Hiking will be a wonderful activity to undertake but for so many beginners, they don’t know where to start. Everyone talks about how hikers must be prepared for the elements but what does that actually mean? Beginners often get confused about hiking because they hear so much information from different sources. However, here is a brief hiking guide for beginners.
Start By Getting Knowledge
Educational centers throughout the year run short first-aid courses and classes. These classes can teach you how to deal with a variety of injuries from sprains and cuts to broken bones and fractures. This should be your starting point because hikers receive mostly minor injuries throughout their trails and you need to be prepared for dealing with these injuries. By reading up on potential injuries, you can learn how to deal with them effectively even when you are hiking alone.
Join a Hiking or Outdoor Club
If you live in busy city areas, it can be difficult to find fellow hikers but a good way to help get you a taste of what hiking is all about, is to join a club. Hiking or outdoor clubs help those interested in hiking by showing some hiking trails to test out and allow you to brush up on hiking techniques. Some clubs run hiking adventure weeks which may help get you started and you will meet fellow hikers also starting out.
Get a Health Check-Up
Before you start hiking, you should go to your doctor and get a full and frank medical check-up completed. This will allow unknown medical conditions to be discovered because when something goes wrong outdoors, you can’t call for help, you’re alone. It’s important to have a full check-up so that any condition can be diagnosed and you can get whatever medicines you may need while hiking.
Train for Hiking
Simply put – if you don’t train you won’t get far. You may be physically fit but without proper training you are likely to make it half an hour before tiring yourself out. In the months leading up to the hike, take up jogging or some other form of sports and train hard. Also, when you are on the hike, you must remember to stretch before walking and again while you take a break and after you have finished. This will help keep the muscles in good shape and alert for any activity.
Plan Your Journey Carefully and Leave Note With Family Members
No matter in which region you decide to head out to, you must carefully prepare and plan for the journey. This is important and when you have made all necessary plans, you need to tell people where you’re going. Leaving word with a family member can ensure you are going to make it home in one piece. If something should go wrong and you fail to check-in with them, they can alert search and rescue who can find you.
Use Common Sense
Sometimes, you need to be sensible and use common sense in certain situations. For example if you see the weather conditions changing and it looks unsafe to continue don’t continue. Common sense is telling you to go back and take shelter. Your instincts and common senses are going to help you more than you know because when the weather turns bad or things become too dangerous, they will tell you to turn around and go home.
Understand When Your Body Has Had Enough and Turn Back
Usually the body knows when it has had enough and can sense danger approaching. Whenever your body starts to tell you something is seriously wrong, whether it’s a gut feeling or some nagging voice at the back of your head, listen to it! Even if it means you don’t complete the trail, it doesn’t matter; you will have another chance later. Don’t put yourself into any further danger.
What Equipment Will You Need?
The type of equipment needed for a hiking trip will vary significantly. For example, if you plan a day excursion, you will need the basics – food and water, a first-aid kit, map and compass and ropes should you be climbing. However, for longer journeys the amount of equipment will increase, so make sure to upgrade from a one day pack to a multi-day pack.
For overnight and week-long hiking trips, you are going to require cooking equipment, tents, warm clothing, food, water, first-aid, hiking boots for all terrain, maps, and any climbing gear you may require. The exact equipment will vary from trip to trip. It’s important to note that while you don’t want to overload your backpack on short journeys you don’t want to under pack on longer journeys. Pack only what you need.
Get To Know the Areas You Will Be Heading To
When you are heading out on your first hiking trip or any trip in fact, you need to do some homework on the area. You will of course be taking maps of the local area but you want to know more about the region itself. Is it prone to flash floods or are there local dangers to avoid? Knowing your homework will keep you safe.
What to Do While hiking
First of all, you want to find a walking pace you are comfortable with. You don’t want to rush because you’ll tire yourself out within a matter of minutes. Instead, start off with a slow walking pace and see how comfortable you are with that and then if you feel able, increase the pace slightly. As long as you find a suitable pace that doesn’t tire you out quickly, you should find the hike not too tiring.
