Hiking for Beginners: 10 Tips to Start Exploring
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Everyone has to start somewhere, right? If you’re not ready to embark on a multi-day hiking journey, hiking day trips are the perfect place to start. Beginner hiking can be exploring your community’s local trails or venturing for the day in a state or national park, there really are a lot of options to get started.
If this is your first time hiking it might seem daunting to see those big hiking trips. Everyone seems to know what they’re doing and have all the right gear!
These tips for hiking beginners are perfect for those first few day trips to adventure.
Our Best Tips for Beginner Hikers
1. Pick the Right Shoes
We’ve all made the mistake of wearing the wrong shoes at least one time in our lives. A hiking trip for beginners is usually just a lot of outside walking, so your best bet is to wear good quality walking shoes, like your gym shoes. Of course, you should also be aware of what kind of terrain you’ll be hiking in.
Will you need hiking boots to deal with rough terrain? Will your toes be cold if you’re going on a winter hike? Choose something for the trail and weather. But most of all, never go hiking in brand new shoes. Break them in before you go!
2. Choose the Right Route (and know it well)
You don’t want to be on the news, or at least not because you’re lost in the wilderness. Make sure that you know the route of your hiking trip. Beginners might prefer to stick to pre-planned trails, like those in state and national parks. Often they have clear signs and directions so you can’t get lost.
It’s also a good idea to consider your physical fitness level when choosing your hiking route. If you’re not very active, shorter walking trails are a great place to start. Those who regularly exercise or rock climb, on the other hand, might be up for more of a challenge.
3. Pack Wisely
If you’re just going on a day trip, don’t pack like you’ll be lost in the woods. Yes, it’s important to be prepared, but the amount of preparation you take should be reflected in your hiking location. If it’s a populated area close to civilization, for example, you won’t need to carry as much.
The more weight you carry, the harder it will make your hike. If you’ll be out all day, make sure you pack enough water and food to last everyone in your group. Regardless, make sure you pick up a comfortable, lightweight backpack to carry all your gear.
For a longer day trip, especially if it’s “off the beaten path”, be sure you have all the essentials:
- Sun protection
- Extra clothing
- Plenty of water
- First-aid supplies
- Emergency items (like a flare and garbage bag)
- Something to light a fire
- Travel-sized versions of things like sunscreen are a good way to pack light
4. Be Wildlife Smart
This might be the Canadian in me talking, but having lived in places where there are wild brown bears, I know how important it is to be well aware of the animals you might face on your hiking trip. Brush up on your survival skills and make sure to pick up bear spray, bug repellant, and any other animal safety products suitable for your hiking destination. Watch some BearAware YouTube videos, for example, to learn the basics of staying safe.
It should go without saying, but don’t hunt or feed the wildlife while you’re hiking. Not only is it dangerous for you, but it’s also harmful to animals. And, as hard as it might be, resist the urge to pet animals (even the cute babies). Too much human interaction makes them unafraid of people, which often leads to them needing to be put down for safety reasons.
5. Dress for the Weather
From your head, right down to your toes (literally, the right socks are also vital) it’s super important to dress properly for the weather. Check the forecast before your trip and get a general idea online of what the weather will be like. Wear a hat (either for the sun or cold) and dress in layers so you can take pieces off as you warm up.
It’s also a good idea to pack a rain poncho even if you’re not expecting rain. An unexpected downpour can leave you soaking wet and freezing, which isn’t very fun. Finally, one of the most important things to remember is sunscreen! Even if it seems like you’re not getting much sun exposure, you should always protect your skin when spending long periods outdoors.
6. Tell Someone Where You’ll Be
Remember what I said about being on the news? Making sure someone knows where you’ll be, and when you’ll be back, is a great way to make sure, if there is a broadcast, it at least has a happy ending. Give someone your full itinerary, including the precise route you plan to be hiking. Then set up a time that you’ll check-in, either at the end or throughout your trip. Your parents are a great candidate for this job.
Don’t forget to text when you are safely home!
7. Leave No Trace
This is something you see posted all-around parks and nature preserves. When you’re out in the wilderness for any amount of time, make sure no one can tell you’ve been there. That means taking your trash with you, not destroying anything, and being respectful of wildlife. It’s up to all of us to preserve our natural spaces.
8. Watch Your Pace
When you’re on your first hiking trip it can be pretty exciting. Don’t let that enthusiasm turn into moving a little too fast! To avoid burnout, keep a steady pace that doesn’t feel too tiring, and take regular breaks.
It’s also super important to stay hydrated and drink water before you start to feel too thirsty. Don’t drink it all at once, but don’t forget to sip during your breaks. Some trails even have benches and designated rest or picnic spots.
9. Time Your Hike Right
Some popular hiking trails can get pretty crowded, especially during holidays and tourist times of the year. Do your research before making plans to see if it’s the right time to go. If you plan to go during the busy season, try and get there earlier in the day to beat the crowds.
The time of day you choose will also affect your comfort level. The way you need to dress for a 2-hour hike in the desert at 5 am is going to look a lot different than one at noon.
10. Do a Little Prep Work
So you’ve chosen the perfect hiking spot, packed your gear, and are all prepared, right?
A little bit of research can go a long way when it comes to hiking trails. Make sure that you don’t need any special passes or permits to enter the park, and if you do, find out how to get them. You should also check that the hiking trail you want to do is actually open; sometimes they do close for repair.
Don’t be afraid to get out there and try a short trail, even if you’re a total hiking beginner! It won’t be long before you’re a pro and giving tips for hiking beginners to everyone you know.
Now, where are you going on your first hiking trip?
- Hiking Gear Essentials To Pack For Your Next Trip
- Hiking in Missouri: 5 Supreme Spots for The Perfect Missouri Day Hike
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Anne loves finding the perfect gift idea that’s on budget. She has been writing about gift-giving and personal finance online since 2012, as the owner of UniqueGifter.com. Her favorite beverage is champagne and she loves figure skating, even if it’s harder now that she’s not 20!