Hiking For Beginners : 10 Simple Tips
To begin with, what actually is hiking and how is it any different to a walk?
Effectively, hiking is just a more strenuous version of a walk as typically the terrains you go on are more challenging and you usually find the trails are longer. This means you need to be much more prepared and ready for a hike, which is exactly what this ‘hiking for beginners’ guide aims to help with.
The Health Benefits of Hiking
First let’s quickly go through some of the benefits of hiking to your health, mind and mood.
As it is quite a high effort form of physical activity hiking results in some amazing health benefits and it’s an excellent way to keep fit and burn excess calories. It can help improve your blood pressure and blood sugar levels, lowering any risks of heart disease. Since you’re usually tackling elevated land it means you can really strengthen up your muscles in your lower legs and hips.
Like most exercise hiking has wonderful effects on your mental health and especially is known to have very positive impacts towards combating symptoms of stress and anxiety too. It’s also just a nice way to get out into nature and see some scenic views and new locations you’ve never been to before which is always an instant mood booster.
So how do you plan a hike that’s right for you? And what other important information do you need to know before you plan a hike?
Hiking For Beginners
1. Choosing Hikes for a Beginner Level
The first step is do not overdo it and pick a hike well within your capacity as a hiker. For a beginner, you should be looking at short day hikes with trails that have minimum climbing and elevation. Length wise its best to stick to under five miles, but you need to look at to whether the trail will be mostly flat or mostly uphill so that you are able to then plan accordingly.
To help you finds hikes, we already have some beginner level hikes available here if you are from the UK and you can look at the websites for National Trails or National Trust to find some wonderful locations to visit. National trails even lets you filter searches depending on a trails difficulty, landscape type and length so is an excellent resource for beginners. You can also look at any national parks website to see what trails they have available.
Another place to look is online hiking / walking communities, blogs, Facebook groups etc. you can find some great trails and maybe even meet other people who are also into hiking. Traditional walk guide books are another great place to look as they are full of different trails you can take so whenever you visit anywhere be sure to get some.
2. Who Are You Hiking With?
When you are a beginner hiker it can be nice to start off by going hiking with someone else, whether that’s your friends, family members or even just your dog companion. If you don’t want to hike alone but don’t have anyone you feel you can to go with another good option is to look for any hiking meetups or groups you could join.
Other things to take note of are if you are going with others, you need to make sure the trail you’ve chosen is suitable for all. You don’t want to be stuck carrying small children on a tricky hike. If you are taking a dog, you need to check it’s a dog friendly trail and
any rules that come with that such as keeping your dog on a leash.
If you do chose to hike in a group – stay in the group! You need to always make sure you know where the people in your group are. If you are splitting up, plan where you will meet up and at what time.
3. Check Weather Beforehand
Always check the local forecast before you set off, what the weather has been like the day before you go could have an impact on the condition of the trail. You need to be aware of the conditions in the area and the effects this could have on the difficulty of your hike and the items you choose to bring. If there’s been really bad weather in the area then the trail might not even be open as it could need repairs or be too dangerous to go on. Weather can change quickly on higher altitudes so you need to take this into consideration and pack extra layers.
Before leaving double-check the trail is still open – this is especially important if you are not local. Doing a quick internet search first should tell you whether it’s available to go on that day, some hikes may not be open at certain times of the year for example.
4. Familiarise yourself with trail
Another key step is to familiarise yourself with the trail you plan to go on beforehand. The key to this is navigation. You need to know where you are and where you are going. A map you can put in your backpack or having some form of electronic navigation will work fine. You can also download apps for hiking, make sure they are available for offline use as your aren’t often going to have good cellophane signal on a trail.
It’s also a great idea to research local wildlife you could come across on your hike. This again could be useful if you are taking a dog as you know what animals you may come across and if it’s suitable to take your pet, however it’s just a good idea to be aware of what wildlife is in the area for safety reasons too.
5. Make Sure Your Phone Is Fully Charged
It is very important you have a working and fully charged phone. It might sound obvious but you need to be able to get in contact with people in case of an emergency so it’s essential that your phone doesn’t die when you are hiking. Turn your phone on flight mode if you are wanting to save battery. Bringing a portable charger can help you to maintain a high battery life as phone batteries can’t always be trusted.
