We often receive letters from readers asking us “please tell me any beginner hiking trails near me”. Others ask “how do I start hiking?” and the rest want to find what to wear when hiking. So, we decided to compile a comprehensive hiking 101 for beginners guide to bail them out. I believe it is going to provide some inspiration to you, too.
For a person seeking to participate in a trail for the first time, knowing where to start can be a challenge. Newbies barely understand what they need to start hiking. So, they end up with the wrong clothes, backpacks, and shoes. An in-depth guide to hiking would, therefore, help first-timers to plan, participate and enjoy the adventure.
So, what’s hiking? I won’t judge if the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about hiking is a caravan of travelers with super-sized backpacks walking through thick forests. Also, I will not hold any grudge against anyone who thinks that hiking entails navigating through the majestic Oregon forests. Well, for now, I’m happy that you believe that hiking is an entertaining activity. At least, you know that it involves putting your left foot forward, and then overtaking it with your right and repeating this several times. Uh, is that how they define walking?!
In simple terms, hiking refers to walking for long distances for fun, health or navigation purposes. This could include bush walking, rambling and tramping. But, hiking is quite different from walking in that it is a little formal. You see, it’s impossible to say that you hiked to work in the morning- that’s absurd. But, you’d be right to say that you spent your Sunday afternoon hiking in the park. Hiking could be a one-day activity or it would take you several days during the holiday. That’s yours to choose.
The hiking 101 for beginners guide
Now, how do you start hiking? If you’ve never done this before, it is important that you seek some advice. Oh, you do not need to visit your grandfather’s father for some elderly tips! Hey, you have us already! We borrow inspiration from our four-legged fur-footed cousins, and; it’s easy to tell that they have a lot to teach us. At least, they assure us that the results shall be promising. Through hiking, animals get their food, new grazing or hunting grounds. They get to meet other members of their species- which I call socialization.
Hiking versus camping
Now, what’s the difference between hiking and camping? Well, the two are outdoor activities aimed at creating fun moments. But, while camping is all about staying outdoors a period, hiking is about walking. You can camp in a remote place to experience great natural sceneries. But, when you decide to camp for hiking, you will be doing so to trek through nature. Oh, beginners to hiking and camping should be conversant with these facts as they will help them understand what to carry along. Camping requires you to carry more bulky stuff than hiking. This hiking 101 guide will try and elaborate more on this.
What to do before hiking
Now, whenever you want to start hiking, you should first know what to expect and what you need. See some of the considerations you should make before you start the adventure! Check our hiking 101 guide:
Schedules always help you to get the most from your time. Therefore, it is paramount that you come up with a diary or events. You can use your watch to set the time for every activity. Of course, don’t make it too tight to achieve- it should be flexible enough to contain all the activities at hand. Again, let it guide you to manage your time.
Duration of hiking
It’s important to check out how long you are going to be hiking. This lets you know (the quantity of) items that you may need to carry along. Again, it will help you determine what budget to use for the adventure. The hiking beginners will also use the intended duration to set out their goals.
Plan on what to pack
Well, what to bring on a day hike is, in most cases, light and minimalist. But, if you intend to do it for a week or so, you’d need to have items such as tents, sleeping bags and other paraphernalia. I’m sure you’d love to look at our guide list of camping essentials.
With whom you’ll be hiking?
Are you hiking alone? Well, unless you want to do it for meditation and self-reflection, it’s rather you find a friend. You see, hiking is the most fulfilling when you are in large numbers. At least, it eliminates boredom and helps you bond with people. Group trekking is safer than solo hiking, too. Again, hiking in large numbers is cheaper per capita than doing it solo. Hiking trails require much planning as every member has to be informed.
Inform important people
If you decide to do the hiking alone, it’s worthwhile to let a person or two to know about it. For instance, you can inform friends, family or park attendants. This mitigates the risks. Have their direct contacts, and be ready to call them in case of emergencies. You can as well let the person have a GPS locator as it’d help to find you. Well, they don’t necessarily have to know what hiking socks or underwear you are wearing, but; please let them be sure you are safe. Be sure to have a plan on how to return safely.
