According to the American Hiking Society, hiking is absolutely trending. This is nothing to be astonished about, as hiking has benefits for your fitness level, improves mental wellbeing, and can assist in social life. Statistics show, that in 2019 49.7 million Americans participated in at least one hike. The peak of this trend is expected to reach its peak in 2060! The goal of this article is to help you plan your next hike to make it an unforgettable experience and avoid disappointments. That’s why it is necessary to have an in-depth knowledge of hiking planning and preparation along with pro tips to make this trip memorable and enjoyable, even if you are a beginner and going for a hike for the first time. This article shares all the essential tips that you need to know to begin your first hike.
21 Hiking Tips For Beginners
Plan a Beginners-Friendly Type of Hike
As a beginner, choose beginner-friendly hikes and that suit well according to your physical ability first. Once you build your stamina on simple and easy hikes, you can go for multi-day hiking, trekking, backpacking, summiting, mountaineering, etc. Below is a list of types of hikes to choose from as a beginner hiker;
I. Day Hikes
Day hikes are best suited for beginners as they start and finish in one day. Usually, in day hikes, hike trails are easy and do not require rigorous struggles.
Walks are short and easy hikes. If you are a beginner, you can go for walks outdoor to build your capacity and stamina.
Loops are hikes that start and end at the same place. Experienced hikers do loop hikes, but beginners can also try loops with many simple trails.
Find a Perfect Hiking Trail with Minimum Difficulty
After choosing a beginner-friendly type of hike, pick a perfect hike trail for you with minimum difficulty. This choice depends on several factors like how much time you have for the hike, hiking distance, difficulty level of hike, hike location, elevation gain, fitness level, logistics, weather, time of year, etc.
Now, as you know what factors to consider when choosing a hiking trail, it is time to research to look for a perfect trail. Remember always choose a trail according to your current fitness level and skills and not according to where you think you should be. You can find a perfect one by following guidebooks and websites. There are other ways, like word of mouth from your social circle, online communities like Facebook groups, hiking, and outdoor blogs. Hiking documentaries and talking to locals is a great way to know trail conditions, difficulty level, etc.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, pick a beginner-friendly hike so that you can easily complete it.
Get familiar with Navigation
Old school navigation skills are among one of the most critical skills to have during the hike. There are several reasons why you should be proficient in navigation using a map and compass during trekking and hiking. Some of them are the mobile device’s battery life can be concise in cold conditions, GPS might not be as sharp as you think, you can conserve your mobile devices’ battery for emergencies, etc. Having good navigation skills during hiking and trekking can prove lifesaving and can save you from getting lost as well.
Food and Water Supply
Hikes can drain your energy very quickly. That’s why you must have enough food and water supply to recharge yourself. Carry food that is lightweight and easily stored, and contains a good amount of calories and carbohydrates. Usually, 200-300 calories are needed per hour. On the other hand, carrying too much water can weigh you down, and too little could be dangerous because you can get dehydrated during the hike. Normally 1 liter of water is needed every 2 hours. Still, it can vary depending on other factors like your age, sweat rate, the intensity of the hiking trail, weather, etc. so, make sure that you carry enough water, and you find refill spots on the way so that you can treat and filter to make it drinkable.
Overcome Hiking Fear
Do you know why do the majority of people don’t start a hike in the first place? Because they have some sort of fear regarding hiking in their minds like fear of wildlife, fear of getting lost, fear of being physically unfit, etc. These are some of the baseless fears that stop you from getting into hikes. However, positive thinking and a positive attitude can solve the issue along with other tips. To overcome this fear, hike with a friend, group, or experienced professional or pick moderately trafficked trails.
Have Hiking Essentials
Here is a list of hiking essentials you must carry with yourself, whether you are a beginner hiker or an experienced one;
- A good hiking backpack to hold all of your hiking essentials that we will talk about next.
- Right hiking layers (base layers, mid-layers, and outer layers) and right footwear for comfort and safety.
- To get sun protection, always bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.
- Map and other navigation tools like GPS, compass, etc.
- Enough water to protect you from dehydration and sickness.
- Enough energizing food and snacks to keep your energy full.
- Lightweight emergency first aid kit for emergencies like blisters, minor cuts, etc.
- A fully charged flashlight or headlamp, it could get dark during the hike.
- A pair of good, lightweight trekking poles to help you in challenging situations.
Find Your Tail Buddy
If you are going on a trail for the first time, find your trail buddies and hike with them. This ensures the safety and frees you from the fear of getting lost. With a hiking buddy, you can even split planning and preparation responsibilities. You can find one by joining online communities, or you can join local hike groups to find your trail buddies.
But if you plan to go solo, always tell someone where are you going and when will you return? You can also leave a note as well to your local hiking agency to ensure your safety.
Check Weather Forecast
Checking a weather forecast before going on a hike should be your top priority because you can better prepare yourself according to the forecast. Don’t rely on national forecasts. Always get local weather forecasts as they are more accurate than national forecasts. If your hiking trail is popular, you can find a forecast for the trail particularly. These specific forecasts let you know your trail more accurately.
