Hiking has a wide variety of pros and cons. Although we believe that it’s a fantastic activity; that doesn’t mean that it’s not without a few downsides.
Some people take to hiking like a duck to water, while other find it a challenging endeavour. Finding out the positives and negatives is a great way to establish whether hiking is the right activity for you.
Here at SnowSunSee, we always aim to give you the most honest information possible. So without further ado, here are our most prominent pros and cons of hiking.
Pros of Hiking
It’s a Great Workout
If you want to get in shape: say hello to hiking.
Hiking has long been touted as a great form of exercise. It’s proven to be a successful weight loss tool for many, thanks to the muscular and cardiovascular exertion it requires.
It’s estimated that the average 160-pound person will burn 430-440 calories per hour. If you’re heavier, then you can expect to burn even more.
The amount of calories burned will also depend on the type of hiking, pack weight, level of fitness and weather conditions. However, the basic numbers provided show that hiking is a superb form of exercise.
Adding to this, hiking is a physical pursuit that can greatly improve your muscular and cardiovascular endurance. It will give you a great baseline level of fitness that will carry over into your daily life.
It’s Great for Your Physical Health
The fact that hiking is such good exercise makes it a winner for your physical health. The temporary strain it puts on your body pays huge dividends in the long-term.
Regular hiking is a powerful tool that reduces your risk of developing a variety of health issues. It is a great way to help you:
- Lower your blood sugar levels
- Lower your blood pressure
- Reduce risk of heart disease
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Reduce the impact of arthritis
- Reduce body fat
- Increase bone density
- Build muscular strength
Since hiking is such a well-rounded workout, its variety of physical health benefits should not be too surprising. It’s rare to find an activity that can target so many aspects of your wellbeing. I guess hiking is just a special activity.
It’s Great for Your Mental Health
It’s important to remember the impact that our mind can have on our overall wellbeing. The psychological benefits of hiking are vast and varied, making it an ideal activity to improve your mental health.
The fresh air, scenic views and natural environment found on a hiking trail make it a perfect setting to improve your mindset. It gives you a break from the ‘hustle and bustle’ of modern life, allowing you to rearrange and analyse your thoughts.
In fact, the proven mental health benefits of hiking are vast and varied. If you hit the trail regularly, it can help you to:
- Reduce anxiety
- Improve problem solving ability
- Boost creativity
- Improve your outlook
- Reduce depression
- Reduce anger
- Increase self-esteem
- Improve happiness
- Help to control your emotions
The combination of nature, adventure and exercise make hiking a superb way to improve your mentality. Why don’t you head to the trailhead and find out for yourself?In our experience: the more time you spend on the trail, the better your mental health will become. Click To Tweet
It can Activate Your Spiritual Side
The 21st century lifestyle is one of constant distraction. Emails, social media, Netflix and advertising are all constantly vying for your attention.
Spirituality is often overlooked in this modern world, but it is crucial to the physical and mental wellbeing of many. It’s easy to become disconnected from your soul when you have so many outside influences trying to stimulate your emotions.
The spiritual benefits of hiking are significant. It allows you to escape the pull of technology and get back in touch with the natural world.
Heading to the outdoors gives you a break from the routine of modern life. It gives you a chance to reassess life from a fresh prospective, with peace and quiet being fundamental for this development.
Take the time to soak in the weather, admire the views and analyse your deepest emotions. Hiking can often make the issues we face on a daily basis feel less significant, allowing you to see a bigger picture.If you want to improve your spirituality, mindfulness and outlook: hiking might be the outlet you need. Click To Tweet
Hiking is Fun!
Now we know that hiking is great for the mind, body and soul. But did you also know that it can also be incredibly fun?
Unlike some physical pursuits that require intense suffering that can feel like a chore; hiking has a lot to offer. The breath-taking scenery and ‘leisurely’ atmosphere can often make you forget that you’re exerting energy.
If the picturesque environment, physical challenge and lack of pollution aren’t enough to float your boat: there are a variety of ways you can make hiking even more fun. Foraging, geocaching and ‘selfie searching’ are popular hiking activities that can further stimulate the senses.
Whether you’re looking for the ultimate physical challenge or a way to clear your mind; hiking is an adaptable activity. It can be fun for all ambitions and is inclusive enough to be enjoyed by people from all walks of life.
