According to various researches, hiking has many health benefits and it is a great outdoor activity to boost physical endurance, reduce mental stress and explore nature. The best part is you don’t need any special equipment or training to hike.
Just choose a trail and start walking.
You can roll solo or stroll in a group, the choice is all yours. Your experience depends on what you choose. But be extra careful while you hike alone.
Like every other activity, hiking can be scary if you are new to it. But once you get a taste of hiking you will know how awesome hiking can be. I can go on and on about the awesomeness of hiking but the best way to know is to experience it firsthand.
You don’t need to conduct a lot of research to plan a hike. Based on personal experience and lots of research, we have listed 13 essential tips for hiking beginners.
1. Begin With a Short Hike
A short hike determines your current level of walking. Go easy, walk at a leisurely pace. Hiking is a recreational activity so have fun while you walk around.
Make yourself comfortable with the trail. Check whether the shoes are too tight or too loose until you feel cozy. Do the same with your apparel. Find the right gear for yourself. Make necessary adjustments if you have to.
Here, the objective of a short hike is to know your physical limit and to get a feel of hiking so don’t rush to conquer the trail. Instead of covering more distance, focus on knowing more about hiking as a beginner.
2. Familiarize Yourself with the Trail
When it comes to familiarizing yourself with the trail, conduct a little research to know about the trail routes. Check the suitability of the trail. Analyze the map for intersections or loops, where you are likely to make a wrong turn.
Most importantly, check ratings of the trail. Use the AllTrails app to find hiking routes near you. As a hiking beginner, you should strictly stick to easy hikes. Just get comfortable with hiking routes.
3. Find Hiking Buddies
The fastest way to adapt to hiking is to walk with a group. It’s fun and you get to meet new people every time. So, search for a hiking club or group to join.
You can search for hiking groups in your locality. Try joining meetup.com to find local hiking groups, meet people and set out on your own hiking adventures.
4. Learn Proper Hydration
Beginner hikers make the mistake of carrying very little water. You should at least carry 1 liter for every two hours hike.
How much water you need to drink depends on various factors, such as your intensity level, hike’s duration, weather condition, your age, your perspiration rate, and your body type.
Learn how much water your body needs. As the temperature and elevation of hiking rise, you need to increase your water intake.
Don’t make a mistake of chugging water infrequently, take smaller sips regularly to stay hydrated.
5. Analyze the Weather
Regardless of the season, check the weather forecast before heading out on a hike. Under certain circumstances, you might have to reschedule your plan. Don’t push your luck if the weather is going to be adverse.
When hiking, the altitude difference and fluctuations in temperature throughout the day can lead to sudden weather changes. Expect those changes and dress accordingly. As a beginner hiker, learn to read the clouds and the sky. It’s not rocket science.
6. Tell Someone Your Itinerary
Tell someone your itinerary if you are going on a solo hike. Trails are full of surprises and you may not like some. No matter how careful you are, accidents could still occur. They will know where to look for you in case of emergencies.
So share your travel itineraries with your close friends or family members to ensure your own safety.
7. Dress for Comfort
Your outfit plays an important role in hiking. So pay attention while you dress for hiking. Avoid cotton clothes as it dampens with sweat, making you feel soggy and annoyed.
Dress in layers so that you can add or remove clothes when needed. Find an appropriate layering among base layers, mid-layers, insulation layers, and shell layers, the one that suits your body.
Tips: Multiple thin layers give you better control over the temperature than bulky integrated garments.
8. Watch Your Feet
Though watching your feet might sound obvious, but obvious is where most hikers go wrong. You‘d be shocked to know the number of hikers who had to be rescued because of a twisted ankle.
Be cautious while you walk, look out for poisonous animals and insects.
Walk carefully. If you take hiking too lightly, you might take a wrong step, slip on a rock, twist your ankle or fall down. So, be aware of the trail you are taking, especially if you are tired, chatting or listening to music.
9. Keep Your Backpack Light
When it comes to hiking, don’t carry unnecessary stuff in your hiking backpack. Pack only the essential things. Keep extra space for water, energy bars, and other similar stuff. Keep your backpack light.
Limit your wardrobe. Instead of carrying a book, use a smartphone to read or to download maps. Repackage your personal care item into a small container to save time and space.
Basically, opt for the lightest things if possible.
10. Find Comfortable Hiking Footwear
Painful and blistered feet can ruin a hike. That’s where hiking shoes come handy. Invest in high-quality comfortable shoes or boots. If you are tight on budget, you can opt for budget hiking boots.
Instead of following other’s suggestions blindly, try shoes on yourself and check whether they are comfortable on your feet. Be patient and keep trying until you find shoes that fit you perfectly.
Do not forget to shop for socks when you buy shoes. Avoid cotton, wool or synthetic socks while you buy.
Never wear your new shoes on the hike. You might end up with blisters. Get used to your shoes and hike when you feel comfortable.
11. Hike at Your Own Pace
Remember, hiking is not a race so walk at your own pace. Don’t compete with other hikers. You are not there to break a record but to enjoy the walk. Enjoy the fresh air, look out for wildlife and have fun.
Conserve your energy for the unknown, you never know what situation you will be in. You might get lost in the wilderness. Find your pace and walk accordingly.
If you are hiking in a group, plan ahead about the intervals. Stick with your group, don’t venture out on your solo adventure. Otherwise, you could lose track of time and may not complete your hike in time.
12. Take a Hiking First-aid Kit
The things to include in your first aid kit depends upon the duration and nature of the hike. Nonetheless, the first aid kit is essential for a hike. Here’s a list of things you might want to include in your first aid kit.
- 3M Micropore Medical Tape – a lightweight, breathable paper tape that is gentle, yet offers secure adhesion against blisters and cuts.
- Antiseptic and alcohol wipes (4) – Antiseptic to clean wounds and alcohol wipes to clean the area around wounds.
- Wound closure strips (4)-narrow adhesive strips to close the edges of a small wound and heal.
- Dressing/Gauze – a loosely woven, sterile, translucent fabric to bandage larger wounds
- Hand sanitizer – Repackaged in a mini dropper bottle.
- Triple Antibiotic Ointment – Sample size tube.
- Ibuprofen tablets (10 – 200 mg) – Anti-inflammatory and pain relief (Note: Check for expiry dates and recommended dosage)
- Antihistamine tablets (3) – For bites and allergic reactions.
- Duct tape – Tiny roll. Handy for any and all repairs.
- Swiss Army Classic Knife.
- Safety pins (2) – For slings fashioned from clothing.
- A Lighter
13. Leave No Trace
While you may not have the intention to harm the natural surroundings, you might do it unknowingly. It’s your responsibility to take care of beautiful trails.
Take time to learn about ‘Leave No Trace Seven Principals’ and follow them.
The seven principles are
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of other visitors
Plan a hike, gear up and explore nature. The first time can be intimidating but you will love the experience. Just walk!
- 1. Begin With a Short Hike
- 2. Familiarize Yourself with the Trail
- 3. Find Hiking Buddies
- 4. Learn Proper Hydration
- 5. Analyze the Weather
- 6. Tell Someone Your Itinerary
- 7. Dress for Comfort
- 8. Watch Your Feet
- 9. Keep Your Backpack Light
- 10. Find Comfortable Hiking Footwear
- 11. Hike at Your Own Pace
- 12. Take a Hiking First-aid Kit
- 13. Leave No Trace