Hiking varies in terms of the preparation needed (both the equipment and yourself!) depending on the type of hiking you plan to do.
Going on a hike unprepared is certain to be advised against, however the longer and the more remote your hike, the more the cost of being unprepared
Here are four of the major types of hiking:
Day hiking is the perfect recreational activity. A day-hike is the best place for beginners to start. Plus, the trails differ from quiet and easy around a river to the more difficult that takes you up the foot of a mountain.
Day hiking has the added bonus of not need a lot of gear to get started – plus the load is less because it is not necessary to carry a tent, hammock, cot, or other overnight supplies.
The choice of trail destinations, difficulties, and length are virtually limitless.
A base camper is a hiker or backpacker that sets up a base camp which is usually a distance from the initial starting point. This is progress from day hiking and gives the opportunity to hike and camp in the wilderness for much longer.
Base camping involves leaving the camp and going on day-hikes with the intention of return before the end of the day.
A great benefit of base camping is the ability to reduce the load that needs to be carried on a day-to-day basis.
Plus, this type of hiking benefits those hikers more interested in camping at a site off the beaten track that is more rustic compared to a regular campsite.
A section hiker is planning to walk a section (or two) of the longest hiking trails. This can potentially build-up to the entire length of a major trail over multiple sections. This may happen over an extended period of time, often several years, or you may just want to do specific sections.
A practical benefit of this type of hike is the ability to control the pace. If wishing to walk slowly and spend more time admiring the scenery than this isn't a problem.
It also means you can just choose the most scenic or interesting parts - it is your hiking journey after all, so how you spend it is entirely up to you!
Plus, the multiple trips make it possible to spread the expenses, as well as for those without the free-time to complete the hike in a single outing.
An issue to consider with section hiking is the ability to stay in shape to ensure it is possible to keep coming back to walk the trail.
A thru-hiker plans to complete the entire length of one of the longest trails within a 12-month time-frame. End-to-end or thru-hiking includes popular trails like:
- American Discovery Trail – Delaware to California (6,800 miles with a completion time of 18-24 months)
- Appalachian Trail – Georgia to Maine (2,181 miles with a completion time of 5-7 months)
- Continental Divide Trail – New Mexico to Idaho (3,100 miles with a completion time of 6-8 months)
- Desert Trail – California [Mexican border] to Washington [Canadian Border] (2,200 miles with a completion time of 6 months)
- Great Easter Trail – Alabama to New York (approx 1,600 miles with a completion time of 4-6 months)
- North Country Trail – New York to North Dakota (4.600 miles with a completion time of 8-10 months)
- Pacific Crest Trail – Mexico to Canada (2,650 miles with a completion time of 5-7 months)
This type of hiking is highly involved and requires greater detail to attention in certain areas, such as the ability to restock the supplies while on the trail and away from civilization.
Part of being prepared for the types of hiking is the ability to learn as much as possible, including: gear required, facilities, weather, and trail conditions.
Naturally a thru-hike is going to take more preparation than a day hike, and if you have never hiked before you would be very brave indeed to take on the Appalachian trail as your first!
However, the beauty of hiking is that it is just walking. So start off with some simple hikes, build up your fitness and skills as you lengthen the time spent outdoors - first overnight and then gradually longer.
If you have the aim to do one of the great thru-hikes then there is no reason that you can't, just ask Bill Bryson!