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Are you thinking about getting into the outdoor scene? Maybe try out hiking as a way to exercise and experience the splendor of nature?
Not sure where to start?
Don’t worry you are not alone! We can conquer your questions about hiking tips for beginners together!
Hiking and being outdoors is quickly becoming more and more popular thanks to the ability to share beautiful pictures and destinations online. Not to mention being outdoors having huge mental and health benefits!
However, with the increasing popularity and people getting outside comes some consequences. Such as people getting hurt from not being prepared or not respecting nature, to people just downright behaving obnoxiously for the sake of their Instagram or YouTube channels.
You can avoid looking like a rookie and hike amongst the pros! Let’s dive into those tips shall we?
Hiking Tips For Beginners
Tip #1 Determine Where and When
Before you go down the rabbit hole that is hiking and outdoor gear. First you need to determine what type of hikes do you really plan on doing.
If you just want to enjoy little hikes under 5 miles on trails around your city, you might not need every fancy piece of equipment out there.
Do your research on nearby parks, what type of trails are there, flat, rocky, uphill climbs? What’s the average weather like for when you plan on going?
This is a good place to start. Chances are you won’t pick a 13 mile hike up a mountain side as your first few hikes. Start small in distances and basic gear. Know your physical limitations as of this moment THEN work your way up.
Tip # 2 Feet Come First
If you don’t take care of your feet in terms of proper shoes and socks, you most likely will not last long on the trails.
There is nothing more miserable than hiking with blisters or raw skin on your toes from constant friction.
The right hiking shoes make all the difference in the world. And if you have ever been to an outdoor store, you know the huge variety they have!
Let’s break down the 3 types and which are best for what.
These range from heavy duty to lightweight and minimal. A hiking boot will be the ones that go up and over the ankle for added support. They have hard toe caps and the good ones will be waterproof.
My go to hiking boot is The North Face Hedgehog. Yes, its technically the men’s one, but I prefer the darker boot colors. They are sturdy, waterproof, and comfortable! I only hike in these during winter months and in places of snow. (Cold, wet feet is just awful!)
They are similar to hiking boots in terms or foot/toe protection, but they do not cover and support the ankle.
This gives you a little more flexibility in foot motion and they are more lightweight on your feet.
Best used for hikes with good dry weather, flat to slightly rocky trails, and shorter distances.
A favorite among hikers is the Salomon X Ultra 3’s.
Trail running shoes
This type is my all time favorite and go to for almost every hike I go one. (With the exception of snow and really cold weather)
What I currently hit the trails with:
This is the lightest shoe option and they will not be waterproof BUT they do dry fast! Or at least mine do.
Because these are “minimalist shoes”, they are thinner on the soles. However they do offer good grip. Perfect for spontaneous tree or boulder climbing.
If you have sensitive feet or require a shoe with more arch, these trail shoes would not be a good fit for you.
Overall, the best thing to do is go to an outdoor store and try on the type of hiking boot best suited for you. Once you find the one you like, search for it online.
You will have a good chance of finding the same exact shoes cheaper.
Tip# 3 Clothing
The trick here is first off knowing the weather AHEAD of time. And secondly having the right layers to keep you comfortable.
It’s fair to say that layering clothes during winter and cooler weather is a no brainer. But layering the right way with the right materials is what people question most.
Yes even the type of undies you hike in can make a difference. They work for cold and hot weather hikes, so no need to search for various types. You want ones that wick moisture away from the body and help keep you dry.
Why? Well no matter how cold, you body will work up even a little bit of sweat and you don’t want moisture down there with the friction of hiking. Bum rash is no fun.
Not to mention when it’s hot, you want to avoid what I call Swamp Ass. If you live in a humid place like I do, you know exactly what I am talking about!
This piece of clothing really could be its own tip or even post, because yes the socks you wear are that important!
Remember feet are numero uno! Happy Feet = Fun Hikes
If you go hiking in the winter, you want a nice warm wool socks. Say no to frozen toes! The best hiking boots won’t keep them cozy without the right type of sock.
