It’s so exciting!
The feeling of expecting an upcoming adventure out in the wilderness is sometimes so powerful that it can keep you ecstatic for days. Especially if it is something that you don’t have enough experience with. I know it. If you are reading this, chances are you know it too. But how can you make sure that everything goes smooth and enjoyable as it should be?
In this article, I am going to share with you some practical advice on hiking for newbies that really work. In short, if you have little to no experience with going out in the mountains or in the backcountry, you’re going to love this guide.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
1. Bring The Right Gear
Probably you’ve heard a thousand times that having the appropriate gear when going on a hike is essential. I can’t emphasize more on the importance of that. That’s the first thing you need to think about and the last thing you’d want to overlook.
Being well-equipped when trekking in nature is crucial for your comfort, safety, and endurance. A good rule of thumb is to make a list of all the things you plan on taking based on the type of trip you want to do. In that way, you’ll be able to decide what exactly to pack. Bring only necessities and avoid taking items you don’t need. Here’s a basic example list of must-haves:
- An appropriate backpack – make yourself familiar with the different types of backpacks Often, they come in various sizes so pick up the one that fits you best. Learn how to measure backpack dimensions. Don’t take a pack that is too heavy or big if you are going only for the day. Also, make sure the pack is waterproof. Ideally, it would have an integrated rain cover, easily adjustable suspension system, and ventilated back panel.
- Good shoes – the first thing I mean by good is comfortable. Make sure to try your shoes before wearing them on the trail. You need lightweight, yet sturdy and stable boots that support your ankles. They need to flex easily and not to have a break-in period. Avoid wearing sneakers with a flat grip, as you need maximum traction. Don’t underestimate the power of the appropriate socks too.
- GPS system – you need to know where are you heading at and what are your current whereabouts. If you are using your smartphone for that, make sure to bring an external battery. It’s a good idea to use some proven hiking apps as well – Gaia GPS, Mountain Collector or MapMyHike.
- Weather-appropriate clothes – this includes a warm jacket. Preferably, it’s good for it to be waterproof and windproof. You’ll be surprised to see how abruptly the weather changes especially high in the mountains. In addition, avoid wearing cotton T-shirts because they make you sweat. Instead, use clothes made of polyester. This fabric is wrinkle-resistant, lightweight, non-absorbent, and breathable.
- Compact torch – better safe than sorry, right?
- First-Aid Kit – basically, what you need are tweezers, blister pads, antiseptic wipes, bandages, medical tape, and small packages of pills. Don’t forget to learn how to use all that.
- Enough food and water – don’t forget to maintain your stamina always up by bringing good (but not excessive) amounts of snacks and hydrating beverages. I always take with me protein bars rich in magnesium and B12 vitamins. They are compact, delicious, and provide enough energy.
2. Get To Know The Place Where You Are Going
Invest enough time to learn everything about your itinerary. Do online research about the trail and read reviews and opinions of others who’ve already been there. Hang in social media groups if you’d like. It’s always best to familiarize yourself with some technical aspects of the terrain such as elevation and the steepness. In that way, you’ll know what to expect and how to prepare for it. Which brings us to the next point.
3. Make Your Trip Easy And Short
For the sake of your own comfort and safety, I advise you to pick up an easy trail suitable for a day hike. You are not a hiking guru yet. You’ll get to that eventually with time and practice. Your body and muscles are not accustomed to such specific and demanding physical activity that the hiking is.
That’s why you’d want to take it easy and choose a mountain trail that’s flat and not more than 5-7 miles long. Avoid, steep, rocky terrains because they are difficult to walk on.
4. Hydrate Like A Pro
When it comes to performing such an invigorating but demanding cardio exercise like hiking, you need enough water. Adequately hydrating yourself has a direct impact on your endurance. It sounds like something easy and intuitive but I have to tell you that many people don’t have an idea of how to hydrate properly during hiking. Here are four pro tips:
- Drink a cup or two of water or a sports drink right before hiking.
- Forget about coffee and cola – caffeine increases fluid loss.
- When hiking in hot weather and you sweat a lot, don’t be afraid to drink 800-1000 ml of water every hour.
- If possible, eat potassium-rich fruits because they contain important electrolytes. Such fruits are bananas and citrus fruits.
5. Go With An Experienced Buddy
If you want to ease your mind and feel more secure on your first hiking trip, then a good idea is to go with a friend who is more experienced that you are. Having someone to rely on is something you’ll most certainly appreciate when walking on the mountain trail.
It’s even better if your friend has already been there before you and knows what’s all about. In that way, you minimize potential risks and difficulties that you might encounter along the way.
Another option would be to enlist in an organized hiking group that welcomes beginners.
There you have it. I hope that now you have a much clearer picture of what to do in order to guarantee yourself an enjoyable and less-stressful hiking trip. Don’t forget to immerse yourself in nature and take pictures. And remember – as John Muir said: “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks”. Happy trails!