Welcome to the wonderful world of hiking. It truly is a welcoming way to a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle.
Whether you choose hikes that challenge you as beginners or you’re in it mainly for the pleasure of being outdoors, remember to always take the time to smell the roses, as the old adage goes.
In this article, we will go over the basic information any beginner hiker should be aware of and a must-have list of hiking essentials and gear that should never miss from your backpack.
Choose a hiking trail designated for beginners
During your first outings, always go for trails designed for beginners. It’s also very important to opt for a location where the trails are clearly marked.
For example, Worthington State Forest along the N.J./P.A. border offers designated hiking trails clearly marked at the start of each trail.
Be aware of weather conditions that affect the specific hiking trail
Keep in mind most hiking trails are usually located in forests, within state and provincial park systems or along rivers. These trails have seasonal changes such as early spring frosts that make soil slippery or late autumn rains that cause the bed of foliage on the trail to be difficult to hike.
Check hiking gear before you hike
Make sure that your gear and supplies are adequate for the duration of the hike. Create a checklist of hiking essentials for beginners when you have free time and follow it to the letter when packing your bags.
Take into consideration the time of day
It is advisable to begin hikes in early to mid-morning hours. Nighttime hiking is a whole other can of worms, especially when the trail is uphill and heavily forested. Most forested paths have rocks jutting out of the soil that are quite sharp and basically invisible in dim twilight. So, make sure you first conquer day hiking before exploring the path during the night.
If you plan to use your hiking time to take photos of the scenery and natural beauty of flora and fauna, factor that into the amount of time you wish to spend on hiking.
Your endurance level matters
Beginners should plan on the amount of time they want to spend on their first hikes. Uphill hiking, for example, requires more stamina than hiking on flat land. So, check to see where the trail you selected will take you.
You will know when your hiking endurance, skills and awareness have advanced to allow a move upward to mid hiker’s trail levels. Your beginner hiking time will decrease from three hours to two, for instance, as a result of your knowledge of the terrain, seasons, weather and familiarity with beginner’s hiking trails.
Hiking for beginners takes a bit of preparation and some shopping. While most items you need are not specific to hiking, there are also some elements that you won’t find in your average Jane’s closet.
Let’s go through our list of hiking essentials for beginners.
Begin your hiking gear preparations with your clothing. Choose comfortable clothing for the seasons in which your hiking will take place.
During summer hikes, clothes should wick away body moisture. In colder hikes, you need a thermal lined jacket, a warm hat or cap and gloves.
|Non-cotton cap||Exra t-shirt|
|Hiking socks||Comfy water-resistant pants|
|Assorted essential items|
|Emergency medical kit||Insect repellent|
|Biodegradable toilet tissue||A small hand spade|
|Wet wipes||Assorted trail mix type snacks|
Check out our complete day-hike checklist to make sure you don’t forget to pack any other essential items that could slip your mind while making your list.
- What to Pack for a Day Hike – A Checklist Made by a Ditzy Hiker - A backpacker must always be prepared. Especially a restless one. This is why this checklist came to life.
These are basic hiking essentials for beginners to add to your checklist. Don’t forget to pack your mobile phone and make sure the device is adequately charged. You may also want to pack a small camera and film if you are an avid photographer or small plastic bags to collect specimens for hobbyists.
While you could improvise the rest when going on a day hike (choose a t-shirt you already have, a smaller multi-purpose backpack, etc), you should never ever go out on the trail without proper boots.
Hiking boots are available in multiple cuts (low to mid to high) and for multiple seasons. It’s imperative to do extensive research and purchase the right pair for your needs before starting your hike.
Remember: when hiking you need a water-resistant shoe that fits your foot (you really don’t want blisters) with a good grip on muddy terrain. Leave your snickers at home and always always go for proper boots.
|Hiking Gear for Beginners|
|Sleeping bag||Folding tent|
There is more to hiking than just setting out on a trail. By considering all of the possible scenarios that can occur during a backpacking trip, you avoid injury and prepare yourself for unexpected events.
Hiking vs Trekking vs Camping learning the difference
The main distinction between the three is the distance one must travel to complete a trail, followed closely by the level of difficulty.
While hiking is easier and usually involves a short trail that can be completed within a couple of hours to a day, trekking involves a longer time span and more difficult terrains. Camping doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with trekking as one can hike towards a camping spot and spend several days without relocating.
Learn more about the distinction between the three major types of backpacking activities.
- Trekking vs Hiking vs Camping – How to Tell the Difference - Learn how to tell the difference between trekking vs hiking vs camping as the differences are subtle to the informed eye of a beginner backpacker.
However, most beginners prefer day hikes at designated trails such as those along the Appalachian Trail in the U.S. These sites usually have a nature center where you can purchase items like trail maps and ask questions before you start your hike.
How to Advance Your Hiking Skills and go beyond noob
As a beginner, you learn many things about hiking. Try hiking the same trail for the first few hikes. Then, move to other hiking trails that offer similar features. Using the example of Worthington State Forest, try the beginner’s hiking trail on the N.J. side of this site. After two or more hikes, move to the P.A. side of the trail. You will notice the difference between the two trails immediately.
Take note of trail differences and make mental notes of certain features so that if you plan to hike these trails in wet, overnight or wintry weather, you are fully oriented to potential trail obstacles.
Study this complete guide of hiking for beginners and you soon may find you enjoy this sport enough to challenge your hiking skills. Perhaps, you may even wish to try alpine hikes in the future.
About the Author
"When I’m on a trail, it gets quiet, it gets peaceful, I feel like I can breathe again and enjoy nature’s untouched beauty."
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