I can’t tell you the amount of times I have seen people tell you that hiking is this extreme sport which you need insane stamina for. The reality is that there are so many parts to hiking that aren't grand overnight adventures along some of the longest and most well-known trails in the country.
People often have this misconception that hiking is limited to overnight hikes but the truth is, I probably do more day hikes than I do overnighters. The convenience of being able to do it in a single day means it doesn't take up my whole weekend while still allowing me to enjoy getting out in nature. This is not to say I don't love overnighter but they do take a lot out of you which can be hard to do when you are living a busy life that doesn't allow much room for this recovery.
Even if you only do days hikes, you are still a ‘hiker’ but this doesn't mean you need the same level of fitness as someone who does thru-hikes over weeks without breaks.
So what level of fitness do you require?
What level of fitness you need for a hike is all subject to three key factors:
How long is the hike going to be?
How hard is the hike going to be?
What condition are you doing the hike in?
These three factors decide a lot for a hike in its difficulty and really should be the things you are paying attention to.
If the hike is over a weekend then you should be able to easily walk a full day hike without feeling too burnt out before you set off. This can be 8-10 hours of walking depending on your speed and if this is something that is hard for you then consider lowering the duration of your hike.
Similarly, the difficulty or ‘grade’ of your hike is another important measure of how equipped you are to hike this trail. Trails are marked from grades 1 to 5; if you have only ever hiked grade 2’s and plan to hike a grade 4 or 5 then you may want to consider doing a few grade 3s first and then move up. Alternatively if you have only ever hiked grade 1’s and want to go to grade 2’s go for it as they are a reasonable step up in fitness for you to undertake.
Finally, the major factor that is often forgotten when thinking about the fitness required for hike is the weather. Too often people think a hike is the same difficulty no matter the weather but this is far from the truth. Depending on the weather a grade 3 can be the equivalent of a grade 5 hike simply because the trail may be exposed to wind or tracks may be hard to follow when wet. Think deep and hard about the weather before setting off and always remember to bring the right gear for the conditions.
Is there a minimum fitness for hiking?
Ultimately I have to say no. Hikes in Australia are designed for everyone, grade 1 walks are made for people of absolutely any fitness level or ability. This accessibility for all is what makes hiking such a great activity for everyone of all ages, backgrounds, fitness and ability to undertake, including you!
So next time someone tells you that you aren't ‘fit’ enough to hike, make sure to tell them they just haven't found the right trail yet because hiking is for everyone and you are welcome to join us on the trail.
Written by Josh Welch