Hiking has many benefits, the least of which is getting into the great outdoors and enjoying yourself! If you’ve never tried it, don’t fret: there aren’t many rules, and if you follow them, you’ll be hiking like a pro from the get-go. Here are the smartest tips to follow as a first-time hiker.
Real trails are classified according to their difficulty levels and the fitness level you need to tackle them – thus, it’s important that you know how a trail is evaluated before you set your sights on it. Start with beginners, as they’re suitable for lower skilled or no skilled hikers, and you don’t have to be in great physical shape to conquer them.
2. Always check the weather.
While this may sound obvious, too many hikers (beginners and otherwise) have gotten caught in dangerous weather, often with fatal consequences. Use multiple sources to verify the weather on your chosen trail isn’t going to offer up any surprises and be prepared for what is to come.
3. Dress in the right outfit.
Starting with your feet, you need to have professional gear as a hiker, even though you’re just starting out. If the trail you’re traversing is mild with no challenging terrain, you should be okay with good sneakers; however, any serious trail or long-distance hike and you’ll need real hiking boots. Your clothing should be comfortable, temperature-appropriate and provide you with protection from sunburn, bugs and poisonous vegetation.
4. Equip yourself with good gear.
Always anticipate the worst when you hike, such as getting lost for a few hours (bring extra food) and being exposed to more heat and sun than you expect (tote sufficient water). You want a backpack that’s comfortable to carry, but that holds everything you need. As a beginner, you probably won’t need much, but be sure to have the basics: food, water, sunblock, insect repellent, map, first aid, communication device and an all-in-one Swiss Army knife type device.
5. Keep your first few hikes short and sweet.
Until you become more versed in navigating your way over the mountains and through the woods, you’re better off choosing shorter trips. This will test your stamina, knowledge and ensure that you love what you’re about to set out on, without you having to learn the hard way that you’re not ready, well prepared or all that into it after all.
6. Be gentle on your joints.
Hiking, while a great outdoor exercise, can be hard on your joints, even if you’re young and spry. When traversing downhill terrain, take slow, deliberate steps, rather than maintaining a quick pace. It’s easy to strain your knee or sprain your ankle on uneven ground, particularly when gravity is working against you.
7. Do NOT try to befriend animals.
It can be tempting to approach a gentle-looking wild animal, either with a chunk of granola or your camera phone, but it can get you in a lot of trouble. Even if it’s not a big grizzly you’re seeking to get closer to, any wild animal can hurt you.
8. Never experiment whether vegetation is edible.
Unless you know for certain a plant is edible, don’t try it. Bring all the sustenance you will need and avoid even touching things you can’t identify. You don’t want to come home with an odd, persistent rash or bellyache that lasts for days.
9. Give yourself plenty of time as a beginner.
While you do want to tell someone back home approximately when they can expect you to return, you don’t want to be forced to keep a strict schedule. Hiking can be such a personal and breath-taking experience, it’s something you should give yourself plenty of time to enjoy.
10. Have a hiking buddy.
Although meandering through wild terrain will leave you introspective and thoughtful, it’s not something you should do by yourself, even after you’ve become a seasoned hiker. Woods can be dangerous for many reasons, so find strength and safety in numbers, by pairing up with at least one dependable hiking buddy.
Once you’ve mastered the rules to hiking, you’ll be hooked. Always keep safety in mind and never take chances. Few activities are more enjoyable and beneficial to both your body and mind, so hiking is a skill you want to master quickly.
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