Hiking FAQs

Whether you're planning a countryside stroll, or a multi-day expedition, make sure you're well prepared.

The expert coaches at Full Potential have answered some of the most common questions people have about hiking:

Hiking FAQs

First ask yourself two questions:

    • how many nights am I going for and
    • what’s the weather going to be like? 

For day hikes you don’t need much, just some comfortable shoes or boots and a backpack to carry water, layers and sun protection. Checkout our NSPCC Hiking Manual to make sure you don’t leave any essentials at home.

To determine what kind of shoes you need for hiking you need to consider how much weight you plan on carrying and what the trail conditions are like.  It also comes down to your personal preference, some people just aren’t comfortable wearing heavy hiking boots. It’s something you’ll figure out as you go, but here’s some guidelines to give you a place to start:

    • For day hikes, hiking shoes or trail running shoes are best. Since you aren’t carrying a heavy backpack, boots are overkill. 
    • For multi day hikes, mid cut boots and full boots are the best option. These will help support your ankles. Having said that, if you have strong leg muscles, you can probably get away with wearing hiking shoes.
    • For multi day expedition treks with tough trails and bad weather, those heavy duty, waterproof boots come in handy. They’ll support your feet and ankles while carrying a heavy back and help you grip on rough terrain.  

This also is dependent on the weather. For hiking, it’s best to dress in layers, that way you’re never too hot or too cold.  Basically, you’ll want:

    • a thermal layer on the core, an insulating layer like a fleece for around camp, and
    • a waterproof outer layer to protect you from the rain and wind.

As far as materials go, merino wool and synthetic fibres are the best options. Merino is soft on the skin, light weight, odour resistant and dries quick. Performance synthetic clothing also dries quick but it’s not as odour resistant as merino.

It’s much easier to prevent blisters, than have to deal with treating them. If you have new shoes, make sure to break them in. You can do this by going on a shorter walk before taking on a big one.

A little trick you can use for multi-day hikes is to rub a light layer of vaseline on your feet before you put your socks on in the morning. This helps prevent your socks from rubbing and creating a blister.

Hiking poles aren’t just for grannies, they help you carry a heavy load and keep your balance while trekking. They’re also knee savers for steep up hills and downhills.  Some people love them, and others don’t bother, so it’s really up to you. So, while they aren’t always an absolute must, they’re a piece of gear worth bringing.

The size of your backpack will depend on how many days you plan on hiking. Also, you need to consider if you’ll be camping, or will you be staying in lodges/ huts?

Pack capacity is measured in volume (litres). Here’s some sizes to give you a place to start:

    • Weekend Trips: 1-3 nights = 35-50 litres
    • Multi-day: 3-5 nights = 50-80 litres 
    • Longer Trips: 6 nights+ = 70+ litres

The simple answer is no, you don’t need hiking socks. But, they will make your experience a lot more enjoyable. They provide cushioning and help keep your feet dry (which helps prevent blisters). Try to find ones without seams, which can help prevent blisters.

When it comes to preparing your first aid kit, consider the length of your trip, the size of your group, and your medical knowledge. You can buy a pre-assembled kit or put together your own.

Basic first-aid essentials for most hiking adventures should be:

    • plasters
    • a couple of bandages (various sizes)
    • medical tape
    • sterile gauze
    • ibuprofen/paracetamol
    • and alcohol wipes.

To stay dry while hiking, be sure to carry:

Fully waterproof clothes have a breathable liner and seam sealed zips. If they don’t have these two features, it’s water resistant not waterproof.

It’s also important to keep your backpack dry so all your gear inside doesn’t get wet. I recommend using a pack cover (which fits around you backpack). Another option is to use a pack liner, which is a bag that you first put in your backpack then pack everything inside that bag.

  • Nuts (almonds and cashews)
  • Dried fruit
  • Chocolate
  • Fruit
  • Granola bars
  • Biscuits/cookies
  • Trail mix
  • Pretzels
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Jerky 

Just drinking water every day can get boring but carrying extra drinks like juices aren’t always practical. You can try taking squash / Ribena as a different option.

The best way to get in shape for walking/hiking is to get out into the countryside and start walking. Start small, you don’t want to just jump right to the toughest trail and end up hating hiking. Perhaps, look at doing a local one that’s relatively flat, one that you could tackle in an hour or so on the weekends. 

Compared to other adventure sports, hiking is one of the safest activities. But there are still some risks involved. So it's best to know what they are, and how to avoid them:

    • Being underprepared: you never know when the weather will turn bad, so be sure that you’re prepared for the worst. Read up on the right gear to bring while hiking.
    • Getting lost: bring a map AND learn how to read it.
    • Not telling anyone: no matter how safe you think the trail will be, let someone know that you’re heading there and when they can expect you back. 

If none of your friends or family are outdoorsy, there are still plenty of ways to find hiking buddies.

Open up google and type in hiking clubs near (your city or town). There are some websites and clubs that help connect hikers.