Long Distance Walking - Day Hikes, Through Hikes

Thought I'd share some information and personal experiences on the joys of through hiking and what you need to get started with it.

The Benefits

1) Health.

It cannot be denied that their are more efficient forms of exercise in terms of calorie burning in shorter periods of time.

Long hikes are a slow burn method of exercise, however they have two major advantages over short term exercises, being that they have a compounding effect on calorie burning, so that it has a long lasting after burner effect, and it's accessible to most people, even those with health conditions.

The long term health effects of doing a 10 to 20km walk more than once a week on the body is not only comparable in terms cardiovascular advantage (length builds stamina) but also the physiological changes when combined with a sensible diet will have long term effects on weight lost, and also without any dietary adjustments will slow down any weight gains or variations over a period of time.

It also strengthens all of the core moving parts of the body, and so it great for the health of joints and load bearing muscles, especially when combined with a full backpack.

2) Mental Health

Although under rated, it cannot be overstated the massive advantages that walking in groups or solitary over long distances has on your mental health. Not only do you have the physiological benefits, but also the added benefits of mental awareness, less stress, less anxiety, increased levels of confidence, mental toughness and self reliance, as well as better mental outlook on life. Part of this is down to the benefits all people derive from exercise, but also the habit of walking without any distractions for prolonged periods allows for times of self reflection, which is something that also has a massive health benefits in terms of relaxation, creativity, and enjoyment.

Also as a personal aside, I find that without the over stimulation of electronics, music, media, etc. That the brain has a time to process things and appreciate a sense of living in the present moment, taking in the surroundings, and enjoying the out doors.

3) Other Rewards

The social aspect of walking with a group is also highly rewarding, and it's very easy to make acquaintances and even friendships on the trail. People tend to congregate around a shared experience, and company makes it easier through periods of walking.

Also since you have that shared experience, and similar goals you already have an ice breaker. If anything even with minimal interactions, the people you see jockeying positions on the trail with you and stopping and starting in the same place, builds a level of good will between you that is often lacking in today's society.

The Downsides.

1) Weather & Locales

Mother nature can be a bitch. You're walking down the side of a mountain tired and hungry and then the heavens open up and piss down until you reach town three hours away. Your soaked, your kits soaked, it is miserable and demoralizing.

And it happens, even the best laid plans can run into issues because of the weather. If you've planned correctly and researched you should have the kit on hand to minimize the discomfort from this happening, but even the best laid plans can fall by the way side, and when nature throws you a curve ball you have to be ready to react, grit your teeth and pull through.

Same can be said of locales. You need to pick something appropriate for your experience, endurance, and level of skill. Otherwise you will reap a crop of blisters and misery. And remember if your in a foreign country, where you don't speak the language, you need to be prepared to be patient and observe the local customs no matter how strange they are.

2) Injuries & Fatigue

This is not such a huge issue on day hikes, outside of serious injuries. But injuries are to be expected, and they have a tendency to build up over time. In most cases these are minor, such as blisters, walkers rash, strain, hot spots. As with all injuries they must be treated correctly, and will in most cases sort themselves out after a day or two.

Fatigue sucks, you start the day out with gusto (rarely) and by the time your at the end of the day you feel like you've been pushed down the hill side. This is a natural effect of the strains of walking, and your body adjust to the point where you will always feel fatigue, but since your not going to stop walking your body builds up a natural resilience to it, and you can go further, faster, harder, and longer as you adjust to the demands you put on your body.

3) What next?

Big issues especially with through hikes, is the fact that they are addictive and if walking is for you then you will want to get back on the trail as soon as possible. There are thankfully as many challenging hikes as the world is wide, and you can always find something newer and bigger to challenge yourself with. Some cultures are also very grateful for their hikers and hiking culture, as so there is a lot of respect in some parts of the world for the stuff that you are doing. (religious pilgrimages especially)

Where to start?

First assess your level of health and your level of commitment. There is no graver sin on a trail than lack of preparation, and if your the type of person who tends to jump to the big stuff first draw it back a bit until you know what your tolerance levels are.

Anyone can long distance walk, though you will need to take any health issues into account and plan accordingly. Someone who is older, overweight, or has existing mobility issues will need to start off slower with smaller goals and build themselves up to a period of time.

