I remember my hiking trip back in high school. It was my first time and I made few rookie mistakes.
To name a few:
- I wore a pair of jeans
- I did not wear proper hiking shoes
- I overpacked
- I did not wear a cap or a hat (burn!)
Yes, I paid a hefty price for my lack of preparation.
But, I don’t want you to make these mistakes that I made. The fact that still haunts me is that it does not take much time and effort to prepare for a hike.
Yet, I messed up the very first time. I learned my lesson the hard way.
But, it doesn’t have to be the same for you.
Today, I will be sharing few tips and tricks so that you can avoid mistakes as a beginner hiker.
But before I share these tips, lets get clear few things.
Hiking and walking are not the same thing. Hiking differs from walking as
- It is physically more demanding.
- It usually means going from a lower elevation to a higher elevation.
- It is more challenging as the terrain keeps varying.
If you are wondering hiking has health benefits. Yes! It does. According to American Hiking Society, hiking offers several physical and mental health benefits. It also helps to reduce anxiety and prevent osteoporosis.
Hiking is a powerful form of cardio workout. If you are looking to get back in shape, you don’t have to go further. I have discussed more about the benefits of hiking down below.
Now, let’s dive in and find out the dos and the don’t for your hiking trip.
Table of Contents
- Start Easy – First first hike should be simple
- Should you hike solo or with a group?
- What you wear during your hike is important
- Pack Smart
- Drink and Hike
- Weather Check
- Start on Time
- Don’t Push Yourself
- Few Fitness Tips for Hiking
- Benefits of Hiking
Start Easy – First first hike should be simple
One of the most common mistakes made by beginner hikers is that they choose a trail which is physically demanding.
You don’t want to make the same mistake. You don’t want your first hike to be your last one, right?
There is no need to be too hard on yourself the very first time.
You can start easy by choosing a trail that matches your fitness level. In fact, for your first hike, you don’t need to complete the trail. Find a midpoint and return from there.
Your first hike should be simple. You need to keep mind of factors such as distance, elevation, weather condition and the terrain.
I would recommend you to take a flat trail for the first time as it is easier to navigate yourself. There are several hiking routes which are marked, try them before you take the routes that are less explored.
After your first hike, you will also be able to analyze your fitness level. You can then plan your next hike accordingly.
Should you hike solo or with a group?
You need to decide if you are hiking alone or with a group. I would recommend that you should go on your first hike with a group. In case there is an emergency, you will have a companion to help you out.
This is also a great chance to interact with your friends and your family members. Later when you are accustomed to this side of the world, you can start your solo hiking trips.
When you hike solo, make sure you have carried your cellular device. Also, inform someone that you are going for a hike.
What you wear during your hike is important
You need to wear the right type of gears. There is no arguing this fact.
Wearing proper gears will make your hiking trip a smooth one. Wearing the wrong type of shoe or carrying the wrong type of bag will surely hinder your hiking trip.
Hiking Boots has no substitute
Yes, there should be no alternative for your hiking boots. These boots provide you with proper support for your feet and ankles.
They come with grip and have the capability to protect you from bumps and knocks. They are comfortable and are suitable for uneven and rocky trails.
Backpack is the backbone for any hiking trip
It would be a smart decision to carry a daypack for your hike. It should be of an optimum size to keep your water bottles, camera and other personal items. It should have a proper waist and chest straps that will help you spread the weight and keep you comfortable.
Hiking socks are different from regular ones
You might be wondering that you can pull of a hike with a normal pair of socks. Actually you can, but at a very high cost.
You can buy socks that are made specifically for hiking. These hiking socks will give you utmost comfort by preventing blisters and sweaty feet. You can walk long hours without a worry.
Hiking pants are really comfortable
Yes, they are! You can hike comfortably and take long strides when necessary. Tell me you can do that while wearing jeans and I would call you a liar.
While choosing a hiking pant, make sure you get the stretchy one. It is more comfortable. These hiking pants are water repellent and don’t get dirty quickly.
You should buy pants that can become shorts and roll according to the weather.
