Hiking can be a great way to stay physically fit, reduce stress, and unplug from this technology-driven world we live in for a while by getting back to simplicity and nature.
Just about anyone can participate in hiking with very little needed to fully enjoy the activity. Whether young or old, physically fit or not the great thing about hiking is that it allows you to set the level of physical activity by setting the pace and choosing a trail that fits your fitness level.
Hikes can be in your local park for a few hours or can be a weeks-long expedition along the Appalachian Trail. The great thing about hiking is that it can take many forms and has many levels of difficulty, to challenge the beginning hiker all the way up to the seasoned veteran.
Regardless of how you choose to participate in hiking though there are a few things to keep in mind to get the most out of hiking. So when you hit the trails as a beginning hiker keep these top 10 hiking tips in mind to maximize your enjoyment and stay safe while hiking.
If you would rather enjoy this content in video format, check out the below video I made on YouTube that has the same information.
Scale the Hill Before Scaling a Mountain
When hiking it’s important to know your fitness level and to listen to your body especially if you are new to the activity. Don’t make the mistake of overestimating your abilities. As with anything, it’s better to start small and level up once you have found your hiking legs.
It’s important to keep in mind that hiking along a trail will take much more energy and time than walking on a smooth flat surface especially if the trail is more rugged and has a lot of elevation changes.
If your a beginning hiker or it’s been a while since lacing up those hiking boots, keep the distance shorter and the pace modest.
Look for trails that make a loop, then complete a lap and see how you feel. After the first lap, if you are still feeling strong, take on that second lap.
Know the Trail when Hiking
Once you have selected a trail do your homework and due diligence. Many campgrounds and state parks have an excellent online presence, where you can often find a printable PDF map of the trail.
When looking at the map note any entry and exit points, look out for forks in the trail, and whether or not the trail intersects with another trail. It’s also a good idea to know the distance of the trail and the elevation change in the trail to know what you are signing up for.
The more you know about the trail the better off and more prepared you will be when it’s time to hit the trail. A little homework upfront can make all the difference in keeping you a happy and safe hiker.
Use the Buddy System and Let Someone Know Where You Are
Often times when hiking you can be in isolated woods and trails so it’s always a good idea to use the buddy system when hiking. There are two different ways to use the buddy system and you should use both of them together.
The first being to hike with a friend or partner. By hiking with a friend there is always someone there in case you run into trouble while on the trail.
The second way to use the buddy system is to let someone know where you are and when you plan to return. When using this technique if you do not return according to plan someone knows where you are and can come looking for you.
As mentioned above make sure you use both techniques, this way you have your bases covered no matter what the trail might throw at you.
Take Care of Your Feet When Hiking
It’s important when hiking to have the appropriate footwear. Cotton socks and tennis shoes were not meant for, nor can they handle the rigors of the trail.
If you are going to start hiking it’s important to invest in a good pair of hiking boots. Hiking boots come in all shapes and sizes so it’s important to pick one that feels comfortable and can handle the type of hiking you will be doing.
Also, a good pair of socks can be almost as important as hiking boots. Stay away from cotton socks when hiking, it is best to go with wool or a synthetic blend.
Keeping your feet happy will allow you to focus on the trail and nature instead of your tired aching feet.
Check the Weather
Before hitting the trails it’s a good idea to check the weather so you know what to expect.
This will help you dress more appropriately and beware of any potential rain shower or thunderstorm that you might encounter.
You don’t always have to hike in perfect weather but it’s a good idea to be aware and prepared for the weather that you might encounter.
What to Pack for Your Hike
While you might not need all of these items depending on the hike you are planning, as the hiking gear needed for a short summer hike near people will look much different than a hike that involves several days through the backcountry. It’s always important to have a few basic hiking items with you while on the trails.
- Map and Compass
- Flashlight or Headlamp
- First Aid Supplies
- Lighter or Waterproof Matches
- Sunglasses, Sunscreen, and Hat
- Extra Layer of Clothing
- Hiking Tent
- Hiking Poles
Look the Part
Just as with socks, it’s best to avoid cotton clothing that can get damp and stay that way, instead opt for a synthetic material that will be more breathable and comfortable on the trail.
Also layering is important when hiking as it allows you to adjust for the weather. When you start your hike in the morning you will appreciate the extra layers and warmth, but when the afternoon sun starts to beat down you will want to be able to shed some layers to stay cool.
Set the Pace
Keep in mind that you will be freshest when first starting out on your hike and even though it might be tempting to charge up those hills at breakneck speed you will regret it towards the end of the hike.
Instead pick a comfortable steady pace when hiking, that away you will have the energy and stamina to complete the entire trail comfortably.
One of the great aspects of hiking is that it can bring people together under a common goal of completing the trail. So keep in mind it’s always more fun hiking with other people and groups.
Look for clubs and groups in your area that you can participate in, you just might find some great friends.
A great free website that I used to find local people interested in hiking that I could go on hikes with is the website MeetUp. I was able to join a hiking group on the website (they also have an app too) and went on a hike in my local area with the group within the week.
Always Use the Motto “Leave No Trace” When Hiking
Make sure whatever you bring onto the trails you take with you when you leave the trails. This way the next hiker behind you can enjoy the trail just as much as you did.
Your goal when hiking in the great outdoors should always be to “Leave No Trace”. Meaning that when you leave the trail no one should ever be able to tell you were even there.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of hiking is being in pristine nature untouched by man. Don’t ruin that experience for another hiker by finding your discarded items and trash along the trail.
Keep nature beautiful!