There’s a plethora of information on hiking available. We read about it in books, blogs, news stories. We even read it in entertainment stories when we see that Taylor Swift hit Runyon Canyon with a member of her ever-growing squad. Yet there are a number of common myths that are often associated with hiking—myths that could use some debunking. So let’s set the record and put these fallacies to rest once and for all. Here we dispel 10 of the most common hiking myths out there.
Myth #1: Smaller is Better
This is a myth almost every hiker hears: “Make sure to buy boots that fit your feet nice and snug.” People may urge you to purchase a pair of hiking boots that fit your feet like a glove. This is not only wrong advice but also bad advice. Take into consideration that the socks you use to try on hiking boots will not be the thick, wool socks you’re likely to wear on the trail. Additionally, it’s no secret that our feet and hands swell while we are hiking. They will inflame, especially after hiking a whole day.
To avoid purchasing boots that will leave your feet feeling numb and suck the life out of your toes, wear the same socks you will wear on the trail when trying shoes on. Your toes also should not reach the front of the boot. Take a stroll around in your potential boots to make sure they fit and aren’t rubbing against different parts of your feet. Also, go shopping later in the day when your feet are more swollen.
Myth #2: Material Doesn’t Matter
Material, is in fact, everything when it comes to hiking. Whether we are talking about the material of your clothing or the material of your socks, you want to make sure you are completely comfortable while you are hiking. This means investing a little bit more for moisture-wick fabric, light layers, wide-brimmed hats, and wool or synthetic socks. You’ll want to steer clear of cotton, which retains perspiration and can leave you with blisters on your feet and a sweat-soaked shirt clinging to your back.
Myth #3: Long Distance Hikes Call for Hiking Boots
When you think about hiking 14 miles or an overnight trek, there is nothing more terrifying than imagining heavy hiking boots stuck to your feet for hours on end. Yet because you may be up against tough terrain and large changes in elevation you may think hiking boots are your best option. This is false. In fact, many section hikers and backpackers steer clear of hiking boots and opt for trail running shoes instead. Trail running shoes are lighter in weight, dry faster than boots, and cause fewer blisters on long treks.
Myth #4: GPS on Your Phone Will Guide the Way
Good ole’ GPS, it never lets us down. Except for that one time it took us down a side alley in the sketchiest part of town. GPS devices (cell phones included) are run on a battery, which means they can die at any given moment. If your main source of guidance is kaput you are S.O.L. This could mean a night in the wilderness, or worse, a search rescue mission that results in thousands of dollars.
Instead of relying solely on a GPS device to guide your way, you should always bring a second form of navigation. This will come in the form of a map and a compass.
Myth #5: You Must Be in Good Shape to Hike
Working on your fitness to conquer tough peaks is never advised against, however you don’t need to be a marathon runner to hike. In fact, hiking can help you get in shape if weight loss is your mission. A hiker can burn 354 calories in a single hour—contingent upon body weight and age. This doesn’t mean you should go out and tackle the toughest peak in your area. Start off with short, steady hiking distances and slowly work your way up in elevation and distance.
You also don’t need to be a certain age or gender to hike. Hiking is an activity that can be enjoyed by everyone: old or young, tall or short, male or female.
Myth #6: You Shouldn’t Hike if it’s Too Hot Outside
While safety should always be your number one priority, warm weather should not deter you from hiking outside. Instead, it should prompt you to better prepare yourself. This entails making sure you are very familiar with the trail before you set out on your hike. Spend ample time researching the ins and outs of the trail: where there are spur trails, how to stay on the right path, how long you expect the hike to take. Taking the right turns and staying on path will ensure your hike won’t turn into a day lost in the desert.
Hiking in warm weather also requires proper preparation in terms of food/water. It is important to pack enough food/water to keep you energized and hydrated for the entirety of your hike. When hiking in warm weather, 1 liter of water per hour is recommended.
Myth #7: You Shouldn’t Solo Hike
Most people will agree with the notion that hiking should not be a solo activity. They cite examples of women getting murdered in the woods by serial killers, movies where hikers are attacked unexpectedly on trails. While I always recommend a hiking companion on trails you’ve never explored before, longer treks, or when hiking in a different city/state, I don’t believe solo hiking should be out of the question. However, reserve solo hikes for trails you have hiked before, are very familiar with, and where you know a lot of people frequent each day.
For example, a well-known trail in San Diego is Cowles Mountain. At any moment of the day, this trail will have at least 10-50 hikers on it. This trail would be a good example of a hike that can be done solo. There are plenty of people around in case of an extreme emergency and you can rest assured that you won’t be put into a dangerous situation as far as shady individuals are concerned.
Myth #8: You Will Encounter Bears/Mountain Lions on the Trails
While there is truth that some areas are plagued by wildlife, on your typical trail in the backcountry you likely will not see any wildlife. Take it from the girl who has hiked all over the world for the past seven years. In total I’ve seen: 2 rattlesnakes, 1 mountain lion, 1 mouse. 5 deer. No bears, no wild bison, no wolves. Wildlife is just as scared of you as you are of them. In most cases, they want to just be left alone.
Stay safe by avoiding hiking alone around dusk and dawn, their prime feeding time. If you will be hiking in an area where bears are prevalent, you can invest in Bear Spray to help you feel safe. Bear spray is essentially the equivalent to mace, used to deter aggressive bears.
Myth #9: Hiking with Children is Too Hard
Hiking with children is an added challenge in hiking, but it shouldn’t stop you from taking a hike. Instead of leaving your kids behind with a sitter, try and bring them along for a hike. This will require additional preparation and a bit more patience than normal, but it can end in a rewarding experience for both you and your children. They will not only be exposed to a new activity, but also get in an ample amount of exercise.
Pro Tip: to make the experience more fun for children, gameify the hike. Find a way to reward children for taking the hike. Maybe this entails giving them an apple slice when they reach a certain point on the trail, or pointing out interesting plants/animals along the way. Additionally you can find hikes that will be more interesting for children: hikes with waterfalls at the end or stunning view points.
Myth #10: I’m Too Old to Hike
Hiking is often seen as an activity for younger individuals. People assume they are too old and not in good enough shape to have a safe and enjoyable hiking experience. I can tell you that I’ve seen people upwards of 80 years old kicking my butt on the trails. Their endurance, positivity, and will-power is incredible and proves that hiking is an ageless activity. It does not discriminate based on age. Whether someone is 5-years-old or 50, age is nothing but a number when it comes to hiking.
Now that we’ve put these hiking myths to rest, it’s time to let go of what you thought you once knew and embrace the truth. Do you have any hiking myths you’d like to dispel? Add your myth in the comments below!