How Do I Start Hiking?
Updated: Dec 11, 2020
Your Complete Beginners Guide To Get You Out On The Trail
How do I start hiking? A great question for someone interested in exploring some trails and getting out in nature.
You might be feeling a little unsure at first, but whether you are in tip top shape or not at all is
irrelevant. Anyone can go hiking. It’s a matter of knowing your limits and being prepared.
I am going to teach you exactly what you need and how to be prepare.
Here is a complete list of everything you will need and everything to do before you go out for your first hike.
Have a plan
Tell someone your plan
Choosing a trail
Check the weather
Have a plan
Before randomly selecting a trail and setting out you need to have a plane in place. First decide what trail you are going to hike. Next map it out. Even if you are using a hiking app it is a good idea to map out the trail ahead of time. Sometimes apps glitch, lack of service or low battery could put you in a dangerous situation if you are not prepared. Map out how to get to the trailhead. A lot of times these trails are in the middle of nowhere and if your FPS fails you might find yourself very lost.
Tell someone your plan
Once your plan is in place it’s time to tell someone your plan. This is a super important step. Chances are you will be absolutely fine, but in the off chance something happens and you can’t get help this is when your emergency contact comes into play. It is important to tell them where you are going, what trail you are hiking, and estimated time of return. Let them know that if they do not hear from you within a certain time it is time to get help.
Water is essential whether you are going on a short hike or a long one. one of the first hikes I ever did was Mt. Washington which was very ambitious. I definitely did not know my limits. I think I brought 6-8 water bottles with me. About .5 miles up I was out of breath and feeling like I was going to pass out someone had to hike my pack back down to the car for me because I just couldn’t do it. While I was prepared I wasn’t ready for that strenuous of a hike. I did make it to the summit, but it was a slow pace. To determine how much water to bring figure 2 cups of water per every hour. That is about .5 liters per hour. Starting out by doing a 5 hour hike might not be the best idea because carrying that much water might be very difficult for you at first.
2 cups x # hours = Total cups of water
2 cups = about .5 liters
There are a few basic essentials you should always bring with you on your hike. If you are doing a short hike a small camel pack or backpack is a good idea. Inside your pack you should have water, snacks, simple first aid, hat, gloves and some sort of pocket knife. These are the bare minimum essentials for your pack. You will need to add or subtract depending on the type of hike you are doing. You should have these items if you are planning to hike over 2 miles. You may need more or different gear depending on weather and what time of year it is. This basic gear list is for a hike under dry warm conditions.
If you are going on a short hike simple first aid is all you need. I recommend bandages, antiseptic ointment, alcohol wipes and pain reliver. This basic first aid would be for a hike 3 miles or under. For a longer and more strenuous hike I recommend adding in moleskin, Benadryl, a ace bandage and some gauze. No need to go crazy on the first aid just a simple kit for basic scrapes and cuts.
Choosing a Trail
If you've never hiked before it's best to start off with a short hike with a low elevation gain. I would recommend a 1-2 mile hike with a elevation gain 1,000 feet or less. The All Trails App is a great tool to use to determine distance and elevation gain on thousands of trails. If your new to hiking, but still crave a challenge I would start out with a 2-4 mile hike with a elevation gain under 2,000 ft. As you become more condition you can find longer hikes with more elevation gain.
Check the Weather
A big mistake a lot of hikers make is not checking the weather before they go out on the trail. It could be a beautiful sunny day to start out with, but as you hike further out the weather can change very quickly. If you're not careful you can find yourself in a very dangerous situation if you are not prepared. I've found myself in heavy snow, rain and wind many times. As long as you're prepared and know the trail it doesn't have to be life threatening, but slippery terrain or low visibility can mean the difference between life and death. Know what your getting yourself into before you go out. Mountain-forecast.com is a great site to use to check the weather.
Wearing the right clothing is also very important. You never want to wear cotton as a rule of thumb. Your base layer should be made from wicking material. Wicking material is both a insulator and keeps moisture away from your body so you will stay dry and warm. Your next layers should be wicking, wool or fleece. If it cold you might want a outer layer. A jacket that has a insulating layer like down is the best to use. You will also want a warm hat and gloves.. I also always bring a extra pair of socks. There is nothing worse than cold wet feet. Typically I bring these extra warm layers in the spring and late fall/winter. Another thing to bring is some sort of rain gear. I bring a light rain jacket if there is a chance of rain in the forecast. On sunny days a ball cap and sunglasses are essential. Those mountain tops expose you to the suns rays and head and eye protection is important.
Last, but not least are shoes. Having the right footwear is key to a enjoyable hike. A couple blisters can make a great day turn into a very painful one. A good hiking boot with good tread is important. I prefer to hike in trail runners instead of hiking boots. To me boots are too heavy and I don't like how they come up on my ankles. However, If you need good ankle support hiking boots might be the better option. The trail runners for me are better because they are lightweight some I can move a little faster. In the winter and early spring months I tend to lean more towards my hiking boots. I also recommend a good pair of gaiters for spring and winter hikes. These will help keep your shoes and pants dry. Another thing to make sure you do is break in your shoes. Don't buy a brand new pair of shoes and then go right out onto the trail. This is asking for painful blisters. If you do happen to get blisters carrying moleskin in your first aid kit can be a life saver. Moleskin can be used to cover your blister and keep it from rubbing on your shoe even more. If you are hiking in the early spring time a good pair of micro spikes will also be a necessity.
“When everything feels like an uphill struggle, just think of the view from the top.” -Unknown
Related Post: 10 Short Hikes In The North East For The Newbie Hiker