Welcome to the wonderful world of hiking. It truly is a welcoming way to a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle. Check out this guide on hiking for beginners and start on the right foot!
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. Either you want to go hiking for its physical and mental benefits or you want to experience a life-changing passion and activity that will help you get a better, clearer view of life and the world, hiking is the best choice. However, it is not easy, although it is extremely rewarding.
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. If you want to understand right from the start what is the difference between hiking, trekking, and camping, check out this guide right here!
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. Hiking in cold weather is an entirely different business from hiking in the summer and we do not recommend beginners to start their hiking training in the middle of frost season. You can hike in winter for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but make sure you hiked enough in spring, summer, and fall before you go and conquer those snowy trails and frozen paths!
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. Remember that hiking is summer requires summer gear and you should have separate spares of hiking essentials for every season. We will get to gear immediately, but here are the most crucial items you should put on the list:
- Hiking boots for men and women that will keep your feet free of blisters and wounds and happy on your trails;
- Alternatively, do not forget about winter hiking boots for men and women to ensure a successful winter hiking adventure;
- For the summer, you should also consider hiking sandals for men and women if the area you are hiking does not necessarily require you to wear boots;
- Hiking socks – you might ignore their importance, but they are crucial for a successful and fulfilling hiking experience;
- Last but not least, hiking shorts, as jeans will not cut it, especially if you want to level up from hiking for beginners to hiking for the more seasoned adventurers.
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. You don’t want creepy backpacking stories on your first day of hiking, trust us.
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.
Do your homework before you leave
Many people overestimate their skills or underestimate the dangers of hiking, unfortunately with some terrible consequences. Taking extra safety measures is crucial, especially if one chooses to hike solo for the first time, which we greatly don’t recommend. So, before you leave to conquer that trail, consider the following:
- the presence of specific wild animals in the area and how to survive an animal attack should you be so unfortunate to encounter one;
- the presence of poisonous or skin-irritating flora, as if you have sensitive skin or allergies, you might want to avoid some plants and shrubs along the way;
- having a first-aid kit on you at all times and knowing how to offer first-aid to another person;
- the etiquette of hiking when you meet other people along the way, etc.
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 hiking boots.
All pro 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. We are serious when we talk about knowing how to prevent and treat blisters along the way or surviving an animal attack.
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. Of course, there is a major distinction between camping and glamping as well, but this is a conversation we will have on another occasion.
- 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. If you have more questions on hiking for beginners or you want us to talk in-depth about a particular hiking-related topic, write to us in the comment section below!
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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