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Hiking is a form of walking, undertaken with the specific purpose of
exploring and enjoying the scenery, particularly in areas of relatively
unspoiled wilderness, and usually on trails. Hikers usually carry small
backpacks with essential gear. Overnight hiking is more properly called
backpacking. Hiking is one of the fundamental outdoor activities on which
many others are based.
Enthusiasts regard hiking as the best way to see nature. It is better than a
tour on a vehicle of any kind because the hiker's senses are not intruded
upon by windows, engine noise, fellow passengers, and other distractions. It
is better than standing in one place because the hiker may cover a wide
area. On the other hand, hiking on a serious basis does require some degree
of physical ability and knowledge, and hikers may get caught in inclement
weather. Without a doubt, hiking is often the only way to reach beautiful
places without chartering a helicopter.
Hiking safety issues and unforeseen circumstances
Any hike, regardless of duration or the familiarity of the route, may
possibly go awry. Possible mishaps include injury, unexpectedly inclement
weather, and losing the trail. A simple set of equipment may allow the hiker
to escape from any of these predicaments. One list of such equipment is the
Scout Outdoor Essentials. The ultimate decision whether or not to bring any
of this equipment is entirely at the hiker's discretion, and many hikers opt
to leave most or all of it at home.
It is wise never to hike alone. In any survival situation, a companion may
be more helpful than any piece of gear. If one hiker becomes injured, the
other can administer first aid and call for help. If a lone hiker becomes
lost, he is more likely to panic and make bad decisions than a group of two
or three hikers. If the weather turns foul, a group of hikers can pool its
manpower, brainpower, and body heat.
Another simple safety precaution is to give the itinerary and expected time
of return to someone not on the hike.
How to hike
* When hiking in a group, always keep your distance from the person in
front of you: at least 20 feet (7 meters), but never so much distance
that you can't see the other person. If you follow too closely, you
will be able to see little other than the other hiker's back. If you
keep a good distance, you will be able to see the scenery, and spot
defects in the trail before you can trip over them. This rule may be
difficult to follow under some circumstances, but it is very important
to an enjoyable hike.
* Keep an appropriate pace. An excessively slow pace will limit the
distance you can walk, but an excessively fast pace also has
disadvantages. You will become fatigued quickly, increase your risk of
injury, and be forced to think primarily about maintaining your speed,
rather than about the scenery. Over flat ground or on a moderate
downhill, a reasonably fast hiker may travel at almost four mph (six
km/h) unladen, or three mph (five km/h) with a full backpack, though
many prefer somewhat lower speeds to enjoy the scenery. A steep uphill
will slow that pace down by about half.
* Avoid dehydration. On short hikes in good weather, this is not an
issue. On moderate-length hikes, it may be possible to fulfill your
water needs by drinking plenty of water before setting out. On long
hikes, especially those in hot weather or low humidity, it will be
necessary to carry an extra supply of water.
* When hiking in a group, place the slowest hiker in the lead. This will
prevent the faster hikers from leaving the slow hiker behind, thus
making sure that the group stays together. It is easier and safer for
the faster hikers to adjust to the slow hiker's pace than vice versa.