Going for your very first hike? Here are the best hiking tips for beginners that you need to know to have a fantastic time in the outdoors.
Hiking can be an intimidating activity for beginners. The idea of wearing a backpack, carry your trekking poles and hit the outdoors can be pretty scary if you’ve never done it before.
But it doesn’t have to be intimidating! With the right information, you can be a pro hiker within no time – but that doesn’t just happen, a lot of preparation goes into that.
On top of the benefits of getting in touch with nature, hiking has a number of health benefits that cannot be overlooked.
Some hikers have been able to get into physical shape, some have reconnected with their inner self that has immensely improved their mental health and others have discovered their love for adventure and the outdoors that they thought they never had and that includes me.
For whatever reason you want to get into hiking, I can guarantee that you’ll reap the benefits.
But before you hit the outdoors, there are a number of things you need to know.
So in this post, I’ll be sharing all the hiking tips for beginners that I am sure will help you navigate your way through the outdoors and have a blast while doing so.
Hiking tips for Beginners
To make sure that you know what to do, these hiking tips will be broken down for every step of your journey.
This includes what to do before you go hiking for the first time, what to do and how to behave on your hiking trail, what to pack for your hiking trip and everything else that I believe will be helpful as a beginner hiker. So let’s dive in!!
Hiking for Beginners: Planning tips
1. Decide on the length of your hike
Before going on your first hiking trip, you need to consider the amount of time you have for hiking.
Is it 4 hours, a full day or even 5 days! But as someone who is hiking for the first time, I’d advise you to stick to shorter hikes instead of a week’s hike.
When you decide on how long you want your hike to be, then it’s time to choose the right hiking route.
2. Choose the right hiking route
One of the first things to do when planning to go out hiking is to choose a hiking route.
If you’re a beginner hiker, you might want to start with a trail near your home area.
Think of it as the start of your hiking adventure. However, if you’re not completely new to this, then you can venture out into other hiking routes.
I mean it would be a little impractical to go for a hiking route that might take 4 days if you have never even hiked for 4 hours.
Maybe you’re a little way over in your head and you need to return to planet earth. (Well, you can still do it, but it might not be the best choice).
Also, as you choose the hiking route, take into account the elevation of the trail.
You might land on a short route with an extremely high elevation that you can’t handle or the other way round. So choose what your abilities can handle.
There are a number of ways you can get a hiking route if you’re not yet sure where to go.
- Ask your experienced hiker friends. People who have been hiking for a while are more likely to point you in the right direction as they’re more familiar with the outdoors and what’s more suited for a beginner.
- Ask in forums. If you personally don’t know any hikers, forums, Facebook groups, or hiking websites like Alltrails, or Hiking Project are a great resource when it comes to recommending hiking trails.
But since many people have different opinions, you’ll have to be specific about what you’re looking for as an individual.
- Read hiking books: There are a number of incredible hiking books that recommend hiking routes with suggestions on who is best suited for them.
Depending on where you plan to hike, you can research for those books.
For example, this book gives all the amazing hiking trails in the world, this one describes all the amazing hiking trails in the US, this book shows the 50 hiking trails you have to take before you die or this one for beginner hikers like yourself.
Pro tip* While choosing your first hiking trail, I recommend you stick to the known trails and not the off-beaten ones.
3. Choose the best time to hike
When you’ve decided on the hiking route to take and how long you want your hike to be, it’s time to choose the best time to go.
The best time to go hiking is definitely not when it’s raining as the trails will be slippery which makes it hard to hike even for experienced hikers.
So as a beginner, check out the weather before you go and choose drier days.
It’s also not great to choose the days when it will be extremely hot as you can easily get worn out due to the extreme temperatures.
So if you can find a balance, that would be the perfect time.
And if it’s just a day’s hike, I recommend starting in the morning when you’re still fresh and energetic.
4. Find a hiking buddy if you don’t want to hike alone
I am not one to hike alone, actually, I’ve always had a hiking buddy for all the hikes I’ve been on.
I feel safer and confident when hiking with someone. But, this doesn’t mean that you can’t hike on your own.
Solo travelers hike alone in most cases and many seem to enjoy it.
However, as someone who’s hiking for the first time, I’d suggest you go with someone.
Preferably someone who has a bit more experience than you.
But, if you can’t find a friend or relative who’s willing to experience the outdoors with you, then you can put a call out in hiking forums.
And if you still can’t find a hiking partner, then you’re better off going for your hike on popular hours where you’re guaranteed to at least find other hikers on the way.
5. Understand the map of the hiking trail
One of the best trekking tips for beginners you’ll ever hear is to understand how to read a map.
Literally, just study the map before your hike and take note of all the major landmarks on the trail.
This is not something you should do on the trail but way before you start your hike.
Though most phones have a GPS these days, it’s not enough to just have that as your battery can die.
