Spending some time outdoors is something that everyone needs to do once in a while and the truth of the matter is that there are plenty of ways through which we can actually do this.

One of the most satisfying outdoor activities is hiking and as it turns out, just like any other outdoor recreational activity, how good your hiking trip will be, entirely depends on you. Yes, the first time can be a little bit rough for most but does it always have to be this way for you?

It was a little bit of a rough experience for me and as much as I took some time for me to wrap my head around things, I’m finally fully aware of every tip and trick in the book which then brings us to today’s agenda.

If you are looking forward to going on your first hiking trail, I’ve got ultimate Hiking for beginners guide for you. From all the essential equipment you should have with you to the different types of hiking and the tips you should pay need to, I’ve got you covered.

So, that being said, let’s cut to the chase already and get things started.

Contents

The popular styles of hiking

The popular styles of hikingSimilar to other outdoor activities such as camping, hiking too will be as fun and interesting as you would like it to be. You only need to be sure of the kind of hiking that best suits you and you’ll be good to go.

There are lots of different types of camping but since this is your very first-time camping, we have narrowed down the scope to the major hiking styles you should consider looking into as a beginner.

Peak Bagging

Peak bagging is basically a hiking style that demands the participants to get to the summit of a given set of mountains. Depending on the kind of mountains you pick, it can be as difficult or as hard as you want to be. So, for a beginner, I’d really recommend that you only pick out the less challenging routes.

By starting off simple first, you will be able to know your limits and also get to complete your milestone. The idea behind peak bagging is completing the objective and as such, most peak baggers will strive to get to the peak of the different mountains regardless of the season.

Well, the more advanced of a peak bagger you become, the more challenging you will want your trails to be. It should also be noted that with peak bagging, there is less emphasis on the scenery and taking this into consideration, it also has got some sub-categories.

  • Base camping

Base camping is a spawn of peak bagging and it is a more convenient form of peak bagging if you are just getting started. In base camping, the hikers will set up their gear in a campsite after which they will always come back to the site while hiking so as to commemorate their hike.

The advantage of this style of hiking is that you will get to cover large ground without really having to pack heavy, this then allows you to move much faster and you get to complete your peak bagging on time. For the best experience, I would also recommend that you gather some knowledge about some essential camping tips

  • Bushwhacking

just as the name suggests, bushwhacking is where you will go off the trail and it is highly demanding of both your navigation skills and equipment. The last thing you would want is to leave your compass or map at home.

The goal for this style of hiking is to only venture out in areas that have not been interfered with by other human beings. As compared to base camping, bushwhacking is much more strenuous. Other than just being demanding of your physical strength, bushwhacking is also demanding of utmost expertise in navigation.

On the other hand, since peak bagging is all about getting things as challenging as they can possibly get, most people would prefer to venture into this eventually in their goal to see how much they can push themselves in an attempt to get to the highest summits.

Day hiking

In my book, this is the easiest style of hiking you could delve into. Day hiking can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be and it is all about getting to satisfy your desire by going for a hiking trip that will exclusively be within the day.

Even for the very experienced hikers, this is the form of hiking that they mainly start off with before venturing into more advanced forms of hiking.

Unlike what most people think, day hiking is not exclusively for those who are just getting into hiking and it could be an enjoyable and relaxing way for the advanced hikers such as peak baggers to have a break from all the challenges of peak hiking.

Section hiking

Some people would probably define this differently but I’d consider any form of hiking where the goal is traveling for as long a distance as possible this way.

Whereas peak bagging is mainly focused on making the challenge as difficult as possible, long distance hiking is more focused on both time and the hiker’s commitment. Let’s have a look at some variations of long-distance hiking that you could probably take a look at.

Slackpacking

SlackpackingIn the case of slackpacking, section hikers will blend both overnight backpacking and day hiking when covering a section of their trail.

In this style, you will basically sleep in a trail hostel for some days after which you will be guided by your host each morning and pick up from where you left off the previous day with slackpacking, you might need to carry some gear for the trail as well as water and food though it’s not as heavy as having  a whole bag with you for the hike. The benefit of this hiking variant is that whereas you will find it easy to climb the difficult trails with less gear, you can always go ahead and backpack the ones that are easy.

