Hiking is the preferred term, in Canada and the United States, for a long, vigorous walk, usually on trails (footpaths), in the countryside, while the word walking is used for shorter, particularly urban walks. On the other hand, in the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, the word “walking” is acceptable to describe all forms of walking, whether it is a walk in the park or backpacking in the Alps. The word hiking is also often used in the UK, along with rambling (a slightly old-fashioned term), hillwalking, and fell walking (a term mostly used for hillwalking in northern England). The term bushwalking is endemic to Australia, having been adopted by the Sydney Bush Walkers club in 1927. In New Zealand a long, vigorous walk or hike is called tramping. It is a popular activity with numerous hiking organizations worldwide, and studies suggest that all forms of walking have health benefits.

Significant hiking destinations
See also: National Park; National Parks of England and Wales; of Canada; of New Zealand, of South Africa, etc.

In Continental Europe amongst the most popular areas for hiking are the Alps, and in the United Kingdom the Lake District, Snowdonia, and the Scottish Highlands. In the US the National Park system generally is popular, whereas in Canada the Rockies of Alberta and British Columbia are the most popular hiking areas. The most visited hiking area in Asia is probably Nepal. The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is possibly the most hiked short trail in South America.

Long-distance hiking
Frequently nowadays long-distance hikes (walking tours) are undertaken along long-distance paths, including the National Trails in England and Wales, the Kungsleden (Sweden) and the National Trail System in the United States. The Grande Randonnée (France), Grote Routepaden, or Lange-afstand-wandelpaden (Holland), Grande Rota (Portugal), Gran Recorrido (Spain) is a network of long-distance footpaths in Europe, mostly in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain. There are extensive networks in other European countries of long-distance trails, as well as in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Nepal, and to a lesser extent other Asiatic countries, like Turkey, Israel, and Jordan. In the Alps of Austria, Slovenia, Switzerland, Germany, France, and Italy walking tours are often made from ‘hut-to-hut’, using an extensive system of mountain huts.

In the late 20th-century there has been a proliferation of official and unofficial long-distance routes, which mean that hikers now are more likely to refer to using a long-distance way (Britain), trail (US), The Grande Randonnée (France), etc., than setting out on a walking tour. Early examples of long-distance paths include the Appalachian Trail in the US and the Pennine Way in Britain. Pilgrimage routes are now treated, by some walkers, as long-distance routes, and the route taken by the British National Trail the North Downs Way closely follows that of the Pilgrims’ Way to Canterbury.

The equipment required for hiking depends on the length of the hike, but day hikers generally carry at least water, food, a map, and rain-proof gear. Hikers usually wear sturdy hiking boots for mountain walking and backpacking, as protection from the rough terrain, as well as providing increased stability. The Mountaineers club recommends a list of “Ten Essentials” equipment for hiking, including a compass, a trekking pole, sunglasses, sunscreen, a flashlight, a first aid kit, a fire starter, and a knife. Other groups recommend items such as hat, gloves, insect repellent, and an emergency blanket. A GPS navigation device can also be helpful and route cards may be used as a guide.

Proponents of ultralight backpacking argue that long lists of required items for multi-day hikes increases pack weight, and hence fatigue and the chance of injury. Instead, they recommend reducing pack weight, in order to make hiking long distances easier. Even the use of hiking boots on long-distances hikes is controversial among ultralight hikers, because of their weight.

Hiking times can be estimated by Naismith’s rule or Tobler’s hiking function, while distances can be measured on a map with an opisometer. A pedometer is a device that records the distance walked.

Many associations are responsible for tagging the trails to allow walkers to follow routes. Thousands of kilometers of trails have been developed with painted or signposted markers, ranging from a few kilometers to more than 10,000 km for the E4 European Trail.

For example, in France, the Club Vosgien uses nine geometric signs and four colors to mark the trails it maintains. The hiking trails GR (white rectangle on red rectangle) and GRP (yellow rectangle on red rectangle) and PR (yellow rectangle) are marked by the French Federation of hiking.

In Switzerland, the Swiss Federation of Pedestrian Tourism has endeavored to create a unified signage of hiking trails for all of Switzerland. More than 60,000 kilometers of hiking trails are reported.

In the same way we find specific markings for equestrian hiking trails or mountain biking.

Large-scale maps (typically 1:25 000 or 1:50 000) describing the terrain and nature of the terrain measure distances and elevations (difference in altitude between departure and arrival points). help with the rated points and contour lines.

A good practice of card reading can anticipate the difficulty of the journey, and plan his hike. In the field it is important to find your way around, and can be carried in a card holder, a sort of transparent pouch that protects it from bad weather and only handles the necessary part.