Your fitness level
Hiking is a rigorous activity and you need to be in good shape. Thus, newbies will really need an introduction to hiking before they can set themselves on the trail. At least, it’s important to rip off a few pounds.
Just don’t stretch your body beyond the limits it’s used to. Hiking for 8 hours in an unmapped forest when the farthest you’ve walked in the last two years is from your doorstep to your garage isn’t the cleverest of decisions. So, start slow, and find places in your neighborhood that you can walk or cycle your bike. Try walking home after work. Okay, just don’t try pulling out a hero-on-adrenaline-rush at the last moment!
Eat and drink well
Hiking for several hours on a sunny day can be draining. At least, you need to be heavily fueled- yes, the food and water is the fuel for your hiking spree. Eat foods with high energy levels, and if you get such drinks, do the necessary, too. Then, don’t let your body get dehydrated during the trail- you need enough water! Please don’t gamble with trying to find secret water caves or mountain streams during your hike. You can carry pack foods if your trails will take a few more days.
The slowest trail member wins
Sorry to heartbreak all the hares who walk in the midst of ordinary humans. The troupe will succeed by stamina, not speed. If some members are hares, ask them to consider the tortoises. This will maintain the group’s harmony and it’s good for the whole exercise. Again, remember to take regular stops to rest, take off the weight, munch some crunches and rehydrate.
Unless you’ve decided to do the simple signposted hikes, please carry navigation tools. It’s important to have a GPS receiver or a compass (or both). Also, carry a map. Remember, the GPS technology is electronic and it will have no use when damaged or runs out of charge. Be sure you know how to use the map and the compass. See our guide on how to choose the best hiking compass.
Consider the weather
During the hiking escapades, the weather will determine a number of things. For instance, it will let you know what clothes to wear and what to expect. You see, a sunny hiking season would need you to wear light clothes, while rainy or snowy periods would call for warm clothes. If you intend to hike during the hot seasons, you should be ready to have several bottles of water due to dehydration effects of the sun.
Listen to weather forecasts and know about the weather. Also, be sure to check the skies for rapidly changing weather, especially when trekking in the mountains. Avoid river valleys when there are rain clouds as they could swell up and pose danger to your caravan.
The hiking is- in as much as it is thrilling- a strenuous exercise. If you have a bulky luggage, you may not like the experience. You need to pack light; hey, leave your gym weights and ceramic toilet behind! I’m pretty sure that beginners might fall for the temptation to carry heavy stuff along. But, it’s definitely going to make them tired for no reason.
Well, it’s important to carry enough paraphernalia, but; you’d still need to consider their mass, too. So, take with you light foods, and non-metallic stuff. This will help you use the energy you have to walk as opposed to carrying. Who wants fatigue anyway?!
There’s a huge likelihood that you will be hiking deep in the woods and in rural areas. It is not easy to find hospitals or emergency facilities in such areas. Thus, it’s important that you get a first aid kit. You don’t need to be a human medicine major to give first aid or know how to use the kit. The best backpacking first aid kit has enough syringes, medicine, and bandages as well as other medical items. I’m sure you don’t anticipate any accidents during your hike. But, you should be ready, just in case.
Pre-visit for familiarization
Surprises can be interesting, but; they could also pose challenges to you. If you want to hike in a new place, be sure to be conversant with the site. At least, you can visit the place and know what to expect. The location will help you know what hiking essentials you may need to bring along during the exercise.
Hiking during periods
There’s that day of the month when women don’t want to be involved with strenuous exercises especially those that involve stretching. Unfortunately, it ends up segregating them, and this is not good for a woman’s social life. So, if your friends or family decide to go hiking on a date that coincides with your periods, do not shy of. Instead, carry enough supplies to manage the situation. Hey, never be afraid of being the healthy woman that you are!
Peeing and pooping during hiking
The majority of hiking novices have a challenge obeying the calls of nature outdoors. They are only used to sitting on a ceramic bowl in an enclosed room. Well, but, hiking enthusiasts have already learned how to circumvent the issue.
Let’s be a little upfront here: long before the invention of toilets, humans did it in the forest. They’d just hide and release the brakes. Animals have always done it in the forest and they never complain. Even the majestic royal lion, intelligent ape, and proud beautiful peacock does it outdoors!
