A Beginner’s Guide to Adding Hiking into Your Life

Our beginner's guide to hiking can help you get into this health craze in a safe and educated way. Hiking doesn’t require much gear, but there are some necessary items that hikers should always carry. And although leisure hiking does not require any specific skills, it is essential to know how to plan your hike properly. Read our hiking guide for beginners below for free resources Appalachian Mountain Club, Boy Scouts of America, and more.

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Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around insurance guides and informational articles. She truly enjoys helping others learn more about everyday, practical matters through her work.

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent

UPDATED: Nov 21, 2020

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Hiking is a great activity that almost everyone can enjoy. It requires less commitment than a camping trip but is still filled with activity and beautiful scenery. Simply put, hiking is a great way to experience the great outdoors! Hiking does not require much gear, but there are some necessary items that hikers should purchase. Also, although leisure hiking does not require any specific skills, it is essential to know how to plan your hike properly.

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Beginner Tips

When getting ready to start hiking, it is important to make sure that you have some essentials. First, you should know how to properly hydrate, something that is key to safe and successful hiking. Drinking water and limiting caffeine before you go as well as continuing to drink water on the trail and after your hike is important to avoid dehydration during your hike and help muscles to recover after. It can also be helpful to hike with other people when you are first beginning to hike. It can be fun as a beginner as well as when you become more experienced!

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Selecting the Right Trails and Routes

Knowing how to select the right trails and hiking routes is an important part of being successful at hiking. Choosing a trail can be an exciting process, but it is also important to choose one for your skill level, the time you have, and your level of physical fitness. It is usually best to choose easy hikes when you are first starting out. Having an accurate map of your route can make your experience on the trail more enjoyable.

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Checking Trail Conditions and Weather

Once you have established that you are physically able to hike and understand the basic ways to stay healthy on the right trails, you should also make sure to check weather and trail conditions. Hiking in a little rain can be a nice experience, but hiking in a deluge, when it is icy, or even when it is too hot can be dangerous. Trail conditions should be checked before heading out because some trails may have snakes, rock falls, mudslides, or even just unfavorable conditions.

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Appropriate Hiking Attire, Footwear, and Gear

When you decide to start hiking, it can be tempting to buy all new and fancy gear for your hikes. While up to the individual. this is usually not necessary and can be costly. There are a few items you should make sure to have before you go hiking. First, no matter the temperature, it is important to layer. Even in summer, you should have a light jacket in case the temperature changes. Appropriate footwear is also important. Although you do not have to buy the most expensive hiking boots, sturdy shoes with proper support and a good tread are important. You should also have safety and hydration gear.

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Planning Your Hike

Besides the actual hiking, planning your hike is one of the most exciting parts of the adventure. Choosing a route, packing your gear, and gathering friends or getting your dog are also fun parts of the experience. Although spontaneous hiking can be fun, it is important to make a few basic plans before you start. Study maps, check the weather, and make sure you have all the supplies you need, then check on the trail conditions. You should also always, no matter how short the trail or how experienced you are, tell someone where you are going and when you anticipate returning home.

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Leave No Trace

Once you are prepared and ready to hike, you should also learn one of the most important etiquette rules of hiking: leave no trace. While it is important to know which side of the trail to hike on, how to practice trail etiquette when hiking with kids or animals, and so on, leaving no trace is a fundamental rule of hiking. Leave no trace means that you should leave the trail, the woods, any campsites, and nature the way you found it. Know how to dispose of your trash, how to stay on the trail, and how to respect wildlife before you set foot on a hiking trail.

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Hiking with Kids and Pets

Hiking is fun as a solitary activity, but it can also be a great way to get your kids and pets out into nature! When hiking with children, it is important to make sure that you have enough water, food, and supplies for them, and that they are properly dressed in layers. With small children, you should also make sure that you are physically able to carry them if the hike becomes too much for them to manage. You should also impress upon children the vital importance of leaving no trace and how to respect trails, nature, and wildlife. With pets, you should also have food and water and, although it can be tempting, you should think carefully about letting your pets off a leash. Also, remember to pick up after your pets and keep them from disturbing any wildlife!

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