Day Hiking for Beginners: 10 Essential Tips
Hiking for Beginners
Hiking is a great way to get out of the house and enjoy the wilderness. You don’t have to be an expert and you don’t need to live close to some amazing hiking community. You don’t need a big budget and there is not a lot of planning involved for day hiking. There are plenty of options from famous national parks to city parks that offer great trails. They key to any hobby or activity is having fun. Below you will find hiking tips for beginners to help prepare for your hikes.
1. Do something easy and have fun.
The easiest way to stop hiking is by not having fun. In order to have fun, you will need to consider a few things:
How long you want to hike for and how difficult do you want the route to be? Are there easy trails or are there a lot of difficult switchbacks? For those new to hiking it is recommended to do anything less than an hour. If you feel you are out of shape, maybe try for 30 minutes or less. Avoid hikes that have large elevation gains.
Where will you go hiking? The route doesn’t have to be some world class or hard to reach spot. In fact, many cities have great parks where you can go hiking. Some trails might not be well marked on the maps but they are fun to explore. If you live out in rural areas there’s a good chance that you will find state or county parks nearby that offer great trails.
2. Check the weather before going.
This is keeping in mind with the first tip, ‘have fun’. Check for storms or bad weather. No one wants to get caught in a storm on their first time. And don’t try hiking for the first time during a heatwave. Depending on where you live, weather may pick up in the afternoon so be cautious of storms that might not always be forecasted.
3. Start Early.
If your schedule and sleep pattern allows you, go early in the morning. The temperature will not be as hot and there will be less people. The trail will be more enjoyable if you can avoid the crowds and you’ll be able to experience nature closer.
4. Bring enough water.
One of the least desirable moments I have experienced was not having enough water on one of my hikes. Even if you are hiking on a city trail it is still recommended to carry water. The amount of water needed will always vary depending on the length of the hike, the difficulty, the weather, and your personal preference.
Water is important to have during a hike and it is also important to keep hydrated before and after the hikes. The last thing you want to do is start a hike while you are dehydrated. And drinking enough water after a hike is important for your recovery because your muscles may feel a little sore in some areas. If you are on a long hike and if you fear you might run out of water, consider carrying a water filter. Obviously, this would only work if there was a water source near the trail.
5. Bring the essentials in your hiking backpack.
There are a few hiking essentials for beginners like a hiking backpack. For short hikes any school backpack will do. There are plenty of options on the market if you want to upgrade to a day or hiking backpack. No matter if you are hiking in the middle of the wilderness or hiking in local city park, it is always recommended to bring water (point 4), protection from the sun, protection against bugs, and snacks.
Protection from the sun can include sun block, clothes that are designed to protect against the sun rays, hat, or handkerchief. It is common for hikers to wear light long pants and long sleeves even in the summertime. They will also help protect you against bugs. The hat will help protect your face and you can use the handkerchief to protect your neck. Bring bug repellant if you are afraid of getting bitten. It is recommended, for just in case, to bring bug repellent even if you think the area is not that buggy. Bring a first aid kit. It is something that may not be used much but you are sure glad to have it when you need.
6. Keep it light.
Don’t pack your hiking backpack like you are going away for two weeks. The less you have, the less weight you will carry, and the more fun you will have.
7. Use hiking sandals or hiking boots.
One of the most important things to have in order to have a fun hike is to wear comfortable hiking boots or hiking sandals. Yes, sandals work well for hiking. A comfortable sandal or hiking shoe goes a long way. They are durable, comfortable, and designed for these types of activities. However, if you don’t want to buy a new pair of shoes or sandals, don’t let that hold you back from starting to hike. Any regular tennis shoe that you don’t mind getting a little dirty will work just fine in the beginning.
8. Bring a map and compass.
If your route is in a remote location than it is recommended to bring a map with a compass. Don’t rely on your phone because it can run out of batteries or lose its signal. Sometimes trails are not well marked so the map and compass will help you navigate your way.
9. Leave the trail better than you found it.
Please pick up trash on the trail if you find it and carry out your own trash. Stay on the trail. Well used trails may have evidence of erosion. The more you walk off the trail or make short cuts the more harm you do to the environment. Erosion is bad because plants and trees cannot grow, and their roots help keep the soil intact. Without the soil intact, the rain will wash the trail away along with the beautiful nature.
10. Go hike again.
Don’t stop, it’s fun.