Hiking can be a wonderful pastime and it has become such a popular hobby for millions across the world. It isn’t difficult to see why hiking has become popular though; hikers get a sense of adventure and it can be so rewarding to hike to the top of the world’s highest summits. Some of the sights along the way can be magical and new bonds will surely be made too.
However, hiking isn’t without its dangers. Anyone who wants to reach the highest peak in the world will understand it can be a dangerous thing because you are challenging the body to do something it has never done before. Achieving your goals however, will be rewarding in every which way and the following, are just a few simple tips all first-time hikers should know.
Do Your Homework
It doesn’t matter where you choose to hike, whether it’s somewhere local or abroad, you absolutely must know what you’re getting into. Hiking is tiresome and extremely tough on the body because it goes through a lot and thousands of new hikers are unfortunately unprepared for this. There are new skills to learn and different climates to acclimatize too, not to mention the risks associated with hiking in general. If you want to become a seasoned hiker, you must get to know what is involved from start to finish.
You also need to research the areas in which you are interested hiking in. Now, as most will know, some hiking trails are much harder than others and sometimes, even the easier trails are made difficult due to changing weather conditions. Before you decide to get into hiking or choose a hiking trail, you need to research the area fully and get to know the area very well.
Understanding the Risks
While millions of people each year hike, only a very small number of them accomplish their hiking ambitions. For example, hundreds of people each and every year attempts to reach the summit of Mount Everest but in reality, there are usually only a handful who reach the top, if that. It is very dangerous and even though it’s the most dangerous peak in the world, any hiking trails can be the same.
In most cases, hikers don’t reach their goals simply because they haven’t prepared for what lies ahead. Many hikers go on their first trail with the expectation they’re going to go all the way, however, that is a romantic idea. It would be nice to reach the summit but it doesn’t always happen and you need to be prepared because hiking isn’t always magical and isn’t always exciting either! The terrain will be tough at times and it’ll be cold, wet and miserable; it’s no walk in the park.
However, there are a host of reasons why hikers don’t succeed including fatigue – both physical and mental – and usually its mental fatigue which hits hikers hardest. There will be times when you are tired, cold, dirty from the climb and hungry and in a lot of pain; and in all honesty, mental fatigue is difficult to brush away. Hiking does put lots of stress onto the mind and the body too of course and you might end up getting hurt and if you do get hurt, you may be unable to complete the trail.
Every first-time hiker must be prepared what the hike will do to the body and the mind.
Starting Off Small
Every hiker wants to reach the biggest goal of all but there is no real rush to achieve it. You have to be more realistic and set yourself goals that are manageable and easy to reach. In all honesty, first-time hikers aren’t going to conquer Everest; seasoned hikers fail to do so and they have the experience. That is why you need to start off much smaller; set out smaller hiking goals and achieve them and then when you have a fair bit of experience behind you, work your way to the bigger trails.
You may think this isn’t advice but it is because everyone, no matter who they are, cannot reach success without taking small steps first. If you complete the smaller steps, reaching the top will be possible and more rewarding.
Too Much Gear Will Slow You Down
When it comes to serious hiking, you need a huge amount of gear to help get through the difficulties awaiting you. However, first-time hikers don’t necessarily need to pack a huge amount of gear. You are probably starting off on a smaller hiking trail and you’ve probably packed way too much stuff. Extra weight hampers your efforts for success.
Remember, you can cover a lot more miles with the essentials than you can with tones of unnecessary extra pounds. Beginners don’t always need to take so much gear, especially on the smaller hikes because it’s just not needed and usually you’ll ditch something’s along the way too which is a waste of money. You’re just starting out and you don’t want to put too much pressure on the body, you must think seriously about what gear you actually need for each hike. When you research the trails, you can have a fair idea of what the trek will be like and what you actually need.
Make Friends on Each Trail
Hiking is going to be very tough on your mind and it can get very lonely, very fast and if you do get this way, you’ll want to quit. Instead, you should try to meet new people who enjoy hiking and make new friends on every trail. Doing this will allow you to have someone to talk to and have an anchor of support; also, when you have a friend on hand for support, you can encourage one another to keep going. Too many hikers go off alone and while that can be fine, some find it very lonely.
Injuries are highly likely to occur with long-distance hiking and many new hikers experience these problems often. It will be important to stretch as often as you possibly can while hiking; stretch the legs for a few minutes in the morning, during breaks in the afternoon and in the evening too. Stretching only takes a few minutes but they will help keep you going and avoid the muscle strains and pains.
