I have been hiking most of my life and during that time I learned a lot through the “school of hard knocks”. I believe that the best way to learn is through trial and error; however there is nothing wrong with learning from others. I remember my very first trip in to the Drakensberg very well, a snot nose youngster with no hiking experience except for a few easy day walks.
Our gear was very crude compared to what you can get today. I owned a Back Packer Krantz back pack and a Bededorm hollow fiber sleeping bag, and if you owned a tent it would have been an A-frame type tent, most probably also a Back Packer brand. At that stage you had two local brands that were easily available and of good quality – Karrimor and Back Packer, I am sure there were others available but most probably way out of our price range and usually imported or bought by people on an overseas trip.
Our choice of food in the mid 80’s, especially light weight food, was very limited and mainly consisted of soya mince (Toppers) and Smash for suppers, Provita or Salti Crax or Tuc and cheese for lunch, dried fruit or some biltong, and breakfast was Wheatbix or Pronutro. However the extra weight of fresh food never stopped us from taking meat, tinned food and fruit as well. Most footwear used was Hi-Tec hiking boots, Trail Busters and maybe a few other brands. I personally owed a pair of Hi-Tec Sierra Light’s that fitted me perfectly and lasted quite a few years. There was none of this technical clothing we get today. We hiked in shorts and a cotton t-shirt and when it got cold we put a jersey or jacket on. We slept on a paper thin sleeping mat and in winter would freeze our butts off, but we loved it.
I don’t want to take away the sense of discovery and excitement for new budding explorers, however I want to give some tips and advice so that you won’t be duped into buying unnecessary gear. I have been in way to many outdoor shops where the sales person convinced the person that he or she needs equipment that they don’t actually need just to get the commission from the sale. Shop around, Google it and do some research before buying any piece of expensive gear, or even better, try to hire or borrow from a friend. Once you are out on the trail look at what other hikers are using and wearing, especially the old timers. They will be a valuable source of information. Most hikers will be more than willing to share advice. Again don’t take everything they say as gospel. You still have to do some of your own research and see what works for you.
What is Backpacking
As a South African we understand “backpacking” to be an outdoor activity, over multiple days and sleeping in a tent or cave, where you carry all your equipment you might need in a backpack. However in Europe backpacking usually refers more to a touring trip, also called slackpacking in South Africa, where you will carry some clothing and food, but will travel from lodge to lodge.
The Benefits of Hiking
Hiking is one of the few hobbies that can be enjoyed as a whole family – good exercise, and an excellent way to spend family time together.
Family time – Our lives get busier every day and in turn leads to less time spend with family. By hiking together we are forced to slow down and re-inforce the family bond. What is a better way to spend quality time with the family, while enjoying the great outdoors?
Exercise is good – As we are getting busier, we have less and less time to exercise. Hiking is a good way to get a day’s work out. Today we find that children are especially susceptible to becoming obese due to spending way too much time glued to their electronic devices. Hiking is a good way to get them off the couch and outdoors.
Stress relief – The exercise and focus needed for hiking on narrow paths, helps reduces stress and makes you feel much better about things. After a day’s hiking you will feel de-stressed and ready to face the world again.
Promote Mental Health – Time spent outdoors is known to be beneficial for good mental health and thus it makes sense that hiking not only helps heal the body but also the mind.
Your daily dose of Vitamin D – A 10 minute stroll can help your body generate your daily dose of Vitamin D, and a hiking trip is a great way to get your daily dose of Vitamin D.
An affordable hobby – Starting off should not cost you an arm or a leg, but you will need a good pair of hiking shoes, and petrol in your car to get to the venue.
A great way to explore nature – Most of us have lost our connection with nature and this in turn leads to feelings of despair and even depression. Going hiking releases endorphins that help us feel good about ourselves and in turn have a positive outcome in our lives.