Hiking and backpacking is a terrific way to experience nature. Ottawa and Gatineau Park combined contain hundreds of kilometres of easily accessible trails. Trail maps are available from a variety of sources like Gatineau Park, or from the City of Ottawa. If you don’t have a car, there are buses that venture out to the Gatineau Park area and several locations around the city of Ottawa. For those more adventurous, Lake Placid in New York State, holds some of the best hiking around.
There is a difference between hiking and backpacking. With hiking, most people carry little more than a bottle of water. Backpacking is exactly what the name suggests; you are carrying a pack with all of the supplies you will need. For a multi-day excursion, the supplies you will need can really add up. For a day hike, you will want a small (20-litre or less) backpack with some snacks and at least two litres or more of water. When hitting the trail, food should be high on your list even for short hikes. Pack nutrient-rich, high-calorie foods like nuts, cheese, energy bars, and bagels with peanut butter to help you accomplish your mileage goals with energy to spare. Eating a small amount every two to three hours is best. Avoid eating until you are full, as this will only make you tired.
Trails in Ottawa, while plentiful, are less challenging. They are very flat and the trails aren’t that long or difficult. Decent hiking can be had in Gatineau Park. The trails there range from easy to moderate. The biggest obstacles are the bugs, so pack plenty of bug spray if you go between May and September.
For a novice hiker/backpacker, the most important item you can buy right now is shoes or boots. Be sure to pick the one that’s most comfortable as soon as you put them on. Remember, you could be wearing them for 10-12 hours at a time. If your feet hurt, you are not going to be enjoying yourself. Everyone’s feet and walking style is different. Someone carrying a small pack or even no pack at all, will have drastically different needs than someone like me, who has a pack weighing nearly 40 pounds or 18 kilograms. So get some quality footwear and go hiking. You’ll love it, I promise.
I'm a 44-year-old male currently planning my first long-distance hike. It will take place the first of May, 2016 and will cover 2518 kilometres, from Echo Lake in California to Manning Provincial Park at the British Columbia border. This will be my biggest, grandest, most epic accomplishment in my life so far.