For slackpacking, depending on how long you look forward to staying on your trail, you may or may not need to switch hostels as you progress on your trail.

Slackpacking is demanding of the best navigation skills and you will have to carefully plan out on your navigation cost. You should also master your path quite well to ensure you are fully aware of any landmarks and water sources.

As difficult as slackpacking can get, it is quite a social form of hiking since you’ll get to interact with lots of other hikers.

Backpacking

BackpackingYet another form of section hiking that is really popular among hikers is backpacking. Backpacking can be as long as you want it to be from a few days to even a whole week at a time and considering there are backpacking apps and trail guides, it is much easier to start off with this form of hiking.

Regardless of the apps being present as well as guides, you will be better off planning out your hikes just as you would for a more difficult style of hiking. Besides the gear, ensure that you do pack enough water to keep you hydrated all through and also pack enough food.

You might also be needed to schedule stops for supplies and campsites which might be a little bit tricky but on the bright side, the hard work is already covered so you’ll have much less to worry about.

Thru-hiking

Ever heard of thru-hikers? The kind of hikers that will stay on a trail for months just to cover it to completion? This is yet another challenging form of hiking that is highly demanding of your patience and sacrifice since taking part in this form of hiking also requires a lot of commitment since you may need to put other activities on hold just to dedicate your time to this.

Considering it is highly demanding of your time, you’ll need to do some little bit of planning in advance and more so carefully pick out all the gear you’ll need for the trip.

Make sure you know the food and water sources that will be along your path and once you get to them resupply only enough such that you won’t have too heavy a luggage to carry with you on the trail ahead.

Better safe than sorry, right? Well, as much as you will be having your plan with you, you might, once in a while need to stay off it or modify it a little bit but even upon doing so, don’t forget to resupply when you get the chance.

You should also know the transportation methods to get you back home once you are done with your hike or if the need to cut the hike short arises.

Car assisted backpacking

Car assisted backpackingWe have had a look at some of the most challenging forms of backpacking but the thing is, things don’t always have to be this tough.

The idea here is getting your supplies from a car that is either on the trail or close by and I’d recommend leaving your vehicle at the end of the trail and get a shuttle take you to the beginning of the trail thus you go towards your vehicle.

The benefit of this is that you won’t have to worry about the supplies and most importantly, you’ll always have better quality food and cleaner water to drink at all times. You will also get utmost reliability as far as swaying off the trail just in case of an emergency

Other types of hiking

The above styles of hiking are mostly what people would go for but you will not always be limited to these if you are just starting off. Here are some styles of camping that will be quite easy for you to start with.

  1. Free hiking

Free hiking is quite self-explanatory and it simply involves going for a hike in a randomly chosen path where you won’t be restricted to following any specific trail. The upside of free hiking is that you’ll have the convenience of going off course for any supplies when need be.

  1. Soloing

Soloing would be a good start since you won’t have to have any guide with you along the way and more so, it can get as difficult as you want it to be since you will determine how long the trail is to be. Just to be safe, however, you should ensure you tell someone the path you’ll be taking and also carry a phone with you for communication just in case of emergencies.

  1. Speed hiking

Otherwise known as fast packing, speed hiking entails going up a specific trail with the goal being able to hike the tail in the shortest time possible.

Choosing the perfect hiking trail

Choosing the perfect hiking trailStraightforward as hiking may seem to be, it isn’t all about picking up the first trail that you stumble upon on your map and then striving to conquer it.

Since out will just be starting out, it can be a little bit difficult to choose the perfect trail and, in most cases, it’s a matter of try-and-error and unless you are really lucky, it is highly unlikely that you get a perfect trail with your first pick

As much as choosing your gear and clothing is important, so is picking the route to take. That being said, here are some basics that should guide you in choosing a good trail for your first hike.

Where to find the perfect hiking trail

A quick search on the internet could help but it’s mostly not that easy when it comes to picking out a good enough hiking trail. So, before we delve into some of the things you ought to consider to get the best trail, do have a look at some sources that could easily help you find one.

  • Guidebooks and websites

Guidebooks and some websites are quite resourceful since they’ll explain in detail the nature of the camping trail and give you the important statistics on one as well. Such include the directions and landmarks, water sources, the distance to be traveled, the overall difficulty and the elevation gain.

