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Hiking is an excellent low-impact workout. Studies show it offers multiple physical and mental benefits. From reducing anxiety to preventing osteoporosis, hiking is an outdoor activity delivering benefits beyond scenic and fun.

Unlike walking on a treadmill or paved path, hiking involves more, sometimes unpredictable, variables. Of course, these variables are part of what makes it so enjoyable! Use the following hiking tips to make your first treks successful:

Hiking for Beginners: 10 Essential Tips

1. Start small and choose the right trail for your fitness level.

Select a hike a little shorter than the distance you can normally walk on a level or paved surface. To estimate the time required to hike the trail, figure a pace of roughly 2-miles per hour. Next, review the elevation changes and add an hour to your estimated hiking time for every 1000 feet of gain. After you’ve been out once or twice, you’ll have a sense for what distance and elevation changes work well for you.

2. Familiarize yourself with the trail.

Once you have selected a trail, obtain a map of the area and review reports and data. There are some excellent online resources available. Find out if the trail is a loop, or if you’ll have to backtrack or spot a second car. Take note of any intersecting trails where you could potentially make a wrong turn. I also like to look for a good lunch spot such as a lake or peak with a view.

3. Check the weather.

Leading up to your hike, and again a few hours before, check the weather. This will give you valuable information on how to dress and what to pack. If the weather is forecast to be awful, it will give you the chance to change plans instead of getting surprised on the trail.

Hiking for Beginners: 10 Essential Tips

4. Tell someone where you will be.

It’s important that someone not on the hike knows the itinerary and what time to worry and call for help. Note I didn’t say, “when you expect to be done.” The “worry time” may be several hours later than your planned finish to allow for slow hiking, amazing views, or perhaps a sore ankle causing a delay.

Another option is to carry an emergency device such as the SPOT tracker, which allows you to summon emergency assistance by satellite. One caveat, devices like the SPOT are not an excuse to shirk responsibility for your own personal safety – they are a backup.

5. Pack the 10 essentials.

The 10 essentials have gradually shifted from a list of items to a list of systems. These are the systems you should pack to stay safe in the outdoors, including facing a potential overnight. Depending on the length and remoteness of your hike, expand or minimize each system. For example, on a short summer hike near services, a compact emergency blanket should be fine. However, a remote winter hike would require something more extensive. Here are the 10 essential systems:

Ten Essential Systems

  • Navigation (map & compass)
  • Sun protection (sunglasses & sunscreen)
  • Insulation (extra clothing)
  • Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
  • First-aid supplies
  • Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candle)
  • Repair kit and tools
  • Nutrition (extra food)
  • Hydration (extra water)
  • Emergency shelter (tent/plastic tube tent/garbage bag)

This list may look daunting, but once you tailor it to your hike, it won’t be so bad. Many of these things are what you’d pack for a picnic. Visit Mountaineers Books for more details.

Hiking for Beginners: 10 Essential Tips

6. Wear the right shoes and socks.

Painful feet can ruin a hike. Invest in quality hiking shoes and socks. This doesn’t mean heavy leather boots, there are a lot of “light hikers” available that require little break-in compared to the old hiking boots I started with. Also, don’t skimp on socks and for goodness sake….no cotton! Wool or synthetic socks are the way to go. Also pack blister dressings just in case.

7. Dress for success.

Once your feet are taken care of, dressing right is key to comfort on your hike. Skip cotton anything, it gets damp and stays that way leaving you feeling clammy and causing chafing. Instead go for synthetics. To easily adjust for your temperature and the weather, wear layers that you can add or shed as needed. Lastly, pack an extra warm layer beyond what you think you’ll need, preferably something that will block wind too.

8. Keep it light.

Okay, now that I’ve told you to pack all of this stuff, I’m going to tell you to keep your pack light. This means opting for the lightest of each item. For example, a travel size tube of sunscreen instead of the NoAd 16-ounce tube you found on sale.

Hiking for Beginners: 10 Essential Tips

9. Pace yourself.

When you first get on the trail, you may feel like powering forward like a hero. However, you’ll be a zero by the end of the day if you don’t pace yourself. Instead, pick a pace you can maintain all day. It might feel a little awkward at first, but after a few miles, especially uphill, you’ll be glad you saved your energy.

10. Leave no trace.

The beautiful trails we love will only stay beautiful if we care for them. Take time to read the Leave No Trace Seven Principals and follow them. It’s up to every outdoor enthusiast to take care of our natural spaces.

Using these tips I hope you’ll get out hiking this season. Where will you go? Leave a comment to share your ideas; I’d love to hear them!

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Sub-Categories Beginners / Fitness / liftopia / Outdoors / Summer

8 responses to “Hiking for Beginners: 10 Essential Tips”

  1. Drew Taylor says:

    Any advice on where to Hike at Glacier National park?

  2. […] largely attributed to the existence of unsupported expectations of the experience. For example, a first-time hiker may be seeking a comparable experience out of the trip as her more seasoned hiker-friend who begged […]

  3. Hiking Fashion 101 - hilliardsbeer.com says:

    […] jaunts around your neighborhood, local parks or the suburbs (or anywhere else, for that matter). The idea behind a good hike is multi-fold; some use it to get a mental clarity and perspective, others to get in shape, the third to build up […]

  4. Hikerjack says:

    It is very important to pack out the trash, be sure don’t leave it behind

  5. ZoeyFawell says:

    Hubby and I are going hiking tomorrow. This blog was a great find. Thanks for all the tips.

  6. […] cool photos of yourself reaching your goal! While mountain climbing is not for the faint-hearted, trekking is something that can be done by people of all ages and capabilities. There are hiking trails that […]

  7. I am really delighted to read this website posts which contains plenty
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  8. Juan says:

    I just finished a 14 mile hike at Bulow Woods Trail in Florida. We started shortly after 1pm and I knew the night was going to befall us even though we had a firm plan to stick to making 3 miles per hour.

    Something told me not to leave my headlamp behind.

    By 5:30pm the darkness started to fall and we had just started our 7 miles return trip. The terrain was very irregular and we took a couple of wrong turns.

    It was 8pm and we were still out there’s.

    My headlamp turned out to be the best $6.99 I have ever spent in my life, and the Duracell batteries lasted all 4 hours of our hike in the dark.

    An advise: carry always extra batteries for you GPS

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