These maps are published in Belgium by the Belgian IGN, in France by the French IGN, or in Switzerland by Swisstopo.

Guides called topo-guides are also edited to describe a region or route.

Orientation accessories
The compass is a tool for the magnetic North Pole of the Earth. It allows to orient the map in the same direction as the real terrain. In Europe, the details of the terrain generally allow to use a map without compass. The latter, however, remains an appreciable security in the forest or in foggy weather for example.
There are GPS dedicated to hiking with tracking and orientation features.
Of binoculars allow you to more effectively guide and enjoy the scenery and wildlife.
In the mountains, an altimeter is useful to locate on a map on which contour the hiker is.

The backpack makes it easy to carry all the necessary equipment for a good hike. It must be light and comfortable. Some models dedicated to hiking offer a waterproof protective cover to keep the contents dry in case of rain, and a device for hanging walking sticks or an ice ax for hiking at high altitude or with traverses firn.

The content differs according to the climate and the length of the hike, and preparing your backpack is a compromise between the desire to have a maximum available, and the weight to be carried which must not be too high (ideally limited to 20% of the weight of the wearer). It is common to see beginner hikers too busy. “Ultra-light walking” refers to a form of hiking where the weight of the backpack is minimized to a minimum.

Example of content carried in the backpack:

A water bottle (or a water bag);
Protections against the sun (sunscreen, sunglasses, cap), or against the cold (hat, gloves);
A Swiss army knife;
A lighter or matches, wrapped in plastic to protect them from moisture;
A picnic (or even a stove);
A first aid kit;
A flashlight;
In the case of a multi-day hike without accommodation: a sleeping bag, a tent, and a floor mat.

Effort and nutrition
The average values of progression are generally from 4 to 5 kilometers per hour, with 300 to 350 m of altitude gain per hour uphill, and 400 to 450 m of altitude gain per hour downhill. These values are to be adjusted according to people, difficulties and weather conditions.

If the duration of the hike is less than three hours, water will suffice, possibly sweetened to 5% if the effort is particularly intense. Otherwise there must be solid food to provide energy, such as dried fruit or nut pastes.

In the case of a long walk in autonomy, the management of the food is crucial. It is necessary at the same time to ensure to provide a satisfactory nutritional intake, to preserve the pleasure taste, to avoid the health problems, while taking care to limit the weight of the reserves of food and the problems of cooking. It will therefore be necessary to look for products that are stored at room temperature and with a high energy content, especially dehydrated foods.

Hiking is an endurance sport, the needs will be mostly an energy supply. The nutritional composition may therefore be less rich in animal or vegetable proteins than at the usual meals and comprise 60% of carbohydrates, 14% of proteins and 20% of lipids. A ration of 3,000 to 3,300 kcal per day must be provided, sufficient to cover energy needs by drawing on fat reserves.

It is necessary to increase the quantity of drink, being wary of mountain streams which may have been soiled upstream (pastures, refuges). On the return we will promote rehydration (soups, drink, tea) and energy recovery (pasta, rice) by limiting meat intake to prevent cramps.

The breathing is a central element in the effort management hike. The main metabolism solicited being the aerobic metabolism, it is advisable to consider its respiration as one considers its food and its drink.

The Afghan march allows you to control your breath to better manage the effort.

The choice of shoes is essential, especially if the walk is long and the terrain rough. Using your walking shoes a few days before departure improves your comfort and reduces the risk of lightbulbs. Choose the appropriate size, look at the robustness of the shoes: they must maintain the ankle in case of fall. If they are leather, should be washed to remove mud after each day’s walk, to keep them in good condition.

The big brands of hiking equipment offer several types of shoes depending on the practice: high-rise shoes for hiking at altitude, shoes “mid” lighter and lower for the middle mountain and the shoe “low” for less alpine courses and walks in the wild. They are distinguished from trail shoes reserved for use running in the mountains.

If the lacing of the shoe upper is to be moderately tightened at the rise to allow movement of the ankle, it must be firmly tightened on the descent to ensure rigidity of the shoe-ankle assembly that protects the latter from twists generated by the rugged terrain (or by simple stones sometimes modest in size but sufficient to cause trauma).

Hiker’s clothing varies by region. In a temperate climate, the meteorological difficulties are rain and wind. Indeed, they take away the heat preserved even by several layers of clothing. The risk of hypothermia is high in case of wind. In cold weather, it is important to stack the layers of clothing to protect the trunk and a cap to protect the head. The trunk and the head being the areas where the loss of heat is most important in case of cold.

The emergence of synthetic textiles has allowed a great advance in the compromise between comfort and practicality. The Gore-Tex is a breathable textile, which keeps the body warm and dry with good ventilation, but its capacity is reduced when it is dirty. The fur in fleece is light and more efficient than those in cotton.