Please! Please! Don’t commit the crime of going on a hike with your jeans. Please!
Down Jacket for the cold
If the place you are hiking to is really cold or you are hiking during the winters, down Jackets can be really useful.
You might spend a night camping. So, down jackets can keep you warm on a chilly night.
If you are hiking during winter, you can carry them on your backpack. You can whip them out when the situation calls for.
If you think the weather is not going to be brutally cold, go for synthetic insulated jackets.
These jackets are water resistant and have easy maintenance. You will also not have to break the bank when it comes to purchasing a synthetic insulated jackets.
Rain Jackets to keep you dry
If it starts raining out of nowhere, wouldn’t rain jacket be your perfect companion?
These jackets are waterproof and is lightweight. You can easily carry them around and it is packable as well.
Merino Wool Base Layers
Merino wool base layers can be your lifesaver. If you are hiking in a cold region or decide to spend a night camping, this clothing item has your back.
It helps in regulating your body temperature and keeps you dry even if you sweat. It is comfortable to wear and will keep you exceptionally warm.
Another feature that you will find impressive is that it is odour-resistant.
You will be sweating a lot during your hike. Now, you want to feel comfortable when you are engaging in a physical activity. This is where hiking underwears come into play.
They make you feel comfortable during your hike by keeping you dry. This will also help you avoid irritations and you won’t have to make adjustments when you are on your hike.
You can either wear a cap or a hat. Whatever you’re comfortable with. They protect you from sunburns.
The lighter your bag, the more comfortable you are going to be during your trek. Take items that are necessary for your treks.
The weight of the bag should not be an issue. Even if you are carrying food items and water, make sure you don’t overestimate.
Here are some necessary items that you can carry for your hike.
I know you won’t forget your cell phone but this is a reminder nonetheless. You can stay connected with the world and in case of emergency, you can easily connect to someone and notify them.
These devices come with added facilities such as compass, distance tracker, mapper, etc. Also, if you are a person that is addicted to music, you can create a playlist just for your hike.
There are several cameras available in multiple price ranges. Now, you will argue that taking photos with a camera would be enough. But, a good camera has the capability to capture amazing pictures.
If you are already interested in photography, you can take awesome landscape pictures.
Now, if you are taking your camera, you should definitely take your camera backpack.
Since, your camera is an investment, it deserves to be protected. Also, these backpacks come in different sizes.
These backpacks come with padding inside and outside the bag. They are also waterproof and negate impact if there is any.
In case you are going to spend a night, taking a sleeping bag would be a smart decision. Imagine sleeping in the open or even inside a tent. Without a sleeping bag, you will freeze.
There are several types of sleeping bags available in the market.
- Ultralight backpacking sleeping bags are specifically designed for hiking. They are lightweight and you can carry them around easily.
- 0 degree sleeping bags are useful when your campsite is freezing cold. They keep you warm throughout the night. Even if it is zero degree outside.
- You can also go for the versatile 3-season lightweight sleeping bags. They are adaptable to multiple weather conditions.
- Now, if you are on a budget. You can buy sleeping bags which cost under $100.
Tents for the wilderness
If you are camping after your hike, you can take a tent for your trip.
Take a Book?
Yes, it is a question because you may not like the idea of taking a book for your hike. In your defense, you might be wondering why you would take a book.
There are people who read love reading books in the wilderness (I am one of them!). But, if you are going with a bunch of friends, taking a book might not be necessary.
But if you are a bookworm and love reading in your solitude, take a book or a kindle.
You don’t want to return from a hike covered with insect bites. So, take an insect repellent or a bug spray to keep you comfortable.
If you are heading through the trail in the woods, carry this without fail. Trust me when I say this because I had a really bad experience when I took a trail which was a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Hiking pole reduces strain on your knees when you hike. It also helps you establish a rhythm when you walk.
If the terrain is tricky, hiking poles will come to your rescue. They are easy to carry when you are not using them.
First Aid is a must
Carrying first aid items with you will be the smartest thing to do. In case of minor injuries, you can easily take care of the situation.
