What’s the best way to traverse the great outdoors? If you said hiking, we like the way you think. Using your own two feet to explore the wilderness is a favorite pastime of campers and travelers. We want the experience to be as easy as possible and these 10 hiking tips are designed to help with that.
This post covers topics for beginners and enthusiasts like, making it helpful for many. If you’re wondering how to pick a trail, what to pack, or have another burning question, you’re in the right place.
10 Hiking Tips to Help Beginners
1. Choose the Right Trail
First things first, don’t shoot for the moon. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is to attempt a trail that’s much too intense.
There’s no need to be embarrassed by your skill level. If you don’t have a lot of experience hiking, start with a straightforward trail. With practice, you’ll be able to tackle tougher trails. But even the strongest hikers will tell you that it takes experience and training to conquer challenging climbs. Start where you can and keep at it.
Most trail guides will offer a rating for the trail’s difficulty. These usually include easy, moderate, and strenuous. More details are usually available online and there might even be a “very strenuous” rating to delineate the toughest trails.
2. Know the Trail’s Popularity
This one tends to get missed on lists of hiking tips. Before you go, check how popular the trail is. You can ask park officials or locals, or check an online service like AllTrails or Google Maps. Reviews can help you know what to expect in terms of popularity.
Some trails get very crowded on weekends or during certain seasons. You may want to visit during an off-peak time so as not to feel crowded or rushed. Additionally, the popularity affects parking availability, which may be limited at the trailhead.
3. Check the Weather
A given, but worth mentioning. Keep an eye on the weather before hiking. Watch the forecast in advance and especially the day before and day of.
You should also make sure that you’re looking at the right weather forecast. For example, the weather in Gatlinburg, Tennessee can be very different from the weather at the high altitudes of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A service like Mountain Forecast can give you a better idea of what to expect.
4. Tell Someone Where You’ll Be
Let’s preface this first. If you can, hike with someone else. It’s safer to hike in pairs or small groups than to hike alone. But if you are going solo, be sure to tell someone where you’ll be. It’s easy to ask a friend or sibling to send a check-up text around the time you expect to return home. If you don’t respond, then someone knows to check up on you.
5. Pack the Hiking Essentials
Many hiking tips circle around kits and packs. Those are incredibly important and there are a few essentials you should bring, including:
- Water, at least two bottles
- Snacks, such as fruit, jerky, nuts, trail mix, and dark chocolate
- Flashlight or headlamp
- Map and compass
- Rain jacket
- Basic first aid supplies, such as a bandage, instant ice pack, and antibiotic ointment
Be mindful, however, that you have to hike with everything you pack. Each item adds weight and too much weight will make your hike very difficult. Keep your pack lightweight and stick to the essentials.
6. Dress Properly
Dressing for success is essential for hiking. To start, make sure you have good hiking shoes or boots and make sure they’re broken in. By broken in, we mean you’ve walked a few miles in them before going on a big hike. Don’t ever go on a big hike in brand new boots or you’ll end up with sore feet.
You’ll also want good socks. Merino wool socks tend to work well for hiking, but you can also invest in synthetic blends. Just avoid cotton socks.
In fact, avoid cotton all around. Synthetic, moisture-wicking fabrics are much better for hiking. If you’ll be hiking in cool environments, be sure to layer properly, using hoodies, vests, or jackets depending on the temperatures. Don’t forget hats and gloves too!
7. Pace Yourself
When you first step foot on the trail, it’s tempting to head off at full speed. But be cautious. It’s better to pace yourself and start at a steady clip. If you race out of the gate, you’ll burn out before you reach the end. Focus on maintaining a reasonable pace and watch your step so you don’t hurt yourself.
8. Understand Trail Etiquette
There’s a lot to cover when it comes to trail etiquette. So much so that trail etiquette could use its own post full of hiking tips. And look, we created one! Here’s everything you need to know about trail etiquette while hiking.
9. Study First Aid and Hygiene
We’re not saying you need a medical degree to go hiking. But you should have some basic first aid and hygiene knowledge. If you fall and break a bone or cut yourself, you might be the only one who can patch it up. Check out this guide for wilderness first aid basics.
Additionally, keep hygiene in mind. Pack hand sanitizer on any trip, and biodegradable toilet paper if you’ll be going the distance. Remember to clean up after yourself in the woods too.
10. Leave No Trace
This could be at the top of the list for hiking tips, it’s so important. When you’re outdoors, leave no trace that you’ve been there. That means:
- Packing out any and all trash
- Burying any human or pet waste
- Extinguishing and clearing a campfire
- Not disturbing wildlife
In short, leave no trace.
Hopefully you’ve found these hiking tips helpful for your next adventure. If you gained some new knowledge, help someone else and share this post!