Commitment is also a big issue, do you want to just do small hikes, long hikes, or through hikes, each has it's own set of challenges and expectations, so understanding what you can commit to is important. If you can only do small 4-5k hikes to begin with, then don't get discouraged and go hiking instead. These small hikes will help build up over time to the point where you can do 10k, 20k, 30k in a day no sweat. Some of the most seasoned people can do 60 - 80k in a day, but they all start at the same point, the first step.

So your capable and want to do your first hike, but where to start?

There are loads of trails, even in some of the most urban cities in the world there are walking trails available to you, so you have a lot of choices. My recommendation to start is pick something that is localish, accessible, and depending on your fitness, low grade less challenging terrain. Also check in with groups, as there might be opportunities to get out there in a group and learn as you go.

Once you have a location, you will want to assemble your kit.

My recommendation is a bag that is between 40 - 60 litre depending on whether it's a day kit or a through hike.

Day Hiker Essentials.

1) Water container & 1.5 litres of water minimum. (cheap plastic 1.5 litre bottles are fine it doesn't have to be fancy.)
2) Multi-tool or Swiss knife. (It does everything ok, and makes up it's weight in usefulness.
3) Hat (wide brimmed outdoors hat is suggestion, but a baseball cap will do fine)
4) First Aid Kit (extra band-aids, anti-septic cream, vaseline, ibuprofen and Tylenol)
5) Super glue (Emergency repair at it's best.)
6) Day Rations (I can add a section to build your own MRE, but in most cases, bread roll, sausage or tinned fish, and fruit will do.)
7) Trail Runners or good quality boots. (Never go out with untested unbroken in boots or shoes, your feet will thank you. Stick to trail runners,
cheaper, easier to wear, and easier to throw away.)
8) Clothes. (Essentially this is up to you and what you can afford. I'd recommend activity polymers as inner layers, and dress in layers depending on the weather. That way if you need to take off clothes, you can also put them back on if the weather changes. Light stuff is your friend, polymer is your friend.) Don't wear camo's, you will look like a larping autist. (Cold, you want a thermal inner layer, thicker trousers and a microfleece top, with a windproof insulated jacket on top of that. You'll be plenty warm.)
9) Bandana (Lots of uses, can be warm if cold out, can be dunked in water and cool when warm, used to splint, patch, it's just useful.
10) Survival Poncho (Can be used a shelter, you want one big enough for to cover your pack.)
11) 6ft of para-cordage. (Used as cordage, and to build a shelter.)
12) Fire Kit (basic is a tobacco tin with some cotton balls, a lighter, small candle, matches and striker.)
13) 3 black extra thick garbage bags (back pack cover in case of rain, ground sheet, emergency blanket, shelter, clean up)

Stuff that's nice to have, but not essential.
14) A spork. (Or light spoon and fork for eating.)
15) Sunglasses (additional light protection.)
16) Sunscreen (If your like me, you burn easily, it's a cheap investment)
17) Sewing Kit (small dollar store kit and a few spare buttons)
18) Light source (flashlight or head torch, bicycle lights are great too.)
19) Rain gear (a full suit, or at least a rain jacket)
20) 3-4 Ziplock bags (As a waterproof storage for electronics, to keep items compartmentalized, to put trash in.)
21) Collapsible cup (I have a mess cup, but these are cool and lightweight and very versatile.)
22) Bicycle repair kit. (To repair any emergency shoe issues.)
23) Walking stick or walking poles (I prefer a walking stick/staff, because you can use your strength to lever yourself up hills, but both are useful as a support)
24) Fix blade knife (realistically only useful in the woods or very rural areas in survival or whittling situations, and it might get some objections so if your in town bag it.)
25) Microfibre towel (dry yourself off if you get wet.)
26) Toilet roll (some places don't have it. Always good to have on hand.)

