Hiking Basics for Beginners – Learning How to Hike

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Hiking is an excellent hobby that everyone should take up. It is an underrated, incredibly therapeutic exercise. When you hike, you make steady, consistent progress unlike what happens in nearly all other areas of life. You are always advancing on your own terms, constantly going forward.

You will hear the calls of nature and behold the majestic scenery that our world has to offer. Take a deep breath and read on about what you will need to know and have for this wonderful pastime.

Finding a Trail – the Key Ingredient for a Good Adventure

There are a lot of trails out there to choose from. More than likely, there is one near you. To find one, there are a number of options available to you. Go online and research about trails near you; there is a plethora of information out there, so someone has probably written about a trail near you. Also, you can check with friends. It is a great way to deepen your relationship and catch up with each other.

Consider what environment you want to hike in. Do I want to hike in a forest? The mountains? The desert? Each environment is unique in its own way, so be clear about where you want to go. The most important thing is to pick a trail and follow through on it. Once you garner more experience, you will know what you really want out of a hike.

Hiking Gear, Essentials for the Journey Ahead

For any great hike, there are certain items that you will need. As such, I have compiled a list of recommended and extra items. While I know that this is a long list, it is a thorough list. Each of these items serves a particular purpose that will aid you well on a hike.

  • Sunscreen, if you’re nearly white as snow like me, then you need sunscreen. The primary areas for sunburn are the face, ears, and arms. Be aware that, in some wilderness areas, the sun is different. The sun can get through clothing.
  • Food, I usually pack dry snack foods and a lunch, depending on how long I plan to go for. You are going to be burning a lot of calories, so you need to fuel up. If you are hungry, you won’t be a happy hiker.
  • Water and filter, when hiking, error on the side of too much rather than too little. Doing so will prevent dehydration. Water keeps you calm and aware. In the summer months, things will be drier, so, more than likely, you will have to bring your own water and lots of it. In regard to the filter, you can get one nearly anywhere, online or in person.
  • Camel pack, when I am hiking, I like to have easy access to plenty of water. A camel pack does this. When hiking in sunny weather, just make sure that it is clean as excessive heat can cause the plastic to get into your water supply, eventually resulting in sickness.
  • Hat, the best hat you can get is a 360 hat with a drop down neck cover. They are flexible, durable, and waterproof. Get one with strings, so that you can tighten it to your neck in the event of heavy wind. It is the best investment for shielding your head from sun and rain. If on a tighter budget, grab a hat from your collection and a t-shirt to wrap around your head. It does the exact same job and is a lot less expensive.
  • Sunglasses, you want to shoot for durable ones that cover the whole length of your eyes. This helps to shield you from dust and the blinding sun.
  • Dry bag or ziplock bag, dry bags are durable, sturdy packs that will do their job, but tend to be more on the expensive side. If on a budget, you can grab a zip lock bag. While they are not meant to last as long, they tend to hold their own and keep your important items dry.
  • Clothing, dress for the weather you are expecting. No matter what, bring a rain jacket; it may seem like extra weight, but the weather can change at any moment. I usually wear jeans, a t-shirt, and
    a light jacket. If I know or expect rain, then I will bring a poncho.
  • Footwear, wear hiking boots, something that it durable and will hold up in bad weather.
    Investing in a good pair will save your feet.
  • Basic first aid kit, most likely you will get either a cut or bruise and it just needs a quick wrap. Be sure to include neosporin in your kit as it is perfect for healing cuts quicker.
  • Backpack, very straightforward, you want to get one that buckles across your chest, so you do not lose it in the event of a fall. Backpacking backpacks are perfect as they will sit on your hips, distributing the pack’s weight.
  • Flashlight, a head lamp or handheld flashlight will do. In case you come back later than you were expecting, you will not be wandering around blind in the dark.
  • Whistle, in case you do get lost, a whistle will serve to alert others to your location. It provides a high-pitched sound that others will hear.
  • Toilet paper, nature’s call can strike at any moment. One second you are hiking and the next you’re squatting behind a tree. Use compostable toilet paper. When you do go, go at least twenty-five feet away from a water source, so that your poop does not infect a stream, river, or lake.
  • Hand sanitizer, after answering nature’s call or picking something off the ground, it is important to make sure you have clean hands. You don’t want to get sick.
  • Topographical or trail map, these maps provide a layout of the area you are going to transverse. It will show you the steep areas and the gradual areas as well as the trails.
  • Compass, these will help direct you when in the wild. If you get lost, a compass will help you find your direction.
  • Fire starter, if it gets cold outside, a fire starter will go a long way in helping you stay warm despite the frigid air. On top of that, it can be used to cook food.
  • Multi tool, this is a versatile instrument. I am a big fan of tools that have multiple uses and a multi tool is no different. It can make cuts, open bottles, trim toenails, and all sorts of things.