Also, you need to have a good posture while walking to prevent any back pain forming. Back pain will end your trip in a heartbeat because a heavy load becomes a lot heavier. You may find hiking with a partner to be best should you run into difficulties. This is really your own choice here, a lot of people will hike in pairs or groups but if you are really against it, that is your choice but be very careful.
While you continue on your hiking trip, you must be aware of where you’re stepping. You always want to ensure you have a solid foothold before taking a step. One wrong move could end everything so be extremely cautious and if hiking with a partner, look out for them too. Remember to rest occasionally or when needed and drink lots of water. Staying hydrated is crucial and of course, when you have any injuries see to them quickly.
Hiking throughout Year
Anyone can take to hiking trails whenever they like really as most trails are available throughout the seasons. However, the risk factors for each trail increases slightly for certain periods of the year. You have to take into account weather conditions and how safe it will be to use certain trails in the year. Some trails will be closed during certain months and some trails will be a lot riskier to use so be extremely cautious and wary of when you choose to set off on a hiking trip.
- Hiking footwear is crucial. What should you do when selecting your hiking footwear?
- Here are the main factors when selecting your hiking clothing!
- Which backpack should you get for your hike?
- What gear will you need for hiking?
Hiking footwear is crucial. What should you do when selecting your hiking footwear?
It makes perfect sense that your hiking footwear has to be lightweight, comfortable, and read to take a beating. It’s challenging to find the ideal footwear, especially if you go hiking both in the warm and cold seasons. Additionally, you need to buy the footwear according to your foot type, body weight, type of hike, environment, and even your injury history.
Let’s look at the most common type of footwear for hiking to help you decide which one to buy.
Full-grain leather boots
Full-grain leather boots with a high-cut design might be overkill for your entry-level hikes. Unless you go hiking into snowy and cold environments, you don’t necessarily need full-grain leather boots in the beginning. A mid-cut synthetic/leather model will work just fine.
These boots are waterproof, durable, and keep your feet warm in the winter. Boots made with high-quality leather are a wise investment in the long run, especially if you care for the leather upper accordingly. You will need the replace the sole from time to time, which helps the boots last for hundreds of hikes.
It depends greatly on the leather quality, but most boots will need break-in. Good models will be pricier than synthetic counterparts and the breathability is relatively poor with full-leather boots. Also, these boots sit on the heavyweight side and don’t make for the best choice in summer hikes.
Synthetic/leather boots are some of the most popular models amongst hikers. The upperparts (typically made of suede or nubuck) can be waterproof or water-resistant. The midsoles are made with shock-absorbing EVA or polyurethane, whereas the durable outsoles are made of rubber. Look for boots with aggressive directional lugs to have excellent grip on rugged and wet trails.
Boots made with leather and synthetic don’t need as much time as leather boots need to break in. They also tend to be more breathable and lighter than the leather models. They dry quicker and take many hikes as well. Last but not least, they are more affordable than full-leather boots and an excellent choice for beginners.
Unlike the full-leather boots, you cannot re-sole the synthetic/suede boots. The waterproof membrane wears out in time.
Mid-cut or high cut?
Mid-height boots are reliable for new hikers because they’re lighter than the high-cut boots and ensure excellent ankle flexibility.
Hiking shoes combine synthetic/leather boots and trail running shoes. They rock a low-cut profile and are made with durable materials.
Hiking shoes are lighter than boots, dry quicker, and need less time to break-in. The low-cut design offers excellent flexibility for the ankle without compromising the stability or support. Hiking shoes present a tougher build than trail runners, as the midsole and outsole are more rigid. They also feature protective toe caps and an upper part protecting abrasive terrain.
As for durability, hiking shoes will take you on many hikes, as long as you spend the extra buck for a good pair right from the start.
Hiking shoes are heavier than trail runners and need more time to dry. Since the outsole is rigid, hiking shoes offer a less tactile response when compared to trail runners.
