Want To Know How To Start Hiking? – Here’s The Info You Need!

Hiking is such a perfect activity. You have the chance to exercise, breath fresh air, be close to nature and clear your mind of all your daily worries. And the best thing is, it doesn’t even need to cost any money – all you need to do is walk!

Have you been thinking about taking up hiking and you’re wondering where to begin? Then this article is for you! In my beginners’ guide on how to start hiking, I will give you advice on what equipment you need, how to plan your first hike – and what to do next when you want more!

Getting Started – What Equipment Do You Need?

Hiking is a very accessible activity and one that doesn’t require you to spend vast sums of money on expensive equipment. If you want to try it out, there is very little you need to buy. Here is a list of equipment you might want when starting out:

1. Footwear

Sole Of Sport Shoe On Hiking Trail

Possibly the most important piece of hiking gear you will own is what you choose to put on your feet and the most versatile hiking footwear you can invest in is a good pair of walking boots. These will give your feet the most protection, they will keep your feet dry and will offer the best grip.

Remember, walking boots generally need some wearing-in – so don’t set out on a lengthy hike with boots straight out of the box!

If you plan to hike only on flat, dry trails where good grip is not so necessary, you can just as easily wear a pair of sports shoes. If you will be doing your hiking in warmer conditions, you might also consider a pair of hiking sandals such as Chacos.

Chaco Women's ZX3 Classic Sport Sandal

Chaco Sandals - Via Amazon.com

Check out my article about choosing Chacos here.

Socks are also important. You should wear a pair of thick walking socks made of wool or synthetic material. Avoid cotton socks as they easily become damp and take a long time to dry. Of course, you don’t need socks if you’re hiking in sandals.


2. Legs – Shorts Or Long Pants?

Woman Wearing Hiking Shorts At Mountain Peak

Again, it depends where you plan to hike. If you’ll be hiking along easy trails in warm weather, you will be able to wear a pair of shorts. If you are going to be hiking in colder areas or places where your legs need protection from vegetation, you may wish to wear long pants.

A good option is the kind of hiking pants that unzip at the knee. This allows you to remove the bottom part of the leg and convert them into shorts in warmer weather.

The last thing you want to wear for hiking is a pair of jeans…


3. Top – Go For Layers

When hiking, you should dress for the conditions and the key is wearing layers. This allows you to remove or add clothing as the weather changes. Again, avoid cotton as it will become damp if you sweat and takes a long time to dry.

If you will be hiking in an area with any chance of rain, a waterproof jacket is essential.


4. Hat

Woman Hiking At Sunny Day Time

Never underestimate the power of the sun – if you are likely to be hiking in bright sunlight, a good sun hat is essential to protect you from the rays. If you are hiking in the cold, on the other hand, you will want to swap your sun hat for a woolly one.


5. Poles

Hiking In Mountains With Poles

Hiking poles are not always necessary and you probably won’t need to buy a pair when you are starting out. Some people like poles as they can give you an extra level of stability when you are walking on irregular terrain like scree slopes or similar.


6. Backpack

Hiker Woman Looking At A Waterfall In The Forest

When hiking, you will need a bag to carry your equipment but when you are starting out, there is no need to spend lots of money on a specialist backpack. Any backpack will do as long it is comfortable, doesn’t swing about, is large enough to hold all your gear and has adjustable straps for a good fit.

Planning Your First Hike

When planning your first hike, it is important to get it right since a bad first experience might put you off forever. There are a number of things to consider that will help ensure your first trip is a successful one.

1. Right Distance And Difficulty Level For Your Ability

Summer Landscape With Hiking Trail In The Alps

The first thing to think about is how far you want to go for your first hike. It is important that you don’t overestimate your ability or you will end up returning exhausted and miserable. Furthermore, make sure that the trail is not too steep for you as hiking in the hills can be extremely tiring.

If you are planning your first hike and you are unsure of your ability, a good starting point would be a hike of no more than five miles on a relatively flat trail. Also, pace yourself. It’s not a race so set out at a steady speed you can maintain – and enjoy it!


2. Familiarize Yourself With The Trail

Young Girl Hiker Checking Map On Peak Of Foggy Mountain

Before setting off on your hike, you should acquire a map and familiarize yourself with the route. You should note if it is a loop, if you plan to walk the trail and return via the same route or if you need to organize transport to pick you up when you reach the end.

