“Let’s go hiking!” A phrase that might fill some with absolute joy and longing for adventure. For others, this may raise emotions of fear and anxiety about what is to come. The answer to the question “Is Hiking Scary?” is no, yes, sometimes, and depends on the person.
In this article, we will look into what you may find scary about hiking and how to overcome those fears or help others to overcome theirs.
This information will free your mind to safely enjoy the wonders of hiking. Helping you to guide others into confidently taking their first steps into the outdoors. Let’s dive in!
Here’s Why Hiking Could Be Scary
We as humans are very different from each other, that’s what makes us wonderful. Our fears are often individualistic and sometimes seem irrational but they still exist and are completely valid.
Getting out into the wilderness can expose new hikers to many situations. Experiencing weather, wildlife, heights, or exposure that they have never dealt with before. This can be scary for some. Even the thought of such experiences can stop someone from leaving the comfort of their home.
Phobias and fears can be genetically passed on or can be caused by previous traumatic experiences. What is important to know is that almost all of these conditions are treatable; With some willpower and the right advice you can beat these fears and start to enjoy the great outdoors!
Common Hiking Fears And How To Overcome Them
Fear Of Getting Lost
Getting lost in the wilderness is a very scary experience! It can lead hikers into further dangerous situations. Once you no longer know your path you have no idea of the dangers that you may be walking towards.
Getting lost is fairly common amongst new hikers and rarely leads to serious issues. However there are thousands of call-outs for emergency services every year for lost hikers, occasionally resulting in serious injury and death.
Luckily for adventurers, getting lost in the great outdoors is almost completely avoidable!
By following the simple bullet points below you will be much safer out on the trail and will be a step further toward conquering those fears.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and Sir Edmond Hilary didn’t climb Mount Everest without decades of training. Find a short, well-signposted trail, close to your home and go for a gentle walk.
Follow the signs and try to get a grasp of your position during your hike using landmarks such as rocks, streams, gullies, and trees.
It might not seem like much but you have already started conditioning your mind for bigger hikes. You can even practice these skills by walking around a city on your way to work or whilst walking your dog.
Plan Your Route
Learn to plan a route and stick to it.
As you start to move from “frontcountry” to “backcountry” the importance of route planning becomes more important.
It is a great practice to plan your journey, factoring in backup routes for issues such as weather or closed trails. These plans will not only keep you safe but lower your anxiety before the hike as you know that you are going out on a journey that you feel comfortable with.
Get a Guide or Join A Group
For your first bigger hikes join a hiking group, hire a guide for the day or ask a friend who knows the area well to take you along.
Explain to whoever you chose that you are new to the sport and do not wish to push your boundaries too far as you are nervous.
Whilst out on the hike, don´t just allow yourself to be taken. Ask questions as the hiking community is a very friendly and welcoming bunch who are more than happy to share their wealth of experience with fellow wanderers.
Do a course
A course on such topics as map/compass reading or mountain navigation is not only hugely beneficial to your safety and the safety of others, it is very enjoyable and connects you with some amazing people. There are many courses available for every region of the U.S. All are very reasonably priced, given the knowledge that is passed on. One of our favorites is from Mountaineers.org
Speak To The Local Hiking Shop
Nobody knows the area like the local hiking shop staff and for the cost of a few energy bars, you can have endless trail info! Pop in and introduce yourself, giving information about your level and what you want from a hike. They will be more than happy to tell you where to go or sell/ give you lots of info about the best and safest hikes for you. The local shop is also a great place to buy equipment. The more they know you the better they can advise you on what you need for the next steps in your hiking journey.
Fear Of Injury
Fear of injury stops many from getting off the couch and into the outdoors. This is a completely valid fear and you should not feel guilty for expressing your emotions before going on an adventure.
Hiking can be an extremely safe sport and can actually help to prevent injuries whilst promoting good all-around health both physically and mentally
If you feel that someone Is pushing you to go on hikes that push your boundaries too far or you question their attitude towards safety then they are not the hiking buddy for you.
How do I get over my fear of a hiking injury?
Don´t call it a hike!
For some, the word hike can invoke anxiety, Summoning pictures of cliffs, rocky paths, and exposed mountains. It doesn’t have to be like that. Many natural areas have smooth, well-groomed pathways, following very flat routes, designed for all abilities. When you want to go out and see some beautiful scenes, pick an easy route and go for a nice walk, maybe it will spark a longing to buy some hiking boots and sticks to venture deeper into the wilderness…Maybe not, either way, it would be great to see you with a smile on your face.
Go hiking with someone who makes you feel safe
Find someone who you know will respect your fears and that will help you find routes that you will enjoy rather than push your limits.
Hitting the gym, going for a run, or just taking the stairs instead of the elevator is an amazing way to build your confidence, health, and physical endurance. Leg strength especially can drastically reduce the chances of common hiking injuries such as rolled ankles, knee damage, or muscle sprains.
Buy Equipment that makes you feel safe
The equipment list for hiking can seem endless! There are however some essentials that can really help to add confidence to your hikes such as good hiking boots, hiking poles, loose-fitting, light clothes, and a first aid kit. For full hiking, checklist click here
Fear Of Heights Or Exposure
Fear of heights and exposure is one of the most common phobias, affecting around 6% of the population. Women are twice as likely to suffer from the condition. For some even the thought of being positioned up high can cause spells of dizziness and anxiety.
Agoraphobia could be stopping millions of people from enjoying the mountains, forests, and national parks of the world every year. How do I get over this fear? we hear you ask.
One of the leading mental wellness organizations Pyscom states that:
“Relaxation techniques, including meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation, may help an individual to cope with both stress and anxiety. Getting regular exercise may also be helpful in treating your acrophobia.”
In experiencing fear of heights and working with others we have found that starting out small with easy, low-exposure hikes and very gradually increasing height and exposure is one of the best ways to handle these fears. A little fear is sometimes good and can give us adrenaline but too much whilst out in the wild can be very scary and sometimes dangerous.
Whilst out hiking with others be aware that people´s tolerances to heights and exposure can be very different, what may seem like an easy path for you may be a very scary experience for your hiking partner.
4. Other Hiking Fears
Above we have tried to cover the most common fears for hikers in depth but of course, there are many more that have gone unmentioned.
Below is a list of other fears that you, as hikers may come across whilst out on the trail or maybe stopping you, your partner, or your friend from taking their first steps into the wonderful work of hiking.
Many of the tips covered in the previous sections can be used to overcome these fears so please look back as the answer that you are looking for could well be in this blog.
Other Common Hiking Fears:
- Zoophobia – Fear of wildlife
- Nyctophobia – Fear of the dark
- Hylophobia – Fear of forests
- Entomophobia – Fear of insects
- Mysophobia- Fear of dirt and germs
- Sociophobia – Fear of social judgment
- Botanophobia – Fear of plants
- Dystychiphobia – Fear of accidents
- Hydrophobia – Fear of water
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