One of the main reasons we love hiking so much: simply getting out on the trail is always worth it, whether for a short stroll around a neighborhood park, a weekend day hike, or a full overnight. And with a little forethought, those benefits compound. We tapped HOKA hiking ambassadors for their best advice on getting the most out of your time outside.
Connect with the Environment
There’s no wrong way to enjoy nature, but it can be rewarding to tune in and really notice your surroundings, says Nicole Snell, an avid hiker and the leader at Black Girls Trekkin, an L.A.-based group that works to empower Black women through outdoor meetups. For that reason, Snell always leaves her headphones at home. “For me, to be mindful of nature is to be listening—to hear the birds, the wind, and the trees.” And because connection is often forged when we understand something on a deeper level, it pays to read up on the area’s indigenous peoples, local plants, animals, and geology before hitting the trail.
Planning might not be the most fun, but it can make a hike much more enjoyable. Snell always makes sure she knows the poisonous plants that grow in the terrain she’s going to, the animals living in the area, and the appropriate response to each. Researching the trail and weather conditions is a crucial piece of planning largely because it’ll tell you the right things to pack.
Liselle Pires, co-founder of Trail Mixed Collective, an organization that empowers women of color in outdoor sports through its mentorship program (and events like the Women of Color hiking series), agrees. “Know the weather forecast, and check Facebook groups or Instagram for trail conditions and beta,” she says. Weather.gov is a great resource for point forecasts so you can figure out exactly what you should prepare for. Then there’s the basics: bring extra layers, food, and water; make sure someone knows where you’re going; and have a map. Or two. “I download an offline map on Google so I can get to the trailhead, as well as an offline trail map on Gaia and AllTrails.”
Get the Right Gear for You
Emphasis on for you—the right gear doesn’t necessarily mean the fanciest. “Sometimes there’s pressure when you see people with super-expensive gear and people think to be a hiker you need all that,” says Snell. “Just put on your shoes and go walk on a trail. That’s all it takes,” says Snell.
To that end, Snell suggests adding and upgrading gear as you progress. She slowly acquired different items as her hikes got harder, longer, and more technical. But one piece of kit she recommends investing in right away: quality trail shoes or boots. These days her HOKA boots come with her on every trail because they make her feel as if she’s “walking on a cloud,” they provide plenty of grip when the going gets steep, and they keep her feet dry in wet conditions.
Keep It Fresh
For some people, that might mean making an effort to hike in a new place once a week or once a month. In 2015, when Snell was starting to get more into hiking, she made it a goal to hike every trail in L.A.’s Griffith Park. Since then she’s found joy in solo hikes. “It just brings me such peace. I love not having to worry about anyone else, and I enjoy it so thoroughly,” says Snell. And while hiking solo can be rewarding, so can bringing a friend along.
Don’t overlook the effect that fun snacks can have on your experience either (have you heard of pocket bacon?). Pires is a big foodie and makes her own date-and-nut balls to bring on the trail as well as a mix of other sweet and salty options. If you’re feeling stagnant, try going longer or faster. And if all else fails, get up early to watch the sun come up. “At the end of the day, if you’re just putting yourself out there, you’re going to have a good time and feel the healing and enjoyable parts of nature,” says Pires.
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