Hiking for beginners

Hiking for Beginners: A complete guide for beginners

Hiking is one of the most amazing sports which you can make super easy and extremely hard…

…If you know what you’re going to face and be prepared, you’ll enjoy your trial.

Simply, the more you know, the more you prepared yourself, the better the trial will be.

How should I start? What do I need? Any advice a pro hiker can give?

This article will cover the basic facts that you must know as a beginner when hiking.

Hiking for Beginners: Tips and Essentials that every hiker must know for a happy hike.

Know Yourself

Know yourself

While on hike…

…If you over strive yourself the enjoyment can soon be vanished leaving you reluctant to a daring journey!

So it is important to know your limitations and understand your capabilities before deciding to go your first backpacking trip.

There isn’t anything called so easy when hiking, so it is better to start small and start moving to climb longer, difficult hikes.

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1. Never hike alone

If you are a novice, It is not recommended to hike alone.

If you are not overly confident about yourself, it’s ideal to partner up with someone with more experienced than you.

At least until you become self sufficient with your outdoor skills, make sure to hike with a group or a partner with experience.

The bright side of having a partner or hike with a group:

  • Your hike will be much easier.
  • Safer to make the mistakes that come with learning.
  • Provides an environment to learn from others and be inspired.
  • If you get lost, there is a higher chance of getting found before the onset of night.
  • Your companion can offer encouragement if you are struggling with something.

Going for a solo might be great but partnering up with someone else can be much more rewarding!

2. Don’t be too ambitious

Fitness is a must for a hiker!

I feel your immediate impulsive reaction when you here the word Fitness. 😉

Probably it’s a good initial indication of where you are at with hiking your first hike.

When I mentioned ‘Fitness is a must for a hiker!’ the first thought came to your mind was ‘Great! I fit to go my first hike!‘, you are probably not too far away from dauntless exploring the mountains and beauty of mother nature from the summit.

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Start with distances you know you can easily handle. A certain level of fitness is required to go uphill and downhill.

If you are a fit person, with less effort you may find you can walk further rather than those who are not so fit.

If you have good balance…

( if it’s a rough rocky terrain, you can use trekking poles during your hike to have more balance and control )

…you may find you can handle trickier terrain easier than others.

 

Remember though that 1 mile of walking on pavement is a lot different than 1 mile over hilly, rocky terrain.

3. Tell someone where you are going

In case something goes wrong, or you get lost it is always a great backup plan to tell someone where you are going and how long you should be gone.

You want to know and make sure that someone will eventually start looking for you, If you run into trouble.

If you cannot tell anyone, always leave a note at home or in your car telling where and when you are going.

Plan Everything

Plan Everything

Remember, Planning is everything. Planning defines how successful your hike will be.

Look:

Due to poor planning, most of the long distance trail hikers fail to finish their backpacking trip. Even one day solo hike can fail as a result of not making a solid plan.

In short term, this is the real deal. 🙂

So before you go, when planning your hike, there are some facts that you need to consider.

4. Consider how long you will be outside

If you plan on being gone for more than a couple of hours, you may consider bringing some extra water and snacks with you.

Water is a must, if you cannot bring a canteen, maybe bring some sort of water filter for hydration.

Snacks like trail mix, nuts, granola, jerky and other sealed food last a long time and can be a great treat while out hiking.

5. Start small

You need to assess where you’re at before thinking or taking on bigger hiking challenges.

When you’re hiking for the first time, then it is better you start with small distance and choose the right hiking route that matches your fitness level.

Starting with short walks in your local area is just fine to build up your fitness.

Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet

With unvarying effort and patience, you’ll build up your fitness fast and you’ll most likely to hike longer, difficult hikes. 🙂

6. Pick your hiking location

You can talk to your friends or coworkers and ask them if they know any good spots to hike.

Before you start hiking, familiarize yourself with the trail map. Take a picture of the map for reference If there aren’t any handouts available at the trailhead.

Train Yourself

Train Yourself

A wise step you can take before you hike;  training yourself to understand your fears, your limits and do’s and don’ts.

So, how to train yourself?

7. Join a hiking club

Why not join a hiking club?

If you love to hike and would like to share your experience not only with your friends and family, but also with a group of like-minded people, it may be a wise step to consider joining a hiking club.

There are so many benefits you can gain from a hiking club.

The best way to learn the ropes is to hike with a group. You will see what they bring, how they use it and will usually have some experts among the group who can teach you a lot just by watching them.