Choose Your Perfect Hiking Backpack
A comfortable hiking backpack is one of the most valuable assets on your hiking tours. Facts like rain resistance, carrying comfort, and organizational features are just some of the most important aspects. For a full guide please read my article about the best hiking backpacks of 2021.
Wear Hiking-Friendly Clothing
Which clothes to choose for hiking depends on several factors like where you are going and what time of year it is, temperature and weather forecast, etc. Normally water-resistant jackets, pants, trousers with UPF 50 sun protection are recommended. They protect from UV sun rays and provide water resistance and insulation against wind and cold weather. These pants must be stretchy to allow easy movement along with proper ventilation.
A wicking base layer that wicks moisture is recommended that absorbs sweat and provides insulation against wind and cold weather. A hat is another recommended item, along with clothing.
Choose Comfortable Hiking Shoes
Good hiking shoes are another must-have gear, along with other hiking equipment. Choose your hiking shoes according to the weather conditions. They must also be comfortable to wear to save you from blisters. Choose hiking shoes that have a strong grip so that you can have your ankles safe and sound during the hike, along with water resistance features.
Arrange Trekking Poles
Lightweight and adjustable trekking poles are a must-have option as they have a lot of advantages during hiking. For example, they take a lot of stress off your joints by absorbing some of the shocks during hiking, give your arms something to engage with, maintain your balance by acting as another set of limbs, help you maintain a good and sustainable pace, can help in testing ice strength and water depth during the hike, etc.
Pre Hiking Exercises
Before going on any hike, make sure you are physically fit to avoid any mishaps. To be physically fit, do some starches and exercises, whether be at home or the gym. First, be active in your daily life to build stamina for trails. Secondly, work on your lung capacity to don’t go out of breath during your hikes. So, do exercises and workouts that build you for trails.
Leave at Right Time
If you are well prepared for your hike, then leave as early as possible. Leaving early saves you some time as well as you encounter fewer people and more nature. But if you are afraid of leaving alone, then either leave with your hiking buddies or leave at a popular time where you can get along with other hikers.
Hiking is Not a Race
You must have heard about the story of the hare and the tortoise. The same case is with hiking and trekking. If you maintain a steady pace and keep on going, you can win and complete your hike. Unfortunately, beginner hikers are often seen to make this mistake that they go with the fast pace from the beginning of the hike and soon realize that they are out of breath. So, keep in mind that hiking is not a race but a game of steady pace.
Watch Your Steps
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced hiker, it is always advised to watch your steps while on a hiking trail. With wrong steps, you can either twist your ankle or slip on a rock. In addition, you may step on poisonous wildlife that can hurt you in turn. So, always be careful on the trail.
During hikes, try as much as possible to minimize wildlife encounters. You can do certain things to minimize the encounter like avoid hiking at dawn or dusk, study about the wildlife of areas you are going to hike, if you camp make sure your camp is extra clean and does not invite wildlife, make noises to warn wildlife, stick to popular trails, watch wildlife’s tracks and droppings, etc.
But upon unexpected wildlife encounters, don’t try to feed and pet them, don’t get too close or provoke them, back off slowly, remain calm, always walk and don’t run, etc. These are some of the safety tips regarding wildlife encounters during hikes.
Trail Ethics and Etiquettes
There are certain basic trail ethics and etiquettes to follow to make your and others’ hiking experience memorable and enjoyable.
- Use headphones if you love music because not all people come to enjoy music; some come to enjoy peace and serenity.
- Maintain mutual respect with other hikers.
- Pee and poop in the right place at the right time.
- Give people way with a smiling face as your pace could not match with the other hikers.
- Stay on the hiking trails, and don’t go for shortcuts as you can jeopardize your and others’ safety.
- Whatever trash you bring in with you, bring it out with you. Don’t litter.
- In the forest and mountains, animals do not leave trash, but humans do. So behave like animals.
Follow Leave No Trace Principles
To enjoy our hiking and to make others’ enjoyable and easy, we all must follow the Principles of Leave No Trace. According to these principles;
- To prevent damage to natural resources and wildlife and to make your hike memorable, enjoyable, and safe, always plan your hike and be prepared for it.
- To protect natural resources from trampling, hike only on marked trails and don’t try to create new ones.
- To preserve nature, dump your waste properly and away from any water resource. Use wash water away from water resources with a small amount of eco-friendly soap.
- Leave natural objects as they are. Don’t pick flowers, collect shells, cut branches, etc.
- Minimize the campfire impacts by keeping your fire small, fire from already dead trees, and fire in already existing fire rings, etc.
- Respect wildlife by not disturbing them and maintaining a safe distance from them.
- Know hiking etiquette to be considerate of other hikers.
Post Hiking Necessities
When you are done with your hike, certain things are to do to ensure a positive post-hike experience. First, keep stretching your body as it could get stiff due to a strenuous hike. Keep your body hydrated and clean your hiking gear.
Share Your Experience
When you get back from the hike, meet your friends and family members and share your experience with them and let them know that you are back. You can also let your social circle know by posting your hike photos on social media.