It’s better to carry the traditional paper map that shows all the trails and landmarks physically should something happen to your phone.
Also, download Offline maps instead of the usual online maps because it’s very likely that you’ll lose phone service while on the trail.
Apps like Alltrails and GaiaGPS will help you with your navigation especially if it’s your first time hiking.
Related post: Must-Have free travel apps that work offline
6. Exercise a bit
No, I don’t mean carrying weights of 1000 pounds, but if you’ve never hiked before and you’re not in the greatest physical shape, you’re better off exercising a bit to make sure you’re fit for the hike.
However, if you’re fist hike will be a short one, you might not necessarily need to exercise but if it’s a long one or even a mountain, it’s paramount that you’re in good shape.
This can be jogging, stretching and teaching yourself how to breathe well while hiking.
You can do this consistently for a couple of days before your hike and you’ll be ready for the outdoors.
7. Let someone know about your hike
Before hitting the outdoors and venturing into the unknown, make sure that you inform someone about your hike.
Let them know where you’re going, when you’re expected to return home, and how to reach you in case of an emergency.
As a hiking beginner, this will give you more confidence that someone will come to your rescue if something goes wrong!
Think of this as an evacuation procedure. All you have to do is to tell someone when you plan to come back and if they don’t see you after some hours beyond your expected return time, then they can try to look for you.
This is actually one of the best tips for hikers – not just beginner hikers but also experienced ones as it can potentially save your life.
Related post: Important things to do before any trip
8. Try out your gear
As someone who’s hiking for the first time, you’re likely not to know how to use your gear well.
Instead of learning on the trail (which can be pretty dangerous), it’s better to learn how everything works beforehand.
From learning how to use a water filter, hiking poles to pitching a tent if it’s an overnight hike – you need to learn everything.
It’s also important to try out your gear just to check if everything is in good condition rather than reaching the backcountry and realize that something as crucial as a water filter actually doesn’t work.
9. Pack light
When going on your hike, make sure that you pack light.
This means packing only the things you’ll need and not one’s you might need because packing so many things in your daypack will weigh heavily on your back and hence slowing you down.
However packing light, does not mean leaving behind the essentials – which leads us to the things you’ll need to take as discussed below.
But before that, if you don’t know how to pack light, I have a post on the blog that will give you all the tips to packing light like a pro backpacker.
10. Learn the basic survival and first aid skills
Before you hit the trail, remember that you’ll be going into the backcountry and into the wild, so make sure that you learn at least the basics of survival.
This could be learning how to use a first aid kit, basic personal defense, learning how to start a fire.
Basically, anything that can make you survive in the backcountry.
11. Plan your meals/Snacks very well
There is nothing worse than running out of food while you’re on a hike. Actually, its always better to carry more food than less.
What I normally do is plan my meals day per day taking into account the breakfast, lunch, and dinner and carry extra food for another full day.
I advise you to do the same if you’re going away for a couple of days.
However, if its a day’s hike, carry enough snacks. A sandwich can do well for lunch but also pack some sweets as they work well on the trail (well at least for me).
Hiking tips and tricks: Hiking gear to pack
As a hiking beginner, one of the essential hiking tips to know is to carry the right gear.
This can easily make or break your first hiking experience. So below are some of the hiking gear you have to carry.
12. Take a proper Day pack
One of the things I’ve learned during my hiking journey is that a proper day back is much more important than you can imagine.
A bad daypack will mean feeling all the backpack load on your back which can hinder you from trekking well.
So I suggest you get one that has a supportive belt which will transfer the weight load onto your hips instead of your back.
Also, make sure that your daypack has a water bottle pouch so that you can easily drink water while you hike instead of pausing every now and then to take off your daypack just to access water.
I know this first hand as I made the same mistake of carrying a meh daypack while hiking Mt. Elgon in Uganda.
And it was such a pain to have to take off my daypack every time I needed to take a sip.
If you have a daypack that has the properties mentioned above, that’s great but if not, then you can buy this Osprey daypack.
It meets all those qualities mentioned above and it’s sturdy enough to survive all weather conditions.
Related post: Best gifts for hikers
13. Pack Proper Hiking shoes
This is more of a personal choice and what feels comfortable in your feet.
However, you also have to realize that hiking shoes are literally the most important aspect when it comes to trekking.
The hiking shoes you choose will determine the amount of stamina you have on the trail – whether you slide every ten minutes, or walk for hours without any sore feet.
Though some people prefer the “typical” hiking boots, I prefer going with my normal Nike lightweight running shoes (but only if the trail is well maintained).
However, the weather conditions also affect the kind of hiking shoes you pack.
If it’s raining, rocky or full of river crossings, you’re better of taking these waterproof high cut hiking boots, but if the trail is well maintained and not rugged, then these low cut hiking boots can work perfectly well.
