Hiking is one of my favorite things to do! It’s one of the best ways to immerse yourself in nature and clear your mind. In this beginner’s guide to hiking, you will find everything you need to know about preparing and planning your hike.
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Planning your Hike
Choose a Trail
Choosing a hiking trail can sometimes be overwhelming since there are so many to choose from. There are plenty of ways for you to find trails. You can do a simple google search for trails near you or where you plan on hiking. Another way I find trails is by using the AllTrails app.
The AllTrails app shows trails near you or any location you search. It rates trails from easy to hard, has photos from people who have hiked the trail, and has details about the trail, such as if the trail is dog friendly, highly trafficked, or closed during a certain time of the year.
Another way to look for trails is to join some groups on Facebook. There are tons of helpful hiking groups you can join. It’s a great way to get up to date information from people who have recently done certain trails.
When you are choosing a trail make sure to take into account a few things. Length, difficulty, estimated time, terrain, and time of year. If you are hiking for the first time or not in the best shape you don’t want to pick a 5 hour hike that is super rocky and strenuous. Harder trails could end up taking you twice as long since you are just beginning.
Be sure to check the weather and websites for the trail before you go. During the winter season, some of the trails close for inclement weather. Be sure to remember some trails flood easily.
What to Wear
Hiking boots are the most important thing to wear. You have to protect your feet. There are tons of hiking boots to choose from in all price ranges.
The hiking boots I use are Salomon brand. They are quite pricey but I do a lot of hiking so they were worth it to me. Irish Setter boots are a good choice as well.
Note: Make sure you break in your hiking boots before you hike. Wear them around your house or your neighborhood. Nothing is worse than getting tons of blister on your 8-mile hike because you didn’t break in your boots.
The clothing you choose will be dependent upon the weather. I normally don’t hike in the summer because it is way too hot. No matter what the season I always wear my wool hiking socks. Try wearing quick-drying fabrics over cotton. Cotton takes a long time to dry.
When hiking in the fall/winter make sure you have on base layers like thermals or my favorite the fleece-lined undershirts/leggings. For your top layer, I recommend windbreaker material pants and a long sleeve shirt or jacket if needed.
Be sure to bring gloves and a hat if it’s really cold. You may also consider a rain jacket or waterproof jacket if you are expecting a storm.
No matter the length of the hike you have to carry the essentials, along with a few extra items. So you will need a backpack to put everything in.
For shorter day hikes, you can use a smaller daypack. I use an Ozark trail bag that has a 2L water bladder so I don’t have to carry around multiple water bottles.
Longer hikes or trips where you plan on camping overnight, you would need something much bigger to carry all of your gear.
What to Pack
So you chose your hiking backpack, now what do you put in it?
The 10 Essentials
The 10 essentials used to be a list of ten items you needed to stay safe and be prepared for emergencies in the outdoors. Over the years the list has evolved into 10 different systems instead of 10 individual items.
1. Navigation: Maps, screenshot directions, compass, or GPS device.
2. Sun Protection: Sunglasses, sunscreen, or hat.
3. Illumination: Headlamp or flashlight.
4. First Aid: A kit plus, insect repellant, Benadryl, pain medicine and foot care.
5. Insulation: Extra pairs of clothing.
6. Fire: Matches, lighter, tinder, or portable stove.
7. Shelter: Tent, or any kind of emergency shelter.
8. Repair Kit: including a knife.
9. Hydration: Make sure you have extra.
10. Nutrition: Make sure you have extra. We normally bring jerky, trail mix, nuts, granola bars, and sandwiches if we are going for a day hike.
This may seem like overkill but it’s better to be safe than sorry. I keep most of these items stored in my hiking bag so I can just grab it, add the food and water and be on my way.
Note: We almost always hike with our dogs. Here is a list of extra items you need to make sure you have if your hiking buddy is coming along.
A few other things you may want to pack:
Portable phone battery
Hiking Tips for Beginners
1. Start small
If this is your first time hiking opt for a short 1 hour hike instead.
2. Familiarize yourself with the trail
Use the AllTrails app and google and look at the reviews and terrain from previous hikers.
3. Check the Weather
4. Tell someone where you will be
Even if you aren’t hiking alone, let someone know where you are hiking.
5. Pack the 10 Essentials
6. Wear the Right Shoes
7. Dress for success
8. Keep it light
Be prepared but try not to overpack and hurt your back from carrying so much
9. Pace Yourself
10. Leave no Trace
DO NOT leave your trash or any other trace behind. Leave the trail exactly how you found it. Or better yet, if you see trash, pick it up as you go.
I hope this beginner’s guide to hiking was helpful for you. Last but not least the most important thing to remember is to enjoy your hike!
What was your favorite hike you have done?