Hiking: Myths and prejudices
I often encounter prejudices, myths, misunderstandings, ignorance and fears about hiking. So here’s a collection of various things I’ve heard about with my opinion on them. I try to constantly update and expand this list.
Walking is boring.
In fact, the brain has a lot to do when walking. For this reason alone, we don’t get bored while running, walking, jogging or hiking.
Apart from that, there is plenty to see on a hike, especially if you are in beautiful scenery. Together with great hiking partners, boredom is impossible.
Hiking is easy, you just walk around.
As soon as you look to the side in the forest and keep walking, you’ll be on the ground in no time. Hiking requires – depending on the terrain – full attention.
Hiking? I have too little experience for such expeditions.
Not all hiking is the same. In my experience, most official hiking trails are rather easy to very easy. Only on trails with an SAC grade above T1 (= normal hiking), it becomes exciting and challenging.
A hike does not have to last several days, even one-day hikes are hikes.
Hiking is only for old people.
On the contrary, it’s not just kids who usually have fun outdoors, hiking is definitely for young adults too.
I am too old to hike.
That’s not true either. In addition to many young people, families and hiking groups, I also repeatedly encounter retirees who complete challenging tours.
I am too unathletic/untrained to hike.
You don’t have to be an athlete to hike. As mentioned above, most marked trails are rather easy and usually there are many trails of different lengths in an area.
Hiking is relaxing/meditative.
In nice weather, on a moderately-easy trail through beautiful scenery - maybe. However, this is rarely the case, especially if you hike more often and for longer periods (over several days).
If you approach the subject of hiking seriously, you should get used to suffering and also learn to love it. Personally, I now prefer to go hiking when it’s raining and less than 10 °C / 50 °F – then there are hardly any other people out and about.
There are a lot of psychopaths out there.
I came across this on Reddit. In the US it seems to be a classic prejudice. There are weird people out there, of course, and maybe more in the US than here (just a guess based on Reddit reactions), but off Reddit I’ve never heard of it.
Today the weather is too bad for hiking.
There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing!
Never go hiking alone!
Depends on a few factors: Experience, area, emergency accessibility, quality of equipment and preparation. If you dare to do a (longer) hike alone and you have prepared yourself accordingly, then you can go hiking alone. But of course, hiking in a group is safer.
Sleeping in a tent sucks.
If you had such an experience, you did something wrong. A tent is not a 5-star hotel, but in its own way a wonderful accommodation.
Hiking is free.
Theoretically, that’s true. Theoretically.
But: Not only do you have to get there and back somehow, you may need appropriate equipment. In addition, there are all kinds of unnecessary expenses for restaurants, cafes, souvenirs, swimming pool, sauna, …
Only beginners and sick people use walking sticks.
Especially experienced hikers appreciate the advantages (improved surefootedness/stability, distribution of weight, protection of joints, etc.) … even if it sometimes looks a bit stupid.
Quality has its price: The 850 € for this winter jacket are definitely justified.
No joke, the Therme SV Parka winter jacket for men from Arc’teryx cost €849.95 at Globetrotter (German outdoor store) at the time of this writing.
High-quality equipment is overrated.
Many rather think of expensive equipment when saying this. The higher quality equipment, the better, but it doesn’t always have to be expensive.
Without professional equipment you do not need to start at all.
Many people confuse hiking with mountaineering or expeditions. You can hike even with normal clothes and little equipment. I myself, for example, make day trips in everyday clothes, only my hiking boots with appropriate socks are a must-have.
Oh, the small bottle of water will surely do.
Whether winter or summer, take more water with you. Especially in summer you should not save on it.
Special outdoor food is overrated.
Ready-made food packed in plastic bags? Maybe. Food generally tailored to outdoor activities? Definitely not.
Instant noodles are enough for me.
Maybe for one day, but especially on longer tours you want real food to eat.
On longer tours you get deficiency symptoms.
If at all, a lack of magnesium can lead to cramps, but that’s about it and can be easily treated/prevented.
I have my rain jacket with me, so I won’t get wet.
Haha, yes you will get wet. Rain jackets have a certain water column, which suggests that the material is completely waterproof - but it is not. If you hike in the rain for a whole day, you’ll be wet afterwards. Not everywhere and maybe just a little bit at the seams of the jacket, but wet.
Sheep, merino, tree or alpaca wool? Wool is wool.
There is a saying cotton kills. Compared to real wool, cotton doesn’t provide any insulation when wet. There are also differences between the other types of wool.
I don’t leave the house without my functional breathable merino viscose shirt.
All materials have advantages and disadvantages, but most functional clothing has mainly great effects for marketing and are not always necessary.
A paper map? I have my hiking app.
Only as long as you have electricity and unfortunately not every tree has a power socket.
Moss always grows to the north and rivers always flow to the south.
The thing about moss partly true, but only in the northern hemisphere and only further away from the equator and only because moss likes a humid climate. That with the rivers is nonsense.
Animals and plants
Pretty much everything out there wants to kill you.
On the contrary, most of the stuff out there is afraid you are about to kill it.
There are wolves/bears out there, I don’t go outside one meter more.
In Germany the wolf has returned at around 2000/2001, there hasn’t been any fatal attack on humans since then, according to the WWF. Most people will never get to see a wild wolf in their life.
Similar story with bears, snow lions and what not: Don’t approach wild animals, know how to behave (when to run, when to scream, etc.) and very likely nothing will happen.
Nothing can actually happen on a marked trail.
Prepare yourself, even for easy hikes. You should at least know the area roughly, know how to get back and where difficult places are. Knowing where (managed) huts, farms, roads or settlements are can also be helpful in an emergency.
Surely I don’t need a first aid kit when hiking?
Hopefully not, but who knows. But what does it cost to have at least a small first aid kit with you? Most of the time, it also comes with tick tongs, which can definitely be helpful.
You can just call 911 and they will save you.
The emergency call is not a cab service!
An automatic transmission of the cell phone location is also not guaranteed and especially a rescue from not passable areas is associated with tremendous effort (and costs!). Prevent an emergency by careful planning and attentiveness!
Without pepper spray / bear bells / shot gun / … I do not go out.
Don’t exaggerate. Especially bear bells can have the opposite effect and make animals curious. Wild animals usually notice people very early and disappear even before we notice them.