14. Hiking clothes to wear
Packing the right hiking clothes is like one of the ultimate beginner hiking tips.
The clothes you take hiking also depend on the weather – hot temperatures are going to require a different kind of packing and the same for cold and rainy weather.
Layering is key when it comes to hiking. Whether it’s super hot, make sure that you carry all the layers since the weather can change drastically especially if its on a mountain.
In that same regard, make sure that you stay away from cotton clothes, they’ll leave you body dump when you sweat which is not great.
I recommend wearing either woolen clothes, nylon or polyester.
Light materials are a gem when it comes to hiking – so try to stay away from jeans as much as possible.
A fleece: As I mentioned earlier, the weather can change anytime, so it’s better to prepare for the worst temperature by carrying all the necessary layers.
So this is why I emphasize taking a fleece like this one on your hiking trip.
Raincoat: It’s important to carry a raincoat especially if the weather forecast shows some rain.
Even though the weather forecast showed no chances of rain, carry it regardless.
It should be waterproof, lightweight, and breathable – this Columbia raincoat is a great choice for hiking.
And on that same note, you can also carry this jacket, if you need a warmer rainjacket which is also windproof.
A good pair of hiking socks will help keep your feet dry and non-smelly. These Merino wool hiking socks are perfect for beginner hikers
15. Other hiking Essentials to pack for hiking
- First Aid Kit
- Trekking poles
- Water filter
Other packing lists on the blog that you might find helpful
Hostel packing List
Carry on essentials to pack
What to pack for a ski trip
What to wear in Paris in winter
Europe packing list for winter
Beach packing list
What to pack for a weekend getaway
Hiking for beginners: How to behave on the hiking trail
When you’re done planning you’re hike and putting in order all the hiking essentials, it’s time to hit the outdoors.
However, there are some things you should do or not do while hiking and below are some of them
16. Take into account the elevation when planning a day’s hike
If your hike is for a couple of days, don’t estimate how long it will take without taking into account it’s elevation.
So as you plan the mileage you can handle, go back on your map to see the elevation and know exactly what you can tackle.
17. Do not leave the hiking trail
One of the best tips for hikers is to not leave the hiking trail regardless of what!
Sometime it might seem exciting to check out what’s going on the other side of the trail but as a newbie hiker do not go off the hiking trail – actually, this applies to even experienced hikers.
18. Refrain from talking a lot while hiking
Talking while hiking can easily drain your energy which means that you’re more likely to get soo tired even before the end of your trek. So make sure that you don’t talk a lot while hiking.
19. Pace yourself
One thing I’ve learned about hiking is to pace myself. It’s not worth trekking so fast and get worn out in the shortest time possible but it’s also not a good idea to walk sluggishly – night may fall when you’re still on the trail.
When you get tired, take a break! Hiking doesn’t mean walking nonstop.
If you’re hiking with a guide, let him know when he’s too fast and ask him to slow down and when you need to take a break, take one!
No one is chasing you, hiking should be fun not a punishment otherwise you might end up hating it.
20. Observe the Leave no trace principles
As a hiker, you need to observe the Leave no Trace principles.
This means that you have to leave the outdoors as you found them or even better.
This includes not leaving trash behind, putting out the fire if you made one, and not disrupting the wild animals if you come across them.
Basically being mindful of how you leave the outdoors. This ensures that the future generations will also be able to enjoy the same kind of outdoors and that the wild animals are plants stay unharmed by hikers.
21. Stay Hydrated at all times
One of the other beginners’ hiking tips is to stay hydrated at all times while on the trail.
So before you go hiking, make sure that you carry enough water.
You can also carry a water filter so that you are able to drink backcountry water should you run out of the water you had carried before.
Also, do not chug all your water at once as you’ll need it the more you hike.
22. Get comfortable with the push pee
It’s soo unlikely that you will come across a toilet while on your hike, so as beginner, you have to prepare yourself to take that pee break or number 2 in the bushes.
Don’t get embarrassed about it because that’s what all hikers do.
Just find a hidden spot and help yourself but make sure that you don’t leave the tissue there. And if it was a number 2, burry the waste in the ground.
23. Be aware of the wild animals
If your trail is known to have some wild animals for example bears, make sure that you observe the wildlife safety tips.
Do not run when you see one but also don’t try to hit it as you’ll be its enemy and it might attack you in a way of defending itself.
Most animals do not consider humans to be a threat, so they will always ignore you – stay calm and do the same.
There you have it, folks. If you read this hiking guide for beginners up to this far, then I guarantee you now have what it takes to go for your first hiking experience.
Want more backpacking inspiration? Check out these posts
- Backpacking tips for beginners
- Tips for Backpacking Africa
- Best camping tips for beginners
- Top tips for staying in a hostel for the first time
- The best Backpacking hacks you need to know
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