Hiking, trekking, camping–three words that would scare the crap out of someone used to the city life; someone who finds comfort in the noise and lights in the metro; and someone who just doesn’t enjoy physical activities. A lot of people have been into hiking lately, some with a bucket list of mountains that they want to climb. Others want to go soul searching in the wilderness. Then there are those who just want to be one with nature.
For all of you who want to start hiking but don’t really have any idea about what you should do before you invest in all those pricey gear, here’s a guide that will help you gauge what hiking entails. I mean, just so you won’t blindly hop on the bandwagon and then just faint in the middle of a hike because you didn’t know that there would be that much walking.
Find a group to hike with
Hiking, going to the mountains, and camping is not something that you should do alone for safety reasons. Join a club where you can learn the do’s and don’ts or simply ask your friends to hike with you. That way, you won’t get lost, and the hike will be more fun.
Hiking in itself is an exercise, but it’s an exercise that needs prior preparation. You can’t just go from being a couch potato to a skilled mountaineer in a blink of an eye. It takes endurance to finish a hike, so go out and start exercising to prep yourself for what’s to come.
Learn how to read a map
No, not Google maps. And no, Waze is not a map. We mean a topographic map–the kind that shows the terrains of a landscape. It helps you identify the landforms around you, so you can pinpoint your position and not get lost.
Invest in good hiking gear
Climbing a mountain is a lot of work, and it also requires some special gear. Depending on your chosen mountain, your shoes should give you enough traction–hiking boots for muddy terrains, and trail running shoes for dry trails. Make sure that the clothes you wear will also be appropriate for the weather and don’t forget to bring waterproof clothes, so you’ll be ready in case it rains.
Prepare the essentials
Map, compass, sun protection, extra clothes, flashlight, first aid kit, fire starter, knife, water, food–these are the ten things you need to climb a mountain. There is a reason why mountaineers bring those gigantic bags and it’s not because it adds to their aesthetic. Make a checklist of your essentials and check them twice before you leave. Make sure you have everything you need so you won’t be begging someone else for their stuff when the need arises.
Remember to leave no trace
“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, and kill nothing but time.” Remember that mountains and everything in it–the trees, flowers, animals–are all as big a part of nature as you. Respect their environment and leave the place just like how it was when you arrived. Bring your trash with you, put out your fires properly, and don’t take anything that isn’t yours.
Now that you’re ready to hike, here are some mountains that you can visit on your first adventure:
Mt. Galugod Baboy (Mabini, Batangas)
Height: 525 m above sea level
Difficulty level: No sweat, easy AF
If you’re still unsure whether you want to take hiking seriously or if you’re that friend who just got pressured into climbing a mountain, this is the one for you. It’s very easy to climb; very chill for experienced hikers, and for beginners, it’s a good place to start. Just don’t forget to dress warm, because it’s near the sea, so it’s bound to get cold at the summit.
Pico de Loro (Nasugbu, Batangas)
Height: 664 m above sea level
Difficulty level: Kind of challenging but still tolerable
If you feel like you’re ready for a bit of a challenge, try Pico de Loro. It’s a famous spot for hikers and trail runners, and is also a DENR-protected site so the trail is filled with a lot of trees. There are also a lot of steep hikes and descends, so make sure you got hiking boots to prevent sliding off. You can choose to go on a day hike or an overnight hike to experience camping and then see the sunrise the next day. Also, this is the mountain with the famous monolith seen in many people’s photos.
Mt. Maculot (Cuenca, Batangas)
Height: 706 m above sea level
Difficulty level: For the experts
So you’ve done a few easy mountains and some fairly challenging ones. It’s time for a real challenge. Mt. Maculot will require a lot of endurance because the trail is a never ending steep ascent. It will test your arm and leg strength, because at some point, you’ll have to hold on to a rope to keep climbing. But at the end of the hike, when you reach the summit, a breathtaking view of the Taal Lake and volcano will greet you, and it’s very, very rewarding.
By Bea Amador
Photography by Denise Fernandez