So you have decided to go hiking for the first time in the Smokies. Congratulations! Now, next comes what do you need to take with you when you start your first hike in the Smokies?
We are going to start with the idea that you are planning a day long hike. Not a simple jaunt into the woods for a few hours but a trip down one of the trails that might take you most of the day to complete. In fact, let us assume that your hike is going to be around 8 miles, round trip, and you are giving yourself 8 hours to complete it (more on this later).
One of the most important things you can do, to make sure that you have a fun day hiking, is make sure that you have good shoes to protect your feet. This is vital, if you are a hiker, you know that your feet are going to keep you going. If you are not a hiker, you will soon learn that the proper foot wear is going to make your trek into the woods a lot more enjoyable. If you are going to be climbing in elevation, crossing rough terrain or if you are going to have to go along a trail that is not as cared for as some, get a pair of boots. Keep your ankles healthy, keep the soles of your feet happy and your feet will treat you well in return.
Food and Water
You are going to be on the trail for 8 hours. You will need water, you will need food. Pack something easy to eat while you are on the trail. Sandwiches, peanut butter, trail mix (pun intended), anything easy to eat. You also want to take food items that have plenty of protein and carbs. You will need the energy that these foods provide to get you up and down the trail. Water is also a necessity. Take enough to get you to the destination on the trail and back. You will feel very bad having consumed all of your water on the way in and not having any to drink on the way back to the trailhead. And remember, as with all things in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park “Leave No Trace” – pack out what you take in.
If you are not used to the elevation, keep in mind that the elevation change is going to effect you. The air gets thinner the more elevation you gain and the harder it is going to be to get the air you need to finish your hike. Take your time and plan for short breaks to catch your breath. If you find that you are ‘sucking wind,’ don’t get alarmed – this is normal.
Plan for plenty of time on the trail. When you talk to a Park Ranger, they are going to tell you to plan to average 1 mile each hour. Certainly experienced hikers will realize that they can average a much quicker pace but if this is your first long hike, 1 mile an hour is about right. Plan ahead. Don’t assume because it is an 8 mile round trip that you are going to make the journey in 3 hours. Give yourself plenty of time.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of things you need when you go hiking but it is a place to start. Stop by one of the outfitters in the area or the ranger stations and check with them. See what they recommend for the hike you are taking.