Have you felt the refreshing breeze of the mountains, smelled the lightness of the air, tasted the juices of its native fruits, seen the rolls of elevation stretched for miles, while hearing the crunch of fallen leaves beneath your shoe soles? Its beauty is the main pull for irregular hikers (like myself) to step out of their comfort zones and into the bliss of nature.I’ve done a handful of treks in Jamaica, mostly within the Blue Mountains UNESCO World Heritage site. With a gap between each mountain wander, I’ve found myself forgetting some hiking tips until it’s unfortunately too late.
A 2-hr journey to a 100ft hidden waterfall was my first with hiking specialists, Wanderlust Trails, and was specially curated for my trio which included 2 first-timers.That Wanderlust Trails experience reminded as well as taught a few preparation lessons that could come in handy for your next journey.
Hiking Tips to Remember
This one may not exactly be from often overlooked hiking tips, but its importance may be. If not hydrated, your body can’t perform at its highest level. Here’s why: water keeps your body functional by regulating body temperature, lubricating joints, and transporting nutrients for energy. During a trek, you’ll be sweating and thus losing water which needs to be replenished. I’ve actually drank water straight from a mineral spring during a hike to Nanny Falls when my main water source was depleted. Dehydration may leave one feeling tired, dizzy, having muscle cramps, and other symptoms. Wanderlust Trails recommends a half liter per hour as a good starting point, but more may be needed depending on the intensity.
2. Orange is a good source of energy
Oranges are high in vitamin C, allowing it to help your body absorb iron (which you can get a lot from mangoes).Your body needs iron to produce haemoglobin, a protein that transports oxygen to body cells to produce energy. Eating watery fruits such as oranges also boosts your fluid intake; they are at least 85% water. Oranges distribute energy steadily over time instead of giving a quick sugar rush, which is beneficial for a lengthy trek.
3. Bring chapstick
Lips have little natural barrier against nature’s elements. Its skin actually has much less pigmentmentation to protect it from the sun, dryness, and cold. Keeping hydrated will reduce chafing as well as a little help from chapstick. Chapstick not only moisturizes but also protects! Lips are prone to skin cancers, so you should always aim to protect them from harmful UV rays with an SPF-filled lip balm.
4. Halt if using a phone
Foot placement is very important to avoid accidents and injuries. Phone use can be distracting and can occupy body parts and senses that are, in the moment, more needed for the trail. Take a moment to pause if you want to capture that Instagram-worthy scenery or communicate if you’re lucky enough to have signal before taking another step.
5. Pack belongings in plastic bags before putting them in your backpack
The mountains are known to get rain more frequently than the plains; I actually can’t recall a Blue Mountain excursion I’ve done that didn’t come with a side of water droplets. Have you ever been surprised at how alleged waterproof and water-resistant items don’t prove to be up to the task when they do indeed come in contact with moisture?
For extra assurance, protect your items with a plastic covering before placing in your bags. Some items are only “waterproof” to a degree, which you definitely don’t want to find out when you’ve already invested your faith into it.
6. Wear bright colours
Whether hiking alone or with a group, being visually recognizable is important. In the mountain’s customary fog or darkness, bright colours can make identifying others’ positions that much easier to observe.
7. Bring extra socks
Don’t be surprised if gets very wet and/or cold during your journey. The moist atmosphere as well as the chance of crossing a stream could lead to wet feet, one of the quickest ways for you to possibly get sick. An extra pair of socks can come in handy for a dry change or even be used as gloves if it gets cold.
8. Wear lotion to help keep warm
If you didn’t realize, lotion can make you warmer (which is why I replace it with body oil in heat spells). The cream coats skin, which doesn’t allow for it to experience the full effects of sweat evaporation, which makes the body feel hotter.
9. Always tuck your shoelaces after tying
Walking in the mountains requires taking cautious steps to get to your destination safely. Untied shoelaces can lead to tripping, which is a lot more dangerous when on a rough, likely narrow terrain. There are many ways you can tie a shoe in preparation for a hike in an effort to reduce the amount of times it may unravel.
10. Be prepared for rain
Rain is common in the mountains. From mist droplets to light showers to heavy downpour, I’ve encountered it all on my handful of treks. On the trip to Cascade falls, Wanderlust Trails provided us with hooded ponchos to keep us dry and protect against the chilling wind.
If sporting a long umbrella, it can also double as a hiking stalk. Sometimes, heavenly showers are nothing short of refreshing during a grueling trail but it can also make it more challenging.
11. Clip your toenails
This is the hiking tip I mostly regretted forgetting! Toenails don’t have to be considered overly-long to be due for a clipping (mine weren’t). From the nail has grown beyond the toe, a clipping is recommended ahead of your journey. Downhill hikes especially can be a worst case scenario for your toenails, which can be knocked against the top of the shoe to become very uncomfortable and possibly cause bleeding.
12. Don’t be afraid to stop and take a breather
One should be in relatively good physical shape and know their limits before embarking. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pace yourself, everyone has their own limitations. Try to find out the estimated duration and intensity ahead of the trip, so you can also mentally prepare. During a hike with Wanderlust Trails to Cascade Falls, I was behind most of the group due to physical challenges (which I always seem to forget about when the word “waterfall” is attached). What’s notable is that I never felt hurried or pressured to keep up with everyone else, and 1 of the guides stayed with and engaged me the whole time!
Hope these 12 hiking tips make your next trek more enjoyable, it’s hard enough up there as it is lol. The Blue Mountains are my 2nd favourite outing type (after rivers)! The endless scenic route introduces new sights every time with endogenous flora & fauna you rarely see anywhere else on the island, if at all.
What other hiking tips can you think of?
Feel free to share in the comments along with your hiking experiences!
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