Hiking, or backpacking, can be adventurous and exciting, but it can also be an ordeal, especially for the novice. One of the causes of a bad experience with backpacking, is frequently a lack of physical and mental preparedness. I prefer to use the term ‘backpacking’ to emphasise the fact that it involves carrying an often heavy pack, as opposed to hiking, which is often undertaken without the need for a backpack.
Backpacking is a sport, and as is the case with any sport, one needs to train in order to allow the body and mind to adapt to the stresses imposed by the sport in question. With backpacking in particular, the physical stresses include walking for long distances over terrain varying from easy to extreme, carrying a heavy pack and wearing heavier-than-normal boots and perhaps sleeping on the hard ground if ready-made shelters are not available, etc. In addition, the fact that one may find oneself in unfamiliar, often wild surroundings far away from other people, may result in psychlogical stress in the form of fear or anxiety, or even panic.
Being mentally and physically prepared, and knowing one’s capabilities and limitations as well as those of one’s equipment before embarking on a backpacking trip, greatly improves the chances of having an enjoyable adventure, rather than a traumatic misadventure.