It’s impossible to build a toilet as you wait. At least, not when you are in the middle of a hike. So, just look for a place that’s about 200 feet (about 70 steps) away from a river or water body. Dig a 4-inch wide and 6-8 inch deep hole with a stick or hand shovel. Then, get lighter! You can use a tissue paper to “complete the download”. Experienced hikers prefer leaves, snowballs and smooth stones to artificial methods such as papers.
Some high elevation and densely visited parks require individuals to carry poop bags and pack out their human waste. Check that out from the guys in charge. I prefer the natural method because I find it uncomfortable to carry my own **#*$% in a backpack… Yuck!
If you are shopping for hiking checklists on a tight budget, you had better buy the right accessories. It’s fortunate that the items you need for hiking as a beginner are quite fewer than camping essentials.
How to choose the best hiking location for beginners
If you’ve been reading our hiking 101 guide, I am sure you are already asking “is there program about hiking for beginners near me”? Well, by the time you get to the conclusion part, you will not need any further explanation. Now, what’s the process of choosing the best hike?
For some great hikes around the UK, check out Women4Adventure’s selection here.
Here’s some hiking 101 tips that you need to check first!
Long hikes could be difficult for beginners. So, when you are finding the right place to hike, be sure to consider the suitable trail. Of course, you will find several hiking trails in California, Oregon or other states. Experienced hikers can cover two to three miles an hour. Beginners tend to be a little slower than that.
Steepness and altitude
If you are hiking in mountainous terrain (mountaineering), you need to know the elevation of the land. Hey, you are trekking, not climbing! Search out the steepness- it’s the rate at which the trail ascends. For instance, a trail that ascends 1000 feet in four miles is far steeper than one than ascends 1000 feet in three miles. Beginner level hikers are advised to choose mild trails.
High altitude areas are colder and have low oxygen concentration. This should help you know what to wear.
How safe are you on the trek? Well, you do not choose a hiking location just because it has beautiful scenes and you have the urge. You also need to be secure. Do not go into a carnivore-infested forest alone all in the name of hiking. Every hiking 101 for beginners guide will always tell you one thing “don’t try pulling off a superman!” Pick a location where your security is guaranteed.
After paying attention to the difficulty rating, be sure to choose treks with beautiful sceneries. It’s not all about walking in lonely places after all- there’s the fun part, too! Learn about the flora and fauna, as well as the natural landscape, too. A gorge, river, waterfall, mountain or beautiful trees should captivate you into choosing a trek.
Conserve the environment
You’re hiking because those before you took care of the location. So, you owe it to your descendants, too. Those who come after you will judge you harshly if you cut the trees, kill the animals or litter around. So, clean up the place and if possible, plant more trees!
What to carry during hiking
Our hiking 101 would not be complete without talking about what to carry. Hiking is about walking- not about weight lifting! However, you will need a few items to make your trail successful. People who are hiking for the first time don’t know what to carry along. And, it’s happened to every experienced hiker before.
Well, in our hiking 101, here’s the beginner hiking guide list.
A comfortable backpack
Ensure that the hiking bag you are carrying is fitting, lightweight and comfortable. It should also have spacious compartments to carry stuff such as a compass, water containers, and food. In our Best Backpacks for Hiking review, we listed TETON Sports Oasis 1100 2 Liter Hydration Backpack at the top. Check it out, and see if it could work out for you.
Don’t let the beautiful sceneries pass you by. A camera will capture majestic natural sceneries and some of your best moments.
Sometimes, you are going to need extra support during hiking. This is most necessary when your site is steep. In that case, you may need the best trekking poles. My favorite brand is the Cascade Mountain Tech Trekking Poles.
Fully Charged phone or GPS tracker
It’s important to have a watch or phone and/or a GPS tracker. These items should be fully charged. They will help you find your way back home, call during an SOS incident and help manage your hiking schedules. I’m sure you want the graphic results from a pedometer, heart and calories tracker, too!
Protect your skin from UV sunlight by applying sunscreen lotion. At least, the hiking doesn’t have to end up with a torched face!
The best survival knife will not only keep you safe but also help you hunt and peel fruits. My favorite is the Morakniv Companion Fixed Blade Outdoor Knife. I hope you’ll like it, too.
