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First time hiking? Here’s how to prepare

First time hiking

Surely Romania can offer hundreds of hiking trails for all types of mountaineers, with or without experience. But what do you do when you want to try this activity, but have never done it before? Here’s how to prepare if it’s your first time hiking in the mountains:

1. Determine the route you want to take, preferably a beginner one

It is better to go for the first time with people who have been before, with whom you would be safer and from whom you would probably have a lot to learn. If it is not possible to travel with friends, make sure you have an experienced mountain guide with you. For example, in the Transylvanian area, you have the following possibilities: You could for example go up to the Urlatoarea waterfall (in Busteni), or up to the 1400m high in Sinaia. If you want more, you can go to Varful cu Dor (Sinaia – 1400 m – summit). It’s a peak with beautiful views and the route is not difficult to get there – although for someone who hasn’t done any physical exercise all his life, it can certainly be exhausting. But that’s just one example. The 7 Stairs canyon in Piatra Mare is also quite easy to get to – it’s not for nothing that it’s full of all sorts of people there sometimes.

2. What equipment should you take with you?

You don’t need a lot of expensive professional equipment when you’re first time hiking. But some things are very important. For example… what you have on your feet. Incredibly, on the mountain, the most important thing is not “what’s in your head”, but “what’s on your feet”! Although it’s true that the two are closely related…
A pair of boots, even city boots, is much better than a pair of sneakers, shoes, sandals, slippers. Primarily for the grip they offer. Grass can be very slippery, tree roots can be slippery, gravel, fallen pine cones, snow tracks that you sometimes find on the mountain in June – all can be a problem. The less you slip, the better and safer! That’s why a pair of boots with extra grip is very important.

In addition, a pair of boots offers better ankle support – so the risk of breaking a leg photographing the squirrel decreases. For easy summer trips, there are also fairly inexpensive mini-boots – a long-term investment that could open up a lot of new paths for you. Or trails.

3. What do you wear?

Sports clothes are more comfortable and practical in the mountains, but you can also go in jeans and a t-shirt if you need to (you’ll see for yourself what the drawbacks are later). Cotton T-shirts get wet quickly from sweat and keep your back cold, so synthetic T-shirts are preferable (more special mountain T-shirts can be found for around 30 lei at some mountain shops). It doesn’t hurt to have a spare shirt – when you get to the summit and want to take a break, don’t stay wet.

The weather in the mountains can be treacherous, so it’s good to have something thicker with you – any sweater around the house is good to start with – and something wind/rainproof. If it’s too cold to climb in a t-shirt, I prefer to put my jacket over the t-shirt (to keep out the wind) and keep the sweater in my backpack – to have something warm and dry when I stop – for example on the summit.

Although it’s sunny and fine at the bottom of the mountain, up on the ridge it can snow. It’s enough to stand in the cable car station at Babele to see people coming down in their skirts and t-shirts and cursing their days when they find it’s just above 0 degrees outside. This is also true when you visit some of the caves.

4. What’s in my backpack?

Although you can tie a sweater around your arm and carry a bottle of water, it doesn’t hurt to have a backpack or rucksack with you. Hands are better to have free (more slipping, holding on to a branch, taking a picture). Don’t forget to put some food in your rucksack, something as light and as nourishing as possible. It doesn’t hurt to have chocolate, cereal or sesame bars, eugenics or a bag of peanuts. In the mountains, hunger comes on quite quickly and suddenly, so you’ll be hungry for anything. But don’t carry anything with you, no one starved to death in the mountains. Backpack as light as possible!
Don’t forget to take water. Depending on the route and the temperature outside, a litre may be enough, or it may not be enough.

5. Good practice when you’re first time hiking in the mountains

Let someone know about the route you want to take (before you go). If you are going to the hut, announce where you want to go and ask about the route.
When walking in the woods, make your presence felt – talk, sing, whistle. Wild animals are generally scared of people and keep their distance. Bears in the Bucegi are more complicated, but that’s another discussion.

In many mountain areas there is no phone signal. Make sure that you know the ways you could reach to the rescuers in the area before going hiking.

It doesn’t hurt to carry a torch and a whistle, a mini medical kit, a cap/sock, and a helmet.

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