7 Features of a Good Hiker
Every year, first-time hikers set off along the trail unfit, ill-equipped, and with unrealistic expectations. However, you needn't be a beginner hiker to make silly mistakes on the trail. So, what features are typical of good hikers?
A good hiker knows that being in good physical condition is of prime importance when he hits the trail. The best training for hiking is hiking regularly, i.e. the best way to train for carrying heavy loads over rough terrain is to carry heavy loads over rough terrain. Although this isn‘t always practical, you‘d be surprised what you can do if you really want to, even if you live and work in a city. If you want to be in a good physical shape for trekking, you need to go for day hikes regularly. Try to hike even when the weather is inclement. You can gain a double benefit from training in such conditions - it helps you to get used to all sorts of weather on the one side and it makes you tougher on the other side. Additionally, this way you learn more about yourself, your reactions, and your body’s behavior. You don’t need any special equipment for short hikes of 2-4 hours so not having the latest lightweight hiking shoes, hi-tech jacket or pack is no justification for staying home and not hitting the trail. With time, you’ll get more experience and will learn that training on difficult terrain in adverse weather conditions will be very beneficial, especially when you are on a long trail experiencing bad weather and/or having to tackle rough terrain. At the very least, spend a few weekends getting used to walking with a load before setting off on a longer trip. You need aerobic, or cardiovascular, fitness to walk and climb all day without having your heart pound and your lungs gasp for air. Without muscular fitness, particularly of the legs, you‘ll be stiff and aching all over on the second day out. Also, if you set out unfit, you‘re much more susceptible to strains and muscle tears. Getting fit takes time and good hikers know it. Keep in mind that resting after training is important and the chances that you get an injury is lower if you manage to recover well before your next training.
Applied knowledge and desire to learn
You may call it human spirit, willpower, resilience or another way. So many things can get wrong, especially when you’re on a long trail. Most good hikers know it and they’re mentally prepared to cope with the psychological burden of a long trail, including being hungry, thirsty, cold/hot, wet etc. In the wilderness, mental toughness can be the difference between life and death. In a long trail, even the best hikers have moments when they feel like quitting. However, a good hiker always continues because he knows that the moment would pass.
Learn from mistakes
A good hiker is able to learn from his own mistakes. When he was still a neophyte hiker, he’s probably overpacked. It happens to so many beginner hikers to get two or three pairs of shoes (waterproof boots, standard hiking shoes, and trail sandals, for example), more clothes or gear than necessary. It’s crucial for a good hiker to have the ability to learn from mistakes – not only from his own mistakes but also from the mistakes of others.
Resourcefulness, good decision-making, logical thinking
As we have already outlined in our post '7 Common Mistakes the Beginner Hikers Make', hiking is about problem-solving, and problem-solving requires sound logic. Some of the most serious mistakes on the trail stem from an improper use of logic. Good hikers think logically and it allows them to take better decisions. Resourcefulness helps them find ways of dealing with practical problems on the trail. A general recommendation: Don’t put limitations on yourself. Don’t bet against yourself. And take a risk. Taking a well-calculated risk is justified in most situations not only in hiking but also in life.
Respect nature; weather
A good hiker respects nature, the land he is moving through, and is not fooled by a sense of superiority. He respects natural powers and knows that he can’t control them. He doesn’t underestimate trail terrain and weather conditions because he knows what can be the consequences of doing that. Especially if hiking solo, a moment of distraction and a slip can lead to a life-threatening situation when there’s no one to go for help. A good walker must weigh every action carefully and assess every risk.
Long-run motivation is usually more important than short-run motivation because “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. For consistent results, you need to find a way to stay motivated; you need to maintain your motivation for a long time.
It's very surprising that motivation often comes after starting a new behavior, not before. Motivation is often the result of an action, not the cause of it. Once you start a certain behavior, you don't need much motivation because after you start, progress occurs more naturally. You've probably noticed that it is often easier to finish a task than it was to start it in the first place. Thus, one of the keys to getting motivated is to make it easy to start. For more information on how to get and stay motivated, read this article.