This hiking tips for beginners guide describes exactly what you need to start a hike, based on our personal experiences and advice from friends, family, and fellow hikers. We’ll cover everything from what equipment you’ll need for a hike to planning hygiene and safety during the hike.
Table of Contents
Hiking Tips for Beginners – Equipment
If you’re a beginning hiker, it’s likely that you don’t have a whole bunch of hiking equipment lying around. So we’re going to focus on day trip equipment since we’re assuming beginning hikers probably aren’t going out on overnight or extended hiking trips.
- A backpack is a basic and primary piece of gear for all day hikers. There are many different sizes of backpacks, but for a standard day hike, you should be fine with one that holds 11-20 liters.
- A map and compass are critical even if you know the area really well. It’s easier than one would like to admit to get lost, so a map and compass (learn how to use a compass!) will help you out if you end up getting distracted and off the trail.
- A knife or multi-tool will come in handy for a variety of situations. If you want to get really prepared, bringing along a gear repair kit that includes duct tape, zip ties, cordage, etc. is also a good idea.
- Flashlights or headlamps might not seem like a piece of equipment to bring for a day hike, but the sun sets quickly and time can get away from you. Preparation is key!
Hiking Tips for Beginners – Footwear
Hiking footwear could really make or break your hike. Since your feet will be taking the most brutal beating, it’s critical to make sure your footwear is appropriate for the terrain but also appropriate for your foot.
There are many different types of hiking shoes and boots to choose from, and each are intended for different purposes. When planning your hiking trip, consider the terrain and weather you’ll be encountering to help select the right footwear for the trip. Something many hikers fail to think about? Socks! Make sure you have the right socks to go with your hiking shoes or boots since your feet really deserve to be treated well.
Pro tip: don’t buy your hiking shoes or boots online unless you know for sure the brand and size you need. Trying on footwear is a personal experience, and just because an item is rated highly doesn’t mean it’s the best for you individually. However, shopping online is a great way to get an idea of trusted brands, styles, and price points.
Need some more help on finding the right hiking shoe or boot? Our friend Taylor put together a great guide on choosing between boots or shoes, and how to choose the best material for your specific hike.
Hiking Tips for Beginners – Weather
It is incredibly important to check the weather conditions during the day and in the days and hours before the hike, as this will allow you to determine whether you should hike at all. You need to prepare for the weather with the right hiking layers and get information before starting your hikes. While you may have been looking forward to this hike for days, weeks, or even years, weather is fickle and plays a major role in a hiker’s safety.
Hiking in winter requires a little more preparation, while day hikes in spring can be spontaneous. Regardless of the time of year, the weather can change unexpectedly, so it’s always better to be a little over-prepared than under-prepared. Check out the section on clothing to find out how to be prepared for those crazy weather changes!
Hiking Tips for Beginners – First Aid
You know Murphy’s law that goes something along the lines of “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. While it might not be accurate in every situation, one of our imperative hiking tips for beginners is having a first aid kit on your hiking trip. It doesn’t need to be something fancy or expensive, but it should contain basic items like bandages, dressings, topicals, and gloves.
Along with first aid, bringing hand sanitizer and women’s personal care products are important. For women, peeing behind a bush is a bit more complicated than our male counterparts. There are a variety of products that help with urination while out on the trail for women, as well as longer term menstruation products.
And if you’re a woman, check out our 9 Safety Tips For Traveling As A Female to learn more about staying safe out there.
Hiking Tips for Beginners – Clothing
We’ve already mentioned weather is an important factor when it comes to hiking. What may start out as a cool morning could end up as a blistering afternoon. Or what started out as a comfortable temp at the onset could quickly change to cooler temperatures as elevation increases or the sun goes down.
There is nothing wrong with over-packing. Having a hat and pair of gloves but not needing them is definitely alright. If the weather ends up being more mild than expected, you can leave the extra clothing in the car or in your pack since it shouldn’t take up that much room or add too much weight.
A light jacket – a rain jacket is better – is a great piece of clothing to bring on any hiking trip. Dressing in layers is important for ensuring warmth. It’s better to take clothes off and stash them in your pack as opposed to not having enough clothes to put on to stay warm.