Your Body Knows Best
Your body needs time to adjust to the hiking trails as well as the different weather conditions and when you’re just starting out, you must pace yourself. You need to space out how often you go on hiking trails as well as space your daily hiking goals too; this will give your body the much needed time to sensibly adjust comfortably without overdoing it. However, it’s also important to listen to what your body is saying.
If your body is telling you to slow down, you should. Your body knows when it had enough and pushing your body until you can’t possibly move a muscle is extremely bad especially when hiking. You may be alone on a trail and if you can’t move, you have no help and you can imagine what could happen. Instead, take your time and when your body tells you to stop, stop!
Take Extreme Care Of Your Feet
Your feet are the most important items on your body because they keep you going. However, many first-time hikers don’t take proper care of their feet and it means they will not get far. You need to ensure you look after your feet; this means wearing proper socks, synthetic works best, as well as proper hiking boots. It also wouldn’t hurt to massage the feet at least once a day and rest them when possible. This may help to reduce blisters and bunions.
Hiking may be a dangerous and tiresome activity but it can also be exciting and fun and you should never forget that. You can still be cautious and enjoy the experience at the same time and just remember baby steps are much better. Yes, it might take you a lot longer to achieve your goals but it will be much better in the long run.
- What footwear do you need for hiking?
- What do you wear when hiking?
- What is the best backpack for hiking?
- Water and food when hiking- what should you bring?
- Do you need hiking gear as a new hiker?
- Some tips before you go on your first hike!
What footwear do you need for hiking?
If you plan to start hiking, you cannot do without adequate footwear. Since there are so many hikers out there, the market is very generous, and you can find excellent hiking shoes/boots at affordable prices.
Ideally, it would help if you always broke in your footwear before taking it on the trail. You don’t want blisters and hot points to ruin a perfect hike. When buying the first pair of shoes for hiking, there are many aspects to consider, so stay with us for the details.
Build and features
Truth be told, we all want to buy shoes that last for a long time, whether we go hiking or not. Hiking shoes should have a durable feel and stitching that makes them ready to take a beating. As for features, here are some to remember:
Good ankle support
Hiking, especially descending, strains our feet and mostly the ankles. You should look for boots/shoes that offer excellent ankle support. Use some hiking poles as they reduce the strain on your ankles, especially when going downhill.
Resistance to water/waterproofness
How resistant your shoes are to water depends significantly on the trails and season you go hiking. You will eventually run into some ponds, river crossings, etc. In the mountains, the rain comes suddenly, so you should buy at least water-resistant shoes. Waterproofness is best, but technology and materials that give waterproofness make the boots rather heavyweight. Put on waterproof boots only if it’s crucial.
Efficient grip and stability
Many hiking trails are rocky, slippery, sharp, and can cause injuries. Check out the outsole of the boots and see it’s rugged and tough. If you plan to hike on muddy tracks, the outsole should have deep lugs so that you keep your stability.
You don’t want to stop every two miles to tie your laces as a hiker. Best shoes for hiking have laces that remain tightly knotted and take intense wear. If you opt for boots over the ankles, seek that they have a speed-lacing system so that you don’t spend minutes putting them on/taking them off.
What type of footwear should you buy?
Some people hike the Appalachian trail in their bare feet, but we don’t think you’re ready for that just yet. Since hikes vary a lot, you should always wear the most appropriate footwear for the most comfortable wear.
Hiking shoes are the best option for a day hike or occasional hikes. Good ones will have an excellent grip on the bottom offer efficient support. At the same time, they’re not heavy and help you have a fast pace.
If you cannot commit and buy hiking shoes just yet, you can try your athletic shoes. Make sure that they have a good grip on the bottom so that you don’t slip and fall when hiking. If you only have sneakers, lace them tightly and take them on a beginner hike. Pay extra attention to slippery areas.
We recommend you buy hiking boots only if you’re determined to stick to your new hobby. Hiking boots are an excellent choice for multi-day and strenuous hikes– most provide excellent ankle support. Good quality hiking boots have thick tread and ensure excellent protection against the elements.
Go in-store and try the boots on to get the proper size. Ideally, you should try the boots with your hiking socks on. Regardless of where you buy the boots, always break them in before hiking. Leather is the most durable material for hiking boots, but it’s also the most expensive. It will take the shape of your foot, but you do need to break the leather hiking boots before your first hike.
