7 Tips for First-Time Hikers

Ya girl loves to hike. Hiking is basically a mental health ritual for me. I love being in the woods or out on some cliffs, or whatever the terrain might be. There is something very freeing and very human about being out in the wilderness.

Sometimes I hike alone, but I love hiking with friends. I often have friends interested in joining me who have never hiked or haven’t hiked since childhood, and they ask a lot of questions about how to prepare for a hike. I thought I’d put together this list of 7 Tips for New Hikers based on the most popular questions I’ve received, and a few extra tidbits I think are helpful. These aren’t all the things you need to know before your first hike, but knowing these tips should help put you on the path for a successful hike.

I wish all of the newbie hikers out there a successful, freeing first hike.

  1. Dress in Layers – I don’t care if you’re on a winter hike or a summer hike – this is a must! Remember that you can never add more clothes than what you have on, but you can always take layers off! If you’re hiking in an area with varying climates, you want to be able to quickly convert your outfit so that you can stay comfortable. For example, if you hike from a mountain to a beach, the temperatures may fluctuate wildly. If I’m hiking somewhere in my area in the summer, I still pack a light jacket. You never know when a rain might roll through!
  2. Bug Spray/Sunblock – Ain’t nobody got time for Zika! Protect your body from the elements, whether those elements are intense UV rays or aggressive insects.
  3. Wear Appropriate Shoes – One thing I don’t recommend to first-time hikers is to go out and buy all of the top-of-the-line equipment for your first hike. You don’t even know if you’ll like it! I’m assuming you’re not climbing Mount Kilimanjaro as your first hike (that’s probably not an excellent idea), so here’s what I’ll suggest: Pull out a pair of running shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. If you have trail running shoes, even better! You don’t necessarily need boots to hike, but if you’re hiking in snow, sneakers aren’t going to cut it. Keep in mind that you’ll likely be walking over rocks and branches, so make sure your shoes will protect you from these objects. Sometimes I like hiking in a more minimalist shoe, but I don’t recommend that for first-timers. Don’t get too crazy with the shoes, and don’t overthink it!
  4. Know your Trail – Maps are your friends! If you download a map to your phone, you can access it as long as you have battery. If you’re going on a longer hike, familiarize yourself with the trail names, markings, where you are, where you’re going, and how to get back to where you started! 
  5. Leave No Trace – To me, this is the most important thing about being outdoors, period. I’ve written about this in the past, so I’m not going to dwell on it here. I will say this: Don’t be trifling! Clean up behind yourself and take care of our planet! Learn the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace.
  6. Keep an Open Mind – There will be bugs. there may be mud, there may be poop. Deal with it! If you’re worried about getting sweaty or smelly, or just generally don’t like being outdoors, hiking ain’t for you, boo.
  7. Water. Water. Water.  This is the most important thing about hiking! Bring enough water so that you don’t have to get rescued or dragged back through the woods by your friends. Check out these tips from REI on how to stay hydrated. 
Happy hiking!

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