Hiking Tips For Beginners
Are the beautiful outdoors calling your name? Dreaming of going for a hike to answer it? There are really just hiking tips you need to get started: (1) find someone to hike with, (2) get some gear, and (3) plan a trip. But if you’re not familiar with hiking, or don’t know another hiker, it can be hard to figure out exactly how to get started and how to do it right. Plus, there are a lot of misconceptions about hiking. When people think of hiking, they usually imagine someone carrying a heavy backpack, pulling themselves along with a walking stick, and trekking miles down a rugged trail. We think of the Appalachian Trail and bucket list trails that take years to prepare for. But that’s only the top tier of hiking. These kind of intense visualizations are what usually scares people away from it. Hiking can be both recreational and professional, and we tend to forget that hiking isn’t just for the pros.
And what people don’t remember is that all the “pro’s” were also in need of some hiking for beginners education at one point. They had to figure everything out, too. They had to start out carrying the wrong equipment, forgetting to fuel their bodies correctly, picking the right trails, and sweating through the tough trips. That’s what we’re going to help you avoid — today we’re going to cover all the things new hikers need to know.
Here’s the hiking tips veteran hikers wish they knew when they were just starting out:
Tip 1: Pack weight is important – don’t bring too much
One of the biggest mistakes that new hikers make is bringing too much stuff. All that stuff adds up and turns into back strain. Experience hikers count the weight of their packs down to the single oz, and every oz makes a difference to them. As a beginner, you shouldn’t get bogged down calculating weight, but you also shouldn’t bring things you don’t need yet. Don’t forget: you’re a hiker, not a pack mule.
Only bring only what you really need:
- Fuel (food and water)
- Good shoes and clothing
- Navigation (GPS, compass, maps)
- Sun protection
- Pocket knife
- First aid kit
- Shelter (space blanket or hiking bivy)
Tip 2: No two trails are alike
There are several ways to classify the difficulty of a trail. You want to know about this so that you don’t pick a trail that’s above your head. That’s how accidents happen. You’ll get to the “big” trails eventually, but you need to work your way up to them slowly. Plus, it’s hard to enjoy a hike when you’re struggling through one that’s a bit above your paygrade. Take a crawl-walk-run approach to choosing trails, and make sure to think about time, mileage, and elevation.
- Mileage, Elevation, Time: Figure out how long you want to be out, and look for trails that match. Most trails have guides on mileage and how long it takes the average person to complete them.
- Classes of Hiking: Class I, Class II are where most hikers will actually stay for the majority of their hiking “career”. Anything above these classes may require more technical knowledge, like climbing.
Tip 3: Don’t hike alone (yet)
Always, always, always tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return. This is an unspoken, but cardinal rule of hiking. If something happens to you out in the wilderness, no one can come to your aid if they don’t know where you were planning to go. This is the most important safety rule when it comes to teaching hiking for beginners. Here’s what kind of information you should leave with someone:
- The trail you’re taking
- When you’re leaving
- When you expect to be finished
- Who you’re going with
Tip 4: Food and water (aka fuel) can make or break a hike
Water consumption gets trickier during an activity like hiking. The combination of exercise, temperature, and altitude create an environment that requires more water and fuel than normal. If you feel thirsty, then you haven’t had enough water. The same essential lesson goes for fuel. If you’re starving, it’s kind of too late. Take a break, grab something simple like an apple or a Pumpkin Seed Bar to refuel. The biggest rule with fuel is to bring more than you think you need.
- Water: It’s more than you might think — aim for half a liter to a full liter every hour depending on how hot it is.
- Food: Bring enough to eat 200-300 calories per hour, depending on the difficulty of the trail you take. Mix superfoods to include both protein and carbs. Chia Bars also make a fantastic trail snack. (Plus, they won’t take up too much room in your pack!)
Tip 5: The right footwear is essential
Experience hikers will tell you that all kinds of specific, specialized clothing is required for hiking. But you don’t need to go drop $1000 on new clothing — at least not right away. If you’re going to spend money on anything, it should be your footwear. The worst thing about going on a hike is finding yourself a mile or two down a trail with sore, aching feet. You generally have two options that are based on preference.
- Over-the-ankle hiking boots: Boots that come up over your ankle will give you more support (and prevent a rolled ankle).
- Lighter trail-running shoes: Trail running shoes feel lighter, and can also drain water and dry faster if you have to step into a creek.
Many hiking enthusiasts usually have no problem taking a beginner under their wing. But whether you find a mentor or not, you’ll be hiking like a pro in no time. Make sure to fuel your first hiking trip by packing the power of superfoods in your hiking bag, and with Health Warrior, there are a ton of superfood options for every palette.
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