Extras, these are items that do not necessarily need, but will add make your hike either safer or more enjoyable.

  • Camera, this is an extra item for selfies and scenery shots. By bringing one, you can share the experience with other. Personally, I usually do not bring a camera as I like to enjoy the wilderness without technology. It is therapeutic.
  • Emergency blanket, if you are expecting to come back as the sun goes down, an emergency blanket can serve as an item of last resort. It will keep you warm in the event you get lost.
  • Bug spray, personally, I do not bring it along as I see it as unnecessary. I embrace the bugs, but, if you are really worried about them, then get an organic bug spray. It will protect you and the environment.
  • Leg gaiters, at some point, you will encounter either a river or stream. A gaiter will wrap around your legs to keep you dry from the water.
  • GPS or personal locator beacon, these tend to be on the more expensive side, but work very well. They are much easier to understand and use than a map and compass. The only downside is that they are battery powered.
  • Trekking poles, when you reach the end of the day and you are tired, these will be your guardian angel. They provide stability and act as an arm extender, catching you well before you fall.
  • Sitting pad, this can be used as a fan for a fire, a wind screen, and, of course, a seat for your butt. When taking a break while hiking, your butt will thank you for getting this.

Each of these items serve a particular function, depending on the length and intensity of your hike. If I missed anything, please feel free to let me know in the comments section below.

My 7 Top Tips for a Great Trip

When you are first hiking, there are a number of pieces of knowledge that you should be aware of. Doing so will not only keep you safe, but make for a much better journey.

  1. Have a plan, what trails do you plan to take? This is a very important question to answer. You need to be clear of the route you are taking for your safety.
  2. Leave your plans with two people, this can be as little as a text message or as much as a detailed map and trail itinerary. In nearly all cases of a hiker’s death in the wild, it was because they did not let someone know where they were going.
  3. Develop navigational skills, if you have a GPS with backup batteries, then this less necessary. Regardless though you should develop familiarity with map and compass. Doing so will make you save you if push comes to shove.
  4. Respect nature, you are a visitor. If injured, how many days until rescue? People, if traveling alone, can overestimate their ability, so they do something bold or are careless. If you plan to do something dangerous, you need to have foresight.
  5. Know your limits, some of us are super hikers and can hike twenty-five miles a day. Others among us can only do four. Be aware of what you can and cannot do. Over estimating your physical ability can lead to injury.
  6. Bring more than you need (initially), If just getting into hiking, put more into your backpack. As you gain more experience and develop more in your abilities, you will have a better idea of differentiating between necessity and luxury items.
  7. Start in the morning, while it may be hard to get up at such an early hour, your future self will be thanking you. The midday’s sun can be absolutely brutal and draining. It is a great feeling to see the sun rise over the landscape.

While this is not a full list, it is the best of what I know. What are your tips for hiking in the wilderness? I am always on the lookout of new knowledge and wisdom as there is so little of it. The more we share with each other, the better off we will all be. Please be sure to let me and others know.