Between the two, I’d recommend that you settle for a website since most will have updated information on how the trail is. This way, you can get weather information, the vegetation cover and much more. Guidebooks, on the other hand, are important since you may need them on the trail where there is no internet connection.

  • Consult a friend and talk to the locals.

Experience is the best teacher, right? Instead of going through the hassle of looking through a bunch of websites and gathering lots of guidebooks, you could simply ask a friend who has done some hiking in the past to suggest some good hiking locations that you could start with. Even better you could request them to accompany you on your hike.

If you are somewhere new, asking the locals of any awesome hiking trails should set you on the right path. I’d recommend that you talk to Rangers since they are most likely to have up to date information on the safe enough hiking trails.

Your physical capability

As we will find out later on, one of the major benefits of hiking is that it is both a cardiovascular and aerobic workout. As much as you may be looking forward to the perfect hiking trail, it may not really be the best trail for you to start with depending on your level of fitness.

It’s actually a matter of simple logic; if you run out of air just after running for less than two miles, then going for a hike on a 10-mile trail wouldn’t make any sense, would it?

It is therefore of utmost importance to be in perfect shape before you head out to a hike to avoid any fatigue in the middle or after you’re through. The trick is to always be cautious of how far you can push your body. If you can’t withstand the extremes, simply start out with the simple trails and then advance to the more difficult ones.

How difficult is it to hike the trail?

The trail difficulty goes hand in hand with your fitness and it would be correct to say that a hiking trail will be as difficult as your physical capability. Different trails will lie within either of these difficulty levels:

  • Easy

The idea when it comes to the easy hiking trails is to give the hiker a minimal height gain while at the same time minimizing the distance to be covered. This is less demanding of advanced utmost physical fitness and most people starting off with hiking should be able to conquer such trails.Such trails are also well maintained and more so, you’ll have access to essentials

  • Moderate

As you advance as a hiker, you should step things up a notch and give yourself a little bit of a challenge by going for the moderate trails. These have a slightly longer distance to be covered than the easy trails and the elevation gain is more as well. These are mostly off-trail areas where the terrain is a little bit tough and depending on the trail you choose; the distribution of essentials will vary.

  • Hard/difficult

From my own personal experience in hiking, I’d say that the hard hiking trails are much easier to come across as compared to the easier or moderate ones. These are much longer and the elevation gain is quite challenging. In addition to this, you will in most cases it entails up and down movement and the terrain is really rough

You don’t necessarily have to start off with the easy hiking trails; you can set a challenge for yourself just to see how far you can go and thereafter dial things down a little bit if you need to. Also, regardless of the kind of trail you pick, ensure you pay attention to the landmarks and don’t go off trail whatsoever.

Familiarity with the location

As already mentioned, your first hike can be as difficult as you want it to be and as much as you may choose an easy trail, choosing the wrong location will make the hike harder than it needs to be.

The safest way to go would be picking a trail that is popular and close by. This way, the odds of you meeting with other hikers are quite high. This means that you will be safer and have some company with you hence satisfying the whole idea of going for a hike; to have fun.

By opting to go for a hike in a place that is close by, you’ll hardly get lost. Getting lost during your hike in an unfamiliar location would be quite frustrating and definitely change your whole point of view about hiking.With mastery of the area in which you will be hiking at, it will also be much easier to know the areas that are safe from any wild animals

Always check the weather forecast

Though you might have hiked on a trail in the summer successfully, it does not mean that it will be equally as good to hike on during the winter season. As such, it is important that you keep track of the weather and even better be at par with the forecast.

The best time to go for a hike would be in the mid-summer or mid-spring season when you are just starting off. This, however, needs to be done with the correct hiking clothes since too much heat will take all the fun away from your hike.

Also watch be up to date with the weather forecast for any weather changes as you gain elevation during your hike since it could rain as you go up a mountain.

The amount of time that you have

This is one aspect that most beginners forget to factor out in their first hike. In hiking, time is one of the most important resources you can have. Let me explain why…

You’ll want to start off with covering a short distance and how much time you have on your hands will determine the kind of trail that’ll work best for you. If you have less time, you’ll want to go for shorter hikes with minimal difficulty depending on your physical capabilities and vice versa.