A favorite to pair with my hiking boots are from Darn Tough. They wick away moisture, which fights odor as well as blisters, and they are thicker knit on the bottom to serve as a cushion.
For the warmer months I don’t like wearing tall socks since I typically hike in my trail runner shoes. So I go with a shorter cut sock like SmartWool. Same functions in terms of odor control and moisture wicking.
Getting into the nitty gritty of what pants or bottoms to wear can make one’s head spin. There are tons of different brands and styles that this is really going to be your preference.
What you want to look for is something comfortable, lightweight, and quick drying. You can opt for a full pant or convertible ones (pants to shorts).
Pants are typically favored by many since they help prevent leg scrapes from bushes or bug bites from mosquitoes or other pests.
For women, you can also just hike in a good pair of leggings too! I do wear a pair of quick dry hiking pants over my leggings if I’m in snow. But if not then I am either just in leggings or shorts.
Lately, I’ve started to just hike in my Nike spandex shorts and it’s worked out just fine for the warmer weather. Annnd spontaneous jumps into a spring fed lake.
Personally, I like having the flexibility of my bottoms for the purpose of exploring. (Which for me means climbing stuff)
Just don’t forget bug spray and sunscreen if you choose to wear shorts!
If you haven’t caught on by now, the biggest factor in good hiking clothes is the ability to wick moisture away from your body!
Sure you can wear cotton if you really want to, but if you get too sweaty in cooler temps, the cotton will not dry quick enough and a wet body in cold temps can lead to hypothermic conditions.
If it’s hot/dry climate then cotton won’t be as bad of choice. Again this is where you need to know your hiking climates so you make the best choices.
Hate wearing sunscreen? Wear a light long sleeve with built in sun protection. Patagonia has a great selection of them and a wide variety of colors. Same goes for their short sleeve options.
You can also wear a simple workout tank top, but you definitely want to stay on top of applying and reapplying that sunscreen!
You ideally want 3 types of jackets for hiking. You don’t have to go out and buy all 3 right away, get them as the season comes for it. Or better yet try and buy them right at the end of the season for sales!
The 3 types you should own are:
- Lightweight Rain Jacket
- Fleece or light insulated jacket (for chilly weather but not super cold)
- Down jacket (for the cold weather)
The first two jackets you can easily find cheap but quality options. The jacket I would not skimp on is the down jacket. Why are they worth it?
Down jackets are light, easy to pack, but have high quality insulation that will keep you really warm! The Stormdown jacket linked above has a cold rating of -5 °F .
I also own a really thick snow/winter jacket. The outer shell is stiffer than the down jacket. It is just not that easy to store should I take it off.
Other items to consider:
- Hat and or beanie
Tip # 4 Water And Food = Hike Fuel
Water is always a must! Even if you only plan on hiking just 2 miles. Always…ALWAYS carry water. You may not drink it all, but better safe than sorry.
Plus it comes in handy for doing a quick clean on any scrapes you may get.
If you get a hiking backpack that comes with a hydration pack that’s great!
I still carry an extra water bottle on the side too!
As far as food goes, I pack mostly snack food since I am not hiking past a few hours.
Great options for hike snacks are granola bars, trail mix, and jerky. They all provide that good source of energy needed for the trails.
Just go easy on the jerky since it is high in salt and can lead you to drinking through your water quicker.
If I know I am going to be on the trails at a park longer than half a day, then I pack a sandwich, extra snacks, and of course more water.
Tip #5 What To Pack
So here comes the gear part. Like I said before, if you’re just starting out, I recommend to NOT go to the closest REI or outdoor store and drop a few hundred bucks.
Instead start with the minimal basics, as you progress in your hiking adventures then build up your equipment from there.
There is no need to own a $200 backpacking bag when you are only doing 5 mile day hikes. Once you get ready to start doing longer hikes or overnight backpacking and camping…then get the bigger pack.
