23 Tips For The Newbie Hiker, #17 Might Shock You
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When I started hiking I didn't realize how much was involved and how little i knew about hiking. I just figured I needed to throw on some hiking boots grab some water and I was good to go. Those items are definitely essential for sure, but there is a lot of things about hiking I learned the hard way. I have learned about gear, weather, terrain, miles vs. elevation, clothing and so much more. There are things I continue to learn every time i go for a hike. I have compiled a list of tips so you don't have to learn the hard way like I did.
1. Always be prepared - There has been so many times I have been with friends and loved ones who have came to the hike unprepared despite my advice and warning. Don't be unprepared, it could be the difference between life and death. That might be a little extreme in most cases, but it definitely could be the difference between a good and bad experience.
2. Pack as light as possible - Extra weight in your pack makes your experience less enjoyable and can really slow you down. Only bring what you need. An extra heavy pack can lead to unnecessary exhaustion and back pain. If you are a newbie and only doing day hikes your pack should be super light.
3. Bring plenty of water - I always bring extra water when I bring friends and family with me. It seems someone always underestimates how thirsty they seem to get. Always bring plenty of water! Hydration is essential! Always drink plenty of water before, during, and after your hike.
4. Dress for the elements - Just because it is beautiful, sunny and 80 degrees at the start of your hike, doesn't mean it's going to stay that way. There has been many times I've been in a T-shirt and ball cap and by the time I reach the summit I'm wearing a sweatshirt, jacket, gloves and winter hat. Always bring appropriate clothing. Wear clothes with moisture wicking material or wool. Try to avoid cotton as it absorbs moisture and drys slowly. Sweating on the way up can make yours clothes damp and once you stop at the summit you can become very cold quickly potentially leading to hypothermia.
5. Plan your hike ahead - Always know where you are going. Research the trail you are hiking. Know approximately how many miles it is. Keep in mind apps like AllTrails and other similar apps are not always 100% accurate. Calculate approximately how long your hike is going to take you so you can plan accordingly.
6. Tell people your plan - After you have researched the trail you're going to hike it's time to tell others your plan. This is especially important if you plan on hiking solo. I always tell at least 2 other people where I am hiking, the trail name, and about how long it is going to take me. Make sure who ever you tell knows to check up on you within a certain time frame. If you were to ever get hurt or lost in the woods your life could depend on the people you tell.
7. Hikers going up have the right of way - Always step to the side of the trail for hikers coming up. It's just courteous. They are just starting their journey, let them go ahead first.
8. Choose shorter hikes to start and work your way up - If you've never been hiking before its probably not the best idea to start out with a 12 mile hike. This would be a unreasonable and a risky choice. Instead start out with 1-2 mile hikes and gradually work your way up. If a 1-2 mile hike becomes too easy try doing a 3-4 mile hike and so on.
9. Reach out to a experienced hiker and ask for advice - If you're nervous about hiking alone and need someone to go with you ask a experienced hiker to go with you. Or if you're looking for hikes in your area reach out to someone who hikes in the area frequently to give you information on the trails.
10. Wear comfortable shoes - Never wear new shoes on a hike. This is just asking for sore feet and blisters. Always break in your shoes ahead of time. If you do happen to get sore spots or blisters which is sometimes unavoidable moleskin can be a lifesaver. Just slap a piece of moleskin on your sore spot and you'll be good to go.
11. You don't need to buy expensive gear - You don't need real expensive gear to start. I've purchased a lot of my equipment from amazon and love it. As you become a more experienced hiker you will learn what works for you and what doesn't. Here are a few things from Amazon that I love!
12. Bring snacks - After burning all kinds of calories on your hike you might need a little recharge. A snack or two is always a good reward. Pack a cliff bar or 2, granola or some dried fruit.
13. Don't drink water from streams, rivers, ponds or lakes without treating first - This is just asking for trouble. Unless you want to be seriously sick don't drink untreated water. Water can carry microscopic organisms that can cause serious even fatal illnesses. There are ways to treat water from these sources if necessary. Boiling water, Chemicals like Iodine or Chlorine, or filtration.
14. Bring a map or use a app - I love my All Trails App I use it every hike I go on, but not everyone loves it. There are other apps available like Peakbagger which is a good one I've just never got into using it. Then there's always a good ole map. You can get AMC maps from Outdoors.org . I also always bring a back up battery pack for my phone as well as these apps tend to use up a lot of battery power. The one I use is the Anker PowerCore from Amazon. The link is above under Gear.
15. Use hiking poles - Hiking poles can save your knees going downhill as well as give you more stability and help you on your climb up.
16. Leave no trace - Leave the trails clean. This means don't leave any evidence that you were ever there. Anything you bring in, you bring out. Leave nothing but footprints.
17. Going to the bathroom outside - going to the bathroom outside is inevitable. When you need to do your business it's important not to damage the environment as much as possible. Walk away from the trail at least 200 feet. To dispose of human waste dig a cathole or a small pit. Make sure the cathole is not near any source of water that could become contaminated. Bury waste when finished.
18. Never go off the trail - I know this can be tempting. Sometimes a shortcut can be more appealing, but do not do it!. This is how people get lost or hurt. The mountains also have vegetation that has not been touched and conservationist try very hard to keep it this way. Some vegetation on mountain tops are hundreds of years old and one step could destroy it forever.
19. Hiking is addictive and fun - Enough said. Consider yourself warned!
20. You can hike alone - It can be very difficult sometimes to find someone who is available to hike with you or someone who is at the same level as you. If you really want to go hiking don't be afraid to hike alone, just make sure you have a plan and always tell someone where you are going.
21. Don't be afraid of wildlife - The wildlife out there is more afraid of you than you are of them. Animals usually don't hurt people unless they are scared. While your hiking just make yourself known so you don't startle any animals. I use a bear bell on my backpack when I am alone.
22. Consider mileage and elevation when deciding on a hike - Consider have many miles your hike is, but also consider elevation. It can be a lot harder to go a short distance with a lot of elevation gain than it to go a long distance on flat ground.
23. Have fun!! - The entire idea is to have fun. Yes, you are getting valuable exercise as well, but it is meant to be enjoyable and enjoy nature at the same time. Get out there!
What are your thoughts or concerns about hiking? I'd love to hear form you!
Here are some great books that go into great detail about everything you need for your backpacking adventures and how to survive outside.
Here are some other books I use while hiking in Vermont and New Hampshire. These books are great for trail information and a great tool to plan your hikes.
Can't wait to see you on the trails!!
"I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery - Air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, 'This is what it is to be happy.'" - Sylvia Plath