It’s also important not to be caught out in the dark when you shouldn’t and time also goes hand in hand with the weather changes so be sure to plan out carefully in advance before taking any risks.

Safety and logistics

As much as it is all about having fun, hiking for beginners can be as hard or easy as you want it to be and compromising on safety would really complicate things.

Basically, know how to get any assistance in case you are faced with an emergency situation, have enough supplies and get the right set of gear among other things. Also, don’t burden yourself with more than you can handle.

What about logistics?

As much as hiking is an independent outdoor activity on its own, some hikers would like to blend it up with other activities. In most cases, most hikers are also campers and vice versa.

As such, you should know to prepare yourself well in advance and in the process be keener than you would when preparing for each of the activities independently.

Whereas most hikes come to an end where they start, others demand that you have a means of traveling back and whereas others are continuous, others require that you have a few stops on your way. It would, therefore, be wise to be really keen on the planning as part of your preparation

Trail etiquette worth paying attention to

You now do have a lot of knowledge about hiking and it should be easy to start off. While on the trail, however, there are some simple things you should watch out for. Regardless of the nature of the trail, you are on, all of these should come in handy.

Always get along with others on the trail

As you strive to reach the end of your hike, you are bound to meet other people on the trail some of who are hikers and some of who are not. Either way, here’s how you should get along with the different groups of people:

  • Other hikers

Whereas you may be moving uphill, others may be coming downhill or vice versa. In such a case, the hikers that are moving uphill will always have the upper hand and it’s always best to catch a breath and let the ones descending pass.

  • Bikers

As you strike to cover your trail length on foot, others will prefer to be on a bike on the same trail as you are and mostly in groups. Since cyclists, especially the descending ones, will be moving at a higher speed that is difficult to control, it would be easier and safer for both groups for the hikers to move aside and let the bikers pass.

  • Horses

Like most animals, horses too are quite unpredictable and if you do encounter them on the trail whether going upwards or downwards, letting them through is the best move. While doing so, it’s recommended that you give them enough space to pass through and most importantly not to make any abrupt movement since this could spook them and have them send the rider off their backs

Conserve your environment

As it is the case with every outdoor activity, the environment is your friend and as much as it may be against your intentions to harm the environment, you may not really know how to conserve it. The best way to go would be leaving no trace on each hiking trail you conquer.

Here are some things that could help you do this easily:

  • If you choose to hike while camping, minimize the effects of your campfire. To do this simply, control the fire, don’t let it smoke too much and always put it out before going to bed. Once you are done with the camping would like to proceed with the rest of your hike, destroy the campfire set up completely for the sake of future campers.
  • Dispose of any wastes properly. For wastes that are not biodegradable, stash them in a plastic bag and carry them with you till you reach the nearest garbage bin for safe disposal.
  • Leave what you find. The simplest way to avoid destroying the environment is by leaving everything just as you found it.
  • Respect wildlife. As you strive to have utmost fun while camping, you should make it your priority to do so while watching out for the wildlife. Don’t harm the animals unless attacked or destroy the plants whatsoever so as to keep the ecosystem balanced.
  • Always keep on the surfaces that are durable. It is quite unfortunate that even some expert-level hikers do not know this. Hiking on weak grounds could result in erosion which would make the trail less favorable for hiking. To avoid such, go ahead and look up the latest information on the hiking trail you are looking forward to taking.

The key essentials to have on your first hike

You don’t really need to have complicated and high-tech gear with you on any kind of hike and you don’t necessarily need to pack heavy for every hike but instead, you only need to take what is essential. Here’s everything you’ll want to include in your shopping list.

  1. Get the right pair of hiking boots

Get the right pair of hiking bootsWhen it comes to hiking, your normal pair of running shoes won’t do you any good. In hiking, we’re talking going off-road which demands that you get a really high-quality pair of boots. Here’s what you should watch out for when choosing yours depending on the trail you’ll be walking on.

  • Light boots

When you are just starting off with hiking, this is probably the first type you should consider taking a look at. Light boots are basically toughened sneakers are should get you over terrain with a forgiving elevation gain and that which is not too long to cover.