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Two good reasons why I like about being a member of hiking club are, it feels like being a part of a community like yourself and it is needless to say the fun you can get. 🙂

Look:

I heard that there are actually a variety of different types of hiking club, so make sure you know the differences before choosing and joining one.

There are some hiking clubs that will get together on a monthly basis to tackle some new terrain but don’t do a whole lot else…

…while other clubs will meet more frequently, climbing up new trails, discussing all the latest trends about hiking and hiking gear, and even raising fundraisers to support what they are enthusiast about.

 

Based on these preferences, it is important to know what it is that you’re willing to do, how often you’re willing to do it, and which club suits best for you.

Check the Internet to see if there are any hiking clubs or groups in your area and make sure it is active.

8. Take practice

If you want to climb up to more strenuous and challenging hikes, you want to engage yourself to practice.

Try hiking at least once a week at a local park. You’ll develop and build up your physical endurance, build up your muscles to handle more gear and climb longer hikes.

Better to test out new gear on every hike as you’ll get to know what works for you best and you’ll get use to some of them.

Don’t loose hope if you are a fat buddy. Because of you are overweight doesn’t mean that you cannot get to the summit and complete your hike.

Just take your time.

The good thing is you get to pick your speed and difficulty level, making hiking a great way to get your legs, feet, and body used to energetic activities.

Give yourself plenty of time to complete your trip and remember not to start a hike at the evening.

Dress Up

Dress up

It’s not bad weather, just inappropriate clothing

A quote by Ranulph Fiennes suggest that, by dressing appropriately you can overcome any weather condition.

As a matter of fact, How you prepared your clothing is important throughout your hike!

9. Know your terrain

Will it be cold, hot, wet or windy?

Dress appropriately for the weather and the terrain. Will it get cold in the nightfall, will it rain?

Things to consider will help you determine what gear you may need to bring. Extra clothes are the best thing to help you adapt to the weather accordingly.

10. Dress like an onion

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A good strategy you can take!

What I meant by ‘Dressing like an onion’ is to dress in layers.

Wearing many thin layers give you better control over temperature regulation than wearing integrated component garments.

Develop a layering system that works for your needs and make sure it is comfortable and lightweight.

How to develop a layering system?

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For a example i’ll think of a situation with a cold weather. Here is how to prepare for it.

clothing layering system

Base Layer – Base layer is generally a single layer and it’s close tight to your skin. This layer needs to be comfortable and it’s address to move moisture or sweat away from your body so that it can eveporate.

Insulating Layers – These layers are designed to insulate your body with one or more layers of clothing. These layers need to be breathable if you are moving around and generating heat (wool or fleece is ideal).

If you are not moving around and are not in a state of sweating, Down is an excellent option.

To amend your insulation levels according to the activity your are engage in, outer garments in this system needs to be quickly and easily removable.

Protective Layers – These outer layer address to protect you from any kind of weather conditions like rain, cold wind, or snow and protects any heat loss.

Truly, what you are looking on a protective layer is, it needs to be a waterproof and windproof shell with harder enough to handle whatever environment you are hiking.

 
Remember;

This layering system needs to include your head, hands and feet.

Note: This would be vary if you are hiking in summer. This is just an example to make you understand the word phrase “layering system”. 🙂

11. Wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing

What pants to choose?

Avoid wearing denim. This material becomes cold as well as very heavy when exposed to moisture, making you more likely to shivers.

Heard of poison ivy?

So don’t get used to wear shorts for a hike.

If the weather turns cold, shorts might keep you shivering like moisturized denims.

If the weather going to be sunny and hot, pants might get too uncomfortable for you. If you don’t have any other options go with jeans that you are always comfortable with.

If it’s rainy, remember to wear Rain/Soft-shell pants.

What shirt or jacket to wear?

When it comes to shirts, wear a breathable one like merino wool long shirts. They will definitely bring more comfort than any other t-shirt. Or just go with a comfortable t-shirt you already have.

But don’t ever wear cotton if it’s cold and rainy.

As I mentioned before about denims, cotton becomes cold and wet when exposed to moisture.

Many hikers prefer synthetic over cotton for comfort and performance.

You must have a jacket or raincoat in your backpack. Weather can be change instantly in mountains. It is always good to be prepared.

12. Avoid cotton socks

They will retain moisture and can increase the likelihood of developing blisters. Wear a good pair of wool or synthetic hiking socks.

13. Make your feet happy

Boots or Shoes?

First let’s look at boots:

  • Weight: This seems a costly fact to your feet.