Through Hike (long distances)


27) Water filtration system that screws on a bottle. (works like a straw.)
28) Water purification tablets (pray you never have to use them.)
29) Mess kit (Swedish models are great, because it's a self contained hexamine/wood cooker, but whatever works for you.)
30) Mini-stove & fuel (Again depends on the situation, are you on a trail that is well serviced, are you on one with enough wood to only use a mess kit, etc)
31) Good sleeping bag (You get what you pay for. Get a three season back. Down is comfier by far, but it's deadly if it gets wet and heavier.)
32) Flip flops (At the end of the day, these will be your best friends.)
33) Sleeping clothes. (comfy loose fitting and emergency extras in case of cold weather/rain)
34) Shower Kit. (A bar of soap. Some baby wipes. Toothpaste and toothbrush. Your gonna be a bit funky regardless.)
35) Trail Rations (Learn to make your own MRE's will be covered at a later point.)
36) Lightweight collapsible tent. (If your in the boonies it will help)
37) Inflatable sleeping pad. (Again your back will thank you.)
38) Travel wash for clothes (Get used to scrubbing)
39) Pocket gem SAS survival guide (very useful)
40) Umbrella (good for snow, rain, or heat)
41) Collapsible shovel (dig, squat, wipe, bury)
42) Electrolyte salts. (To drink if needed, keep in first aid.)

Now this may seem like a lot of kit, but trust me, it's better to have the stuff and never need to use it, than not have it when you do need it. Besides you can find most of the items in a light weight form, or find a way to pair things down, it will take you a while to find out what your comfortable with, and what you will want to add in. Just remember as you need to carry everything, try and aim for reducing weight while maximizing value.


Before a hike, you want to make sure everything is comfortable and fits well, and things are in the layout you want in your bag.

I recommend using some vaseline to smear on the inside thighs, as it will remove the greatest chances of rash, and if your a guy rub it on your nuts for similar reasons. Same with your feet if your prone to blisters.

Make sure you arrive at your base point early, and have had a good breakfast there or beforehand.

Have a good map of the trail, a distance goal, and a get out plan (nearest town.) in case of emergencies.

Make sure to schedule in breaks, so 2.5 hours of walking 30 minute break, more or less depending on you, but that's a good rule of thumb. Eat and drink as you need, but try drink when you need it.

Then your good to go.

End of day

Depending on where you are, you want to stop at around dusk and start to settle in, either by setting up camp or your hostel, and then go through an end of day ritual, unpack your sleeping clothes and flip flops, give yourself a wipe down with some baby wipes, put on your comfy clothes and get some dinner. If your in a town, do laundry asap (in sink with travel wash or machine) and go out for a nice meal.

If your in the wild, do laundry strategically if your by a water source, (downstream and with no travel wash) but at least hang clothes to air dry and cook dinner. (Some times you will want to eat cold, which is ok as well. But warm food and tea will make a real moral boost.) Sit down, have a smoke if you do, read a book, chat with others, relax. You've earnt your time.

In my personal experience, my metabolism burns so fast after a long hike, that I can drink anything except pure spirits and not get drunk easily. Therefore it's very easy to overshoot the mark. You may find, if it's your intent to get a buzz, that you won't be able to get the same effect from your regular beverages, so just keep that in mind. Never overdo it anyways, as you don't want to meander up the trail with a hangover headache and liquid beer shits.


Dealing with wild life

Most cases this isn't a big brainer, but if your in bear country take a spray. Bells aren't effective (from someone I know who knifed a bear to death as it mauled him.) The majority of the time you won't need to worry, but keep in mind that wild animals are wild, don't approach them and you should be fine.

Dealing with locals

Most people will be friendly. Make sure to research where your going, and be wary. Walking in Spain is a lot different to hiking in Morocco. Use your head. The majority of cases the locals will be friendly, as you and other fuel tourism/local economies, but common sense applies. Be polite, observe local custom, learn a few phrases even if you don't speak the language.

Dealing with injury

The majority of these are going to be minor. Cuts, scrapes, bruises, splinters, blisters, rashes, insect bites. In the event of a major injury, perform first aid, and seek the nearest emergency service. Keep a well stocked first aid kit with extra band-aids, and disinfectant cream, apply to everything.
Don't pop a blister unless it's getting infected, they will naturally disappear, and will protect the skin. If you must use a sterilized needle with some thread and feed the thread through the skin so it wicks the fluid out. Coat in disinfectant cream, and keep walking. For sore feet take an ibuprofen.

