Everyone is a beginner hiker at some point in their lifetime! You may not be new to hiking right now, but maybe you are new to backpacking or ice climbing, etc. Regardless of what you are “new” to right now, you started as a beginner.
If you are new to hiking, this article will give you all the nitty-gritty details on how to be safe on your new journey as a hiker as well as a must-have list of hiking essentials!
Thankfully learning to hike doesn’t really require any previous experience. Once you learn the basics listed below you will be well on your way to being an intermediate hiker.
Below is the ultimate beginner’s guide to hiking! You can call it hiking 101.
START SMALL AND CHOOSE THE RIGHT TRAIL
This is extremely important. There are quite a few factors that you will need to evaluate prior to going out on a hike. Make sure to consider the following: elevation, length, difficulty, weather, and gear required.
After reviewing the outside factors you need to look internally and make sure that you are physically prepared to hike the trail you choose. You need to determine your current fitness level.
I know this may be hard, but be honest with yourself and make sure you feel like you could complete the hike without having any physical issues. If you have medical problems make sure to consult a doctor before going out on a hike too.
A beginner should expect to do a hike that is mostly flat and in the 2-3 mile range.
PLAN IT ALL OUT
Unfortunately, a lot of people tend to overestimate their fitness ability prior to going out on a hike and then end up getting injured. In order to prevent this from happening you should plan your entire hike out prior to leaving.
First, decide on the trail you plan to do. A great resource that provides lots of information about almost every hike out there is through the app called All Trails.
If you are visiting a National or State Park then you can always check their website for information regarding trails.
Make sure to check whether or not the trail is open prior to heading out. Lots of trails may be closed for maintenance or for animal safety, so it is always a good idea to check this out beforehand!
This is key as a beginner and even as an advanced hiker! You always want to make sure you are remaining safe! Some items that have helped me from not getting lost on the trail are the Garmin Inreach Explorer and a GPS app.
The Garmin Inreach explorer is an emergency lifeline if you were to get lost out on your hike or if you need help and are having a medical emergency.
I also like to pull up the All Trails app while hiking and follow the map route that they provide. You have to sign up and make an account for full access, but it is all free.
I also recommend you grab a map from the trailhead if they provide one.
Lastly, you want to make sure to check the weather always prior to heading out onto your adventure.
GRAB A FRIEND!
This is a great beginner’s hiking tip! And really a great tip for any non-beginner too! You can definitely hike solo however this is not recommended as it provides some safety concerns.
Most beginners tend to like hiking with a buddy anyways! I consider myself to be an intermediate hiker and I still would not consider hiking without someone.
My schedule as a nurse can be weird sometimes as I work three 12 hour shifts a week. This means that I usually have weekdays off; whereas my husband does not. So I usually turned to a Facebook group to find a fellow hiker he wants to join me for a hike!
Are plenty of ways to research people to hike with but here are some of the following I personally enjoy. I find girls to hike with from the “We are travel girls” Facebook group or San Diego hiking Society Facebook group. Women who explore also has a wonderful Facebook group in tons of cities.
You can always post on your social media or post in one of these groups asking if anyone wants to join you on a hike.
Obviously, before you go on a hike make sure both you and the other person or on the same Fitness levels and agree to keep each other safe if anything were to happen.
“ALWAYS TELL SOMEONE WHERE YOU ARE GOING“
If you do choose to go on a solo hike then it is extremely important to tell someone where you are going. Make sure to give them all the details of which Trail you will be hiking and where you have parked so that they know where to find you if anything were to happen.
WHAT TO BRING
Thankfully as a beginner hiker you won’t need much gear however comfort is definitely key when it comes to hiking for the first few times.
The key here is to make sure that you are comfortable. Many people feel comfortable in different types of gear so it is best that you find what works right for you.
Looking for a gift guide for hikers? Check this one out!
What you wear can make a huge difference on how you feel.
I know it can be confusing as far as what to wear as a beginner hiker. I have listed some of my favorite gear items below that may help you start you’re turning into hiking.
Let’s start with one of the most important aspects of hiking, your shoes. Hiking requires a lot of walking there for it is imperative that your feet be comfortable and are blister-free. Everyone’s feet are different, but here are some recommendations below.
Lots of people begin by hiking in just their sneakers however I have learned that hiking boots make the world of a difference. Please note that most of the time sneakers do not have the appropriate traction needed for hikes.
It all depends on what you like, some people enjoy hiking in heavier boots because they feel more sturdy whereas other people tend to wear a lighter shoe. You choose what is right for you.
For short hikes, I like wearing lighter shoes like the KEEN Voyageur Hiking Shoe . For longer hikes, I enjoy wearing something a little more heavy-duty and sturdy like the KEEN Targhee boots. I also personally enjoy wearing boots that come up over my ankle.