Pro tip: don’t forget about the sunscreen! Applying before you get on the trail is always good, but what’s even better is reapplying throughout the hike, especially if you remove layers that weren’t previously exposed when you applied sunscreen the first time.
Hiking Tips for Beginners – Food and Water
Food is small, light, and invaluable, so you should take it with you on every hike regardless of length. Ideally foods taken with you on your hike should meet three requirements: lightweight, ready to eat, and have high levels of nutrition. Everyone loves potato chips, and while a bag may be lightweight and ready to eat, they don’t exactly have high levels of nutrition. Make sure that the items you pack meet all three requirements.
If you need some ideas, greenbelly has a list of 41 backpacking food ideas for the trail.
Food on the hiking trail is smart, but you should also make sure that you’ve eaten a well rounded meal before starting. Oatmeal, eggs, fruits, and vegetables all contain important nutrients that will help you stay alert and focused on the trail.
If you’re only drinking water when you feel thirsty, this is a sign that you are already dehydrated. This cannot be stressed enough in our hiking tips for beginners guide. Expending energy hiking results in a loss of water through sweating – even in cooler temperatures. It’s important to consistently drink from your water bottle while hiking to avoid dehydration, but this does mean you’ll run through water quickly.
Pro tip: pack one liter of water for every two hours of the hike and make sure you drink it!
Hiking Tips for Beginners – Altitude Sickness
A common misconception about trekking at high altitudes is that physical conditions determine the body’s ability to ward off altitude sickness. Hikers may find it harder to find the way, they may have to walk more slowly or they may not be able to walk at all due to altitude sickness. At high altitudes, many things can happen to the human body, such as dehydration, exhaustion, nausea, vomiting, and even death.
It is important to remember that any time you go above 8,000 feet, you are at risk for altitude sickness and precautions should be taken.
We’ve put together a whole article dedicated to altitude sickness, and it should be required reading for hikers – young, old, new, and seasoned. Altitude awareness is often overlooked in hiking tips for beginners, so we wanted to be sure it’s covered adequately.
Hiking Tips for Beginners – Public Hikes
If you’re truly new to hiking, we always recommend beginners to take an already organized public hike first, instead of doing their own day trip. It may not be as exciting as striking out on your own, but joining a public hike is a terrific way to get your feet wet in an organized environment to ensure maximum safety. You have to crawl before you can walk, so to speak, right?
Even if you’re not a beginner, if you do not want to hike alone, you can consider joining one of the many hiking clubs for beginners. There’s no shame in taking advantage of pre-planned hikes on predetermined routes. Taking the stress out of the planning process allows hikers to focus on other things, such as what to pack, transportation to the hike, and what friends to take along with you!
Pro tip: take a hiking buddy. Having someone with you on the trail is good for company, helpful in case of emergency, and important for safety.
Search online hiking guides for specific information on how many kilometres you are walking and how long the hike normally takes. If you are looking for something easier, you can search for beginners “trails on Google Maps“.
Hiking Tips for Beginners – Punch List
Hopefully you found this hiking tips for beginners guide provided you the most important tips for beginners to make hiking safe and fun. To round off this hiking tips for beginners article, here’s the punch list of things to remember…
- Bring the right equipment – backpack, map, compass, knife or multi-tool, flashlight or headlamp
- Have the right footwear
- Account for weather
- Bring a first aid kit
- Dress in layers
- Bring enough food and water
- Be aware of altitude sickness and its symptoms
- Start off on public hikes with a guide
Follow these simple hiking tips for beginners and consult your local Department of Parks and Recreation to find the best hike for your fitness level. If you are an aspiring hiker, then look for the beginner trails and work your way up. You need to have all the knowledge about the way and the weather to know what you need to pack and train for a successful hike.
If you’re in the Denver area or if that’s your destination, we have a list of top things to do in Denver, including a list of hiking spots that are less than 100 miles from the city. Denver is a great way to put into practice the useful hiking tips for beginners that you just read about!
There’s no shortage of hiking tips for beginners in this guide or across the internet, so continue doing your research to educate yourself before that first hiking trip. Do you have other hiking tips for beginners that you’d like to share? Drop them in the comments below so that other readers can benefit from your wisdom!