How to Start Hiking
Frequently asked Questions
How fit must I be? A moderate degree of fitness is required. By starting off with day walks from a central hut and asking guidance from the club as to which of the trails in the hiking calendar is suitable for beginners should see the novice over the initial start to their hiking experience. A good judge of required fitness is to walk up two flights of stairs at a fairly brisk pace. If you recover your breath and able to repeat the process again within five minutes then you should be able to complete the easier trails. Remember, hiking is not a race to see how fast you can walk from one point to another, rather it is a nature experience to be savoured at a moderate pace.
I suffer from Asthma. Can I still hike? This is a question that you should first ask your doctor. Generally, we as a club allow and encourage asthma sufferers to come on hikes with us but off course they must notify the hike leader of their condition and take along adequate supplies of medication.
What about allergies? Here again, this is something to ask your doctor. It is important to mention any medical condition or allergy you might have on your membership application form.
I have young children. Can they come on hikes with me? From the age of five a child should be able to accompany you on the easier of day routes. I have a daughter who started hiking with us at the age of five, nine years ago and has now walked over four thousand kilometres.
What about snakes and spiders? There are poisonous snakes and spiders in most parts of the world and certainly in the areas that are most used for hiking. However, generally snakes do not attack humans and indeed prefer to disappear long before the hiker crosses its path. It is worth remembering that human beings are one of the only creatures, if not the only one, that kills for fun.
Is it safe to hike in South Africa? I believe the short answer is Yes. Most of the hiking trails in South Africa are on land owned by the government or private landowner and is therefore under strict control. For peace of mind, however, it is always better to hike in a group. I have walked several thousand kilometres all over Southern Africa during the last ten years and have never experienced any problems at all. It is worth mentioning though, that we strongly advise hikers to leave all jewelry at home, especially when embarking on a major trail in a remote area of our land.
When I go on a trail, where do I sleep? In South Africa most trails provide the hiker with overnight accommodation in the form of a trail hut. This often takes the form of an old farm building, forestry house or specially built hut with basic amenities such as bunk beds and mattresses, potable drinking water, toilet and shower. A braai area with wood is also normally provided.
How do I travel to a Hike? Wherever possible we arrange for hikers to share transport to a hiking venue.
What Equipment do I need to start hiking? Normally the first item on the hiker's shopping list is a sleeping bag. Under normal South African conditions you do not need to 'go overboard' when purchasing a bag. I prefer a Hollow fibrefill sleeping bag to a down fill bag as it is easier to look after and retains it's heat retention properties even when wet. Next on the shopping list is a pair of hiking boots. While a pair of 'takkies' or training shoes with sturdy soles will possibly do for a start, I strongly advise the purchase of a pair of boots as soon as possible. Hiking boots as manufactured by Hitec or similar give adequate support to the foot and ankle while being comfortable enough to wear while doing the monthly shopping. An inexpensive daypack is also needed for most of the trails. Backpacks are available for hire from the club and should only be purchased when you decide to go into hiking in a more serious manner. A hat and waterproof outerwear is also a must. A number of weekend trails provide basic cooking facilities but you need to provide pots and pans, cup, plate and eating utensils. Water bottles with a combined capacity of two litres are also required. Also, don't forget the toilet paper!
What food do I need to take? For weekend day hikes, the huts are normally situated close to where the cars are parked so food can be similar to what is eaten at home. Normally though, we have a communal braai on the Saturday night. Saturday lunch while out on the trail normally consists of fresh fruit and sandwiches.
Why do I need to join a hiking club? While it is not essential to join a club to go hiking in South Africa it certainly has its advantages. Firstly, although I have previously stated that generally it is perfectly safe to go hiking in this country, I believe that hiking in a larger group is always better. More experience is available to cope with any emergency and socially it is gratifying to share your outdoor experiences with like minded people.
If you have any other questions that you think other hikers might be interested in, please e-mail them to me and I will try to answer them. If you have questions that you would like answered personally, please indicate as such on your e-mail.
Footprint Hiking Club
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