By: Andrea Cannon, MYSTERY RANCH Outdoor Ambassador
If you haven’t done it before, going for a hike might sound a little intimidating, especially if you have little to no experience spending time in the outdoors. However, once you begin hiking, you will realize that it’s a rewarding and fulfilling experience and perhaps less intimidating than you originally thought. Hiking allows you to escape the hustle and bustle, unwind, and immerse yourself in nature. In this blog post, we will share with you 5 tips for getting started as a beginner, so you will know exactly how to get your start.
Why You Should Start Hiking
Hiking is a great way to improve your physical and mental health. Spending time in nature has numerous benefits, from reducing stress to improving mood and concentration. When you hike, you not only exercise your body but also get to explore some of the most beautiful outdoor spaces.
5 Tips for How to Get Started Hiking
Learn The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace
One of the most important aspects of spending more time outside is learning how to respect the environment that you are enjoying. So what are the principles?
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What you Find
- Minimize Campfire Impact
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Others
Parts of the principles that tend to be especially relevant for new hikers include staying on the trail and avoiding cutting switchbacks or prancing around in wildflower meadows. Avoid taking things from the trail like rocks, leaves, or flowers. And pack out everything that you brought with you including dog poop and biodegradable waste like fruit peels and shells. Remember, nature is fragile, and we owe it to future generations to preserve it. You can learn more about these principles here.
Start Small and Familiarize Yourself With the Trail in Advance
When you are just getting started hiking, pick short and easy trails and avoid overdoing it on your first hike. Select a trail that is not too far from your house, less than 3-4 miles, has minimal elevation gain, and is well-marked.
Staying local keeps you in a familiar climate and near familiar wildlife. Keeping the mileage shorter will help you build up your stamina gradually and get used to the terrain and your equipment. Besides, easy trails are less intimidating and more enjoyable for beginners. However, even if the trail is easy, still make sure someone knows when to expect you to return from your hike in case something goes wrong.
Lastly, before setting out, read the trail signs and familiarize yourself with the local wildlife and what to do if you encounter it. Check the weather forecast, trail conditions, and any potential hazards such as wildlife, steep drops, or water crossings. Researching the trail in advance helps with your confidence and makes sure you are prepared which is part of the leave-no-trace principles.
Invest in Proper Gear
It can be tempting to hit the trails with some old sneakers and your high school backpack, but having the proper hiking gear is essential to a safe and enjoyable hiking experience. Not having the right gear is one of the biggest mistakes that hikers and backpackers can make. So what do you need to get started? Invest in sturdy and waterproof hiking boots, moisture-wicking socks, comfortable clothes, and a good backpack. Here are my favorite packs for new hikers:
- IN AND OUT 19 – A highly-compressible daypack for light & fast summit bids or the necessary grab-and-go pack for all your adventures. This pack is perfect if you plan to hike while traveling.
- COULEE 30 – This pack comes in a variety of sizes to fit your needs as a day hiker or minimalist overnighter. It is sturdy with tons of great pockets.
- BRIDGER 45 – Perfect for long day hikes or a weekend away, this pack is the ultimate in comfort, function, and ruggedness.
Whatever pack you go with, make sure your pack has enough space to carry your essentials such as water, sunscreen, snacks, and a first aid kit. Remember, the weather can be unpredictable, so carry extra layers and rain gear.
Utilize Online Resources
There are many resources online that can help you with how to get started hiking. The first is an app or website called AllTrails. You can research trails on AllTrails, see pictures and reviews of the trails, and search by categories like “dog-friendly”. Another online resource is Facebook groups. Facebook groups can be generalized about hiking such as “All Women All Trails” or local to your city, state or region. The localized groups can be great for finding people to go hiking with if you do not want to go alone.
Just Get Started
Between all the gear and trails to choose from, you can spend more time thinking about getting started hiking instead of actually getting out on the trail. If you want to get started hiking, pick a date that you plan to do your first hike and go for it (weather permitting of course). Will you make some mistakes as a new hiker? Probably. But that is why you chose a local, short trail and have great gear.
Getting Started as a Beginner Hiker
Hiking is an excellent way to connect with nature, improve your physical and mental health, and have an adventure. As a beginner hiker, starting small, investing in proper gear, familiarizing yourself with the trail, planning your route and time, use social media, and leaving no trace are essential tips to ensure a successful and enjoyable hiking experience. Don’t forget to respect nature, take your time, and enjoy the journey. Happy hiking!
Looking for even more hiking tips? Check out these hiking tips for beginners.