Cons of Hiking
It can be Hard
If you thought hiking was easy: think again.
Hiking can be an incredibly hard pursuit. Of course, the level of difficulty is greatly influenced by the type of hiking you’re attempting. However, it should not be thought of as the ‘easy way to achieve fitness’ that some might imagine.
A typical day on the trail requires muscular strength and endurance, cardio fitness and mental strength. It can throw up all manner of obstacles that need to be negotiated with the use of skill or stamina.
The wide variety of outside influences can also add to the challenge of a hike. Unforeseen weather conditions are a great example: especially if you didn’t pack your raincoat.
Once you gain knowledge and experience; it’s certainly possible to make hiking easier. However, you should never expect an easy ride when you’re heading into the outdoors.
It can be Expensive
Hiking is an inclusive activity that requires very little financial outlay to get started. However, the costs involved can become significant as your ambitions start to progress.
The biggest expense is often the sheer amount of gear required. Multiday excursions will require equipment that could cost upwards of $500 if you’re a newcomer.
Finding hiking gear on a budget is always an option, but the amount of individual items required can still cost some serious cash. In addition, being stuck with sub-standard equipment often has repercussions.
However, it’s worth noting again that hiking can be incredibly cheap and easy to start. It’s even possible to hike for free, providing you’re attempting short trips across basic terrain.
The Risk of the Wild
Heading into a wild environment always carries a certain element of risk. Whether it’s animals, weather or terrain; you should always be prepared for any eventuality.
One vital tip is that you should always carry first aid supplies. It could be vital in the event of an animal, snake or insect bite that might occur during your trip.
Unless you’re heading into the summer desert, it’s always worth packing some wet weather gear. Conditions can change suddenly and leave you feeling exposed if you’re not carrying the proper clothing.
It’s important to note that weather often tends to turn later in the day. An early start is often the way to go if you want to play safe, but keeping up with the local weather news is always your best bet.
The Danger of Exhaustion and Dehydration
Dehydration is a far too common issue amongst trail hunters. Many are looking to reduce pack weight by only carrying the bare essentials, but this can have disastrous consequences.
Packing more water than you anticipate is required should be your aim. If you get trapped, tired or simply take a longer route; you need to make sure you’re fed and watered.
Anyone that’s day-hiking in hot weather scenarios can benefit greatly from carrying a hydration pack. If that’s not your style, be sure to stash plenty of water bottles inside your backpack.
Keep in mind that taking the wrong trail can also lead to exhaustion. If you find yourself in an uphill battle that’s beyond your capability, you could find yourself stuck in a tricky situation.
In order to minimize risk, be sure to thoroughly research trails ahead of time. It will give you an idea of the terrain you will face and the amount of water required.
Potential Risk of Injury
Don’t worry, we already know that hiking is a pretty great activity for the risk averse. However, we’re having trouble finding cons because hiking is so great, so we had to reach a little!
Despite hiking being a relatively safe endeavour that is not categorized as ‘extreme’, getting injured on the trail could cause a serious issue. Finding yourself in the wilderness with a broken limb is not a situation anyone would envy, especially if you’re hiking alone.
Keep in mind that trail accidents do happen. Uneven terrain can be a problem for feet, ankles and knees if they don’t have the necessary support.
If you want to minimize the risk of injury, be sure to get yourself a great pair of hiking boots. You never know what terrain you might encounter, so having the proper gear should always be a priority.
Hiking is an activity that is beloved by many and hated by few. It is adaptable enough to keep people from all walks of life happy, despite having a few downsides.
Listing the pros and cons of hiking puts into prospective how beneficial it can be. The positives that come from time on the trail are huge, with the negative aspects being relatively minimal.
Whether you’re looking to get in shape, clear your mind, heal your body or enjoy your time; hiking is a great choice. It’s a low risk activity with great rewards, which shows just why we treasure it so greatly.
James is the founder of SnowSunSee. He started skiing when he was five years old and has been a qualified ski instructor for 8 years. He has taught skiing in many countries, including UK, Europe, Japan, China and Malaysia. When he’s not on the slopes, James spends his time travelling the world one trail at a time.