If you’ve been looking to pick up a hobby, you can’t go wrong with hiking. It allows you to connect with nature and escape your everyday life for a little while. Plus, hiking offers many health benefits, including improved bone density, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.
Before you set out on your first trail, read over this guide to learn everything you need to know as a novice hiker.
To Start, Choose a Trail for Beginners
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a beginner hiker is picking a trail that’s either too long or has too much intense climbing. Start with a trail that’s under five miles long and is relatively flat. This way, you can evaluate how much your body can handle.
If you have bigger hikes in mind, slowly train up to them. Increase your distance traveled by a mile or two every week until you reach your target distance.
Before you set out on your adventure, be familiar with the trail. Get an idea of how long it takes an average person and where any potentially tricky parts are. You don’t have to commit the entire trail to memory, but you should know what to expect.
Invest in the Right Gear
Even if you’re completing a shorter trail, you shouldn’t wear casual clothes like jeans or sandals. Jeans will weigh you down and cause chafing and excessive sweating. Instead, opt for a pair of athletic shorts.
If the terrain you are walking on is particularly dense with vegetation, consider wearing tights or long pants. These will protect you from getting scratches from bushes and plants.
When it comes to your top, wear a moisture-wicking shirt to keep yourself from overheating. Choose a short or long-sleeved shirt depending on your area’s climate.
A sturdy pair of sneakers should get you through your first trail. However, if you plan on hiking regularly, consider getting a reliable pair of hiking shoes. The right hiking shoe should not only provide comfort, but it should also offer optimal stability and support.
Bring Your Map with You
Some hikers enter their first hike with a heightened sense of confidence. Even if you are confident in your navigation abilities, always bring some guidance with you. Print out your trail’s map. If the weather is inclement, bring a Ziploc bag to keep it from getting ruined.
While a physical copy of your map is important, you should also bring an electronic version. Before you leave for your adventure, make sure you have an online and offline version of your map available.
Never rely on the physical or electronic version of your map alone. Your phone may get dropped or lose service, while your physical map may become ruined or difficult to read. It’s always a good idea to have a backup version of your map, especially on a course you’ve never completed before.
Plan Each Hiking Trip
Before you start your hike, it’s a good idea to plan it out. Find a time to go that’s right for you. If you want to avoid crowded trails, go in the morning. If you’re nervous about completing a course alone, go later in the day when more people are likely to be out.
Some other things you should do before each hike are:
● Check the weather
● Call the park to ensure the trail you want to use isn’t closed for repairs
● Acquire any necessary permits for the trail you want to use
● Let someone know you’re going hiking as a precaution
Take Your Time
Hiking is not a race; instead, it’s a time to enjoy the outdoors. If you want to challenge yourself, aim to keep a steady pace instead of a quick one. You’ll need to conserve your energy, especially on a longer trail. Ideally, you should have some energy to spare if you get lost and need to backtrack.
As you’re walking, be on the lookout for potential threats like snakes, rocks, protruding roots, and poisonous plants. If you take your time while walking a trail, you’ll be able to keep a better eye on these hazards.
For some final thoughts, here are some pieces of common hiker’s etiquette:
● Music: Headphones are okay, but don’t play music out loud.
● Dogs: If you want to bring your pup with you, be sure to keep him on a leash and under control.
● Shortcuts: To protect fragile wildlife, never veer off of the designated trail.
● Talking: You can talk on the phone or with a hiking partner, but keep the volume low to respect other hikers.