Manufactured materials are also excellent for hiking boots. New and modern technologies allow manufacturers to make boots as durable as leather models but at more affordable prices.
What socks should you wear when hiking?
For colder months, you want socks that keep your feet warm but without causing them to sweat. Toasty feet and chaffing are annoying whether you’re hiking or not. Look for hiking socks made of warm yet moisture-wicking materials. Pay the extra buck for merino-wool socks—they’re the best choice for warm and dry feet in the winter!
Some hiking socks come with padding to increase your comfort when hiking. Please consider the following elements when selecting your socks:
- Weather- will you hike in the forest? Will it be hot, or will it be cold?
- Footwear- wear lightweight hiking socks if you put on hiking shoes. Get big thick warm socks for the winter hiking when you put on hiking boots.
- Budget- specialist socks are more expensive than regular models. Think about the length of the socks. As a beginner, regular athletic socks will work most of the time.
- Environment- buy long socks to hike through tall plants and grass.
What do you wear when hiking?
Use your common sense when choosing your clothing for hiking. You won’t put on short if it’s freezing, right?
Pants or shorts?
Truth be told, the environment you go in will affect the protection you need for your legs. You shouldn’t wear shorts if the weather is cold. At the same time, pants will make you hot and uncomfortable on a hot summer day.
If your budget is tight and you don’t want to invest in a good pair of hiking pants, you can wear your jeans initially. Needless to say, you should only do it if it’s not too hot or too cold outside. Being hot and sweaty makes any activity unpleasant, hiking included.
You can find excellent pants for hiking at reasonable prices. Keep in mind that hiking pants don’t necessarily look amazing, as functionality is far more important than looks. Your hiking pants should be lightweight, fast-drying, and ready to take a beating. Some of these pants turn into shorts which can seal the deal for many hikers.
Put on lightweight pants if you plan to hike through the woods but don’t really know what the environment and weather will be like. Poison ivy is highly poisonous and it’s wise to cover your body while hiking. You don’t want an allergic reaction to ruin your first outdoor experience.
What type of shirt is suitable for hiking?
Merino wool would be it when it comes to naming one material that trumps them all for outdoor activities. It’s warm, moisture-wicking, and soft. Sure, it’s also expensive, but you won’t have to buy anything made of merino wool any time soon. Merino wool long shirts are the best choice for cold hikes, and you should also add some t-shirts for the summer. They are light, hide odors, breathe efficiently, and wick moisture away.
Since you’re new to hiking, you should buy one merino-wool shirt at first. You can always add more items as you go through several hikes.
If you go on a multi-day hike in various conditions, we recommend you layer several lightweight merino wool shirts. Will you hike in the woods in the backyard? You will be just fine with your old running clothing! Just make sure that they don’t chafe!
The 3-layer principle
With any outdoor activity, hiking included, you want to use the 3-layer principle for your clothes. The base layer has to be something that keeps you warm without getting sweaty. The second layer has to keep you warm and allow moisture to escape away from your body. Jackets make the third layer, most of the time. A hoodie and even a lightweight rainproof jacket can work as the third layer for summertime.
Do you need a jacket?
A lightweight and waterproof jacket is an excellent investment to make for your hike. It can keep you dry when it rains and stop the wind from keeping you warm. If you already have a dependable windbreaker, don’t pay the top dollar for a new hiking jacket just yet. However, be willing to spend the extra buck if you’re committed to hiking and in need of a new jacket.
Don’t rush into buying and try as many as necessary until you find the best fit. Try jackets in-store and go online to do the shopping—prices are lower online!
Should you buy a hat?
Unless it’s winter, you should always get a hat when hiking. Sun is great, but the UV rays are harmful and you don’t want to end up with a headache in the middle of your day hike. A hat with a huge floppy brim will cover your ears and protect your face. Always get sunscreen when you hike and apply it whenever necessary. Don’t let the shades or clouds full you: the sun’s harmful UVs can also go through them.
What is the best backpack for hiking?
The importance of a reliable backpack for your hiking will reveal itself when you’re in the middle of the woods and something happens to it. Whether it’s not waterproof and wets the things inside or has poor zippers that break on the first hike, there are so many things that give the quality of a hiking backpack.
However, the problem of buying an excellent hiking backpack is one for truly dedicated hikers. They will try the multi-day, backcountry, technical, and all other types of challenging hikes. Entry-level hikers will typically go on day hikes, in which case almost any backpack will do. As long as it’s a light and comfortable pack of decent quality, you shouldn’t stress much about your bag initially.
