When I told my parents I was going travelling and specifically going to be doing lots of hiking in New Zealand they thought it was somewhat amusing. As someone who really hated participating in P.E. at school and also moaned when having to walk anywhere as a child, it was safe to say that I was a complete beginner when it came to hiking. But I didn’t let that stop me. I bought some walking boots and a backpack that was the same size as me and was off. Admittedly my first few hikes were difficult but with practice and preparation, they became easier and dare I say it, enjoyable too! Here are some tips and things to think about for all you hiking beginners out there!
Make sure you have the right gear. As a beginner you don’t really need to spend lots of money on high-tech hiking gear but make sure you have the basic essentials. A comfortable backpack, food, water, torch and a first aid kit are all key essentials to take on a hike. Snacks are also very much essential – you don’t want to be getting hungry so make sure you have lots of tasty goods easily accessible for on the go. If you’re hiking for a few days get a good tent and sleeping bag. Sleeping bag liners are also useful if you expect it to be quite cold at night. You don’t need to spend a fortune getting equipped for your hike and I recommend that you don’t dive in and buy every single hiking/camping accessory there is because if it turns out hiking isn’t for you then you have not only wasted your money but you’ll also be stuck with loads of unwanted gear.
Charge your phone and take a portable phone charger. You might not have signal whilst on your hike but you can often still use the GPS. If you are lucky enough to have signal it might come in handy in the event of an emergency.
Check the weather before you go and prepare accordingly. Going to be super sunny? Make sure you have suncream, a sunhat and plenty of water. Going to be raining? Make sure you have your rain coat, a waterproof cover for your backpack and plenty of spare socks. If it’s going to snow, it might be worth looking into more specialised equipment.
Wear the right clothes. You really don’t need anything too specialist when you start out, it is mainly just important to make sure that you are comfortable. I tend to wear sportswear, particularly the lightweight sports t-shirts, as I know it’s comfortable, breathable and easy to walk in. I always opt for layers when going on hikes so I can add and remove layers depending on the temperature. If you’re going to be hiking in the mountains or in the winter, base layers are a good option but try to avoid cotton and some synthetic materials because when they get wet, they can become heavy but aren’t very good at keeping you warm. Materials such as wool and polypropylene are much better for helping you to retain heat. Make sure to get yourself some decent hiking boots with a good grip and try to wear them in beforehand if possible to avoid getting blisters and sore feet. Go Outdoors is a good place to head to as the staff tend to be very knowledgeable. Once again you don’t need to spend loads of money on new walking boots. I got a pair for £30 and they lasted me for around 2 years and were pretty damn amazing.
Make sure you have any essentials that you need. If you have any medication, inhalers etc that you take regularly it’s a good idea to bring them with you. For all my menstruating folk out there, make sure you take your chosen products with you. A quick TMI story for you – I once went on a 3-4 day hike and didn’t take any period products with me because I had the implant and hadn’t had a period in a while but of course, 2 days into the hike and Aunt Irma decides to pay me a visit. The lesson here is, be prepared.
Ease yourself into it first and pick hikes for beginners. Since you’re just starting out, maybe don’t just suddenly decide that you want to do a 3 day hike across some mountains as your first hike. Try starting with shorter walks and slowly build yourself up to longer day and multi-day hikes gradually. Do your research before hand so you know what you’re in for. The All Trails app is really good for getting an idea of what a hike is like as it has information about the distance, type of terrain and level of difficulty. People can leave also reviews about how they found it too so you have a better idea of what to expect.
Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back so that the emergency services can be alerted in the event of a problem. It’s not nice to think that something bad might happen on your hike but it’s better to be prepared.
Leave no trace. When you’re out trying to enjoy nature, it’s really infuriating to see trails scattered with wrappers and empty bottles. Take all litter with you, even the stuff you think will biodegrade like fruit peels. Stick the marked trail to ensure you don’t disturb nature and habitats.
Don’t rush! When you start out hiking, it’s easy to want to be the best and the fastest but take it easy, there’s no rush. Walk at a steady pace that feels comfortable for you and make sure you take regular breaks to make sure you don’t get too tired and also to take in the scenery around you.
Get out there! My main advice to all hiking newbies is start out easy and make sure you’re prepared and you are almost guaranteed to have a great time.