Hiking for beginners: 8 essential tips

Hiking is a fun and relaxing way to immerse yourself in nature, reduce stress, get a good workout, build self-confidence, spend time with friends and family, and recharge your batteries. There are so many physical and mental health benefits of hiking. It can help you get into better shape, reduces stress, and even improve brainpower. Hiking for beginners however can be intimidating, but there’s really not much to it as getting started is easier than you might think. You don’t need any special skills to hike; you just have to be able to walk and know where you are.

When you go on a hike, you get to explore places in nature that the roads cannot reach, leave your worries about time, work, and other stressors far behind, and reawaken your sense of wanderlust. If you’re interested in hiking but don’t have the experience, it can be a little overwhelming when you are first starting out. Perhaps you are worried you’ll get lost and won’t be able to find your way back.

So in this hiking guide for beginners, I share everything you need to know to get started. I include advice on how to pick a trail, how to manage fears over getting lost, and more. With a little planning, you can enjoy a safe, comfortable, and pleasurable hike so dive in and get ready, because you’re about to discover all you need to know to enjoy a life spent outside. And, nobody has to know that you are new to this!

1. Planning on hiking for beginners: Decide on how far and deep you want to go

Almost everyone can agree on the idea of hiking and, especially for beginners, this idea is pretty awesome. But for many, it’s the planning that puts them off. We’ll admit, to enjoy a hike, especially if it’s something new to you, requires a little bit of planning. But, unless you’re embarking on an expedition or a particularly difficult hike the preparation is surprisingly easy.

Decide where you want to go because planning is the very first step. Now is the time to fix your time and budget for your hike. Is it going to be an all-day hike or an afternoon or morning hike? Are you hiking for just an hour or more?  Are you looking for shorter or longer hikes? Try answering all these questions before you decide to leave.

Here are the types of hiking that you can choose from as per your convenience: Walks, Day hike, Trekking, Multi-day hike, Section hike, Thru-hike, Backpacking, One-way hike, Loop, Summit hike, Technical hike, Ridge walk, Mountaineering, and Scramble.

2. Choose your trail and understand the difficulty level

Now that you have some idea of the trials, you will be able to choose a trail as per your fitness level. Since you are a beginner, also consider if the trial is easy to follow. When hiking, you have to consider several factors such as elevation changes, trail obstacles, length, time, and seasonal challenges.

When it comes to beginners, hiking a mile is not the same as walking a mile and you need to get that in your head before starting out. Similarly, be aware of any injuries you may have that would make climbs or descents problematic. And, if you’re not in ultimate shape, choose trails with minimal elevation gain or gentle switchbacks.

Therefore, understand the location, hiking distance, elevation gain (how much altitude you will gain), difficulty level, and time required.

3. Research on the hiking trail for beginners

Research thoroughly about your trail before you go. Don’t merely check the elevation gain over the whole distance of the hike rather, see how quickly the change happens. Decide which trail you’re comfortable with, depending on your fitness level and how long you’d like to be out.

When we talk about hiking for beginners, it’s better to choose shorter hikes until you know what you can handle. Depending on where you’re hiking, the season can drastically affect the landscape. Check the trail’s best seasons and if it’s open year-round. Keep in mind that you’ll have less daylight during fall and winter than in the summer. Also, make sure to check the weather forecast before you leave. A little rain is alright, but a huge storm could make the trail dangerous or even inaccessible.

Ultimately, choose a trail that inspires you, and don’t be intimidated: there are plenty of beautiful trails out there that are doable even for beginners. Just start small and work your way up to longer and more challenging hikes, if that’s what your ultimate goal is.

4. Make a list and pack essential hiking gears required for beginners

Even if you’re only planning on going a short distance, there are certain essentials that no hiker should be without – and getting caught out in challenging weather can be extremely dangerous. So, for your first hike, it is good to know what to pack.

Whether you’re hiking for four hours or four days, you don’t want to have an “uh-oh” moment on the trail, when you realize you’ve forgotten something important. Make a gear list before heading out to make sure you have everything you might need.

These are hiking essentials that are important to consider no matter where the trail is taking you, you can then decide if you think it’s right for your specific adventure. Here is a list of hiking essentials:

Navigation: A map, compass, or GPS device to guide you.

Water: Carrying and drinking water whilst hiking is crucial to avoid dehydration. Similarly, be smart enough to carry more than what you normally drink.