The more weight you carry, the more energy you are going to waste. The weight that you carry on your feet is actually much more significant than the weight on your backpack.

Boots make it unbreathable to your toes. Your feet will be soft from soaking in sweat throughout your hike and they will be vulnerable to blisters.

  • Waterproof: In my experience, this is a misleading term.

Waterproof boots won’t keep your feet dry. As I mentioned before, your feet will be wet with sweat. Most of the hikers will think waterproof is good, but When it rains, water will run down your legs and then into your boots.

Think of what will happen if your boots get wet! They get heavier.

  • Ankle Support: This is actually a marketing phrase.

Boots didn’t provide ankle support at all, boots will tire your legs and make your walk awkward which will leads to cause injuries.

So, as a beginner, don’t wear boots in your first hike.

Let’s take a look at the types of shoes available for hiking.

  • Trail Running Shoes:

These beasts aren’t just for running. Many experienced hikers use them to hike all kind of terrains.

Mostly good for hiking well-maintained trails with light backpacks and dayhiking trails. The foot support is less when carrying a heavy backpack than hiking shoes.

  • Hiking Shoes:

These are best for dayhiking plus all sort of trails. Provide a great support and when it comes to foot support, this is the best choice for you.

Due to waterproof liners you can handle a normal muddy trail.

  • Approach Shoes:

These shoes are good to hike rocky areas. Have a sticky rubber sole and made out of durable materials when comparing with hiking shoes.

And suits best for you, if you are scrambling up ridges.

My advice to you is to wear good, sturdy, comfy, light shoes. Get yourself a pair that will breathe easily and dry quickly after getting wet. Go to your local outdoor store and ask around.

Remember, though that a pound on your feet is ten on your back in terms of energy needs, so really don’t go with the heaviest ones you can find.

Happy feet = Happy hiker

14. Try your shoes before hiking

Wear any new hiking shoes around town and your house before taking them out on the trail.

15. Learn weather forecasting

Learn how to do your own weather forecasting. It’s not difficult, you’ll become better with experience.

As big hills influence and dance with the weather, the best way to anticipate what will happen out there is to study the local patterns ( or for wherever you hike ). The conditions can change dramatically with altitude.

If you are hiking into an exposed area of a peak or summit, and the wind starts blowing at about 100 mph, you need to turn yourself back!

And If you are above the treeline on an exposed rocky area and you see gloomy thunder clouds forming and start hearing cracks of thunder, turn back!

16. Learn to read a Topographic map

You can identify the landforms you see when you’re hiking in order to find your position on a map.

This is even more simpler than using a compass and one that you’ll use much more frequently.

Prepare Backpack

Prepare Backpack

What to pack? Depends on whether you are going for a day hike or multi-day hike.

For a day hike:

…don’t worry about packing more gear or cooking complex meals. Sandwiches, pasta salads and snacks such as nuts and cereal bar will be sufficient to complete the trip.

For a multi-day hike:

…specially you need to consider about staying hydrated, how often do you need to take breaks and drink water.

And you will need to consider about camping equipment. This would include a camping tent, sleeping pads, sleeping bag and depending on what you intend to cook, you need to consider cookware with camping stove and pans.

Tinned food might be convenient to pack, but seems heavy when comparing with freeze-dried food.

17. Get a Backpack that suits you best

Find something you really enjoy wearing. You won’t be traveling with too much stuff, so as a beginner you don’t need to go out and buy an 399$ or more ultra backpack.

18. Gear up your tools

I’ll recommend you some essentials that you need to bring as a beginner.

  • Hydration Reservoir / Water bottle

Being hydrated is an uppermost act to concern in a successful first hike. Depending on weather, you’ll have to pack less or more water. I know you love to hear numbers, so 2 to 3 liters should be enough. 🙂

To carry more water, bring Hydration packs with you.

If you know your terrain is rich of water streams and rivers, you can pack a mini Water Filtration System to drink much water as you need.

  • First aid kit

There are a whole bunch of smaller injuries which can make your hike completely miserable.

Being ready for majority of them may help someone else in your hiking party that was not prepared for injuries.

You can make your own First aid kit or you can easily buy a ready-made one from a local shop.

Learn about hazards in the wild, learn about common symptoms that you can experience, learn about how to treat injuries using your First aid kit and enjoy your hike. 🙂

  • Insect repellent

Before you entering the wild, apply some on your clothings.

  • Map and Compass

I don’t recommend you to rely on GPS of your smartphone.

