Hiking is a great way for just about anyone to get out and enjoy nature while benefiting from low-impact exercise. From reducing anxiety, helping you lose weight and build stronger muscles, the benefits of hiking are numerous. Luckily for beginners, hiking doesn’t require a ton of specialized gear or equipment.
Since it can involve some unpredictable variables, it’s important to have certain essentials and know how to safely enjoy your trek. Here are some helpful hiking tips for beginners.
6 Hiking For Beginners Tips
1. Start Small
When you are just getting started, it’s important to start with small treks that are suited to your fitness and experience levels. For your first adventure, choose a hike that is slightly shorter than the distance you would normally feel comfortable walking on a paved or level surface. Estimate a pace of roughly two miles-per-hour, and add an hour for every thousand feet you’ll gain in elevation. It’s best to select a fairly level route for your first few trips so you can gain a sense of what your body can handle.
Before you head out, take some time to familiarize yourself with the trail. Obtain a map of the region, and check out any available data and reviews. You can find a lot of information online, and reading reviews from fellow hikers can help you determine whether a certain trail is appropriate for your experience level. Figure out whether the trail is a loop or if you will have to turn around to get back to the beginning. Check for any intersecting trails where you could accidentally make a wrong turn.
2. Invest In Appropriate Footwear & Clothing
While hiking doesn’t require a lot of specialized gear, it’s important to invest in the right footwear and clothing. A pair of quality hiking boots will protect your feet and ankles while traversing uneven terrain. So choose a pair based on your specific needs. If you’ll be hiking in an arid climate, for example, you can probably skip buying a waterproof pair.
Otherwise I recommend a pair of Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II Waterproof Hiking Boots. You should invest in some good hiking socks too. They offer better breathability and more support than your cotton tube socks, and they can help prevent blisters on long hikes.
It’s always best to dress in layers before you head out on the trail. During the summer months, a synthetic t-shirt and shorts are your best bet for an underlayer. In cold weather, go for thermal underwear. Most hikers recommend avoiding cotton, as it is a poor insulator when wet and can make you feel colder. Synthetic materials are more comfortable to wear during the summer months, like polyester shirts, which wick moisture away from the body.
Dressing in layers allows you to shed some clothing as the temperature rises. It’s also a good idea to bring along a warmer layer than you think you’ll need, though. A lightweight but warm jacket that blocks the wind is the perfect solution. While you may not need it, you will be very happy to have it if you suddenly do.
3. Pack Light, But Make Sure You’re Prepared For Anything
Most of your hiking adventures will go smoothly, and you will return without any problems. Once in a while, though, trouble can arise. From insect bites and injuries to navigational errors and inclement weather, there is a lot that can go wrong. Packing the right gear ensures that you are prepared.
There are many hiking backpacks to choose from, but a bookbag style backpack works well for beginners. For short treks, it only needs to be large enough to carry extra clothes, food, water, and a few other essentials. Traveling with multiple bandanas can be especially useful, both for wearing and for other unforeseen uses, such as trail marking, cleaning, and bandaging wounds.
No matter how short of a hike you are going on, you should always pack a map and compass, insect repellent, an emergency blanket, sunscreen, a flashlight, a small first aid kit, a multitool, and a fire starter. Depending on where you are going, you may also want to bring a snake bite kit like this one from Ven-Ex.
When you’re shopping for supplies, choose the lightest options. Go for the small tube of sunscreen instead of the large bottle, and choose snacks that are portable and lightweight. You don’t want to be hauling a ton of weight around, especially when you’re only going on a short hike.
4. Let Someone Know Where You Will Be
Always make sure someone knows where you will be. While this applies to all situations, it is especially important if you will be hiking alone. Share your plans with someone who will not be on the hike, and let them know when to worry and call for help. Allow for a few hours past your expected return time to account for minor delays.
You may also want to carry an emergency device known as a personal locator beacon that allows you send out a distress signal when cell phone service is unavailable. Even if you do have one of these devices, you should still make sure someone knows where you are. A device that allows you to call for help won’t do you much good if you are incapacitated and unable to do so.
5. Pace Yourself
When you first set foot on the trail and you’re full of energy, it’s easy to overdo it. Instead of powering ahead at full speed, set a pace that you can maintain for the entire duration of your trek. If you start out pushing yourself too hard, you’re likely to wear yourself out before you reach the trail’s end. Starting out at a slower pace allows you to conserve some energy and make it through the entire trip.
6. Practice Good Etiquette
Etiquette is just as important on the trails as in other situations. Generally speaking, hikers heading uphill have the right of way. It’s always courteous to simply step to the side and let other hikers pass. Keep your conversations quiet enough that other hikers or groups can’t hear you, and only listen to music through headphones or earbuds. If you have a canine companion, keep him leashed. Most importantly, take all trash out with you. When enjoying nature, remember to leave only footprints behind.
Hiking Tips For Beginners Conclusion
Your very first hike might seem a bit scary, but with the proper preparation, there will truly be nothing to worry about! As long as you do your proper research and are aware of what you are about to do, you will go into your hike well-educated and ready to begin an amazing journey. When in doubt, hiking with an experienced buddy and some handy camping gadgets is a great way to ease some of the pre-hike jitters! If you have anymore hiking tips for beginners feel free to share them in the comments section below.