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As soon as you announce to the world that you’ll be going on a long distance hike, like thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail, you might find yourself bombarded with advice – some of this advice will be amazing hiking hacks that will make your day, some of it, not so much.
There is soooo much hiking and backpacking advice out there, it can be hard to know what to listen to and what to ignore, especially when we’re hearing differing opinions of life on the trail. Unfortunately, most of the things we hear, are from people who aren’t even long distance hikers and those people tend to spread these ideas like wildfire – ‘It’s not safe!’ ‘You’ll starve!’ ‘You’ll freeze!’
As long as you do your research, carry the proper gear and apparel, and practice your skills, you won’t starve or freeze, and while it’s never 100% ‘safe’ – literally nowhere is!
But there are 4 hiking stereotypes I’d like to break down today:
Hiking alone is dangerous – or worse – hiking alone as a woman is dangerous.
I’ll be the first to admit that hiking alone can be dangerous if you have no idea what you’re doing, you are unprepared for the weather or terrain, or you don’t know your own limits. Luckily, for hikers everywhere, these things are fairly easy to overcome.
Do a little research on the area you’ll be hiking in to know what to expect, what risks you might encounter, the weather forecast and what basic gear you should have with you. For example, if you’ll be hiking into snow, prepare for snow. If it might rain, prepare for rain. If there is steep terrain, plan extra time and know you’re limits so you know when to turn around. Then let someone know your basic plan, and estimated return time. Make sure to register at the trailhead if there’s a register there.
Hiking alone doesn’t have to be any more dangerous than walking down the street alone, or driving alone, or living alone!
You need to be in pro athlete shape to attempt a thru hike.
Now, obviously you do have to have some capacity for walking and exercise to attempt a long distance hike. (If you’re really worried about this or have other specific health concerns – please talk to a doctor first to talk about your options.) But for most of us who want to complete a thru hike, we will definitely not be anywhere near in as good as shape as pro athletes are, we won’t even be close to ‘thru hiking shape’ when we start out!
And that’s fine. This one also comes back to knowing your limits. We all start somewhere. If you think you’re not ‘in shape’ then start with slow, easy, low mileage days with plenty of breaks and gradually increase to hiking longer mile days and/or challenging yourself to more elevation gain. You’ll get in shape along the way, I promise.
You need to be a survivalist to attempt a long distance hike.
I can’t tell you how many of my friends and family thought I would be foraging for food and sleeping on a bed of pine needles while I was out on the Appalachian Trail. Don’t get me wrong, some people have the skills and knowledge to forage and trap their own food in the woods, but I, like most people, chose to carry in all my food, shelter, and gear in my backpack instead of going into survival mode.
Trekking poles are silly and can’t really make that much of difference.
A lot of new hikers have this misconception, or at least a misunderstanding, about trekking poles when they see them used for the first time. And they themselves may feel silly using them for the first time. But using trekking poles can make a world of difference when you’re out there just walking day after day, all day long. They give you more power on the uphills, more support for your knees on the downhills, more stability on tricky terrain or river crossings, they help prevent your hands from swelling while hiking, and they can hold up your ultra light tarp tent.
Seriously, try out some trekking poles. I’ve been using the Black Diamond Z Poles for a few years now and I love them!!
Let me know some of the hiking myths or misconceptions you’ve heard floating around there in the comments below!
For more hiking tips and how-to’s, check out:
- How To Actually Go Backpacking
- What To Do If You Encounter A Bear
- How To Treat Your Drinking Water On The Trail
- How To Poop In The Woods