All it takes is the wrong pair of shoes or not enough water to turn a hiking day into a bust. If you're a beginner hiker, there's a lot to keep in mind for your first time on the trail. Or, if you're a seasoned outdoorsperson with hundreds of kilometres under your belt, there could be some hiking tips you're forgetting. Either way, we're here to help.
If you're intimidated by hiking with a group or just don't know where to start, this post is the place to be. Read below for the insider scoop on what gear you'll need and how not to look like a dummy when you're trekking between the trees.
We'll also be publishing guides for every hike we do with the club, so be sure to check those out whether you're coming with us or hiking somewhere on your own. So far, we have a Mont Tremblant guide and a La Mauricie guide to help you out!
1. Get Ready to Get Lost
COC goes on pretty frequented trails, but it's still good to prepare for the worst once you're out there. If you're hiking on your own, make sure someone always knows where you are. Don't end up chopping your own arm off because you were alone and got stuck between a rock and another rock (not that anyone's ever done that or anything).
Always bring a buddy! Hikes are more fun (and safe) that way. Especially if you're going with only one or two other people, have a map of the trail on your phone or grab a paper one if they're available at the trailhead. In some cases, there will also be numbers you can call if you need help while you're out there. And always stay within sight of the beaten path!
2. Layer Up
When it comes to hiking, always dress for success. But that doesn't mean wearing your best plain white t-shirt for a long day outside. No matter what the weather looks like, bring light layers of clothing that you're not afraid to get dirty. If it's looking dark and stormy, don't forget a raincoat just in case!
In general, wear long, flexible pants to stay limber and avoid bug bites and scratches (extra points if you have the kind that zip off into shorts). On top, wear a light tank or short-sleeve shirt, a light longsleeve, and a packable jacket. If you're hiking on a mid-July afternoon, you probably won't need the extras. But it's always good to have items you can take on and off as the temp changes throughout the day.
3. Wear the Right Shoes
Your brand new hiking boots from MEC might be great in theory, but hours of hiking in a new pair of shoes will be the death of you (and your ankles). Wear something reliably comfortable that will stay on your feet and keep you supported throughout the day. A good pair of running shoes is good enough, but don't wear anything you're not prepared to get dirty.
Hiking boots are always a top choice if you don't mind something more bulky. If you're not going too far, socks and sandals also do the trick (and look absolutely incredible). You can even pack a pair of flip-flops or sandals in your bag if you think you'll be taking a picnic break or lounging for a while.
4. Pack for Your Clumsy Friends
No matter where you're going and who you're going with, someone is bound to slip, trip, or fall somewhere along the way. Make sure you come prepared with a basic first aid kit. Include some band-aids, tweezers, alcohol wipes, and medical tape and gauze. This isn't 1672, and a cut on your leg won't kill you, but it's still good to keep things clean while you're hiking.
Author's note: If you're with an especially ungainly group, it's fun to make a game out of it. Give one point for stumbling, two points for tripping up, and three points for a full horizontal fall. There's no greater achievement than tripping over your own two feet and ending up sprawled on the ground, so treat it that way!
5. Don't Get Burned
We love the sun. But the sun doesn't always love us. It doesn't matter how cold the weather is or how overcast the morning looks—sunburns are always a hazard. You're going to look pretty silly if you come back from a winter hike (or any, for that matter) with a weird beanie tan line on your forehead.
Wear sunscreen on your exposed skin, especially your face, and pack extra just in case. A hat and sunglasses are especially a plus. Not only will your mom be proud of you, but your skin will thank you later.
6. Bring (Human) Fuel
If you know you're going on an all-day hike (or a short one), you'll need to bring something to eat. At more frequented places like Mont Tremblant, there are places to get lunch and extra snacks, but you don't want to take chances and end up hungry.
It's true that you can eat whatever you want when you're hiking, but stuffing your face with sour cherry blasters throughout the day might not be the best choice. Portable healthy snacks like fruit and granola are your best bet if you want to keep your body going. Just make sure you don't litter apple cores or protein bar wrappers on the trail!
7. Hydrate or Die-drate
Bring water, and lots of it! If you're confident in your abilities to find drinkable water, you can bring a filtering system or purification tabs to make sure you don't get burned by bad water. But that's only really applicable for multi-day hikes.
No matter where you're going, try to look up whether there are places you can refill your water bottle so you can ration accordingly. If you drink everything you have in the first hour, the rest of your day might look a little thirsty.
8. Don't Go Too Hard Too Fast
If all you do every day is walk to and from class, chances are you might not be ready for a 20-kilometre hike up a mountain. There's nothing wrong with taking it slow or choosing a less intensive hike. Chances are that no matter where you're going, there are great trails with beautiful views that won't cost you all of your energy.
Start off slow and pace yourself. Be realistic about what trails you can do and what trails might be too big of a challenge. You don't want to spend the day after your hike lying in bed and wondering why your legs don't work.
9. Keep the Trail Clean
"Leave no trace" is always the motto. There are a few different things you'll need to keep in mind to make sure you leave everything as clean and beautiful as when you found it. Don't leave your garbage (or any other kind of waste...) where it doesn't belong! If you come across any wildlife, be respectful and give them space. You're basically walking through their house.
It's also a great tip to bring your own garbage bag or small Ziploc to keep handy in case you have garbage you don't want to carry in your hands. Leave only footprints and take only pictures. If you're feeling an extra sparkle of goodness in your heart, you can also go plogging and pick up some trash while you walk, hike, or jog!
10. Smile and Wave, Boys...
No matter how sweaty or tired you are, other hikers will always appreciate a smile when you pass by. Everyone on the trail is just there to have a good time, and no matter who's out there, you have at least one thing in common: a love for the outdoors. Say hello, spread the love, and tell somebody that they're almost at the end even if they aren't. That's how it's done.
Now that you know the basics, you're ready to hike! Grab some friends and go to your favourite spot on your own or through one of our COC events. Make sure to keep tabs on our event calendar and schedules for every semester! #GetDirty and hike on!