Now, if you’re new to hiking and ready to take on the next challenge, such as a multi-day hike, you will definitely need to do due diligence about what your hiking backpack should be like. You might find it odd, but your bag should fit you and have the proper size for your type of hike!
If the pack is too big, your hike will become a strenuous activity and put unnecessary pressure on your back and shoulders. On the other hand, if the bag is too small, you won’t have enough space to fit your essentials for hiking. If the pack isn’t made with waterproof materials, your things will be soaked when it rains. The list can go on, so please read our recommendations on selecting a hiking backpack:
There are three main categories of packs for style: frameless, with an internal frame, and external frame. Most backpacks today have internal frames as they are supportive and improve comfort.
As a beginner, you won’t need to attach many gear and items to your pack. An internal frame pack has a compact shape and stays close to the body for a comfortable carry. Such a backpack has a main compartment on the bottom to put your sleeping bag. This way, the sleeping bag is protected against bad weather and doesn’t get damaged/lost while hiking.
It’s common for internal frame backpacks to have compression straps that keep things inside from shifting. They compress the whole load in a small and tight package and reduce the load shifting.
Frameless backpacks don’t provide you with much support or comfort. They’re a good choice if you know that you won’t hike for more than two hours. Typically, they lack organization as they only have one large compartment and few pockets on the sides. Finding something in a frameless backpack will be a struggle.
If you want to keep your spending on hiking gear to a minimum, you can use a frameless backpack for short hikes.
You don’t need to be an avid hiker to figure out that backpacks with external frames are the most challenging adventures. You can add hiking gear, hiking poles, sleeping bag, tent, pots, whatever you need for your hiking to the external frame.
Even if external frame backpacks tend to be cumbersome, they are comfortable as the frame pulls the weight away from the shoulders. Needless to say, you won’t need an external frame backpack for your first dozens of hikes.
When you have a spacious backpack on your hands, the chances are that you will be tempted to add items until you fill it. Don’t worry; even experienced hikers can make this mistake! However, when you carry too much on your hike, you will get tired a lot sooner than expected and for the wrong reasons.
It can take some trial and error until you understand that the proper size of the pack depends on the type of hike you’re doing. A 20-liters backpack is a good size for a short hike, whereas a 40-liters model is the most common choice for most new hikers. Anything ranging between 50 to 80 liters for extended budget travel trips will be spacious enough to fit your necessary items.
The rule of thumb is never to leave your house with a full backpack. Some hikers use a sizeable main pack and put a small, collapsible day pack inside it. It’s a practical way to drop the large bag and only take the small day pack for hiking.
The straps and zippers have the highest wear on a backpack. At a glance, a good pack will have a durable feel. It will have metal zippers, double stitching, and tough buckles that don’t feel flimsy or fragile. If possible, try the zippers several times to see how durable they seem.
Let’s not forget the ventilation system on the backpack, internal frame models especially. Since they sit close to the body, the risk of getting a sweaty back is high. Look for a pack with a mesh/ventilation system that reduces the risk of sweating.
Manufacturers use various systems to decide the size of their packs. Small, medium, large, and extra-large are the sizes, but you have to check out the sizing chart for the manufacturer. Men will most likely go with a large pack, whereas women will pick a medium-framed model. Some manufacturers make backpacks, especially for women, which fit women’s shoulders. A small size doesn’t necessarily mean a good size for a woman.
No matter the brand, size, or capacity, make sure that the backpack fits your body and feels comfortable. Ideally, you should try the pack when loaded.
Side or top loading?
Top-loading packs are the no.1 preference for most hikers. As long as you keep in mind the best tips to pack a top-loading pack, you should do just fine with one for your first hikes. For instance, you should place on the bottom the items you only use once a day and the items you use the most on the top.
Sideloading packs are also common, and many prefer them as they allow effortless access to all contents without going through the entire pack. Handling such a model can be tricky at times. You will probably do fine with a top-loading pack as a new hiker. In the long run, you can switch it up a bit and try a side-loading model as well.
Water and food when hiking- what should you bring?
Dehydration is one of your biggest enemies when hiking. The bad part is that many inexperienced hikers only drink water when they’re thirsty—and it’s already too late then. Never leave home without a water container to have for hiking.
