Yeah I get, you already know how to walk. Left foot, right foot etc. Getting out into the countryside isn't quite the same however!
Walking, trekking and hiking. They’re all different grades of much of the same thing: getting outside on your own two feet.
There’s some debate between the exact differences between the three. Broadly speaking hiking is at the more hardcore end of the scale with multi-day adventures across physically taxing terrain not being unusual. Most hikers will be well equipped to handle a variety of conditions including unmarked trails and dressed to take on any weather.
Trail walking often features less climbing (as in walking up and down hills!) through well maintained trails and sometimes even urban environments. It’s probably a good starting point if you’re not quite ready to disappear into the wild for three weeks on a wild-camping trip.
Trekking is sometimes thought of as the in-between but other people consider it more like backpacking, ya know, like that gap year across India. For the sake of this what we’re talking about here, let’s consider it the gap between walking and hiking!
Got a better definition of trekking and hiking? Let us know in the comments.
1. It doesn't have to be hardcore.
While hiking can make for some seriously big challenges, it really doesn’t have to be. Here in the UK there are hundreds of great walks to be found all over the country. While there are many long distance hikes that will take you across many, many miles there are many more easy walks in the UK that can be finished in an hour or two at most.
If you’re just getting started, pick short, circular routes that’ll get you back to the start safely and without having to worry about getting lost.
Many great trail centres around the UK include facilities like toilets, cafes and a visitors centre at the trailhead. While this might not offer the most hardcore experience, who doesn’t enjoying chilling with a nice cup of coffee and a cake after a few hours in the woods?
2. It’s a cheap way to get outdoors
Getting outside is awesome and too often we make excuses that keep us in the house or stuck in the middle of our towns and cities. One of those excuses is cost. While plenty of hobbies aren’t cheap, walking, at least to start with can cost very little to nothing.
For short walks you don’t don’t need any specialist gear beyond a pair of comfortable trainers. That said, if you plan on walking more than an hour or two every week, it’s definitely worth investing in some trail shoes or light hiking boots. If you decide you really like it, you can gradually pick up suitable gear like waterproof coats as you go.
3. You’ll see some incredible sights
I’ll say it again: getting outside is awesome. Even some of our more tame UK trails can give you the opportunity to see some truly fantastic vistas and scenery.
The UK’s 15 national parks are littered with sites of spectacular natural beauty, many of which can be found on well marked, easy hiking trails.
4. You’ll feel happier
If you’re anything like me, you probably spend too much time around the grey hues of the urban jungle. The health benefits of getting out and enjoying the great outdoors are not to be understated.
A study from 2015 demonstrated that simply being around trees has a tremendous benefit on our health. It’s not just because of cleaner, higher quality air found in the countryside either. Being in green spaces reduces stress levels and can have a positive effect on mental health.
The study can be found here: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/does-being-around-trees-help-people-feel-good/
None of that even mentions the benefits of physical activity. Even walking every week for 45 minutes can make a positive difference to your physical fitness and wellbeing, especially if you’re just starting out.
5. You might discover a new hobby
Remember the excitement and buzz you had last time you got really into something new?
Getting out among the trees, mountains and lakes could be the thing that gives you that buzz. While today might be an hour stroll in glorious sunshine, next time could be a three day adventure with camping and serious challenges.
The great thing about starting any hobby is that you’ll always find a huge community of like minded individuals to share your excitement and help you along the way. Speaking of which...
6. Spend time with friends, and make new ones
Walking and trekking with friends is a great way to bond and spend some time with friends or family. Again, this could be for a few hours or it could be for a few days if they’re really good friends.
Joining a community of walkers or hikers is a great way to find other people to experience the outdoors with. Many of them will have years of knowledge and experience and be more than willing to set you on the right path, literally! While meeting a bunch of people with a similar hobby is cool, they’ll eventually become friends and help push you on to more exciting adventures.
Next time we’ll be looking at what you need to know before getting into hiking.