Hiking offers so many benefits starting with seeing incredible natural scenery, getting exercise and communing with the great outdoors. If you are a novice hiker, it may take a few attempts at shorter hikes before you get in the groove for major several-day hikes through the wilderness. Here are 10 tips for the beginner that will help make you comfortable on your way to your great new adventure.
1. Start with a short hike
Short is a relative word, but it’s better to know your limits than to conquer a certain trail. A short hike will also let you get used to your hiking boots especially if you haven’t worn them before. This footwear is specifically made to give your ankles and arches support for the long haul. If you have spent most of your walking hours in trainers, you may need to get the feel of your new boots.
2. How to choose hiking boots
The key to good hiking boots is a snug fit. This is not the same as a tight fit. You should be able to wiggle your toes. When you try on the boots, wait until the end of the day when your feet may be a bit swollen and put on the socks you plan to wear hiking — learn more here. You can even have the length, width and arch measured to ensure a good fit.
3. Learn about your selected trail
If you have chosen a trail, you may be able to find information about it online. If it is in a national park there may be a step-by-step description. Sites will tell you if the trail has any inclines, water features or rocks and if it is a loop or if you need to return on the same trail.
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4. Read the local weather report
The weather in the area of your trail will determine what you take with you. If it is going to rain the whole time, you should choose a different time or location for your first hike.
5. Don’t go alone
It’s better to go with a proficient hiker your first time. You can hike alone when you are an expert. Even then, you always need to tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return.
6. Carry the essentials
The essentials you need to take with you will vary according to the length of your hike and the time of year. For a short, initial hike you should take:
- A compass and map
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- Extra clothing
- First-aid kit
- Waterproof matches or lighter and a candle
- A repair kit with tools
- Protein bars and water
- Tent or other makeshift shelter
7. Don’t wear cotton clothing
Cotton absorbs moisture and does not dry quickly. Synthetics that you can layer when you need warmth are better. You should also bring a light windbreaker.
8. Pack light
Just because you need to bring all of the above, doesn’t mean you need to bring the largest flashlight, first-aid kit or tube of sunscreen you can find.
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9. Find a good pace
When you start out, you will be full of enthusiasm and energy. Don’t waste it all in the first hour. Keep a moderate rate of walking that is easy to sustain for the whole time.
10. Leave it as you found it
The trails are only lovely because hikers leave no trace of their passing. Not one scrap of plastic or bottle top. A few tips for leaving no trace are:
- If you brought it in with you, take it out with you, including personal hygiene products
- Stay on existing trails and don’t wander off into the wilderness
- If fires are allowed, only use established fire rings or stoves, burn your fuel to ash and make sure it is cold when you move on
- Do not interact with or try to feed wildlife especially during sensitive times of mating or nesting
- If it is a pet-friendly trail, keep your dog on a leash at all times
If you would like to make hiking a permanent part of your lifestyle, start slowly and get the feel of what it means to carry everything you need on your back while passing through the wilderness almost invisible.