If you want more of a trail running shoe then I recommend the La Sportiva Kaptiva shoes.
Along with shoes, socks are definitely another important piece to prevent your feet from being in pain. Depending on whether or not it is cold outside will help you determine what kind of socks you need to wear.
If you are doing some winter hiking you will need warmer socks. I usually wear wool socks with a silk liner under those socks to keep my feet extra warm.
If it is a warm day then I find that the Smartwool hike light crew sock is best to wick away sweat and keep blisters from forming.
The same applies, depending on the weather will help you determine what kind of shirt to wear. You may need a long sleeve short or a short sleeve one. Make sure that you don’t overheat yourself though if you wear a long-sleeve shirt!
Below are some of my favorite shirts that I like to wear while hiking!
Pants are super important! No one likes chafing. Am I right? It has taken me a long time to find the type of pants I like to hike in and after lots of research and trial and error. I still actually hike a lot in my Lululemon Align Pants, but I have found the following hiking specific pants below to be some of my favorites.
I usually prefer to wear long pants to prevent my legs from getting scraped up unless it is unbearably hot out. You can also look into convertible pants. They offer the opportunity for you to switch out between shorts and pants.
FLEECE AND JACKETS
Depending on what kind of weather you are hiking in you may need to layer up and wear both a fleece and a jacket. The best way to adapt to when the weather changes quickly are by layering your clothes.
You can begin with a fleece layer. This is perfect for when it is not quite cold enough for your full jacket, but it is still a little chilly out. I love wearing a light pullover fleece in times like these!
On top of your fleece, you will want to wear your jacket. This could be anywhere from a thick puffy jacket to a waterproof jacket-or maybe even both. Or if it is super windy you may want to wear/bring a windbreaker.
Below you can find some of my favorite jackets.
I always bring a hat with me when I hike- you may not see it in every photo of mine, but I always have one on me to wear when I am hiking. I love my Patagonia hat. It is a classic. When it is cold out then this is my go-to beanie. I love that you can put your ponytail through it.
EXTRA ACCESSORIES THAT A BEGINNER HIKER SHOULD BRING
Most of these items are items that I would recommend to both beginner and advanced hikers. These items make your life easier and safer.
As a beginner hiker, it may be easier for you to just carry everything you have in a backpack. A daypack is not necessary, but it makes life easier. I also recommend getting a hiking specific backpack as it will save your shoulders in the long run vs wearing a normal backpack.
Here are some of my favorites.
Water is SO important! Let me say that again. Water is SO important. Beginner hikers tend to forget about bringing or drinking water when they go out hiking. I tend to bring my Camelback filter or just my normal Nalgene water bottle.
EMERGENCY & SAFETY DEVICES
This is important for any hiker! You definitely want to be able to have a way to get help if you have no cell service and these devices could save you. The Garmin InReach Explorer is a handheld GPS that has SOS features.
I also recommend bringing a map along with you for the hike you are doing.
You should also always carry a First Aid kit with you. Keep things such a blister pads (moleskin), bandaids, Neosporin, ace wraps, etc in there. As an ER nurse myself, I can’t recommend a First Aid kit more.
LEAVE NO TRACE
The last beginner’s hiking guide tip! You may or may not have heard of this phrase “leave no trace,” but it is super popular in the hiking world.
You must follow these rules as you go out and begin to hike to help the environment!
- Pack it in and pack it out-meaning do not leave any trash when you are out hiking. Whatever you bring with you on your hikes comes back to your car. (This includes TP)
- Stay on the trail
- Do not touch historic structures
- Know the rules and regulations of the area you are hiking in
- Do not have open fires. Stick to using the fire rings
- Respect others
- Control your pets
- Do not feed the wildlife.
HOW TO ADVANCE YOUR HIKING SKILLS
Hiking is not a super hard talent that requires a ton of skill. It is quite easy to be able to advance your hiking skills. I would consider planning out more hikes and work on increasing the level of difficulty.
As a beginner, you should plan to do the same hike a few times prior to moving on to a more difficult level hike. Take some notes and see how long it takes you to get to the top each time. Once you feel like you have conquered that hike then you are now ready to move on to another hike.
By doing this, you help you increase your endurance level as well as your hiking abilities and skills.
FINAL THOUGHTS FROM YOUR OUTDOOR LOVING SAN DIEGO GIRL
I have personally done so many hikes, backpacking trips and plenty of outdoors things throughout my life! The outdoors are my passion! I hope this guide helped you have a place to start.
Let me know in the comments below what other questions you have about hiking!
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