Winter in Oman is the best time for all types of outdoor activities and quite obviously all the hiking trails will be busy with the sound of footsteps of numerous hiking teams — professional groups, individuals and beginners alike.
When I started pursuing my passion, I was clueless on how to start, but fortunately, I got acquainted with some of the pro hikers including Instagram content creators @extremethrills & @7amd0on. My interaction with them allows me to learn from their experience and till today, 3-years into adapting to the hiking lifestyle, I am still learning and getting guidance from these professionals. For anyone wanting to explore new hiking paths, information is always a crucial part of a successful hike.
Having extensively hiked the country and sharing these experiences on social media, I often get inquiries from beginners as to the dos and don'ts of hiking. It is heartwarming to see that there is a continued interest in this activity and as such, I've compiled a few things every beginner should always consider when going for a hike.
Do not blindly follow.
It is good to have an idol who is a pro in the field, but please do not try to follow their actions when you are still at a beginners’ level. Remember, they might have been doing what they far longer than you realize so when they look at a terrain, they already have an insight that you might not necessarily have. When joining a group hike, always follow their instructions and learn from their experiences. Do not, however, become a daredevil in an instant and follow everything they do. Always hike with caution. As a newbie, make sure to observe the hiking trail markings. These are your lifeline. Most hiking trails in Oman have yellow, white and red markings for your to follow. Always choose these tested paths.
Have an Expert Friend.
The more people you know, the better chances you will have in succeeding whatever hike you embark on. It is always good to know someone who is an expert so that you can reach out to them anytime for any information or queries related to this type of activity. Having two or three expert hiker friends who are familiar with terrain is even better as their insight will definitely help you navigate your destination with more caution and foresight. Always compare and contrast information that is handed to you. When faced with a dilemma while on the road, it is always life-saving to ask first rather than blindly decide on what road to take or where to go.
Read blogs and understand your destination to the last detail.
Just because someone rated a hiking path as the easy or medium difficulty doesn't mean that it will always be the case. Remember that terrains change all the time and it is, therefore, important to get the latest updates. Before attempting any outdoor activity, one should always personally check and read different blogs. Read by yourself to know more and understand clearly. The more you read, the more you know, the more prepared you become.
Assess your physical fitness or people accompanying you.
You are the best person to judge your own fitness level. The worst thing you can do is lie to yourself and force yourself on a hike that you are not prepared for. Choose a hiking destination that you have trained and prepared for. While it is important to not underestimate your capabilities, your body cannot lie. Always factor in weight, age, physical capability whenever you say yes to an adventure. It is not only physical strength that matters. You would also need endurance, mental strength and presence of mind. If you're tagging friends and family along, make sure to assess that they can do your chosen path.
Avoid doing solo hiking trips as much as possible.
City walks are fine. But one thing you have to understand about Oman's mountains is that they can be tricky especially at night. Many of the hiking trails are littered with sharp, rugged rocks that can easily cut or hurt you. Never try to be a solo explorer at the beginner level. Always make sure that you hike with a buddy or better yet, acclimate yourself by joining group hikes.
Factor in the weather and your clothing.
Just because a plan was made doesn't mean that it should already be set in stone especially if the weather is involved. The thing about Oman is that when it rains, some areas can get flooded fast. Weather plays an important role in any of your outdoor activities. So before you embark on a trip, make sure to check on the weather forecast and consider it in your plans. Expect the mountains to be cold especially during the winter and dress appropriately. The clothing has to be just optimal depending on the climate and nature of the activity. The right pair of shoes is very essential for any outdoor activity, it can change the entire trip experience.
Always consider the timing.
The worst thing that can happen to you is mismanaging your time and finding yourself scrambling in the dark looking for the hiking marks. Read the hike details carefully and then plan the entire hike. Remember, you need to come back from the mountain before sunset unless it’s a well-prepared camping trip or night hike where the group is equipped with the proper lighting and night gear. Here it is important to note that the time for completing any hike or outdoor activity varies from person to person depending upon their stamina and fitness levels. After the sunset, it is difficult to cross the trail and reach the end.
Prepare a checklist of your trip essentials.
Dehydration is going to be your enemy when you hike so always bring along some essentials with you when you hike. For 6-8 hour hikes, bringing along a backpack that can accommodate 2.5 litres of water will be a lifesaver for you. Always carry a light snack or small fruit as well for nourishment. Carrying dates, some nut bars, baby carrots are good options. Try not to add unnecessary weight to your backpack. A head torch is a must or you may opt for a small lightweight torch. The phone should be charged properly and battery backup is essential if you are going out for a long activity. For Wadi adventures, always wear your swimsuit and life jackets for safety reasons even if you are a good swimmer. You need to have a waterproof phone cover along with a dry backpack. A small medical kit with band-aids, pain relief spray, and your personal necessary medicines is a must. Sunglasses, scarf/hat and sun cream come under essential items.
Be mindful of where you are going.
When going out in the wild, you will come across different wild animals including venomous snakes or bugs. Always look where you're going. When visiting small villages, observe some decorum. Do not speak loudly or pluck fruits from farms. When taking photographs,
Always ask for permission first.
Always research your destination if a 4-wheel drive is needed. Always follow the "Leave no trash" motto. Carry your trash with you dispose properly in the appropriate disposal bins.
There is no shortcut to knowledge and experience when it comes to hiking. Whether you are doing a mountain trail, a wadi trail or just a fun city hike, make sure that you learn from every of your hiking journey.
Follow the following groups on Instagram:
@exploreandchallenge: Very good for short hikes and abseiling for beginners.
@wadi.adventure and @cyr_adventures: Very professional groups and highly recommended for medium-level to very difficult hikes.
@hola_oman: For kayaking and short hikes around the al Khairan/Yiti area. @oman_outdoor_adventure: For new destinations, camping trips and special sunset/sunrise camp in Bandar Khairan.
@guideoman: For well-organized desert adventures.
@mmt.adventure: A certified climber who can help you to experience rock climbing.