Dealing with fatigue

Take breaks, make sure they're at least 15 minutes to half hour long for ever 3 hours walked, resupply on something to eat and drink, go toilet if need be. In a built up area have a coffee at a cafe or something. The point is rewarding yourself with enough of a rest for your body to replenish energy for the next leg of the journey. You will feel sore, but you will need to tolerate it as you build up resistance to stress your putting on your body.

Dealing with time.

Some times you will need to take a shorter day, some times you won't be able to cover as much ground depending on the gradient that you've done, some times you will be too tired to manage more than half your regular walking capacity. It can happen. Don't get discouraged, you are slowly making head way, and while it's good to have set goals you have to be a little flexible. Besides your doing the hike, no one else is, it's your victory.

10 Things you shouldn't do on trail.

1) Leave garbage on the trail (It makes you look like an asshole, plus it endangers wildlife and makes the space look like an Indian reservation.) carry it out with you.

2) Shit in the woods and not bury it. (As funny as the river shitting meme is, it's not very pleasant to walk across a 2 foot deuce with a trail of toilet paper leading off behind it.)

3) Wear only milsurp, camo, and carry a gun. (It not TEOTWAWKI, your not Pat Boon. Unless it's Alaska, etc, you look like a tool. It's also the best way to draw attention to yourself from authorities.)

4) Not put out your campfire/fuel sources properly. (Californians love these people)

5) Take a short cut. (People have died for less on long hikes.)

6) Whine. (Nothing is worse than being stuck in a group with someone who bitches and moans.)

7) Show your power levels too much. (Nobody on trail wants to hear about the JQ.)

8) Use it as an excuse to eat/drink whatever you want. (The point is it's supposed to be healthy.)

9) Pet a buffalo, a moose, a bear, because Disney say's they're our friends.

10) Spend more time on Instagram snapping pictures, than enjoying your hike.

The Dead Kaiser's MRE. (low Tism edition)

So as your going to be burning calories on this trail, you will need to at least be making up an 1800 calorie diet in order to sustain your level of activities on a day hike, though goals wise you will want between 2000 and 2500 for a through hike. Again feel free to switch out components of what you will actually eat, but remember more is more weight.

Large ziplock bag for your MRE, smaller sandwich bag for components. (Sorry Steve, no hiss.)

1 Packet of 6 Crackers or alt (ryvita, etc)
1 Packet of peanut butter (all swiped from restaurants if your a cheap ass.)
1 Packet of jam
1 Packet of honey
1 can of Tuna in oil (eat the oil as well) or Mackerel (bagged when accessible is lighter, also consider other tinned meat if you don't like fish.)
1 packet of instant porridge.

1 cup dried apple slices or other dried fruit.
1/2 cup of nuts (peanuts, cashews, almonds, anything)
3-4 pieces of jerky.
1 Granola bar.
1 Instant soup packet. (Cream of Mushroom is my favorite.)

1 Can of meat (Turkey, pork, spam, again opt for lighter packets if you can) (Also open to canned pasta's, Irish stew, meatballs, whatever floats your boat)
1 Packet of Ramen Noodles (prison and trail currency.) (You can use pre-cooked rice, or instant mash potatoes, or a pasta side kicks.)
1 Instant soup packet (eat on it's own or as a sauce.)
1/2 cup dehydrated diced vegetables. (carrots, onions, whatever you like mix with others in mess tin.)
1 Chocolate bar.

Accessories & Drinks!
2 packets of Sugar (swiped from a restaurant)
2 packets of one shot drink crystals (sometimes its nice to have a bit of sugar with your stuff)
4 packets of 3 in 1 coffee mix (I like it, because everything is mixed in, just add water.) or 4 packets of instant coffee, 2 packets of powder creamer.
2 packets of hot chocolate.
2 Teabags (of choice.)

Play around with the idea. It's not set in stone, but I've found these sorts of variations work really well for overnight trips where a quick resupply in the morning isn't available. I always try and supplement this type of eating with fresh fruits, and vegetables when I can get them as well.

Anyways that is enough for now. Feel free to share your opinions or ask questions if you want to.


True & Honest Fan
I use long walks in order to do something productive while listening to podcasts.

I enjoy the morning walks. Gives me time to think. Walk on a large path at a state park right next to the Pacific. Some people bike, some run, and some, like me, walk. See many of the same people daily. The ocean is different every day - sometimes blue to match the sky, whitecaps on windy days, sometimes grayish on overcast/murky days. Take the umbrella on rainy days. At times there'll be not just a rainbow, but a double rainbow. Pretty neat.