Should you get waterproof hiking shoes?
Like synthetic/leather boots, most hiking shoes present a waterproof membrane, just like synthetic/leather boots. Since you will use hiking shoes in the warmer months, we recommend you get shoes that dry quickly and are breathable. The boots won’t have any of these qualities with a waterproof liner.
Many experienced hikers use trail runners for three-season hiking. Unless you go trekking on rugged trails or hike in the winter, you will do just fine with good-quality trail runners. They’re an excellent combination of support, comfort, grip, stability, breathability, and weight.
Trail runners are lightweight, quick-drying, breathable, and don’t require break-in.
Most models will feel less grippy and less stable than hiking shoes and boots. They will last less than boots and shoes.
Are there any differences between trail runners and regular running shoes?
Trail runners have stiff and supportive midsoles, grippy outsoles, and uppers with efficient protection against the elements. The key areas such as the lower side, the toe box, and heel are more protective in trail runners than in regular running shoes.
You will find the road running shoes more comfortable, lighter, and more breathable than running shoes. If you plan to hike on well-maintained and smooth trails, you can rely on running shoes. However, the running shoes won’t be of much help for off-trail and rugged tracks.
High-end sports sandals have proper padding, lugged outsole, and excellent arch support. You can consider sports sandals for hiking if you have strong ankles, a light pack, and hike on a well-maintained trail.
No other type of footwear will equalize the sports sandals for ventilation. The risk of blisters with sports sandals is close to none. Since they’re not made with a lot of material, sports sandals will be the quickest to dry. Sports sandals are lightweight, but you will find hiking shoes and trail runners as lightweight as sports sandals. As for traction, sports sandals can be as reliable as hiking shoes and trail runners.
Sports sandals cannot protect your feet, toes especially when hiking on rugged and rocky trails. Loose rocks, thorns, slippery roots, poison oak/ivy—they pose serious concerns when you hike in sports sandals. Don’t forget about sunburn in exposed and hot environments. As for wintertime, we don’t even need to mention that they’re a poor choice.
Here are the main factors when selecting your hiking clothing!
Aesthetics should be the last aspect to check out on your hiking clothing. We’re not saying that you should ignore the looks, but we remind you that other elements are crucial when choosing it.
The environment and weather conditions you’re hiking in will impact the importance of clothing safety. Should hike in an area with risk of Lyme disease outbreak, you should put on long pants and long sleeves with insect repellent treatment. If there’s rain in the forecast, make sure to pack a waterproof jacket—pick one with wind protection as well.
With hiking and any other outdoor activity for that matter, cotton is the last choice for clothing. When you hike, you will eventually sweat and you need clothing that wicks moisture away from your body. Cotton is the worst in this area because it collects water, doesn’t dry quickly, and keeps the sweat close to your body.
You should, instead, buy clothing made of wicking materials that take sweat away from the body. Merino wool, nylon, and polyester represent the most appropriate hiking and outdoor activities materials.
Needless to say, how your clothing fits your body is also essential. Your hiking clothing should allow free movement without being too loose. You don’t want your clothes to keep on snagging in thorns and impede your moves.
Expect to pay an arm and a leg for high-quality hiking gear. However, you won’t be buying a new one any time soon and it’s versatile too. Pay the extra buck for lightweight hiking shirts with long sleeves that you can roll up and secure and pants that you can zip off into shorts.
You should always spend time selecting hiking underwear because it can make a difference when hiking. Stay away from cotton and opt for merino wool, nylon, or polyester underwear. They will take moisture away from your body, reduce the risk of chafing and improve your comfort.
No matter if it’s a short-sleeved shirt in the spring, a long-sleeved UPF protecting shirt on a hot summer day, or a base layer in the winter, the second layer should wick away moisture so that you remain dry and comfortable. Again, look for shirts made of synthetic materials and merino wool.