6. Tell Someone Where You’ll Be
Always tell someone where you are going beforehand, this should include mentioning where you are hiking, at what time and when you should roughly be back from the hike. If anything does go wrong, it will be easier for you to be found if people know where you are going. Don’t forget to also mention when you have retuned you don’t want people thinking you are missing while you’re really just back at home. Phone signal isn’t always available which is why its key you tell people before you begin to set off for your hike.
7. What to Pack
Only take the essentials. This is highly important, you don’t want your backpack to be too heavy as you need to remains lightweight as possible or it will l make the hike more strenuous than it needs to be. If you are in a group a good idea is to have everyone have their own backpacks so that everything is spread out and if anyone gets separated they have their own items on them.
These are the essentials you’ll need:
Navigation – A GPS, map or both
Hydration – make sure you have enough water for your hike length
Sun Protection (for warm weather)
Waterproof stuff sack (if rainy)
(If you have a dog be sure to bring water for them too and any other items they need! )
8. What to Wear
For hiking it is most important that what you are wearing is comfortable and suitable for the weather conditions of that day. Hiking gear can be quite pricey so there’s no point investing in the very expensive stuff straightaway when you can use what you’ve already got. Here are the basics you need:
Good socks – a thick pair of socks are perfect for providing comfort and protection when walking as well as keeping you warm
Comfy shoes that have already been broken in. The last thing you want it to get a blister while hiking. Any running shoes should do fine to begin with, then more comfortable with hiking you get it is a good idea to get some good walking shoes for trickier terrains
Athletic clothes. Going hiking in jeans or something that’s just not comfy is a bad idea, any clothes you have for athletic wear are a much better fit as they are already made for physical activity.
For winter: Water proof jacket/ insulated jacket, hat, insulated gloves, a fleece
For summer: Lightweight and loose-fitting clothes, sun cream, sun hat, sunglasses.
9. Safety Information
Possibly the most important part of ‘hiking for beginners’ is being aware of safety information when you are hiking:
Stay on the trail. You need to always know where you are going so avoid any shortcuts you think you’ve come across. The only time you should ever be leaving atrial is for bathroom breaks.
Remain hydrated and fed. Make sure you take enough food and water with you before setting off.
Don’t hike in bad weather conditions. You don’t want to be hiking in an unsafe environment you aren’t prepared for as it’s extremely dangerous.
Stay at a steady pace. Again if you’ve familiarised yourself with trail first you’ll know when you need the most energy. Additionally, if you get lost taking a wrong turn, you’ll have access energy to be able to correct it. You also want to avoid causing any unnecessary injury like a twisted ankle or worse.
Listen to warnings. If the trail has rules or things you need to be aware of pay attention to them. It could be a matter of saving your life.
Getting lost is something that can happen to even the best of hikers. The main thing to do is not panic, instead stop and try to take in your surroundings. Look at your guide and notice if anything seems familiar to the trail you should be on. If not begin to backtrack where you came from until it starts to feel familiar again.
These safety tips are for hikers of any experience level. It’s extremely important you follow these guidelines for your safety no matter how confident a hiker you may be.
10. Respecting the Environment and Other Hikers
Leave no trace behind – that means no littering, stay on the trail as best you can. A great tip is to take a bag with you so that any litter you do come across you can also take with you.
Don’t disturb any wildlife and don’t disrupt the environment
Keep dogs on leash especially if told to do so. This is to respect hikers who may not be used to dogs and also wildlife. The last thing you want is your dog chasing after some of the local animals off trail
Wear headphones. Of course you may want to listen to music when doing a solo hike but be considerate of other hikers who may not want to hear your specific songs of choice.
Give way to people going uphill.
Stick to one side, especially when in a group
Saying hello and giving a smile to fellow hikers can go a long way especially on a difficult hike.
Following these basic hiking ‘rules’ should help make your hike as pleasant as possible for you and those round you. Additionally taking care of our trails is very important. Leaving litter everywhere could result in the closure of your trail, instead encourage responsibility when hiking, that way if the trail is well looked after it could result in funding that can then go towards more parks and trails which is a win for everyone.
Hopefully with this Hiking For Beginners Guide you now feel more confident to begin your very own hiking adventure. We also have other beginners guide such as for Rucking if you want to check other activities out.