Hiking for Beginners: 5 Essential Tips
Hiking has a boatload of benefits. Not only is it a great form of both cardio and muscle-building exercise, but it is also good for your mental health.
In fact, frequent hiking reduces the risk of mental health issues by half! You also get a break from staring at a screen, lower your stress hormone levels and enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery. What could be better?
But if you are just starting out, you want to make sure you do it right to avoid injury and hating the whole thing.
Here are five sure-fire tips to do with hiking for beginners.
1. Start on Beginner Trails
One of the most common mistakes people make when they first go hiking is that they overdo it.
When you are starting out, avoid treks that are too long or have too much incline. Less than five miles with minimal climbing is best for beginners.
You can then add a mile or two each week to build up your distance comfortably. Remember, slow and steady is the best way to go. You won’t get much hiking done if you become injured on a hike that was too grueling for your fitness level.
Actually, even if you are in great shaping, hiking is different than working out at the gym or running. You use different muscles and are also carrying gear.
It’s best to start with a hike that could potentially be too easy. There are a ton of great resources to find a trail such as sites like AllTrails.
Whether you are a beginner or an expert, you should become familiar with the hike before you start. Read the trail guide and get a sense of where the turns are and what the course looks like.
2. Have the Essential Hiking Gear and Nothing More
If you’ve ever walked into a camping store you know the vast amount of gear options out there.
But having too much gear with you is another no-no. It will only weigh you down and cost you a lot of money. Remember, the less your pack weighs the less stress you put on your body and the faster you can move through the miles.
Here is all you really need to get started.
The hiking essentials for beginners are minimal. First, you need a good pair of hiking shoes. These should be waterproof. If you are only hiking on well-manicured trails, running shoes are fine.
Also, make sure you wear layers so that you can take off a layer once you get warm. Avoid jeans because these can chafe or get wet and heavy.
Choose sweat-wicking clothes that are meant for being active. Long pants and tights are better than shorts to protect against bugs and brush.
A long-sleeve shirt protects you from the elements better, and you can just push up the sleeves when you get hot. A hat is also a must-have.
A backpack with good shoulder straps is another essential. Inside, pack a small first aid kit, a map, a flashlight, snacks like an energy bar or two, and enough water to last you for the entire hike.
You may also want to throw in a parka in case of rain.
You will need sunscreen and insect repellant. Apply both before you leave home and you shouldn’t need to reapply again. Don’t forget your sunglasses!
Trekking poles when hiking are also a piece of equipment you can consider.
Don’t be caught off-guard when the unexpected happens. Always carry around a communication device that works even without any network connection, such as a handy citizens band (CB) radio. Bring a compact satellite GPS locator as well, in case you find yourself lost in the middle of the woods. These gadgets can be lifesavers in emergencies.
Map and GPS
Knowing where you are going is fundamental for having a great hike. Hiking for beginners will involve relying on both paper and electronic navigation methods.
First, print out the hiking guide and map. Store both in a plastic, zip-top bag to prevent them from getting wet.
Then, download a GPS app. GaiaGPS or AllTrails both make great hiking apps. Be sure to download the maps for offline use so that you can use them even if you have no reception.
Bonus tip: be sure to turn your phone to airplane mode. Otherwise, your phone will drain all its battery trying to search for a signal.
When you are a beginner hiker, try to use your guide and maps to navigate. If needed, confirm your location by checking the app.
3. Avoid Hiking Alone
One of the most important hiking tips for beginners is to avoid hiking alone. For one thing, it’s nice to have someone who will encourage you to keep going when you get tired.
An experienced map-reader and hiker is ideal. But any companion is better than none. Especially for safety reasons.
Traveling with someone is the safest thing in case someone gets injured. Also, it deters wild animals when you hike in a group.
4. Prep Ahead
Anytime you embark on a hike, you should do a little bit of prep. Some trails require you to have a permit to use them. Often these are free and can be picked up from the park office.
Find out if you need a permit a few days in advance so you can make arrangements. Also, it’s never a bad idea to give the park a call.
Tell them what hike you’ll be doing and confirm that the trails are open. It’s frustrating and disappointing to get ready for a hike and drive there only to find that your intended trail is closed for repair. Especially if you are driving quite a ways to get there.
5. Check the Weather
This tip may seem like common sense but you’d be surprised how many people ignore it.
You should always, always check the weather before you embark on any hike. Be sure to check the weather for the area you’ll be in. Weather conditions on mountains can be drastically different than those of the closest town.
Enjoy the Rewards of Hiking for Beginners
There you have it! Five hiking for beginners tips that will help you start hiking the right way.
Hiking is an amazing way to stay in shape, enjoy nature and boost your mood. It’s pretty addicting!
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