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Do you really need sticks for hiking?

Do you really need sticks for hiking?

Height-adjustable hiking poles, also called telescopic poles, are mainly useful for challenging routes and for hikers with joint issues. According to Karl Schrag, Head of Mountain sport Training at the German Alpine Association in Munich, ‘For mountain walking, especially, poles can help you keep your balance on scree, slush, steep paths or where there is snow on the ground.’ And they also reduce strain on the knees and hips. ‘With poles, the upper torso can take some of your body weight,’ says Schrag. 

What scale hiking maps should you use?

The best map scale for hikers, according to the German Mountaineering Association, is 1:50.000 or even better 1:25.000. Maps should be up-to-date and include contour lines. However, no map can tell you how well-maintained or challenging any path really is. You should ask at the hotel reception or tourist information office, or consult recent walking guides.

Which foods provide the best energy boost for snacking en route?

Wholegrain sandwiches or rolls, accompanied by a crispy apple, a pear or banana, carrots, radishes, tomato, cucumber and peppers. Pack dried fruit and nuts instead of muesli bars packed with sugar and fat. Plan for multiple quick snack breaks throughout your walk instead of stopping to eat everything at once, so that your body sends the energy to the muscles instead of the stomach. Don't forget to take at least one litre of water or diluted juice per person, and much more in high summer or if you’re planning to be out all day. 

How can I avoid blisters?

a) For less rubbing, wear cushioned hiking socks made of mixed fibres that eliminate moisture.
b) Hikers should moisturise their feet lightly in the key spots with a foot salve or Vaseline, as Runner’s World recommends for ambitious runners.
c) Break out the blister plasters as soon as you feel a blister coming on, so it doesn’t get any worse.
d) As the old truism goes, shoes should be well worn-in, on several shorter walks, taking in mountainous terrain. 

How can I treat aching muscles, or avoid them altogether?

Option 1: Visit a sauna after your hike, because the alternating heat and cold helps improve circulation in the muscles and stimulates metabolism in the muscle cells. This eases tensions and helps heal small lesions.

Option 2: Treat yourself to a massage, be it a conventional sports massage, or a holistic whole-body massage with relaxing oils. This will help muscles return to their optimum balance of tension and relaxation. A foot reflexology massage is particularly pleasant if your feet are tired.

Is there a check-list of items to bring along?

Yes. The best bag to use is a small rucksack with a capacity between 25 and 30 litres, anatomically shaped and with padded shoulder straps. A ‘ventilation system’ is an important feature. This means that the rucksack is held away from your back with only a mesh touching your body. You should pack rain gear, drinks, snacks and a small rubbish bag to take away your litter. And don’t forget your map, perhaps a phone, ID and a pocket knife. Sun cream, painkillers for emergencies, (blister) plasters and something to clean wounds are also advisable.

What shoes are should I wear for hiking?

Your shoes should be light and flexible, while still providing good grip. They should fit closely round the ankle, leaving room at the toes, and include a high-grip sole. For low-level walks, half-height trekking shoes or trail runners are adequate. These look like trainers but they have a firmer sole. However, in the mountains you need to have a strong pair of hiking boots with sufficient ankle protection.


What makes for suitable clothing?

Some of your favourite staples should stay at home, for instance jeans, which are slow to dry out once damp. Thick woolly jumpers are also a mistake; although warm, they trap heat next to the skin. You should look for breathable fabrics and fibres wick moisture away from the skin, and dress in layers that you can take off and put on as required. Don’t forget a sun hat or cap.


What pace should I aim for?

A comfortable walking pace should be around three or four kilometres an hour, five or six kilometres an hour is speedy, while only regular hikers in good shape achieve seven or eight kilometres an hour. Hiking for exercise can be gently tiring but should not be exhausting. As a general rule – sweating a little is fine, but you should not be wheezing or out of breath.

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