As a rough guideline, you should drink around 2 pounds of water every two hours. If you hike in warm weather or desert climate, you need to increase.
Which water container to use?
Aluminum and stainless steel bottles are excellent options for hiking, and some hikers prefer the reused or Nalgene plastic bottles. A backpack with a hydration bladder is a fantastic option as it spares you the fuss of carrying several water bottles. However, you should make sure you have clean drinking water on your trail to refill. Pack filtration tablets or a personal filtration straw to ensure that you drink safe water when hiking.
What food is it good when hiking?
How long you plan on hiking, your preferences for snacking, and the time of the day are all elements to consider when picking your food for hiking. Feel free to adjust our list of recommendations with the food you like and know it’s healthy for the strenuous activity that hiking can be:
Go with walnuts or almonds, as they’re loaded with healthy fat and protein. Nut butters are also a healthy fat option for hiking. Raw unsalted almond butter is high in calorie content so watch out for the calorie count when eating.
Apples and nuts are almost everything you need for a day hike as they give you carbs, fat, and protein. Raisins, bananas, and other fruits are excellent choices as well. Even if dried fruits are fantastic for physical activities, we recommend keeping them under control. They contain a lot of sugar and calories. A 5000 calories worth of dried fruit is anything but healthy!
You can make your beef jerky or buy high-quality jerky in stores. They’re easy to pack, keep well, and contain a lot of proteins.
Granola bars and trail mix
Trail mix and granola bars are good snacks for hiking. Granola bars and trail mixes are typically loaded with sugar/salt and processed grains unless they’re homemade. All in all, they don’t make the healthiest option for hiking if store-bought.
You can make your trail mix with some raw unsalted buts and dried fruit.
Do you need hiking gear as a new hiker?
If you’re new to hiking, the chances are that you won’t climb to the highest peak just yet, but rather stick to the easy day-hikes in your area. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go prepared with essential gear when hiking:
Even if you have your GPS on your smartphone, you should still get a compass too. If you run out of battery, you will still need a navigation tool. Needless to say, learn how to use a compass before going hiking.
Probably we don’t need to tell you to take your phone when hiking. Smartphones are excellent tools as you can use them as trackers, GPS, compass, etc. Get a solar charger to make sure your phone still works after running out of juice.
First aid kit
Don’t go over the top with the first-aid kit. It should include items such as band-aids and moleskin for cuts and blisters, some disinfectant for scrapes/scratches, and a couple of bandages. You can add some ibuprofen as it’s useful for many things. You can find travel first aid kits already made, or you can make your own.
If it’s a sunny day and you hike through the woods, you won’t be aware that your ears, back of the neck, and face are exposed to the sun’s rays. Apply waterproof sunscreen (spf30 minimum) to cover your cheeks, ears, and back of the neck.
Use your common sense and sunglasses if it’s a sunny day. Buy sunglasses that are rigged and take a beating. You don’t want to take your $250 sunglasses when hiking.
Insects and bugs can be annoying in some months and bug bites are no fun. Get a bug spray and apply it whenever you can. Make sure you also have some pain relief if they bite you.
A multi-tool knife or a pocket knife is an excellent tool to have in your pack when you’re new to hiking. You will learn with outdoor activities that you never know when the unpredictable happens.
Some tips before you go on your first hike!
Let’s end the way we’ve started: with some tips for you to remember on your first hike:
Know the local wildlife
Run a quick search of your hike to know about the critters you might spot on the trail. Do it, especially if you hike in snake or bear country. Some snake-proof boots and a bear spray can really make the difference when hiking.
Check out for ticks
If you go to a heavily wooded area and carve through the wilderness, you should check out for ticks and make sure you have a hot shower with soap the moment you get home. Poisonous plants may have touched you and you haven’t been aware of it. Poison ivy can swell your face the next day after your hike.
Go high or stay home
Aim to reach the top of the mountain, a building’s roof, or the high point in a town. It’s a fantastic spot to have a snack and enjoy the views. Make sure you’re careful when descending as it puts more pressure on your ankles than ascending. Use hiking poles to ease out your hiking altogether.
Try urban hiking
Load up your backpack and map a route on google maps until you find a tall building. Take the steps and not the elevator. You can also walk until you find a park—it’s a simple yet effective hike to try.
Don’t leave a mess behind and bring back home whatever you got with you when hiking. Don’t leave the trash in the woods and clean if you see trash from someone else. It’s a small gesture to make for our nature!