I’m sure you don’t want to gamble on an empty stomach. That’s why this beginner’s guide to hiking will not ask you to rely on a hunt. Carry packed food. This could be bread, milk, pieces of packed beef, nuts and high energy drinks.
What do you wear to go hiking?
By now, I’m sure you are almost asking me; “What to wear hiking?’ Well, and I’m going to guide you through that, quickly in our hiking 101 guide. But, you need to know how to choose the best hiking attires.
So, what do you wear to go hiking? The answer is simple: keep it light, comfortable and sturdy! Well, the brand choice depends on the season, weather and location of your hike. But, the rule of the thumb is to wear clothes that enhance activity and flexibility. They should also protect you from harsh weather conditions and the rough environments.
What pants to wear hiking
The best hiking pants are convertible, durable, elegant, fitting and weather resistant. After reviewing several brands, I fell in love with the Outdoor Research Cirque. Be sure to check yours from the review.
What boots to wear for hiking
Go for shoes that are sturdy, flexible, comfortable, durable and water resistant. I recently wrote up a comprehensive review of the best hiking boots, and I believe you are going to love it. Well, my ‘female other’ loves Women’s Sugarpine Hiking Boot.
What socks to wear during hiking
The best socks should be fitting, elegant, comfortable. Those designed for hiking are high, have a cushioned fabric and spandex material. Some have antibacterial treatment. See our best hiking socks review for the top selection. Oh, my favorite is the 4pairs 71% Premium Merino Wool Crew Hiking Socks.
What jackets to wear during hiking
This depends on the weather. If you are hiking in the hot season, just avoid them. But, the best hiking jacketsshould be light, fitting and easy to clean. Oh, plus they should be resistant to both water and rain. In a recent review of the best rain jackets, we listed Wantdo Mountain Rain Jackets at the top. They have both the men’s and the women’s variety.
Benefits of hiking for beginners
On the next segment of our hiking 101, we discuss the benefits of hiking. Another significant point is that hiking has several benefits to your health, mind and social life. An amateur hiker gains in several ways, such as those below.
Psychological benefits of hiking
First, hiking is a moment with yourself, especially if you are doing it alone. It gives you the opportunity to talk to your inner self, and reflect on your life. Meditation helps you find new solutions to issues in your life. Oh, if you’re religious, this could improve your spiritual life, too.
Second, according to research, hiking stimulates creativity. The study further indicates that those who spend time with nature are more creative than those who spend theirs with the noisy technological world. Most writers and creative people agree that they’ve been inspired by nature. Do I need to explain how they discovered fire, the engine, and gravity?!
Third, hiking beats stress. It unplugs you from the hectic world and gives you time to nature. This literally makes bad thoughts and mental fatigue to escape.
Physical benefits of hiking/Hiking for beginners workout
Hiking has several benefits to your physique, skeletal framework, and figure. First, it rips you, thus recreating you.
Second, it increases your strength as muscles gain endurance during the hiking escapades. This makes your legs strong enough to support the rest of the body and enhances gait and balance.
Health benefits of hiking
Trekking improves blood circulation, breathing, and waste removal. It’s an involving exercise, so; it unclogs your blood vessels, allowing the blood to move without blockage. This establishes a seamless heartbeat, which does away with heart thrombosis, sclerosis and blood pressure among other heart-related diseases. When you sweat and breathe fast, it boosts the kidney, liver, and lungs respectively.
A summary of the hiking 101 for beginners guide
Hey, just because you are new to hiking 101 doesn’t mean you can’t try it out. Well, I know it can be a stressful experience, especially when you have no one to guide you through. Advice from experienced hikers could help you gain the momentum you need. And, I’m happy you came seeking for it here. I hope this hiking 101 should answer all your queries regarding hiking.
Now, as you’ve seen in this introduction to hiking, you can get to a trail as long as you have the right items. But also, your hiking experience is the best when you have all information you need. I believe that this is a comprehensive hiking 101 for beginners guide. But, if you have any questions or additions regarding to Hiking 101 please feel free to get in touch with us in the comment section below. Or, you can write to us through the contacts page.