Hiking for the first time can be an amazing way to explore nature, challenge yourself, and exercise but for many people, they simply don't know where to start. Whether you're a beginner or have been hiking for years, there's always something new to learn so here are 10 tips and tricks to help you get started on your hiking journey.
1. Choose the Right Equipment
The first step to a successful hiking experience is to have the right equipment. This includes comfortable and sturdy hiking shoes, a backpack to carry water, snacks, and other essentials, and appropriate clothing for the weather. Make sure to check the weather forecast before your hike and dress in layers that can be easily removed or added as needed. An emergency device such as a PLB, In-reach or SOS enabled phone is also important to make sure you can be found in an emergency.
2. Plan Your Hike
Before setting out on your hike, it's important to plan ahead. Research the trail you'll be hiking, including its length, track grade, and any potential hazards. Make sure to bring a physical map or a download digital map for offline use in case you lose phone reception. It's also important to let someone you trust know your hiking plans, including the trail you'll be on and when you expect to return.
3. Start Slow and Gradually Increase Difficulty
When starting out, it's important to start slow and gradually increase the difficulty of your hikes as you build your skills and confidence. Don't try to tackle a challenging trail on your first hike - instead, opt for a relatively easy trail and gradually work your way up. This will help you build up your strength, endurance, and skills, and reduce the risk of injury. Once you have the confidence, try some harder hikes with some friends to help you build your abilities together out on the trail.
4. Stay on the Trail
To reduce your environmental impact, staying on the track is crucial. The simple act of keeping to the path helps preserve wildlife, vegetation, and prevents erosion and harm to the park. If you wish to venture beyond the trail, ensure you select a designated off-trail area and try be conscious of what you are walking on.
5. Know Your Limits
It's important to know your limits and be realistic about what your abilities are as a first-time hiker. Never try push yourself too hard, especially when it is your first-time hiking and if at any point you start feeling tired or unwell, take a break and rest. If you find yourself lost or injured, call for help and stay where you are until help arrives. Staying safe out on the trail is very important, often the environments where you are hiking are hard to reach and when things go wrong that can put you in a lot of danger.
6. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is important for a successful hiking trip. Make sure to bring plenty of water, and consider bringing a water filtration system if you'll be hiking in an area without access to potable water. It's also a good idea to drink water regularly throughout the hike, rather than waiting until you're thirsty as by then it can simply be too late to get hydrated again and even more so on hot summer days.
7. Fuel Your Body
In addition to staying hydrated, it's important to fuel your body with energy-rich snacks and meals. Pack a nutritious and calorie-dense lunch, and bring along snacks like trail mix, nuts, and fruit to help keep your energy levels up. Some traditional hiker foods include wraps with your fillings and the previously mentioned trail-mix. If you're still struggling for ideas around what to bring, you can find some more great ideas at our recipes hub.
8. Respect Wildlife
When hiking in areas with wildlife, it's important to respect the animals and their habitats. Keep a safe distance from animals, and avoid approaching or feeding them. If you encounter a wild animal, don't worry as they are usually more scared of you than you are of them. Be sure slowly back away, and give the animal plenty of space; if you want you can watch them from a distance and see how they behave in the wild.
9. Leave No Trace
When hiking, one of the most important rules to remember is the "leave no trace" principles. This means leaving the environment as you found it, packing out all of your trash, avoiding cutting switchbacks, picking up any rubbish you find, and not disturbing natural features like rocks, plants, and wildlife. The idea is simple, nobody should be able to tell that you've been walking there, leaving it in perfect condition for generations to come.
10. Have Fun!
Finally and most importantly, make sure to have fun! Hiking is a great activity anyone can get involved in and at the end of the day that is what makes it such a special activity to do.
So I hope you as a first-time hiker have learnt something from this very basic introduction to hiking. Hiking is a fun and rewarding activity that offers the opportunity to connect with nature, improve physical fitness, and create memorable experiences. By following basic guidelines, such as choosing appropriate gear, planning your hike, respecting wildlife, and leaving no trace, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable hike for you and the environment. So go ahead and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors, I'll see you out there!
Written by Josh Welch