Hiking is an excellent way to get fit and healthy. Especially when the weather is good, it seems like everybody wants to be outdoors, so it’s the perfect time to engage (or keep on engaging) with hiking.
What is hiking anyway? Hiking is essentially long walks in nature. It’s done outdoors on trails and footpaths that offer various elevations. So you can walk on a smooth and level gravel path at one point and find yourself on an elevated rocky track on the next turn.
One of the best things about hiking is that anyone can do it, no matter how fit (or not) they may be. So please do read below for our hiking tips for beginners.
Hiking Tips for Beginners
Alright, you’ve decided that you’re ready to take up hiking. Good for you! But before you step out the door, here are a few essential tips.
1. Just get started
Unlike other fitness activities, there’s not a lot of prep work involved with hiking, so don’t overthink this. All you need is a place to go, and you’re pretty much set to start. However, if you’ve never taken long walks before, start with exactly that—a long walk in your neighborhood. Getting used to walking before you go into the woods or tackle a trail that poses environmental challenges is important.
Also, one of the benefits of hiking is that it’s great for your mental health. If you attempt a difficult route before you’re ready, it will just stress you out, and you won’t be able to enjoy all that fresh air, sun, and greenery.
2. Bring enough water and food
It’s easy to underestimate how much water and food you need during a hike. Many beginners plan to take it slow, but once they’re off, they find hiking so pleasurable that they keep going, only to become slightly dehydrated because they didn’t bring enough water. So be sure you’re well-hydrated before, during, and after your hike.
If you’re ready to challenge yourself and go on a longer hike, food such as protein bars, trail mixes, energy bars, and fruit (fresh or dried) are the usual choices.
3. Wear the right socks, shoes, and clothes
Wear the right hiking clothing. For instance, wear waterproof socks, put on comfortable walking shoes; wear sports or outdoor pants instead of denim jeans (sweaty legs are not cool in summer); avoid wearing a dress (you don’t want to get bitten by insects along the way or get scratched by shrubs), and so on. In general, quick-dry clothes are recommended because they can easily wick away moisture (sweat).
Consider the season too. If it’s the peak of summer, a light t-shirt will do, but consider bringing a light, easy-to-fold jacket during the rainy season.
Also, blisters are the hikers’ bane. So when you’re ready to increase your hiking distance or engage in slightly more adventurous terrain, visit an outdoor shop for advice on what hiking socks, shoes, and clothes are suitable for you in which weather conditions.
4. Bring a (fully-charged) phone
It’s essential to have the means to get help. You can use your phone as a compass or map if you get lost. And if you get really lost that you can’t find your way or have an accident, you can use your phone to call for help. And yes, just using them for awesome selfies is great too!
You might want to install trail maps on your phone for extra confidence and security, such as Gaia GPS, Komoot, AllTrails, or others.
Here’s a handy tip: before starting your hike, put your phone in “flight mode.” When a phone is out of the range of a cell tower, it uses a lot of battery to find a signal. Putting your phone in flight mode (with GPS or location services on) will save your battery. (If you’re using a hiking app, download the map for offline use!)
5. Bring a first-aid kit
Always bring a basic first-aid kit and know how to use it. Take the time to customize your first aid kit too. For example, you might be prone to blisters, so pack more of such tapes. Your route might be known for ticks, so pack a tick remover.
6. Pack light
Many hiking beginners tend to overpack and bring too much clutter. This can make your first hiking trip unpleasant because you’ll be weighing yourself down.
Our advice is to, first and foremost, use a lightweight backpack. (Read our tips regarding the best daypacks for hiking and traveling.) Next, take only what you need!
7. Check the weather
A good-weather day is the best way to ensure a first hiking experience. Trust me; it’s NOT fun to hike in the rain or cold if you’re dressed in a light t-shirt and shorts! Also, poor weather conditions can lead to problems or accidents, so it’s best to check the weather and plan accordingly.
Advanced hikers: Check the weather not just once but for the duration of your hike. For example, if you’re hiking up a mountain, check weather conditions as you go up.
8. Check, double-check, and understand your route
Orient yourself before you start a hike. Although most trails are appropriately marked, you can still get lost, so ensure that you have an idea of where you should be at a certain point or know how to backtrack your steps if you feel you’re off the trail.
9. Select a popular route
Choose a hiking trail moderately or frequently used by other hikers. This way, there’s always someone to ask for directions or any type of assistance.
10. Always inform someone where you’re going
It’s basic safety protocol to let someone know where you’re going and for approximately how long you’ll be gone. It’s a small and simple gesture that could save your life.
11. Find a hiking partner (or not)
Hiking with a friend has more benefits than just keeping each other safe. Buddies act as unofficial photographers, help pass the time, help carry stuff (only one of you needs to carry that tube of sunblock), and they can assist with navigation. Plus, hiking buddies make the activity fun!
Still, having said that, hiking can also be your best “ME” time. In fact, many find hiking relatively peaceful because it’s an opportunity to be away from everyone and everything and be alone with one’s own thoughts.
12. Don’t be afraid to “level up”
Yes, start easy if you’re a hiking beginner. But don’t be afraid to “level up” and start challenging yourself.
Hiking outdoors on different terrains presents many opportunities for personal growth. It teaches patience; it challenges your problem-solving abilities; it teaches humility while at the same time enabling you to admire your inner strength; it instills the value of solitude (when hiking alone) and teamwork (when hiking with others); it teaches the art of “letting go” because you cannot always predict what you will encounter on your route. Oh yes, many personal revelations and life lessons can be found on that hiking trail.
Hiking is genuinely an awesome activity to do. It’s advantageous in so many ways and so easy to start! Please give it a try and let us know how it goes.