain gear (wet clothes can lead to hypothermia even when it’s not that cold outside!)
- first aid kit
- way to make fire
- maps, a compass and GPS
- personal water filter
- flashlight + extra batteries
- cell phone + extra cell phone battery
- signaling mirror
- insect repellent
- an emergency phone number plus your IDs (or copies of them) in case something happens
- solar cell phone charger
- …and anything else you think might be necessary.
The short list above is mostly suitable for short hikes and assumes you won’t sleep in the woods.
And let’s not forget trekking poles (also known as hiking poles). You can buy them or, if you’re skilled with your survival knife, or you can make your own from a couple of sticks (though bamboo works best). If you’re not sure you can make it and if the terrain is rough, a couple of hiking poles are going to make a world of difference.
Now, I understand you may need to adjust your bug-out bag for your hike but – hey – the more you move around your items, the better you’ll familiarize yourself with them, right?
Now… I mentioned you should have maps with you, in addition to a GPS. One thing a lot of people don’t do is study those maps. It’s not just because you might get lost but you also want to know how much you’ll walk so you can plan accordingly. Remember, your second hike should either be longer or be done in a shorter amount of time.
You’ll also want to keep a schedule. Mark checkpoints on the map and establish the departure time and the arrival time in each of those checkpoints. Don’t be afraid to leave markings on your map, that’s what a true hiker does.
Another thing you need to do is obtain necessary passes in advance, you don’t want to miss your first trip for such a silly reason.
Last but not least, check the weather. Better to have perfect weather on your first hike to make sure everything works according to plan. After that, I’m sure you’ll be tempted to do it regardless of weather conditions.
The Actual Hike
The question isn’t “How long should the hike be?” but, rather, “How many brakes are you going to take?” The key to a successful first hike is to take breaks and not fall into the trap of thinking it’s too easy. I bet you won’t be saying that after an hour and a half. Take breaks, stay hydrated and what your step!
You’ll first want to start with even terrain just to “get your feet wet”, then advance to paths that have uneven terrain that will give your legs quite the workout, improving your overall stability.
One thing you don’t want to do is overestimate how much you can hike. As I said, give it a trial run first on the easiest trail you can find and THEN move to something harder.
What to Do After the Hike
Just like after any other intensive workout, you should give your body a nice stretch. This really helps decreasing the chances of injury. You can do it when you get home or right after you end your hike, up to you, just don’t do it after taking a long break or even sleeping if you want the full benefits!
Is Urban Hiking Possible?
OK, so maybe you don’t have a buddy to accompany you in the woods and you don’t want to look silly walking around town with your bug out bag. What can you do?
Easy. Just get a smaller backpack, fill it with water, juice, your laptop etc. and start walking. No one will ever suspect you’re actually in the middle of your survival fitness workout and should anyone want to know what’s inside your bag, you’ll have no problem taking out your laptop.
Another thing you can do is grab an empty backpack, walk to the supermarket, and return on foot, with all the groceries behind your back.
Long Distance Hiking
Naturally, going on longer and longer hikes is mandatory if you want to improve you physical fitness. Of course, the longer the hike, the better prepared you must be, and I’m not talking about packing more gear or a tent. I’m also talking about your physical condition as a 3 day hike is enough to wear out most preppers.
It is important to note that some professional hikers (not all of them) prefer to also do weight training to become better hikers. The other hikers don’t’ really care about this because, for them, the pleasure of hiking itself is enough.
Where does that leave us? Well, as we’re about to discuss later on, strength/weight training is an important part of survival fitness so you’re gonna have to do it. Keep in mind we’re not just hiking, we’re also looking to become faster and better at it so we’re fully prepared when SHTF.
Also, keep in mind that you don’t know how long you’re gonna have to spend in those woods. Even if you have a bug-out location out in the wilderness, you’re still going to have to work your ass off every day to procure food, either by hunting, fishing or farming, so endurance training and stamina should not be taken lightly.
Hiking With Your Family
Here’s an idea: why not plan a hiking trip with your family? It’s going to be fun but the one thing I suggest you do is make sure no one packs any junk food. This way, should any of you feel carb cravings while up there, you’ll have no choice. I can almost guarantee each of you will lost at least 3-4 pounds by the following Monday.
Hiking inside Your Home
If you don’t have hills or mountains where you live and if your farmland is flat, you can easily simulate hiking inside your home by stepping up and down a box. To make it harder, you can hold two dumbbells in your arms (this will also give your wrists a good workout) or simply use a taller box.
To do the exercise, exhale as you’re raising yourself up on the bench or box and inhale as you get down from it.
The key to gaining maximum benefit is to use the heel of the foot that’s already on the bench to raise yourself up.
So, are you ready for your first hike?