• Hiking in your 70s
    Hiking in your 70s

When it comes to bushwalking in your 70s and beyond, it’s just mind over matter.

Who said you can’t hike in the outdoors well into your 70s, or beyond? Adventure, defined as undertaking an exciting experience which can involve danger and unknown risk, is no longer the prerogative of the young. Older Australians are becoming fitter and healthier and just as adventurous.

Do you remember the thrill of swinging from a rope, precariously hanging from the water’s edge till you fell safely into a deep cool water hole? Or how your childhood-self enjoyed jumping through puddles and sliding through mud-drenched playing fields? The fun of running over jagged rocky headlands when the tide ran out to discover the fascinating marine life in each rock pool.

As older adults, we are better prepared than at any other stage in our lives to be adventurous. We know how to plan, how to research the best gear possible and how to minimise risk. Let’s be daring safely.

Here’s my easy 4Fs plan

Fitness Everyone accumulates ailments as we age. Dodgy knees, arthritic joints, and bizarrely shaped feet can reduce our agility and balance. But they needn’t be a game stopper. I’m a firm believer in the saying ‘use it or lose it’. The best way to keep hiker strength, stamina, and agility is to continue hiking. For strength training, carry a loaded backpack. For stamina and endurance, eat the right fuel foods, stay hydrated and hike. And hike in the bush, often on uneven terrain, to improve your balance and core strength.

Footwear Footwear deserves its own category. If you get this right, you’re set. Sometimes daring adventures in the wilderness can be uncomfortable. Proper footwear will help minimise the pain. Reputable hiking stores still recommend big, supportive, waterproof hiking boots. Unless you need ankle support or hiking conditions favour a sturdier boot, I recommend lightweight trail running shoes. Experienced hikers say, ‘one pound on your feet equals five on your back’ so bear this in mind.

A word of caution, though. Many trail runners are zero drop shoes, a rising new trend, which means the heel is the same height as your toes. These rarely suit old feet, so give yourself enough time to wear them in if you are keen to try them. Otherwise, seek a heel drop of at least 4mm. Add in quality or custom orthotics, good hiking socks, and those feet are ready for wilderness adventures. Finish with trekking poles for balance and agility.

Face your fears We pack fears because we don’t want to be uncomfortable. Pack too many of them and you will be uncomfortable. A lighter pack weight helps your feet and enables you to cover the distance to explore further afield in the wonderful backcountry far away from civilisation and distraction. Take a long hard look at your gear. Go for basic repair, first aid and toiletries. Essential clothes, not multiples of everything. And pack the lightest sleeping bag, mat and tent that will do the job. Never compromise on safety but continually ask yourself, ‘Do I really need this’?

Have fun I’ve dialed in my gear, footwear, and fitness, but what should I do if I fear taking the plunge into this great unknown wilderness? Trust me. Inexperience is no obstacle.

Start with your local walking group who can assess your hiking ability. As your skill levels improve, they’ll be inviting you to join them on multi-day overnight hikes. If you want to be led further afield, choose from one of the many ecotourism operators who cater to those seeking thrilling nature-based activities focused on conservation, community, and sustainable travel. And if you prefer to forge your own off-the-beaten track, seek navigation training from skilled experts.

Before you know it, you’ll be deep in the bush, dirty, scratched, laughing your head off without a care in the world. A kid again, if only for a day. Kickstart those happiness endorphins in the wild and revel in the adventures before you. Follow my mantra: ‘Wander and Wonder at any age’.

Words_Katrina 'Kit Kat' Hemingway

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