Tricks of the Trade for the Hacker Turned Hiker

When going out into the wild, there is a lot of gear and goods you can buy for hiking. Ranging from the little things like carabiners to the expensive items like a GPS. As well, there are plenty of hiking “secrets” that people will try to get you on. When you hike, knowledge will be your greatest friend to making your hike an enjoyable experience. What follows are some “tricks” of hiking.

  1. Put garbage bags in your shoe. This is a recommendation if it is wet and/or rainy outside. Garbage bags are inexpensive and easy to come by. In putting garbage bags in your shoes after putting your socks on, you can protect your feet from getting soaked and keep them warm.
  2. You can go hiking with what you have now. Most everything you need can either be found at home or can even be borrowed from a friend. It is just a matter of being creative and resourceful.
  3. Fanny pack, if your backpack does not have any accessible pockets or zippers, a fanny pack, even though it can be dorky, is perfect for reaching an item you need quickly. You do not have to take off your backpack to grab an item in your backpack.
  4. Duct tape around the trekking pole, if you are carrying duct tape and have a trekking pole. Wrap a bit of your duct tape around it. This little trick saves you the space of bringing a whole roll of duct tape. On top of that, it is easily accessible for any immediate needs you may have.
  5. Waxed dental floss, this can be used to clean your teeth and repair fabric items. It is durable and stronger than fabric thread. A simple and versatile tool, dental floss is an excellent item to have for any hike.
  6. Wear two layers of socks, if you are a beginner hiker, wear two layers of socks. Your feet are probably not well adapted for the journey, so wearing two layers of socks will protect your feet from blisters.

Final Thoughts Before Sending You on Your Way

Great! You have completed the article and now you are ready to go hiking. With all this knowledge that you have digested, you are sure to have a superb hike. Relax, find a trail, and go hike it!

If you think I missed anything or have a question, be sure to comment below and remember to share the article and I hope you make it a great day! Before you leave though and if you are interested in learning more, check out my article on hiking food ideas. As John Muir would say, a hiker hikes on his stomach!

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12 Comments on “Hiking Basics for Beginners – Learning How to Hike”

  1. These are really great hiking tips! I never thought to leave my hiking plans with two people, That tip all by itself, it pretty important. I grew up camping and hiking with my family. And I love to hike. Being a single mom, we have not done much camping….it was kind of a flop. Had I had your tips, and seen this website, it would not have been! I think I am going to try it again. Wonderful information! Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing Matts Mom! It is great to know that you are better aware of how to properly hike because of this article. It is absolutely critical to be safe while hiking. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Good advice for sure! Living on Vancouver Island there are always people who are unprepared for even a simple hike and end up being rescued two days later!! Not fun.
    Great suggestions on simple items one might not think would come in handy. I need to add a few to my pack.

  3. Garbage bags in your shoes! You must really have big feet! LOL!
    I love hiking, but I only go on short hike. No one I know is a very good hiker–only one of my dogs, but she is small and has a leg issue, so I don’t take her too often. It is very therapeutic to be out in nature–especially alone or with your dog. Great tips!

  4. Hey Alex,

    For an urban dweller like myself, hiking is a rare activity but I do it whenever I can find a trail in the city I am living in. I find reading your article on hiking very therapeutic. 🙂 One of the best pieces of advice is “leaving your plan with two other people”. I do this whenever I am going into unknown terrain. We never know and it’s good to let a few trusted people know our whereabouts. The garbage bags in shoes is another fantastic idea! I never thought of this before and had to live with soggy socks throughout the journey.

  5. Great information. It gives you a good heads up on what to do when hiking. I can see how it would be very interesting and exercise as well. You have to carry all that gear and use your legs a whole lot. This is much like cycling on trails in the wild to me.

  6. Hiya. This is great advice. thank you for the info. I go hiking a lot of times and more so around the Wicklow Mountains, It;s a lovely part of Ireland so I recommend it to you when you come visiting. I bear all this in mind and I thank you for sharing this

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