Eight tips for hiking South Africa’s trails

Posted on Posted in Tips and Tricks

South Africa has some incredible hiking trails. We’re doing our best to explore as many of them as we can. Our latest excursion was a section of the Fanie Botha hiking trail in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa. Think beautiful sections of indigenous rain forest, waterfalls everywhere and grassy plains with views in all directions! Have a look at the video below to see what was in our pack.


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Whether you are planning to tackle a multi-day hike or just an overnight trail, here are some of our tips and tricks for planning your pack.

 

1. Think lightweight

When you are hiking, everything you pack, you must carry! Those extra few kilograms might feel fine on the first kilometer or two, but trust us, by the time you are nearing lunch you will regret bringing more than you needed. Save on weight wherever you can when you pack and you will enjoy your hike so much more. Decant toiletries into smaller bottles.  Be ruthless and only pack the bare minimum. Don’t skimp on essentials but don’t pack more than you will need.

Hiking in the Entumeni Nature Reserve
Hiking in the Entumeni Nature Reserve

2. Ziploc bags for the win

Ziploc bags have to be hiking’s best-kept secret. They make sure that all your equipment stays dry in the case of an unavoidable downpour. Packing clothing and other items into Ziploc bags also helps you to find what you need in your pack, without having to pull everything out. Pack your day’s clothing into a single Ziploc bag and make getting dressed a breeze. As if that weren’t enough, Ziploc bags will help you to save space by “vacuum-packing” each bag before you seal it.

 

3. Comfortable shoes are a must!

Good hiking shoes will make all the difference when you are on the trail. Your feet are your only means of transport, so treat them well and you will be a happy hiker!

There are many types of hiking shoe to choose from. From high-tops to “veldskoene” (leather bush shoes) it’s really going to come down to what you are most comfortable in.

Also keep in mind that your trail may take you through water sections so you’ll want to make sure that your chosen footware can deal with that sufficiently.

Hitting the trails with Salomon
Hitting the trails with Salomon

4. Protection from the elements

Hiking is a great way to enjoy Nature. There’s nothing like taking in a breathtaking view after a hard climb to the top of a cliff… until it starts to rain! Protection from the elements is key on a hike. Make sure you have a good rain jacket that will also help you keep warm in the wind. Line your pack with a plastic bag to protect its contents from the wet. Wear a hat and don’t forget the sun cream!

Taking in the view in Krantzkloof Nature Reserve
Taking in the view in Krantzkloof Nature Reserve

5. Safety first

Emergencies can happen on the trail. Your cellphone, loaded with the relevant safety numbers, is your most important safety precaution. Remember to charge the battery before setting off, and keep your phone off to preserve battery life for when you need it.

It may be old-school, but a printed map of the trail and surrounding area and some simple navigation know-how can also be a big help should you wander off the trail. Hike in a group and always be aware of your surroundings.

The Fanie Botha Hiking Trail in Mpumalanga
The Fanie Botha Hiking Trail in Mpumalanga

A basic first aid kit is another necessity for the inevitable scratches, scrapes and blisters. Take along some disinfectant, plasters and medicine for diarrhoea and vomiting. Insect repellant is also a great idea! One more simple first aid item often overlooked is a shock blanket (also known as a space blanket). These shiny silver sheets trap an amazing amount of body heat and will keep you warm in the cold or if someone is in medical shock.

 

6. Don’t forget the toilet paper!

I don’t think I need to go into any more detail on this one. Don’t forget the Ziploc bag to keep the paper dry!

 

7. Refuel often

Maybe it’s just me, but delicious food can turn any tough situation around. Take along plenty of snacks to provide that extra encouragement and to keep your body refueled and ready for the next hill. We love trail mix (a variety of seeds, peanuts and raisins), dried fruit, biltong and chocolate (always chocolate!).

Bevan at a lookout on the Bushbuck Trail
Bevan at a lookout on the Bushbuck Trail

8. Easy-peasy hiking meals

Gourmet meals are great… if you don’t have to carry all the ingredients and prep equipment, or worry about keeping your food fresh! When hiking, think of simple, easy to prepare meals that will provide the nutrition you need to keep going. Some of the foodstuffs that work best for us are:

Anything that can cook by adding boiling water. Think couscous, Smash (dehydrated potato mash), instant noodles.

Protein that stays fresh for longer. Vacuum-sealed smoked chicken is a winner, as is tuna, salami or other smoked sausages and biltong.

Plenty of chocolate (but maybe that’s just me again!)

In the forest on the Fanie Botha Hiking Trail
In the forest on the Fanie Botha Hiking Trail

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