In natural fibers, wool is excellent for keeping heat, but poorly moisture because it may get heavier and deformed, and therefore proscribed for socks. Cotton, it attracts all the moisture, so it is to be avoided in cold and wet areas, but useful in the tropics.

The major retailers of hiking equipment now offer a range of flexible clothing: “softshell”, clothing with both the characteristics of the fleece jacket, a rain jacket and a windbreaker. The “hardshell” garment has a greater windproof thickness than the unlined fleece softshell, the advantage being that you can wear a classic fleece jacket under the hardshell. Fast-drying “first layer” clothing combined with these hybrid garments allow a great modularity in clothing according to the season and are suitable for several sports disciplines (hiking, skiing).

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The hike, then called “randonue”, is sometimes practiced without clothing.

Using sticks
Many hikers use trekking poles that increase the efficiency of progression on the slopes, and allow some of the weight carried by the legs to be removed from the arms.

The use of poles in the practice of hiking dates back to the 70s: at this stage of research, it seems that the military were precursors in this area as part of their physical training. Alpine hunters used sticks of skiing on the occasion of “alpine footings”, a term for physical activity, namely running in sportswear, mountain boots and poles on alpine circuits in the immediate vicinity of their garrison.

Incidentally, the sticks make it possible to carry out, in particular, splints in the context of the first aid gestures. They are also used for mounting tents or tarps.

Stay the night
During a hike of several days, several solutions are possible to spend the night:
In the bivouac;
In the lodgings of stage;
In the mountain huts.

Difficulty levels
The difficulty of a hike lies in its length (or development), its altitude difference, its altitude, the complexity of the path (which will be more or less easy to follow) and the difficulty of the terrain it runs.

Various rating systems exist to indicate the difficulty of the terrain, such as that developed by the Swiss Alpine Club:

T1 – Hiking
Trail well traced. Flat terrain or low slope, no risk of falling.

Requirements: None, also suitable for sneakers. The orientation does not pose any problems, usually possible even without a map.

T2 – Hiking in the mountains
Trail with uninterrupted path. Terrain sometimes steep, risk of falling not excluded.

Requirements: Feel safe enough. Trekking shoes recommended. Basic orientation skills.

T3 – Trekking in demanding mountain
Trail not necessarily visible everywhere. Exposed passages may be equipped with ropes or chains. Eventually, hands support needed for balance. Some exposed passages with risk of falling, scree, slopes mixed with rocks without trace. You have to have a very safe foot, good trekking shoes and average orientation skills. Basic experience of the desirable mountain.

T4 – Alpine hike
Traces sometimes missing. Hand help is sometimes necessary for progression. Terrain already quite exposed, delicate grassy slopes, slopes mixed with rocks, easy snowfields and glacier passages not covered with snow. You must be familiar with the exposed terrain, have rigid trekking boots and some ability to assess the terrain and good orientation skills. Alpine experience. In case of bad weather the withdrawal can be difficult.

T5 – demanding alpine hike
Often without traces. Some easy climbing passages. Terrain exposed, demanding, steep slopes mixed with rocks. Glaciers and snowfields at risk of slipping. It requires mountain shoes, a reliable assessment of the terrain and very good orientation skills. Good experience of the high mountains and basic knowledge of the handling of ice ax and rope useful.

T6 – Difficult alpine hike
Mostly without traces, climbing passages up to II. In general not marked. Often very exposed. Slopes mixed with delicate rocks. Glaciers with increased risk of slipping. It requires excellent orientation skills, a proven alpine experience and the habit of using technical mountaineering equipment.

In the field of hiking, it is widely accepted that the physical difficulty, even for a trained hiker, is primarily psychic climb where the mind can sometimes be severely tested by the profile of the route (distance, unevenness remaining to go). The real “suffering” physical is often felt at the descent which particularly requests the joints (shocks, slides, jumps). A pair of trekking poles can effectively reduce trauma to the descent. The climb must take place at a slow but steady pace, limiting the breaks to what is strictly necessary. In contemplative hike, the descent is done at moderate speed to limit the trauma, by borrowing the course marked out

Hiking is a relatively low-risk sporting activity, but isolation can make an incident that is usually seemingly trivial a problem, especially if it is difficult to prevent rescue or to indicate precisely where We are. At night and difficult weather conditions mountain rescue can be suspended if they pose a risk to rescue workers.

Walking in the wild can typically cause strains, blisters, falls, hypothermia, hyperthermia or bites of animals or sometimes venomous insects.

The risks vary according to the region, the security measures are very variable: Some animals can be venomous, or aggressive. It can be recommended to protect against ticks (which may transmit the spring-summer meningoencephalitis or Lyme disease), or bites of mosquitoes (which carry the malaria or chikungunya).