My favorite is day pack is the Camelbak Daystar 18. (mine is “last season” color/design)
If you want a bigger pack check out ones from Osprey! They are durable and come in fun colors!
As far as what to pack in the day pack, you need to have the main essentials.
- Trail snacks
- First aid
- Maps and compass
- Bug spray
- Knife or multi-tool
I have a more detailed posting on that called Essentials For Day Hiking.
Be sure to give it a read!
Tip # 6 Trails
The cool thing about parks is they have trails for hikers to follow and not get lost. Provided you stay on the trail and use a map! Every park offers maps of trails, you can also download apps such as All Trails.
There are countless stories each year of hikers getting lost. Biggest reason why? They venture off the trail, I highly recommend as a beginner you do not do this.
Sure there are people who leave the trail and hike in the backcountry region of some national parks or wilderness areas, but they have excellent map reading skills AND they have been avid hikers for quite some time so they are prepared.
Trails are there not only to help you navigate, but they are for your safety too. Trails range from flat to rocky terrains but they are purposely carved out in the best spots for people to use.
Case in point: I tried to take a “shortcut” across what looked like an open field. Haha I was soooo wrong. It was a marsh, but the tall grasses camouflaged it. So now I’m having to finish my hike covered in mud up to my knees and it stunk.
***if you do get lost or turned around, have a means of getting help. Find out ahead of time if you will have cell phone service or not. Consider buying a tracking/SOS device. A highly recommended one is the Garmin InReach.
Tip # 7 Keep People in The Loop
Whether you choose to hike solo or with some friends, it is always best practice to tell a trusted person where you’re going and when.
This is just for your precaution, should anything go wrong, someone will know where you went.
Even if you are not sure what your hiking pace will be, give a rough estimate of when you might be back.
Also remember how I mentioned to see if there will be cell phone service where you going or invest in a tracking device.
Tip #8 Leave No Trace And Hiker Etiquette
I could seriously go on and on about the whole Leave No Trace ideology and why is so damn important! (Not only am I a nature nut but I taught Environmental Science to high schoolers)
I will simply put it this way. Don’t be that person that litters, disturbs the natural order of things (rearranging rocks, plants, etc), or pester wildlife.
Leave No Trace means that the trails should be left in the condition as if you were never there in the first place. “Take only photos, leave only footprints”
Along with this method also comes a little bit of hiking etiquette. The hiking scene can be a fun awesome community when everyone treats it right.
Etiquette Tips Include:
- Be friendly! A simple smile or wave does wonders! I have yet to come across another hiker who hasn’t said hello
- Respect the wilderness! Those rocks you might see stacked are cairns. They serve a purpose. Don’t make your own.
- Share the Trail! Allow faster hikers to pass on the left as well as bikers or horses.
- Save the music for another time! The point of hiking is to be submerged in nature and her soundtrack. To me, nothing is more annoying than coming upon a hiker blasting music from a speaker or phone. That music will not allow anyone to have a chance at wildlife sightings, you’ll only scare them. If you need music that bad…headphones are good. But then you won’t hear that mountain lion sneaking up on you. Just kidding…music or not they can still sneak up on you. But seriously turn the music off, please!
Related Hiking Posts:
Wrapping It Up
While this may not be a full on guide to every single little thing about hiking. I know that what I covered is knowledge needed to get started!
As you become more interested into longer more challenging hikes you can find plenty of information to aid your progress.
One thing to consider is a hiking class or club to join. If your city has an REI, check in with them. They offer education classes in just about everything outdoorsy.
They also have meet ups for like minded people who want to do group hikes, bikes, rafting, etc.
Overall, the biggest thing you need to know is that it doesn’t take special skills or super expensive gear to get started! It just takes the passion for wanting to try something new and getting in touch with nature.
If you’re just starting out, what are some questions you have? If I missed something ask me! I reply to everyone so don’t hesitate! Drop me a line below!
Been hiking already? What was your first hike and favorite memory from it?
As always don’t forget to save this article for later and share it with a friend!