Carry a couple of band-aids, moleskins, Neosporin and bandage. You will also find backpacking first aid kit, specially designed for hiking.
Handheld Hiking GPS
Handheld hiking GPS can be really useful if you are venturing a new route. Or if you are hiking alone or even in a group.
These bad boys can withstand harsh weather conditions and work wonders when called into action.
Hiking with your dog?
If you are hiking with your dog, you can take a sleeping bag for it.
At the end of the day, your dog will have its own space to sleep. This sleeping bag will keep your dog warm and cozy.
This can come in handy if you want to open up something. Not really required when you are taking short trails.
If you find yourself on a longer hike and in the woods, I recommend that you take it.
Also, if a wild animal charges at you, your pocket knife would come in real handy. Just Kidding!
On a sunny day, I would recommend sunglasses. You will give your eye a well-deserved rest from the sun’s exposure.
This will only come in handy when you are returning in the dark. Although I suggest you to return before dark, there might be few cases where you return a bit late. These headlamps can be really useful then.
Ok, this is not a necessity. But if you are looking to have a chill time up there on the hill, nothing can beat the relaxation provided by a hammock.
Don’t worry, they are easily packable as they don’t take much space.
A hike can be properly enjoyed if you take the right amount of food items along with you. Eating at the right intervals with proving vital.
Take only certain types of food items that are easy to carry and store. Keep in mind that the need will vary according to the type of hiking trip you chose.
Now, I would recommend some food items that would be fit for hiking.
The high-calorie content in nuts will certainly energize you during your hike. They are dry, making them easy to store and consume.
But, like I mentioned they have high-calorie content. Don’t consume a lot of it.
Carrying a couple of bananas and apples would not be a problem. They help your body replenish and galvanize your body. You can also take dry fruits along with you.
Peanut butter and bread
Wait! Don’t judge me for this. In my defense, they are the easiest things to make. And you can pack them easily too. Imagine eating this stuff after you have reached your destination. I’m convinced.
These energy bars are loaded with calories. Hence, they will be able to revitalize you. Although I am not a big fan of energy bars. I know plenty of people who love these bars and find them convenient.
Drink and Hike
Many first time hikers tend to ignore the fact that drinking water should be a priority during a hike. And then they end up dehydrated.
Drinking an appropriate amount of water at fixed intervals will help you stay hydrated and carry on with your hike. Also, make sure that you are drinking water before your hike as well. This will give you a better start.
The amount of water intake varies with the climate of the region that you are going for a hike. When hiking in hot and humid conditions, you should drink at least 1 liter an hour. If you are hiking in a comparatively cooler region, half a liter will suffice.
How much water you should drink also depends on the level of exertion. If the trail is physically demanding, you will lose body fluids faster. So, drink water at regular intervals to keep going without being dehydrated.
But is too much water good? Science suggests otherwise and it has got a name for it – Hyponatremia. Drinking too much water without replenishing electrolytes can be dangerous. Add sports drink powder or eat salty snacks after you drink.
If you have the bad habit of drinking water only when you are thirsty, then it’s time to stop it. This technique can come to bite you in the rear when you are hiking. Like I have mentioned a million times now, drink at regular intervals.
Another tip I would like to share is that if you are hiking on a trail with few water sources, consume enough water whenever you find a drinking spot(and fill up your bottle too).
Also, you don’t want a bad experience after or during your trek, right? So, please check the water source before you drink. Or else your stomach will not forgive you.
There are several water bottles available on the market. But the one I trust is the filtered water bottles for hiking. These bottles come in real handy as they can filter the water on their own. They also come in regular sizes. Making them easy to carry.
Make sure you do a weather check before you head out for a trek. You can easily access any weather report online and see if the weather on the day of your hike is good.
You don’t want to hike when the weather is bad and it starts to rain. Also, if you live in areas where the weather is really tricky, you need to be really careful.
Start on Time
One thing for sure, starting your hike early is the only way to go. You want to start out early in the morning and rest during the noon. This way you will avoid the midday wrath of the sun.