Some precautions are however quite common:

Prepare your hike by establishing a route suitable for hikers;
Take equipment, shoes and clothing appropriate to the terrain and weather conditions;
Learn about the weather to avoid being surprised. In the mountains for example, the weather can change very quickly, and can be different from one slope to another;
avoid leaving alone, or at least warn of the route and approximate time of arrival to a loved one;
to know the gestures of first urgency;
wear bright clothing during the hunting season;
take a set of effects to improvise a night in the field to cope with bad weather in case of immobilization.

Security equipment
Depending on the difficulty of the ground, the isolation and the climatic conditions, it is sometimes recommended to take:

A first aid kit, with priority for hiking, an anti-inflammatory product to relieve ankle strains and injuries due to physical activity and accidents with swelling and inflammation. Products to stop and disinfect haemorrhages, as well as drugs (paracetamol or ibuprofen type) against fever, headache, and pain;
The mobile phone can be used to prevent help in case of an accident, to ask for help to find your way, or to know the latest weather data. It is nevertheless dependent on the network and the signal, sometimes absent in certain regions. The difficulty of recharging the battery also limits its use.
A survival blanket is used to protect an injured person from cold, heat and humidity.
A whistle, in case of immobilization, to inform the rescuers of the place where you are.
A rope for some difficult and dangerous passages.

Environmental impact
Natural environments are often fragile, and may be accidentally damaged, especially when a large number of hikers are involved. For example, years of gathering wood can strip an alpine area of valuable nutrients, and can cause deforestation; and some species, such as martens or bighorn sheep, are very sensitive to the presence of humans, especially around mating season. Generally, protected areas such as parks have regulations in place to protect the environment, so as to minimize such impact. Such regulations include banning wood fires, restricting camping to established camp sites, disposing or packing out faecal matter, and imposing a quota on the number of hikers. Many hikers espouse the philosophy of Leave No Trace, following strict practices on dealing with food waste, food packaging, and other impact on the environment.

Human feces are often a major source of environmental impact from hiking, and can contaminate the watershed and make other hikers ill. ‘Catholes’ dug 10 to 25 cm (4 to 10 inches) deep, depending on local soil composition and covered after use, at least 60 m (200 feet) away from water sources and trails, are recommended to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination.

Fire is a particular source of danger, and an individual hiker can have a large impact on an ecosystem. For example, in 2005, a Czech backpacker burned 7% of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile by knocking over a portable stove.

Because hikers may come into conflict with other users of the land and hiking etiquette has developed.

When two groups of hikers meet on a steep trail, a custom has developed in some areas whereby the group moving uphill has the right-of-way.
Various organizations recommend that hikers generally avoid making loud sounds, such as shouting or loud conversation, playing music, or the use of mobile phones. However, in bear country, hikers use noise as a safety precaution.
The Leave No Trace movement offers a set of guidelines for low-impact hiking: “Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but photos. Kill nothing but time. Keep nothing but memories”.
Various organizations advice hikers not to feed wild animals, because this can harm the animals and endanger other people.

As discussed in Hazards of outdoor recreation, hiking may produce threats to personal safety, from such causes as hazardous terrain, inclement weather, becoming lost, or exacerbation of pre-existing medical conditions. These dangerous circumstances and/or specific accidents or ailments that hikers face may include, for example, diarrhea, one of the most common illnesses afflicting long-distance hikers in the United States. (See Wilderness acquired diarrhea.)

Additional potential hazards involving physical ailments may include dehydration, frostbite, hypothermia, sunburn, or sunstroke, or such injuries as ankle sprains, or broken bones.

Other threats may be posed attacks by animals (such as mammals (e.g., bears), reptiles (e.g., snakes), or insects) or contact with noxious plants that can cause rashes (e.g., poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, or stinging nettles). Attacks by humans are also a reality in some places, and lightning is also a threat, especially on high ground.

The crossing of glaciers is potentially hazardous because of the potential for crevasses. These giant cracks in the ice are not always visible as snow can be blown and freeze over the top to make a snowbridge. To cross a glacier the use of a rope, crampons and ice axes are usually required. Deep, fast flowing rivers pose another danger that can be mitigated with ropes.

In various countries, borders may be poorly marked. In 2009, Iran imprisoned three Americans for hiking across the Iran-Iraq border. It is illegal to cross into the US on the Pacific Crest Trail from Canada. Going south to north it is more straightforward and a crossing can be made, if advanced arrangements are made with Canada Border Services. Within the Schengen Area, which includes most of the E.U., and associated nations like Switzerland and Norway, there are no impediments to crossing by path, and borders are not always obvious.

Source from Wikipedia