You want your pants/trousers/shorts to allow free movement and be made of quick-drying materials. Be aware of environmental hazards (poison ivy, ticks, sharp rocks) when selecting the thickness and length of your bottoms. If your hike involves rock scrambling, your thin yoga pants won’t make for a good choice. At the same time, you should always wear long pants when hiking through tall grass to protect your legs against insect bites and scratches.
The season and whether you’re hiking matter the most when selecting the type of jacket. Pick a jacket that folds and packs small and is waterproof and windproof. It’s the best jacket to have in case the weather gets ugly.
Like cotton clothing, cotton socks aren’t the best choice for hiking. Since cotton will absorb sweat, your feet will be dry while hiking in cotton socks. Sweat increases the risk of blisters and can destroy a perfect hike.
It doesn’t have to be sunny to put on a hat when hiking. A cap will keep your neck and face protected against the hot sun in the summer and your head warm in the winter.
Pick the clothing by the season
Where you live and what part of the hiking season are factors to consider when selecting your hiking clothing.
Spring and fall
The layering needs for spring and fall are similar. Put on a short/long-sleeved wicking shirt as a base layer and a long-sleeved hiking shirt as a mid-layer. Also, put on a zip-up fleece jacket when the temperatures go low. You might discover that convertible pants are more practical than long pants because you can zip them off in the afternoon when it gets hot. Don’t forget to pack a hat to protect your head against the sun.
Outdoor professionals recommend hiking boots instead of sandals or sneakers in terms of footwear because temperatures range significantly. The trails are primarily muddy from rain and snowmelt. You want boots that ensure efficient support and traction and keep your feet dry as they’re waterproof. Make sure you pack a windproof and waterproof jacket to stay comfortable and dry in the unpredictable spring and fall hikes.
If you’re new to hiking, you might want to wait for hiking in the winter. The challenges are many and you need to control many aspects to have a safe hike during cold months. With winter hiking, layering is the key to a comfortable and warm experience. Get a base layer with insulating abilities—wool is the best, but it’s the priciest. You can find clothes made of synthetic materials almost as warm as wool and don’t empty your pockets. Add an insulating and easy-to-remove middle layer and a waterproof/windproof outer layer.
Needless to say, you have to wear warm wicking socks and warm waterproof hiking boots. Warm gloves wool/synthetic beanie hat are also on your clothing list for the winter hikes.
Summer hiking is unique as it offers fantastic flexibility, especially when it comes to clothing. You won’t need to add/remove layers constantly and you can easily combine your hike and swim clothing. Having said that, you should consider the environmental hazards (snakes, poisonous plants, ticks, insects, etc.) and your trails when selecting your clothes.
Opt for sneakers and even hiking sandals as they’re reliable for most trails. If you go trekking, you might have to wear hiking boots. Your shirts, bottoms, and socks should be made of breathable wicking materials that take moisture away from your skin. Pay attention to the color of your clothes—light colors absorb less heat and will keep you cool on a hot summer hike. Never leave without a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and neck when hiking in the summer, either.
Which backpack should you get for your hike?
The first thing to check out when selecting your backpack is the size. You don’t need to be the most experienced hiker to know that the shorter the hike, the smaller the bag should be. A 20-liters pack will be excellent for a day hike, whereas a 40-liters and up should be suitable for any hikes more extended than a day.
Apart from size, the features of the backpack count for its value and functionality for your outdoor experience. For instance, a built-in rain cover is ideal when hiking in a wet environment. A hydration-compatible pack will help you hydrate on the move when hiking in a dry climate. All in all, you should always check out the features on your bag.
There are three main types of packs and each has ups and downs.
If you want a feather-light pack, the frameless type is ideal. The frameless pack is the perfect choice for short hikes when you don’t need to carry food or a lot of water.
The external framed pack is made for challenging hiking experiences over several days. As an entry-level hiker, you might not need an external frame backpack any time soon. The outer frame pack ensures excellent ventilation because it keeps the load away from the back and you should only get it if you plan a multi-day hike.