If you are trekking during hot weather, starting out early is paramount to your hiking trip.
If you start out early, you will most probably return early. You don’t want to find yourself returning in the dark. So, starting early would be the best time of day to go hiking.
Don’t Push Yourself
Another open secret for you hike would be to go easy on yourself. It isn’t about how fast you go. You can walk slower than normal but keep your pace steady.
Hiking is best enjoyed when you have settled into your own tempo. If your friend goes haring off, ask them to take it easy as well.
It is necessary that you stop at regular intervals to rehydrate and grab a bit. Make sure you enjoy your hike and take lots of pictures(if you’re into it!)
Few Fitness Tips for Hiking
Exercise a little but often
Many people tend to push themselves hard and then end up sore. Make sure you don’t do such a stupid thing.
Start slow but be honest and consistent with your training. Start with a 15-20 minutes walk and then increase the intensity slowly. You will surely be ready if you exercise consistently.
During your walk, wear comfortable running shoes. These shoes are designed to give you comfort and prevent foot-related injuries.
Improve your warm-up game
Warm-up doesn’t take a lot of time. Yet, many people tend to ignore this simple method of avoiding injuries such as ankle sprains and pulled muscles. Please! Don’t be like them.
It is going to take you about 10-15 minutes at the most to warm-up. So, doing 10 repetitions of lunges, leg swings and double heel lifts would go a long way for you.
The Art of Balancing
What many don’t realize is that improving your balance is quite important. Check any fitness program and balancing will surely be an integral plan for them.
Try doing simple exercises such as balancing on one leg and single leg balance reach. These exercises will help you avoid ankle rolls( I cringed when I wrote this) and knee damage.
Also, you can do these exercises at home. It can’t get more simple than this, can it?
It all starts from your core
Every movement of your body originates from the core. This includes the muscles of the upper legs, hips and waist.
The advantages to having a strong core you ask? It improves your breathing, better posture and helps you avoid ankle sprains while tackling knee pain. Enough reasons to focus on your core.
Start with simple exercises such as planks. It will help you strengthen the muscles along the spine. Another effective way would be ball back extensions which promote back strength.
Strength training will help you build strength(duh!) and stability which can prove vital for your hike. You can do exercises such as squats, lunges, step-ups and deadlifts.
You can start without using anything. And with time you can add dumbbells to your exercises.
Give your body a well-deserved rest. No matter how many training programs you’re part of, if your body does not get proper rest, there is no use of training.
Resting will facilitate your body to remove all the waste products built up during training. Resting will also help you by giving a psychological break and prepare you for your next training cycle.
Benefits of Hiking
I have mentioned all the things that you should take for your trek and how to prepare for them. Now, I will be talking about the benefits of hiking. Yes! There are several benefits to be precise.
Makes you fit
Hiking makes you fit and fitter if you already one. Hiking can burn about 500 calories in an hour or two. If your hike involves going up a hill, you will burn more calories.
Since you won’t be walking on concrete, your ankles and knees won’t take a heavy toll.
Tones your body
Hiking will get you into shape by toning your body. Be it hiking up a hill or using a trekking pole, you will get a full-body workout.
Your lower body will get more attention than your upper but trust me, hiking works wonders.
Helps prevent diabetes and lower blood pressure
Hiking has several health benefits too. Hiking has the capability to control or even prevent diabetes. This is done by lowering your blood sugar levels.
It can also be credited to controlling blood pressure and cholesterol. This, in turn, will minimize the risk of heart-related illness.
You will find a community
Hiking with your friends will help you create better bonding. Hiking can be done in a fun way. Organizing weekly meetups and going for hikes have worked for many people.
This, in turn, will help you find a bigger community of hikers.
Getting close to nature
Hiking is one of the best ways to recharge yourself. Leaving behind your busy schedule and technology will actually do you good.
Spending time with nature has no substitute, no matter how advanced the world becomes.
Get out there! Choose a hiking route, call your friends and pick a date. There you go, you just planned your hiking trip, which I am sure is going to be awesome.