  • Backpacking boots

For moderate to hard hiking trails, you should go for the backpacking as they are more rugged in nature and not too heavy in your feet. It is the preferred choice by most hikers since it gives them utmost versatility and it would be a good idea to get these rather than the light boots for when you become an advanced hiker

  • Mountaineering boots

If the terrain is a little bit too rough such as in peak bagging, you’d want to have a par of these. They are sturdier as compared to the backpacking boots but on the downside, they’re heavier so it’s recommended that you only wear these when you have to.

What about material construction?

You can either get full grain leather, split grain leather or synthetic materials for your hiking boots. Full grain leather will mostly be present in the mountaineering boots and whereas you’ll get the best waterproofing and water resistance, they’re not breathable and you’ll get sweaty feet after some time.

Synthetic hiking boots are similar to walking shoes but stronger. They are best for use in easy terrain as they give you maximum breathability with minimal waterproofing

Split grain leather shoes are a blend of synthetic and leather which means you get a reasonable level of protection, breathability and some degree of waterproofing. they are also more comfortable than full grain leather.

  1. Always have a spacious backpack

You will obviously need a backpack for any extra gear and your essentials. The nature of your hike will determine how much space you will need

If you are looking forward to hiking for only a few miles not far away from home in a day when the weather is on your side, only go for a bag with a maximum capacity of 20 liters. This should have enough space for water, food and some clothes.

Basically, the rule of thumb is the more difficult your trail is, the larger the space you’ll want your backpack to have. So, if you’ll be going into the wilderness for longer trips, you’ll want a larger backpack.

  1. Get enough food and hydration

Hiking for beginners tends to get a little tricky when it comes to packing food and water. On your first hike, it is quite likely that you may pack either a little too much or too little food.

Regarding food and hydration, I’d recommend that you have a maximum of 300 calories every hour and as for the water consumption, consuming half a liter in moderate temperatures and activity. If your hike gets a little tough, you may need to increase these amounts and vice versa.

Lots of other factors such as your body chemistry age and gender will determine how much food and water you need and over time, you’ll get the amounts just right.

If you’ll be hiking for more than a day, you’ll need to resupply o the water as you cover your trail so it’s a good idea to treat water from reservoirs, lakes or streams with purification tablets.

  1. Watch out for health and safety

You never know what could happen in the course of your hike and knowing some basic first aid skills would be a good idea. Carrying a first aid kit is not enough, however, ensure that you have it in a water-resistant kit.

  1. Navigation assistance

The last thing you’d want which is also the biggest fear of every hiker that is just starting off is getting lost on the first day. Unless you are hiking in a trail that is close by or you have a trail guide with you, get all the navigation help you can. These include a compass, a map, a GPS, guidebooks, and a mobile phone if there is an internet connection.

Pay attention to the landmarks and water sources on your map and also learn how to use your compass and a GPS device.

  1. Get a waterproof sac

As much as your backpack may have a waterproof capability, it would be a good idea to have some waterproof sacs as well. You’ll need these for pretty much anything such as clothes, your food, safety, and electronic equipment among other things.

  1. Keep away the bugs

Whether or not you will be camping while you hike, getting a bug repellent is useful all the same. Whereas it may easy to come across a lot of bugs at home, it’s quite the opposite out in nature and keeping a bug repellent close by will help keep any crawling insects off your skin.

  1. Communication devices

It’s a good idea to let someone know where you’ll be hiking but even better, it’s wise to carry a communication device with you on each hike. Since some trails have poor connectivity or none at all, I’d recommend that you carry a whistle just in case you stray away from your group.

  1. Get some trekking poles

If you decide to start off with a bang and go skip to the difficult or moderate trails, getting a pair of trekking poles will help you with balance and in the long run prevent you from fatiguing quick. I’d, however, recommend that you get rid of these after some time and focus on increasing your strength and persistence instead.

The Best hiking tips for beginners

The Best hiking tips for beginnersDespite the much that we have looked at regarding getting started with your first hike, you can only have so much knowledge and with these tips, hiking for beginners is not as difficult as most think it to be. Without further ado, let’s have a look at some tips you should have on your fingertips before setting out on your first hike.