Breakin' Wind
True & Honest Fan
There's a lake nearby my house that has a four-mile walk all the way round. When I was unemployed after graduating university, I used to do that walk every day while listening to audiobooks. Although being unemployed wasn't fun at the time (and it was a long time), those walks actually make me look back fondly on that period of my life, especially since I can't do them anymore because of my work schedule.

Kari Kamiya

"I beat her up, so I gave her a cuck-cup."
True & Honest Fan
I haven't been using a pedometer so I don't know how many steps/miles I walk, but I typically go on two-hour walks, picking up cans whenever I come across any. Don't really live anywhere in particular like a lake or hiking trail that would make walking that much more interesting (we do live near a creek, but it's dry majority of the year, only is active after a lot of rain or when the snow on the mountains melts), but at least I try to go on a walk at least once a week.

The longest hike I've ever been on was when I was 15 at church camp. That year, we went on a hike down a waterfall at the end of the trail where we had lunch and swam around a bit. Then what happened was the group I was in took the wrong path and found ourselves elsewhere in the mountains. Luckily the leaders were still able to get reception to get tracked and there was a place where we were picked up (well, rescued I guess), but it took us until dusk to get the cars. Wasn't fun at the time, of course, and it was killer on the feet and calves, like we still had to be on our feet the next day though I think everyone in the group got permission to rest all day as a result, but I don't remember sitting around all day at the campsite doing nothing. But anyhoo, looking back on it, it was a good experience, but I haven't gone hiking since.
I'm seeing some really great posts everyone.

It's nice to see that people are so active, and for those who want to get back into hiking as well I'd say start small it can be as fun and different and deciding to go for a ramble in an area that you've never been before, or finding somewhere on your local map, next town over, that sort of thing that you decide to go visit.

As for work life balance, that's really difficult with through hikes, but not as bad with day hikes if you know your weekend or can book the day off in advance. Also I should have said in the post, but don't sweat it if everything doesn't go as planned, it happens.

Audiobooks are a great way to learn on the trail. I usually have a good mixture of fiction and educational stuff, like the Great Courses in case I get bored with just walking. Any good recommendations from anyone?

@JosephStalin That's great actually. I've contemplating trying to walk halfway to work, since I relocated the distance has doubled. I used to be able to do a 15k walk home on specific evenings in prep for the through hike I did. Now the distance is 35k, so it's a bit more daunting, but I've found a nice half way point where public transports still available and it's 5 miles. So I've been toying with the idea to walk there every day for a week.

@Kari Kamiya sounds like a funny story. Sounds like you live in a fairly dry area, but I'm sure there must be some interesting places or land marks nearby. Also as goofy as it sounds, there is a real reward in just walking to a different town and eating a slice of cake and a coffee then walking back.

@Fish-Eyed Fool my recommendation is you pick something nearby you that you want to do and a date a month away, start getting prepped for it, and then just go. Even if it's a short hike, they're really fun.

@Sexy Times Hitler & @Sword Fighter Super you should see if you can't take your dog on a day hike with you, lots of dogs really love the opportunity to ramble in the woods.

Piss Clam

Squeeze me.
It is called a thru-hike not a through hike.

You should take some mole skin with you.

I've thru hiked the A.T. and do section hikes. I've been thinking of the PCT and even of hiking the silk road (almost impossible for an American given the politics of the day)...



A few of my pictures:


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Gordon Cole

Yep, he's dead
True & Honest Fan
@Sexy Times Hitler & @Sword Fighter Super you should see if you can't take your dog on a day hike with you, lots of dogs really love the opportunity to ramble in the woods.
Where I am, there aren't a whole lot of big reserves and trails, though where I'm moving to is close to the start of the Appalachian Trail. Unfortunately, the little guy has to stay down with the fam. :c


True & Honest Fan
I've been lucky enough to do some pretty amazing hikes around the PNW. Vesper Peak and Sahale Glacier (Cascade Pass) are probably my two favorites. The rainforest out on the Pacific is incredible as well.