Here is why,

  • Batteries can die.
  • Your smartphone can get lost or damaged during the hike.
  • Unless it’s waterproof, due to rain it’ll stop functioning.

So your best bet is to bring a map of the terrain. Before your hike, learn to read a map and try to undertand the landforms.

Remember to bring a protective case along with the map.

  • Pocket knife

I suggest always carrying some form of cutting tool like a good quality knife for various camp uses.

  • Fire-starters

Some form of fire making device (striker, matches, or lighter) would also be very handy if you got stranded out for a while.

I also like to have some string or cordage just in case of an extended stay in the wild. And if it’s sunny, better to bring Sunscreen with you.

Beyond the essentials you can bring,

  • A Camera

To capture the greatest moments and beauty of the wild from the summit. 🙂

  • Book

If you are camping, a book would be great. Most hikers prefer to read a book while camping to get lost in the story while feeling the mountains.

  • Sunglasses

If it’s a hot sunny day, bright sun will make your hike harder and can give you headaches. Wearing a good sunglass during your hike will give you a pleasant experience.

19. Decide whether to camp

Before packing, you’ll need to decide if you want to camp, lodge, or do a mixture. Depending on the number of days on the mountains, you’ll need to figure out how much food you need to bring.

  • Dried Food

This is a great way to have veggies and fruits along the trail while making your backpack lightweight.

Better to make your own dried food because dried food found in your local shops are treated with chemicals to maintain its color.

  • Dried Meat

Loses 50% of it’s weight when dehydrated. After preparation you can freeze the dried meat and get them ready for packing.

  • Eggs

Freshly laid eggs in the shell last nearly 3 weeks at room temperature.

For protection, You can cut down a Styrofoam egg carton to hold many eggs as you want to take with you and apply a rubber band to close them up.While camping you can cook them fresh.

  • Fresh Fruits

Pack some apples and bananas to have while hiking. They will be helpful to keep you active on the trail.

  • Snack

Good for quick fueling your body. Go for homemade bars and trail mix rather than buying them from local shop because they are usually loaded with sugar and salt.

  • Nuts

Nuts are loaded with heart-healthy good fats and protien. Rather than taking raw nuts, prepare them at your home with different recipes to make it great. 🙂

Be Smart

Be Smart

20. Become a Volunteer

Experience is one of the most precious thing you can have in life. When you become a hiker, you join a community of people who love the outdoors and hiking.

Volunteering to do trail work will help you to develop your skills and face less difficulties in your next hike. So be active and sharing.

21. Collect trophies

Create a journal of your journeys. Start blogging. Be honest with yourself what you like and what not, what you hate and what not, and adjust your hikes to be as much fun as possible and as little drag.

22. Leave only footprints

Don’t leave trash in the woods, Don’t pollute the wood. If you bring anything with you, make sure it is coming back with you.

Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints and kill nothing but time.

What If you get lost?

First thing: Don’t panic

Stop where you are. Take your whislte ( Make this an essential gear to pack ) out and blow it. Wait till your hiking party finds you out.

If you are on a solo ( I don’t recommend for a novice ) and your hiking party had left you…

…the best course of action would be to stay put and wait for rescue.

Focus about what you need to do and what options do you have. Observe your surroundings and resources. Make a Plan and proceed.

Throughout your ‘lost period’; keep calm and stay focused.

You can visit our Hiking Safety article for further reading about safety.

 

When going downhill:

Not like going uphill, you have to shorten your stride to minimize the risk of gliding and rolling 😀

And remember to land on the balls of your feet. Along with that, if you can slightly bent your knee, it will be much safer.

With being in a hurry, if you’re going to land on your heels for thousands of steps, you’ll end up wreaking havoc on your knees and joints.

So, take your time and finish your trip.

Just a reminder; when going uphill, If you are only couple of miles into your hike, you notice that your problem knee is feeling a lot of pain, better to turn yourself back!

 

Before Leaving Home:

Double check your checklist. Make sure all the gear you need is packed and there isn’t anything necessary left at home!

 

To end up,

Focus on each and every step, breath, march slowly to the uphill to avoid muscle fatigue, and don’t let yourself get off the trail.

Also, don’t be afraid of the weather! Be Prepared 🙂

For gear recommendations, headover to our Hiking Gear and Camping Tools articles.


PPS: I’d love to hear your thoughts on this guide. Leave a comment below with your feed-back. 🙂

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If you have any suggestions that you think I should add-up to this guide, let me know on the comment section below…

…And if you have any questions, feel free to ask. 🙂