Hiking isn’t always easy. When you feel that hiking is not working out for you and you find yourself a little stuck, then you need to change something to make sure you feel comfortable and safe when you’re outdoors.
The most common problems are the following: you’re too cold or you’re too hot; hiking is just too hard, you feel tired and uninspired; bugs are troubling you.
None of these problems are too hard to fix. Let’s look at them one by one.
Feeling too cold (or too hot)
The first thing to look at is your clothing. To feel comfortable while hiking you need to dress in layers that you can take off or add when you need to.
When you move, especially with a heavy pack, your body will produce a lot of heat. You need to wear less layers when you move and more layers when you are resting.
It makes sense to prevent your body from overheating or getting too cold.
When you feel a little hot, take something off BEFORE you get too hot. When you feel a little cold, put something on BEFORE your body cools down completely.
It’s even better to be one step ahead. Take a layer off when you start moving to prevent getting too hot and put something on when you make a stop to prevent getting cold.
Special hiking clothes are better than city or sportswear. I have a blog posts that explains why you need special hiking clothes to stay safe and comfortable.
Pace is important
If you’re walking too fast then your body will generate too much heat and you will begin to sweat excessively.
Unless you want to go really fast and push yourself you should walk at a pace that lets you have a normal conversation as you walk. You shouldn’t be out of breath and you shouldn’t be sweating excessively.
When you climb in your sleeping bag feeling cold, it’s pretty hard to warm up. If you feel a little chilly before going to sleep, you can move around a bit before you get into your sleeping bag and/or eat a protein bar so that your body can generate some body heat.
When you wake up at night and feel you need to use the bathroom, you should go, not wait.
Otherwise, your body will spend a lot of precious energy to make sure all that liquid in your body is also body-temperature.
To learn how to plan your trips better I suggest you read my blog post about how to plan your hiking trip and how many kilometres can you walk in a day. That will teach you the basics of setting realistic goals for your hikes.
Cold feet – what to do?
If your feet get cold, which is common, there are a few options.
If you have a partner with you, you can warm up your feet by placing them on your partners stomach. It sounds silly but it works.
Your partners body heat will warm your feet pretty fast. It will be a bit uncomfortable for your partner so it’s something to test your friendship or relationship.
The second option is to heat some water, put it in a drinking bottle (be careful, it can get very hot, so wrap it in some clothes first and handle with care – make sure the lid is closed!) and use the hot water bottle in your bag to warm your feet or other parts of your body.
In Winter, Spring and Autumn, I always have a separate waterproof stuff sack with a warm base layer, warm hiking socks or wool socks, a puff, a wool beanie and some wool gloves. So even if all my clothes are wet, I’m still going to be warm and dry when I sleep.
If you wake up and your cold and you don’t have any more clothes to put on, then there’s two options. You can get up and move around until your warm and/or eat something that will also generate body heat for you.
The sooner you do something about it the better, because hypothermia is no joke – it can kill you. So – stay warm.
Too hot while sleeping
If you have the opposite problem and you are hot while sleeping, then the first thing you can do, of course, is sleep in less clothes.
Then you can also open the zipper of your sleeping bag. Also, most tents have ways to ensure proper ventilation – there are ventilation slits you can leave open that will allow air to move around in a tent.
Get to know them and use them.
Also, it’s good to know to know that outside temperature changes during the night. It usually gets colder before dawn, so that’s when you might want to put on your down jacket or an extra layer or zip up your bag again to sleep better.
You should also consider if a tent or a tarp is a better solution for you and the conditions you might experience. Here’s a blog post about the pros and cons of tents and tarps – it will help you choose which one to go for.
Tired, pack too heavy, not enjoying it
If your problem has to do with feeling tired or you feel that hiking is physically too demanding then you also have some options to make it easier.
Don’t push yourself too hard
Make sure you’re not pushing yourself too hard. Depending on the difficulty level of the trail, beginners should hardly set the goal to walk more than 15 km a day.
If the trail is very challenging, you might want to plan only 10 km. If you walk too much on the first days, then you will be exhausted by the end of your hike.
Make sure to take it slow. Most people start walking too fast and get tired. Pace yourself, especially in the first hours of your hike.
I use the stopwatch on my watch to track how long I’ve walked and have a break every 20-30 minutes and a long lunch break.
You should stop and rest before you feel tired. Drink plenty of water and eat snacks between meals – there are plenty of healthy options like nuts, protein bars, fruit bars, fruits etc.
Make your backpack lighter: lighter gear and less stuff
If your pack is too heavy, there are plenty of options to make it lighter.
Lightweight hiking gear usually costs more but it’s a good investment. Even saving just a little here and there adds up and makes your pack a lot lighter in the end.
One of the reasons that I like my tarp, is that it weighs only half as much as my tent. Of course, I had to learn how to set up my tarp, but that’s not difficult.
Skills replace gear and make your pack lighter. For instance, if you know how to purify water, you don’t have to carry so much water with you.
If you know what to wear to stay safe and comfortable while hiking, you won’t bring clothes you will not need.
Bugs: Mosquitos, ticks and others
Bugs can really ruin a hike if you are not prepared for them. Make sure you have insect repellent with you.
To protect yourself from mosquitos, you might need a mosquito net that you can wear over your head. Also, you need clothes (hiking pants and jacket or hiking shirt) that mosquitos can’t bite through. And don’t forget gloves.
Ticks are dangerous – wear long sleeves, avoid shorts, check yourself and your partner
Ticks are really dangerous because they carry diseases which can cause lasting and serious harm to your health.
If there are ticks around, make sure you are wearing long hiking pants and long sleeves. Check yourself and your partner during breaks and before going to bed (You really have to look – I’ve found one in my sleeping bag just before going to sleep).
With these common problems out of the way you should enjoy your hikes more. Of course, you shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations.
Just like training and sports, hiking can be very hard sometimes – exhausting, frustrating, difficult.
But then again, these difficult hikes might be the ones that you remember the most. And at the end of the day – it’s nice to reach a campsite, build a fire and read a book before going to sleep.
In case you need to make a fire, we’ve written a great blog post with step-by-step instructions, pictures and video that teaches you how to make a fire when hiking in a safe and responsible way.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Have fun out there!