Make an estimate for how long you expect the hike to take. Take note of intersecting trails or other points where you might accidentally take a wrong turn.


3. Check The Weather

Hiker Searching For The Weather On Mobile Phone

Make sure you know what the weather forecast is in advance. You should make a final check of the weather a few hours before you plan to leave and if bad weather is expected, you may consider changing your plans or cancelling your hike.


4. Tell Someone Where You Are Going And What Time You Will Be Back

One of the most important rules of hiking is that you should never leave without informing somebody of your plans. Hikes often take longer than expected, but you should agree a time you will be back – after which time, somebody will inform the authorities that you are missing.


5. Pack The Right Kit According To Your Hike

Here is a list of ten essential “systems” you should take according to Mountaineers Books:

  • Navigation (map & compass)
  • Sun protection (sunglasses & sunscreen)
  • Insulation (extra clothing)
  • Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
  • First-aid supplies (including blister dressings)
  • Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candle)
  • Repair kit and tools (knife, multitool etc.)
  • Nutrition (extra food)
  • Hydration (extra water)
  • Emergency shelter (tent/plastic tube tent/garbage bag)

The key is to take the minimum amount of gear possible and you can adapt this list to your planned hike. For example, if you are planning a short, gentle hike through the countryside near a town, you might not need to worry so much about emergency shelter.

GPS navigation systems are great – but don’t rely on them. Electronics can fail and you should always have a hard copy of a map in case you get lost.


6. Take Care Of Nature – Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace When Hiking

Nature is there for everyone to enjoy – and it needs everyone’s help to preserve it. Please do your bit by taking all trash with you, don’t interfere with wild animals, be responsible when lighting fires – and generally be considerate towards mother nature and other hikers who come after you. LNT!

Taking It Further

You planned your first hike and it was a big success, you loved the feeling of being outdoors in the fresh air, close to nature and away from the noise and bustle of the big city – and now you want to take it further. Here are some of the next steps:

1. Join A Club

Group Of Hikers Balancing On A Tree Trunk In Forest

Joining a club and going on hikes with more experienced hikers is a great way to meet other people with similar interests as well as learning more about hiking and improving your skills.


2. Try Some More Challenging Trails

An Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Looks Back At New Hampshire Maine

An Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker

Once you are comfortable with easy trails, you might wish to try something more difficult. When your skills, fitness and confidence levels increase, you can try longer trails or trails that take you into the mountains or further into the wilderness.

There are many magnificent national parks all over the US offering just about every kind of hiking. All you have to do is choose which ones to visit.

Perhaps the ultimate walk is the Appalachian Trail in the eastern US. It takes several months to hike from one end to the other and if you manage to do it in one go, you will join the exclusive group of ‘thru hikers’.


3. Learn How To Camp

Camping Tent And Hiking Boots At Sunrise

Learning about camping means you can take on hikes of longer than one day – allowing you to go further than before and to really escape into the wilderness. You will need to buy camping equipment and learn the necessary skills for surviving in the wild.


4. Invest In Your Own Gear

Equipment Necessary For Hiking And Mountaineering On Wooden Background

As I said at the beginning, hiking doesn’t require you to spend lots of money to begin with – but once you fall in love with it, you may wish to start acquiring your own hiking equipment.

As you become more experienced, you might want to buy specialist boots and clothing, navigational equipment, a backpack, poles or any other kit that will make your future hikes more enjoyable.

Conclusion

Of course, I love hiking – and if you’re thinking about giving it a go, I can’t encourage you enough to try. It’s the perfect activity for families, groups of friends, couples or even solo hikers and like me, once you know how to start hiking, you just won’t be able to stop!

When did you take up hiking? What are your favorite experiences? Where are the best places to go? Do you have any other tips for beginners? I’d love to hear all your comments – and if you liked my article – or you know someone who wants to try hiking – don’t forget to share!

Julie McClain
 

Chief editor here at Outdoorzer. I'm an outdoor lover and ever since I was a little girl, I've worked hard to learn all I could from my Dad about Camping, Hiking, RVs and surviving in the woods.

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