Internal frame backpacks represent the most popular models amongst hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. They’re made to follow the shape of your body and spread the weight of the load. An excellent internal frame backpack will take the weight away from your shoulders and transfer it to your hips.
The main downside with internal frames is the risk of getting sweat. Even if the risk of sweat is never null, many backpacks have technologies that improve ventilation. Packs from reliable manufacturers will have a built-in ventilation system in the back panel. A breathable mesh, air-channeling, and tension-mesh suspension to enhance airflow and back ventilation will reduce the sweat.
Never underestimate the importance of comfort when hiking. Even if you don’t hike for several days, you still want a comfortable backpack to carry for a long time. The proper padding in all the right places can make all the difference with a bag. Since most of the pack will sit on your hips, ensure that your backpack’s hip belt is adequately padded. Check out the back of your bag and see any rubbing spots. Get a pack with padded shoulder straps—if the load is heavy and the shoulder straps don’t have enough padding, you will end up with a sore back and shoulders at the end of the day.
You will enjoy your backpack to have enough pockets if you like efficient organization. Some hikers like the minimalist style, so avoid packs with many pockets. For multi-day hikes, you will want a backpack that can help you efficiently organize your gear. You don’t want to struggle to find your compass, run through the main compartment, and lose precious time.
Use the front pocket to store your dry jacket or a map. Some front pockets also feature smaller internal pockets to store more gear. You can find models with waterproof front pockets—they’re excellent at separating wet equipment from dry gear. Both pockets with buckles and zippers for closing are available.
The lid pockets are typically made to store flat or small items. You can use them to store gloves, for instance.
Many backpacks come with elasticized side pockets. You can use them to pack your water bottle, some hiking sandals, etc.
No matter the season you’re hiking, you need to stay hydrated. A backpack that is hydration compatible will let you stay hydrated throughout the day. With most models, the hose is attached to the water bladder that you can attach on a shoulder strap for effortless carry.
Most backpacks have a top-loading design, so you will use the large opening at the top to access the items. If you didn’t efficiently pack your items, you would be fishing for items on the bottom a lot. Top-loading packs with side zippers will ease your efforts to find things inside.
Some backpacks fold open similarly to suitcases. They ease access to items, but they’re not very practical when hiking.
Sleeping bag compartment
Sleeping bag compartments are pretty standard with hiking backpacks. Typically, they’re found at the bottom of the pack and the pocket is entirely separated from the main compartment. The sleeping bag compartment resembles a stuff sack to pack your sleeping bag efficiently.
Straps, hooks, and loops
One of the many things that ease out your hiking is carrying your gear outside the pack. A backpack with heavy-duty double straps near the bottom, sides, and the front is convenient. You can use the straps to attach tents, rolled up sleeping pads, etc. You can also use the straps to attach hiking poles and ice axes.
The load lifter straps can really make the difference because they improve comfort while hiking. You should use the load lifter straps to keep the backpack close to your back. If the straps are too loose, the pack will hang off the back, irritate your shoulders, and alter the pack’s stability. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t tie the lifter straps too tight. Tighten them at a 45-degree angle between your back and backpack.
Built-in rain cover
If you will hike in a wet environment, buy a backpack with a built-in rain cover and own a stash pocket within the pack. With a built-in rain cover, you won’t have to stress about the items inside getting wet. Some models permanently attach the rain-cover to the backpack; they stay in place so nothing will slip or slide and reveal the bag to the damp weather.
Removable day pack
Some packs come with a removable day pack. If you go on a multi-day hike and have day trips from your camp, a bag with a removable day pack is the most helpful model.
What gear will you need for hiking?
Even if you’re not going to pack all the following gear when hiking, you will still want to have it on you on a multi-day hike.
Water bladder and water bottle
When hiking, you will need to drink a lot of water and hands-free access to water eases out your hiking. You can carry a 3l water bladder in your backpack, so you don’t stop drinking. If you plan to camp, you can take a water reservoir along with water bottles, especially if the water source is far from your camping site.
