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Hiking Tips for Beginners

beginners hiking tips

Ready to hit the trails? Hiking is a fun pastime for many and if you’re thinking of heading outside there are some things to keep in mind to make your adventure the most enjoyable. From choosing the right shoes to packing snacks, I compiled my list of hiking tips for beginners.

woman hiking in forest

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Footwear

Hiking Boots/Shoes

Hiking boots make life easier when you’re hiking. They’re made for hiking, they give you better traction, and there are so many options. You’ll want something that is comfortable and durable. Some hiking boots are waterproof while others might just be water-resistant. Over the years you might have 2-3 pairs of hiking boots that you use for different types of terrain.

Check out Merrell hiking boots as well as Danner hiking boots. These two brands I know and trust. You’ll get longer use out of the Danner boots but if you’re looking for something less expensive then Merrell is a great choice.

TIP: One tip to keep in mind when buying hiking boots is to wear them in before a long hike. This is extremely important. Wear your new boots for shorter hikes, walk around with them, run some errands in them.

Hiking Sandals

Hiking sandals come in handy for shorter hikes where you’ll be going through some water (ie. river crossings, waterfalls, etc). You can also opt for a water shoe for hiking. These are something you might want to consider later on in addition to a traditional hiking boot.

Daypack

A good daypack is key when you’re spending a day on the trails. You’ll want something that is lightweight yet durable. Think about what you’ll be carrying during your hike. I recommend looking at different sizes and choosing something between 20-35 liter. I use a Columbia 23L Crescent Peak Daypack. You may want to choose a daypack that has enough room for all your essentials and external pockets that make your items easy to get to.

Water/Hydration

Water Bladder

Bringing water in an insulated water bottle is great for short hikes but I do recommend a water bladder for longer hikes. They come in a variety of sizes but I would choose something between 2-3 liters. They’re flat and most daypacks made for hiking will have a sleeve inside for them. You can fill your water bladder according to the trail. They are also convenient because it only requires one hand.

Water Filter

If you’re doing a longer hike that has water sources then you may want to opt to also bring a water filter. They’re convenient because you can stop and take what you need until your next water stop. These are great for backpacking and a good option to have just in case more water is ever needed.

Electrolytes

Electrolytes are minerals found in your sweat, blood, and urine. They help balance the amount of water in your body. Electrolytes can be found in sports drinks like Gatorade or Poweraid. You can also take electrolyte tablets. Taking electrolytes doesn’t replace water so it’s important to also drink water.

Research the Hiking Trail

It’s a must to know where you’re hiking and what the terrain looks like. You’ll want to do research before heading out on the trail.

Some things to find out:

How long is the trail?
Are there any water sources?
About how long should this hike take?
What is the terrain like? – Will I be scrabbling over rocks at any point, are there river crossings, is it very hilly, etc.
Is the trail marked? – Not all trails are marked or have an obvious path. Do your research to know where you’re going. Don’t automatically rely on others to follow.

Some things you’ll want to plan:

Timing – What time will you start so you’re back at the trailhead before it’s dark?
Weather – What is the weather like? Pack accordingly!

Sun Protection

The sun can be harsh. Protecting yourself from those elements is key especially when there isn’t much shade. Here are some things to consider taking with you.

woman at death valley zabriskie point

Apply and Take Sunscreen

It’s so important to wear and take sunscreen with you. Hiking under the sun for hours does a lot to your skin. Get yourself some sunscreen and your skin will thank you later.

Wear Sunglasses

If it’s a sunny day you may want to opt to wear sunglasses. If your eyes are sensitive sunglasses will make your hike more enjoyable.

Bring A Hat

A hat offers some sun protection for your face. A wider brim hat will give you more coverage. When choosing a hat you’ll want something comfortable. You will also want to figure out how to attach it to your daypack if you decided to take it off during the hike.

Keep Insect Repellent On Hand

This isn’t “sun protection” but insect repellent is protection and may be needed on some trails.

Clothing/Layering

Dressing in layers is second nature to avid hikers so it’s one of the most important hiking tips for beginners. Depending on where you’re hiking, the weather, time of year, etc., you might have more or fewer layers. If you’re starting a hike in the early morning you’ll be more bundled up with perhaps a fleece jacket and down jacket. And you may have a tank top and base layer underneath. Other times you may just need a comfortable top and light jacket. It’s something you’ll get used to doing the more you hike.

The below photos are all from the same hike. By wearing layers you can easily take off or put on pieces as the weather changes.

Depending on the weather and type of hike you may also want to pack extra clothing in case you were to get wet.

Tell Someone Your Hiking Plan

Let someone you know where you’re hiking and how long the trail takes. The mountains don’t always have the best cellular service so making a call to check-in isn’t always easy. Plan ahead so that someone can call help for you if you can’t. 

woman at seven sacred pool sedona

Other Essential Hiking Items

Headlamp – Important if you’re hiking in the early morning or later in the day

Compass/GPS/Map – A compass, GPS device, or a map are great for unmarked or unfamiliar trails.

Snacks – Taking some nutritious snacks along your hike will not only keep you from getting hangry it’ll help keep you energized. I love taking nuts, bars, and even some cut-up fruit or veggies.

First Aid Kit – A small first aid kit that will help you get bandaged up in case of small slip and falls or scrapes. Take any medicine that you may need as well.

Emergency Repair Kit – Some items you might want to include in your kit are duct tape (for quick fixes, prevent blisters, etc), extra parts for your water filter, zip ties. As you hike you’ll slowly build this kit.

Swiss Army Knife – A pocketknife or multi-tool comes in handy even in the most random situations. They’re small and easy to slip in your daypack.

Emergency Shelter – An emergency blanket or something to protect from wind and rain.

Fire Starter – Some matches, a lighter, or tinder will come in handy if you need to start a fire.

Bonus Hiking Tips For Beginners

Find a Hiking Buddy

Having a hiking buddy keeps you motivated, accountable, and can make you feel safer. Find a friend who wants to explore with you or join a friend on their next hike.

women hiking in sand dunes death valley

Join a Hiking Group

Look into joining a local hiking group. Many of these groups have a Facebook Group Page or online forum where they exchange tips, information, and look for someone to join them on their upcoming hikes. To find a group near you I suggest looking on Facebook Group Pages and search “YOUR AREA (city/county/region)” and “hiking.”

Learn From a More Experienced Hiker

Find yourself a hiking mentor or someone that can teach you the ropes. It always helps to watch and do, it’s the best way to learn. It’s also important to tell this person that you are a newbie and what your comfort level is. Always be transparent!

Leave No Trace

“Leave No Trace” isn’t a tip, this is an unwritten rule. It means to pack out what you bring to the trail. It means to respect the wildlife and be considerate of other visitors. There are seven Leave No Trace principles, check them out!

I hope you found my hiking tips for beginners helpful. There are many things you’ll pick up as you start hiking. You’ll adjust according to what’s best for you. Stay safe on the trails and leave no trace.

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