Hiking enthusiasts swear that it is not just exercise that they get from it, but that it’s a portal into learning about yourself and the nature around you. Hiking is appealing to many as it’s free and accessible to people of various ages and physical abilities so it’s a great outdoor activity for almost everyone.
If you’re thinking about taking up hiking, it may feel intimidating at the beginning, so here’s a list of best tips for hiking beginners to help you turn it into an enjoyable and safe experience.
Plan in advance
For hiking beginners, the first step in the direction of a good first experience is choosing a good-weather day. You might be stubborn about not letting weather spoil your hike, but poor weather conditions can cause quite a havoc, from accidents during the trip to simply a miserable experience.
Even if you insist on going hiking come rain or sunshine, by checking the weather in advance, you can prepare yourself with the proper equipment so you stay safe and dry.
Pack the essentials
The things you pack will depend on the number of days you plan to spend on your trip, the destination and the time of the year. If you’re taking a day hike, pack a paper map, compass, simple first-aid kit, flashlight and batteries, army knife or multi-purpose tool, water, food and sunscreen and sunglasses.
You can’t survive without water, so that makes it essential for your hike, and you’ll need a litre for every 2 hours of your trip. Make sure you don’t under-pack because there’s always the unexpected which can prolong your hike beyond what you planned. It’s recommended you get a reusable water bottle as it’ll save you money and eliminate plastic waste.
When it comes to food and snacks for a day hike, it’s best to pack high-energy food that requires no refrigeration or heating. Typical choices include dried fruit, nuts mix, jerky, and energy bars. Also, don’t over-pack but bring enough to energize and nourish you on your journey. Then, throw in a couple of extra granola bars for good measure.
Choose the right shoes
Even the most enjoyable hike will be surely ruined by blisters! These will occur if you don’t get the right safety shoes for the trip. High-quality safety shoes are designed in a low-cut style with a comfort cushion that will keep the heel firmly in place and prevent rubbing. It’s best you try on a few pairs too so you pick the ones that are snug but not too tight and also fit your build and use.
Socks can just as well make or break the hike, so consider their length in reference to your boot. There are many different styles and materials of hiking socks to choose from to match your shoes, and both are certainly worth the investment!
Always bring a source of light
When you plan your hike, allocate enough time to arrive at your destination before dark. If your hike turns out to be longer than expected, hiking at night without a light could put you in a bad situation, so bringing a source of light is a must! A head-lamp is very convenient for a hands-off approach as it allows you to focus on your balance and route. Don’t rely on your phone flashlight as it drains the battery quite quickly. To be on the safe side, pack an extra hand-held flashlight in your backpack.
Don’t forget the basic first-aid
Another important safety precaution is having some basic knowledge of first aid so you can help both yourself and your group stay healthy and safe in the event of injury, whether it’s minor or serious.
Start with an easy hike
For a beginner hiker, it’s best to start with an easy hike, preferably in a familiar area such as the outskirts of your city or somewhere near such as the local hills, in case you live close by nature. Perfect hiking trails for beginners are the ones that are easy to walk, are in a well-marked area and don’t take more than 2 or 3 hours. You should avoid terrain that is steep and slippery or requires some technical skills.
Factor in your fitness level as well. If you’re generally fit, you can make it a bit more challenging and start off with longer hikes and steeper hills. It’s also clever to include an extra hour or two on your trail in case you need to take a break often.You might also need more time to navigate the trail particularly if it’s a varied terrain. You’ll probably need more time initially, but you’ll quickly get the hang of it. Just make sure you set off early in the morning so there’s no rush to get back before dark.
Choose well-known routes
Experienced hikers advise beginners to choose routes that are moderately to heavily frequented by other hikers. This will give you the chance to talk to others, get directions, advice or help if you feel unsure or are in distress. It also adds to your feeling of comfort and safety knowing there are more people around who can potentially assist you.
Download the route map
One of the best trekking tips for beginners is to get familiar with the route before you set off. Download the route map and research all the information you can regarding it. This is how you’ll know what places to avoid, which landmarks to look for, which turns to take, where to set up your camp should you stay overnight etc.
It’s also very useful to use apps to record the route as you go because you keep track of your progress and compare it to your downloaded map. In case you get lost, you can always track back to the trailhead.
It might seem as if you need a lot to think about when you go hiking, but these are just typical rookie mistakes. Things can be really hard and painful if you leave unprepared. You can either make it or break it so its’ highly recommended you follow these tips when you’re planning your first hike. You’ll ensure a pleasant experience which will motivate you to continue getting out in nature. Before you know it, these tips will become an integral part of your routine whenever you go out hiking.