About the Author: Christy Bryson has been an empty nester for two years. She owns a small business and started hiking for fun. She is obsessed with hiking now and is planning a thru-hike of the AT in the near future.
So, you’ve decided to go on a long hike, perhaps the Appalachian Trail or the Pinhoti Trail, something this is going to last a week or longer. You’ve watched some videos, purchased some books, read some articles. Maybe you suddenly got a wild hair up your ass! You know someone that knows someone that did it. You watched/read Wild and it seems like something you’d like to do. You like being outside and you even enjoy camping.
I am sorry, but you’re not a 20-something Youtuber or Grandma Gatewood. You don’t have youth on your side and you probably haven’t been doing hard, physical labor for the last 50 years. At most, you’ve done some exercise videos that you haven’t kept up with. Maybe you’ve done a sprint triathlon. You CAN do this BUT you are a 21st-century middle-aged woman with all that that encompasses. Here are some things to consider when getting ready for a long hike, as a middle-aged woman.
1. Get a health assessment.
Make sure you don’t have any undetected medical issues that could be problematic on a long hike. Medical issues don’t mean you can’t do it. They do mean that you may require medication or you need to do some physical therapy. Or you just need to pay extra attention to your body.
2. Start slow.
Build up your foot, leg and core strength. Go to a PT, follow along with some Youtube videos or take some classes. Take short hikes with weight on your back. Increase the length of hike (in distance and time) and the weight on your back over time. Set some measurable goals to assess your progress.
3. Wear shoes that work for YOU.
Altras are not for everyone and while Grandma Gatewood did wear Keds, I bet her feet were already like leather! Find shoes or boots that work for your feet and for the hike you are taking. This may require a trial and error process. Some stores will allow you to return used shoes within certain guidelines. Shoes are the one thing you should not skimp on. The health of your feet is probably the most important part of a long hike.
4. Don’t go shopping.
It’s not necessary to be in a rush to buy all the latest and lightest gear until you know you really want to do this. Borrow gear, buy cheap or used or even make some of your own. Shop the annual sales, Black Friday through Cyber Monday, etc. Check out Aliexpress, eBay and Facebook Marketplace.
5. Learn to use your gear.
Pitch your tent. Filter water. Use your stove. Dig a cathole. Use a FUD. Hang a bear bag. Start a fire. Put out a fire. And do it all in the dark.
6. When you’re ready, take a few overnight trips.In nice weather on short, easy trails. Get comfortable being dirty and using the bathroom outside. It should be a pleasant experience. Then, schedule some longer trips that you can’t bail out of if the weather isn’t so nice. Do you still want to take that long hike?
7. Know the ONE reason you are going on a long hike.
When you are miserable and want to quit, sit down, think about this one reason then get up and hike the next mile.
Once you have prepared yourself physically and mentally, then you will be ready to take that long hike adventure that you’ve been dreaming of. Happy hiking!