OP's post covered a lot so I'll just say that you'd be surprised how much a good pair of hiking poles can help out. On the way up you'll use your full body more taking some of the load off your tired legs and on the way down you'll take the strain off your ankles and knees. On a long hike they can really improve your experience.

This is a picture from Vesper:


Cool story on that one is we were doing an easier but still cool hike around the area (Mt. Pilchuk) and were sharing a beer at the top having a conversation about the peaks around with a stranger and he pointed to a peak in the distance with a tooth shape and that's Vesper. We climbed it a few weeks later and overnighted. Incredible views. That is just one picture looking into the valley. 360 degree views from the top of every mountain around, and my god there are an incredible amount in the N. Cascades.
@Piss Clam ha, your correct, I try to edit my stuff as well as possible, this was a fairly long post so it wasn't changed.

A.T. Looks amazing. I'd like to do the triple crown at some point in my life. I got my humble beginnings by walking in Europe. So I've done one the three great catholic pilgrimages, the caminho, my next would be the two keys of St. Pauls and St. Peter's, and then of course the granddaddy, Jerusalem.

Silk Road would be amazing, but I wouldn't want to do it without having a trusted guide, a group and some form of self defense. Most of the Turkic peoples are more rough around the edges than Arabs, and there is a reason why the British never won in their wars against the hill tribes.

@Spl00gies Thanks appreciate it. I'm happy to add in some more content for people who are interested.

@thejackal That looks great! I'd love to do more hiking in North America, it's just being able to afford the time off to live my nomadic lifestyle.

Thanks for the info on walking poles, they really do make the difference. I prefer walking with a staff, as it's what I've gotten used to, but poles are really great too. My favorite thing to do when powering up hills, is to basically push with the stick uphill, as it helps you leverage your weight. It's also super useful when having to ford rivers, streams, and quagmires.

I'm currently working on some UK walks at the moment, and my next long planned hike is either going to be a) Canterbury b) Calais to Rome (religious pilgrimage) or St. Jakobs Weg in Germany.

I'm also working on some of the capital walks at the moment as well, and of course the coastal walk would be great.
Switzerland is fantastic for hiking, and I think the most interesting thing I've done was a barefoot hike in Bern.

Piss Clam

Squeeze me.
If you are going to do the A.T. on a northbound then I recommend a place that use to be called 'the hikers hostel'.

Don't do the approach trail. The people at hikers hostel will drop you off in a parking lot about .09 from the the terminus on springer mountain.

The approach trail isn't official. The picture I posted is the plaque you will see at springer mountain. Hike the .09 miles, take a picture of the plague then turn around and hike to either Hawk mountain (8.1 miles from springer) or stover creek shelter (2.1 miles from springer).

I highly recommend you get an A.T. guidebook which will list the blue blaze trails and also water locations and places you can jump off to re-supply. You really do need it so buy one.
A big benefit of walking is that it's got some actual, natural enjoyment to it that most exercise doesn't, at least for me. You're getting to explore your environment around you, be in the sun, and you have some goal beyond just doing reps (like you would weightlifting) or mindlessly running in place/running around a track. I mostly hate being in the gym, but walking is something I will do anyways, even if it's way less efficient and doesn't build muscle.


Hehe xd
True & Honest Fan
Walking around at night in a city is pretty relaxing. You can go to places you'd otherwise be banned from (water canals, alleys, private property) and its eerily quiet in places that are usually loud. The local market plays annoying music (presumably to scare away the homeless) and I befriended a guy who gets drunk every night and walks his cat on a leash.

I still have all my old Scouting gear so I could probably do a real hike but the bureaucracy and logistics around it is a pain.

Buster O'Keefe

Enjoys offal
True & Honest Fan
Really great post. I started hiking a few years ago, and agree it does wonders for body and soul. On poles: I never hike without them. There is a technique to using them efficiently, and once you've got that they will reduce wear on your leg joints and give your arms a bit of a workout. I've also avoided plenty of trips and falls using them. Also water: a bladder with bite tube saves a lot of faffing about getting bottles from your pack and makes it easier to balance your pack, but most importantly, drink the stuff: if you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated. Map and compass, and the ability to use them, and a whistle. Especially when hill walking. Basically, if I have to get lifted off the hills by mountain rescue, it will be because of shitty luck and not because I'm an unprepared sped.