You can carry a water bottle with a simple design and looped strap for effortless carry for short hikes. Look for a model with a wide mouth so that you can easily clean it. For multi-day hikes, you can use the same bottles at the campsite.
Water filtration system
When hiking, you need to be prepared and have a filtration system to drink clean water every time. Purification tablets don’t take space in your pack, are easy to use, and some don’t even alter the taste of the water. You only need to wait 90 seconds to sterilize one liter of water. Personal filtration straws are also effective methods to have clean water when hiking.
Batteries, solar panels, and power bank
Pack batteries for your flashlight, GPS navigation, other hiking gear. Since you cannot carry with you all batteries, you should also consider buying and using a solar panel. It’s just one source of power to charge your phone, Garmin watch, headtorch batteries, etc.
Many models come with two USB ports and are safe to use in direct sun. You might find it tricky to use the solar panel while hiking, so charge your tools when stopping, in the morning, at night. There are excellent solar panels that fold flat when not in use for outdoor use. Pack it at the bottom of the pack lid to prevent breaking/bending.
You should use a power bank for cloudy days when you cannot rely on your solar panel. It’s even more reliable and easier to use than the solar panel.
Flashlight and headtorch
You cannot go hiking without having a flashlight with you. Look for a waterproof model with several operating modes, bright light, and strobe mode for emergencies. A flashlight that is easy to carry and attach is an excellent option. Along with your flashlight, you should also consider packing a headtorch. It will let you freely use your hands at night. A model with rechargeable batteries is a wise buy every time.
Even if sturdy boots keep you from falling on slippery or muddy trails, you can have a safer experience by using hiking poles. You can use them when ascending/descending, especially when your backpack is heavyweight. Hiking poles will give balance and lower the risk of falling.
Look for hiking poles with cork handles as they’re excellent when your palms get sweaty, whereas carbon fiber for the body is fantastic since it’s long-lasting and lightweight. Some models are adjustable to adjust the length according to your ascents/descents.
When hiking, carry the hiking poles in specialized stowaway straps on the backpack (if available) for effortless grabbing.
Your smartwatch will provide you with the information you need to stay on track for short hikes. However, you will need a specialized navigation GPS device with an SOS function for emergencies for multi-day hikes. There are many handheld models made for outdoor use. Get one with a two-way messaging function so that you communicate via text no matter if you have phone reception or not. For off-grid outdoor experiences, such a device will give you the peace of mind you need.
Always pack a compass when hiking and learn how to use it. Should anything happen with your GPS navigation device, you have to ensure you still have a tool to get back into civilization.
First aid kit
Get a first aid kit according to the length of your hike and your needs. Put plasters, sterile wipes, blister pads, painkillers, and rehydration sachets in your first aid kit. Even if you don’t get severe injuries, the risk of minor scrapes when hiking is never null. A plaster, antibacterial wipes, and an antiseptic cream will significantly help in such situations.
Sunscreen and lip protection
Don’t let the clouds fool you; the sun’s harmful UVs will still go through the clouds and cause you a sunburn. Unless it’s raining, you should always apply 50+ sunscreen when hiking. Apply a fast-absorbing and non-greasy sunscreen every couple of hours and also protect your lips from burns. Wear a hat with long ear flaps to protect your ears as well.
It depends a lot on the season and location, but you will want to have an insect repellant when hiking most of the time. If you know you’re allergic to insects bites, pack anti-allergy medication as well.
Whether hiking, camping, backpacking, etc., you should always pack a multi-tool. Multi-tools are excellent because they are helpful in many situations. Get one that also includes a sharp knife and scissors.
Toilet paper and rubbish bag
Even if you go on a short hike, you should pack toilet paper and a rubbish bag for toilet stops. Use the rubbish bags to carry the food wrappers and rubbish back home (or to the first garbage can you see).
If you plan to spend the night, pack some wet wipes if you don’t have access to water at your camping site.