Hiking is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in nature. Fresh air, peace, quiet, great views — it’s the full package.
That said, going on a hike carries some risks as well. For starters, the wilderness is a setting where the unexpected becomes the new normal. If you’re not prepared for it, you may encounter a real emergency.
This is the main reason why so many first-time hikers take so long to get going. Well, we’re here to set you straight. Here are 7 hiking tips that every beginner should know about.
1. Start Small
Every hike plan should begin with picking the right trail. If you’re starting out, look for a hike that’s a little shorter than the distance you can walk on a level surface. To estimate your time, figure a pace of 2 miles per hour.
Also, consider the elevation gain. The formula is still simple: for every 1000 feet of gain, add an hour to your time. After a few treks, you’ll have a better idea of what works for you.
2. Check the Weather
To avoid getting surprised by bad weather, check the forecast in the lead-up to your hike. Do the same a few hours before you leave. That way, you’ll have the chance to pack and dress accordingly, or cancel the hike altogether.
3. Pack the Essentials
Every beginner’s guide to hiking features some items you should always take with you. These include a map, compass, flashlight, first aid supplies, repair kit, lighter, tent, nutrition, and hydration.
Depending on the season, you may also want to bring some sun protection or extra insulation. If you’re booking a hotel before your hike, you can make your final preparations there.
4. Pace Yourself
Getting on the trail for the first time can make you want to power forward. Resist this temptation and pick a pace you can maintain throughout the day. This can feel awkward at first, but conserving your energy is a big part of hiking.
5. File a Trip Report
Have you seen the movie 127 Hours? If so, you know the importance of telling someone where you’ll be before you go hiking. Many hikes end up taking longer than planned, so make sure your person of trust knows that as well.
6. Dress Appropriately
Going for function over fashion is one of those hiking basics everyone knows about. First, invest in light boots that don’t require much break-in. Don’t skimp on socks either, and go for wool or synthetic ones.
As for your clothes, skip the cotton. When cotton gets damp, it stays that way, which can leave you feeling clammy in no time. To adjust for the weather, wear layers that you can shed or add as needed.
7. Follow Trail Etiquette
Finally, keep in mind that the great outdoors aren’t just for you. Before your trip, familiarize yourself with Leave no Trace principles. If you care about our natural spaces, it’s your responsibility to keep them special.
More Hiking Tips to Consider
As you can see from the above tips, hiking is all about being ready for anything. The more you know about the specifics of your trek, the easier it will be. That said, when it comes to hiking, trial and error is still the best teacher.
Interested in more hiking tips? Want to know more about the impact of this activity on your health? Check out our Mountain Activities section!