Food: Taking the right food and snacks is just as important.

Headlight or torchlight: Bring a headlight or torchlight for moments when you do not get sufficient natural light. It is even more important if you are hiking in the evening as well.

Sun screen: A hat, sunglasses and sun screen is a-must-bring during a hike.

First-aid kit: It is very easy to forget and also ignore this particular item. But, we never know what we might encounter during our hike so, it is smart to carry a first aid kit with you. Make sure it’s well-stocked and specialized to your needs, and you know how to use all of your supplies. You should be prepared to handle a variety of medical situations. Here are some common hiking issues you could encounter, even on an easy hike: blisters, allergic reactions to poisonous plants, insect bites, stings, cuts, and a sprained ankle.

5. Know what to wear

This will greatly depend on where you’ll be hiking and at what time of year. As per the climate, you must wear something really comfortable and protective. Another thing to consider is to expect the unexpected. This may be the most important piece of advice when packing for an outdoor adventure. Regardless of the season and the weather when you set off, remember that the weather can change quickly.

The one-piece of gear that can make you the most uncomfortable is your shoes because it is one item that you will feel all day long. A good pair of sneakers or trail runners with a good grip are usually your best bet.

Dress in layers to make it easier to control your temperature and make sure that the outermost layer is wind and waterproof. As opposed to cotton and polyester, wool breathes, isolates, keeps off moisture, is temperature regulating, and self-cleaning so, consider that. Fleece is another good material, especially for winter hiking. To add, the sun can be deceptively strong, even in the winter and when it’s overcast or windy, therefore carry sun protection.

6. Understand the hiking safety tips

For hiking beginners and pros alike, if you’re in the outdoors, in the rural areas, it’s especially important to stay safe: what might seem like a small problem can escalate quickly in the wilderness. Stick to these tips and you’ll stay safe on the trail!

-Research your route properly and make sure you know the details of the route.

-Check to see if there are water sources or nearby amenities for food.

-Break your hiking footwear in before the trail as blisters can be seriously painful.

-Look at local weather forecasts and if a storm approaches then return back.

-Make sure you stay hydrated and keep energy levels high with the right food.

-Go at a consistent pace and be sure not to over-exert yourself. It is important to listen to your body!

7. Tell your friends and family about the trip

Whether through researching, taking online or in-person wilderness classes, or hiking with experienced outdoors people, there are many ways to learn outdoor skills and stay safe on the trail. No matter what, you should always tell friends or family about your hiking plans and what to do if they do not hear from you by a designated time.

While solo hiking for beginners in itself isn’t automatically dangerous, the most common mistake made by hikers is taking off alone without notifying anyone. Be sure to tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be back.

Even if you are planning to bushwhack off-trail, you should still let someone know the general area where you will be exploring. And you should designate a “check-in.” Instead of providing the specific hour and minute you expect to be off-trail, give your contact person a window that allows for an extra side-trip, a sprained knee, or a wrong turn. You want to have some flexibility without sending your friend or family into a complete panic.

Here’s another great tip that’s easy and could save your life. At the very least, telling someone where and when you’ll be hiking can be as simple as sending a text message that you’ll be back at a certain time.  If something bad happens, this will increase your chances of being found dramatically. And, in case of a serious emergency, you’ll be glad someone is looking out for you.

8. Do not overdo it

One thing frequently happens with hiking: once the endorphins kick in and you’re out in nature, you feel like you can go on for miles and miles and, that’s when people get hurt. At the risk of sounding like your parents, could I suggest an extra dose of caution? Know when to walk away!

Get out and hike!

Find a trail near you, grab a friend, and go explore the beauty of the outdoors. If you don’t have any outdoorsy friends, search for a hiking group in your area to meet like-minded people. Hikers are generally friendly and welcoming, so don’t be intimidated by joining a group. Don’t get me wrong for hiking can be a solitary activity, too, but sharing the experience is safer and typically more fun.

Whether you choose a trail in the city or one far from cell service, hiking is a wonderful way to get some exercise, challenge yourself, connect with nature, and quiet the busy mind. There are so many amazing sights to behold in the wild, and many of them can only be accessed by trail!

It’s a wrap!

So that is it! I hope you got to know the essential tips regarding hiking for beginners. What do you think of the list? Also, do let me know in the comments below if you have additional tips that you think should make it to this list.