Hiking for Beginners. How to start your journey.
An article for the inexperienced / rookies / newbies in Hiking.
We get stuck in our daily routine, so much so we start to feel energy depleted and depressed. Getting out there is beneficial for you, as it is known that spending time outdoors helps boost serotonin.
Having some physical activity, even the smallest one, like walking, bumps up the production of endorphins that are known to relieve pain, reduce stress and overall, make you feel good. Now that's a win for your mind and body 😉
You might think you only get that annual holiday as a way to get out of the rut, but if you have the weekend to yourself, or at least 1 day off, you can give hiking a try.
You don't need anything fancy when just starting out. No buying expensive gear, or planning a trip in the mountains. You just need a sample of what hiking can be.
Get your body ready for Hiking
Your endurance to be on the same level as the route you’re choosing. There are many trails with various levels of difficulty, so if you want to hike for, let’s say, 4 hours, your fitness level needs to stand up for that time and also have some extra energy to spare.
Taking up a trail that’s way beyond your physical condition will deplete and frustrate you, and might make you decide never to try hiking again.
So get your body ready for the challenge!
• Stretch and exercise
Some great ways to get ready for hiking is to do some gentle stretches or yoga. Add them to your daily routine to build up your strength.
When doing these exercises, try to listen to your body for when it gets tired or pain kicks in, as this does train you to be aware of how much effort you can handle when hiking.
• Build up strength
After stretching, try to walk more and more every day. Remember to start easy and gradually add in some more steps. Don’t go overboard and double the amount in a short time, as your body will quickly start sensing the burn, leaving you feeling tired and sore.
• Know your rhythm
Walking more will help you understand how slowly or fast you can get from one to another. But remember that in hiking speed is not the essence; it’s the overall experience of enjoying the trail. You just need to get to know where your body feels good and how much it can take without getting exhausted.
Accept your own pace, without comparing yourself to others.
Start out with an easy route
After getting in shape, head on a trail that doesn’t require you to use maps or a compass.
Have you heard of urban hiking? No one made a rule out of needing to go out into the mountains. Your city’s or town’s green spaces and parks are a great option for beginners.
• Keep it short
Plan a 1 hour hike, from A to B and back, and see how you do. Are you tired?
Do you spot any pain or aches? Do you sense that you could have walked further?
Be honest with yourself and how you feel! You’re not competing with anyone.
If it depleted you, exercise more, build strength, readjust your pace, and try again.
If it was a “walk in the park”, just add 10 to 20 more minutes the next time you hike.
• Keep it simple
Walk in a straight and flat path to the farthest landmark you see and recognize from a distance. This way it’s easier for you to get back from where you started, and don’t get lost. Expand the path on the following trip.
After gaining more strength and experience, you can try steeper and longer trails, and much later on, hilltops and mountains.
And for your wellbeing don’t forget to renounce and head back if you’re not feeling well any time during the trip.
What to carry with you
If you search the web, there are a lot of “what to bring hiking” lists and "the ten essentials", but as you’re not yet used to hiking, and only starting with short and simple trails within your area, you need just either a small backpack, a cross body bag, or a fanny pack to carry a few items, like:
Your body needs more water when it’s hot outside, and less when it’s cooler, but it can also depend on how you deal with the outside temperature.
So just as a guideline, you will need about 34 ounces (1 liter) per hour, when hiking in the summer, and that same amount per 2-3 hours of hiking in slightly cold weather.
After your first couple of trips, you will learn how much water you usually need.
Eat a small amount of food every hour of walking, to preserve your focus and energy levels. Pack small snacks you like to eat, like nuts, dried fruits, beef jerky, string cheese, etc., and try to avoid high-calorie foods so you won't gain extra weight.
You will get a sense of how much you need to achieve satiety and feeling too full when doing those 1-2 hours “try-out” hikes. Also, carry with you just a bit more than to later find you don’t have enough.
• Your phone
It will act as your camera, to capture what you see and inspires you on this trip, and also as an emergency device, although it’s better to keep it for calling, and maybe have another phone to use only for taking pictures.
• A whistle
Be aware of the fact that there might be areas where you won’t have a cellular signal, especially if you’re wandering outside the city, so a whistle can come in handy to call out someone for help, particularly when you’re tired and in need of assistance.
Keep in mind that you can use the above “rookie in hiking” list as a guide that you can later tailor to your needs.
Do you know what to wear hiking?
The clothing you choose to wear will depend on the season, temperature, and your route. So always check the weather forecast before getting out there.
When training for future hikes, it’s best to start with paved (urban hiking) or flat (park) trails, and your best running shoes are called for (no flip-flops, heels, or something of the sort), of course, if the weather is dry. If you’re going uphill, or downhill, have longer trails and rough weather, head your attention to some hiking shoes or boots that feel comfortable, to protect your feet and ankles and give them the support they need.
When walking for a long time, cotton socks soak up, and the rough fabric texture can cause blisters and irritation. To keep your feet dry, try soft wool, a wool blend, or synthetic socks instead.
In hiking, layers are of importance. In winter you need warm layers and insulated gear, in fall you need clothes for cool temperatures and wet conditions, and in summer you need breathable, moisture-wicking clothes and hats that also protect you from the Sun’s harmful UV rays, like a UPF shirt, neck gaiters, bandanas, bucket hats, etc.
More articles on skin protection
1. What kind of clothing is best for sun protection?
2. SPF vs UPF: What is the difference?
3. Why is it important to wear UPF clothing?
4. Sun Protection Clothing is for Summer and Winter too
And what else?
• Tell a friend
If you’re planning to roam the nearby forest or hills, let your family or a close friend know your approximate route. You can write it down (to and from, estimated time, people you’re with, etc.) in case that person needs to contact the authorities for search and rescue, and when you’re done, call back your friend or family to let them know you’re ok and not worry them that you got lost.
• Don’t leave a mark
When you’re out, enjoying the beauties of nature, be respectful to the environment and don’t leave anything behind. No one likes to see garbage on the trail, so reduce your impact on nature and pack your trash and discard it into the next bin you find.
And now that you have a bit more insight, you can start on this wonderful journey called hiking. Don’t forget to have fun!
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