  1. Always get a hiking partner

Other than being bored or getting lost in your hike when traveling alone, it would be wise to get a partner for your hike since accidents could happen and you would want a hiking partner to help you out.

While looking for a hiking partner, it’s always a good idea to look for someone that is more experienced than you are as they could share some hiking knowledge with you. Joining a hiking club, hiring a hiking guide or joining other hikers on the trail are some of the easiest and most reliable ways to get a hiking partner.

  1. Keeping your body in hiking shape

As much as hiking trails vary in difficulty, being in perfect hiking shape is recommended before you go for your first hike.

If you are just getting started, start off with a simple trail and advance to the more difficult ones later on. Either way, you should focus on some core strengthening workouts since hiking is an indirect aerobic and cardiovascular form of workout.

  1. Always be on time

It’s a good idea to always hike with fellow hikers but then, too large a crowd is not that satisfying. In order to avoid such a scenario, I’d recommend that you get to the camping site early enough to leave with the first crowd. This is mostly recommended if you are going with your vehicle to the camping site.

  1. Do tell someone where you are going for a hike

Being one of the mostly ignored tips for any first-time hiker, letting someone know where you are going will save you from a lot of trouble. If you are trying out a completely new trail, this is something you must do since they could know where to get you just in case you run into a problem and you can’t communicate.

Speaking of communication, always carry a cellphone with you or a whistle to call for help when you really need it.

  1. Steady is always better than quicker

Yet another common mistake beginner make on their first hike is starting off fast. Well, hiking is more of a marathon rather than a sprint and it’s always a good idea to save your energy for the most challenging part of your hiking trail or when you really need it.

By starting off faster, you’ll be tempted to use your food and water earlier than you have to and hence the need to resupply way earlier than the scheduled time to your supply point and this may force you to go off trail or even cut your hike short.

I’d also recommend that you stick to the group rather than taking off quick and trying to stay ahead and if your group decides on splitting up, be sure to meet up at the agreed upon point.

By sticking to “slow but sure”, you’ll get to enjoy the fun part of your hike unlike sticking with the alternative. Enjoy the outdoor scenery, take in the fresh air and socialize with your fellow hikers.

  1. Always keep your eyes open for the trail ahead

Or rather, do keep your eyes on the ground for any kind of danger. These range from rattlesnakes to rocks that could result in you spraining your ankle.

When the going gets really tough and you get so tired, the only thing that could be on your mind would be taking a rest and as such, you might get careless and literally ignore what is right in front of you. Safety should always come first whether you have your headphones on, are talking to another hiker or you’re just really tired.

  1. Dress for the event, not the weather

When it comes to picking out your clothes, going for synthetics is always a better alternative as compared to wearing cotton and here’s why…

As much cotton may keep you warm, it will get really damp when soaked with moisture and be really uncomfortable which is not the case with synthetics.

Also, when the weather is unpredictable, I’d recommend that you have different layers of clothes on. This way, you will shed than with ease to have your body temperature right accordingly. It would also be a good idea to have a few extra warm clothes than you may need.

  1. Do keep your load as light as possible

Yes, packing some few extra clothes on top of the accessories that you already have for the hike is a little bit contradictory but here’s the trick to packing light.

Depending on how long your hike is going to be, it would be a good idea that you get multipurpose accessories rather than getting a single gear for a specific task.

For the clothes, the best way to go would be choosing the best quality. It would be better to spend more on a piece of clothing that is light and durable other than the alternative.

  1. Ensure you familiarize yourself with the trail

After settling on the trail to start off your first hike on, the next thing you ought to do is master the full length as much as possible by getting a grip of the basics.

These include the landmarks, the statistics of the trail such as the presence of wild animals if any, water sources, whether the trail intersects with another, the length and elevation, the weather etc. By doing this, you’ll be able to prepare well in advance on what you should carry, how you should dress and what you should avoid being safe all through

Conclusion

I am quite positive that this guide has been really helpful to you and that you have much less to fear now as far as hiking is concerned.

I’d like to emphasize more on the importance of having your safety equipment easily at reach to make things much easier with every hike. While still on that note, ensure you have a checklist of everything you need to have with you to ensure you don’t leave anything prior to going for your hike.

Most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself; remember to have fun since that is what hiking is all about, right?

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