Hiking for Beginners: Trail Essentials for Newbies
From spin class to hot yoga, active people have so many exercise options these days. But there’s nothing quite like hitting the hiking trail on a crisp fall day, breathing in the fresh air while giving your legs and lungs a great workout. Even if you’ve never thought of yourself as a hiker, you may just find that some time connecting with nature can be one of the most fulfilling ways to burn calories.
If you have no hiking experience, don’t worry. Just make sure to wear appropriate clothing and bring sufficient water and snacks. Read on for our guide on hiking for beginners and how to make your first experience in the great outdoors as enjoyable as possible.
First, select a hiking trail. Don’t get too ambitious just yet – choose a trail labeled easy or moderate. You can work your way up to summiting mountains later!
For safety and emotional support, beginners should ideally hike with a friend. Don’t forget to bring your fully-charged phone, both for emergencies and to take sweet pics of the scenic views!
Packing For Your Hike
Next, it’s time to start packing. To avoid weighing down your backpack (and making the hike more grueling than necessary), stick to the basics like sunscreen and mosquito repellent. A hand towel comes in handy (no pun intended) for sweat, or unexpected rain or mud.
Water may be heavy, but it’s vital on a long hike. Carry at least ½ liter for every hour you plan to be on the trail. Bring more for long, uphill hikes or in very hot temperatures. It’s always better to take too much water than too little!
You should also pack snacks for any hike longer than an hour. The best munchies provide a mix of healthy fats, carbs, and protein. Trail mix is a classic choice (obviously). Energy bars, crackers, sports drinks, dried fruit and apples can all satisfy your hunger and replenish your energy.
You may want to include safety items such as a flashlight, whistle and small first aid kit. For a short, easy hike these items may be overkill, but having them can provide peace of mind for newbies on the trail.
If you’re committed to making hiking a part of your life, purchase a good pair of hiking shoes or boots. Try on several pairs to find one that’s comfortable for your foot width. Your feet can swell during a long day of hiking, so you may want to go up a half-size to avoid blisters.
Trail running shoes are also a good option for beginner hikers. Specifically designed for off-road terrain, these shoes are lightweight, breathable, and adequate for most hiking environments. The downside is they’re not as durable, and not as ideal for muddy or rocky trails, while hiking boots are good in all conditions.
When it comes to hiking attire, remember the golden rule: Dress in layers! Often, you’ll start a hike during a chilly morning and then remove layers as the midday sun kicks in. On uphill hikes, you may need to put those layers back on again when conditions get windy as you gain elevation.
Bring sunglasses and a hat for sun protection, and have a light rain jacket in case the clouds open up. While any comfortable clothing will do for a short hike, we’d recommend convertible hiking pants which can be zipped off into shorts when it gets hot, and a moisture-wicking shirt to keep you dry when you sweat.
Hiking for Beginners: Final Steps
You’re almost ready to go! Before leaving, check the weather forecast again. If there’s a downpour coming, consider waiting for a nicer day for your first-time hiking experience.
It’s also wise to take a photo or screenshot of the trail map on your phone. Some trails aren’t as well-marked as they should be, and cell service is often lacking in the forest, so having access to a map will be a big help.
And last, but definitely not least, don’t forget to swipe on a good, strong deodorant before hitting the trail. You’ll work up a good sweat while hiking and need extra wetness and odor protection to make the trail a little more bearable.
Hiking should be challenging and rewarding, so above all, have fun and enjoy the journey!
Don't forget to swipe on that strong deodorant before making your way into the great outdoors.
Written by Scott Shetler