Hiking | Want to Start But Don’t Know Where to Begin

By adminpro | November 2nd, 2017 | Travel, Hiking

One of my personal goals is to inspire people to get out hiking, discover nature, new adventures and Explore More! We know finding the motivation and getting started is the hardest part of any journey, as the saying goes, “even the longest journey starts with just a single step”.

I want to share in this post a few tips to inspire you on your way and hopefully take that first step. I’ve put together some of the most commonly ask questions about starting out for new hikers and tried to answer a few of these questions to make things a little clearer. Some topics I have covered in linked posts so please reference.

Want to Start Hiking But Don’t Know Where to Begin

What Gear Do I Need for Hiking?

Start by asking yourself two questions, 1) How many nights am I going for; 2) What’s the weather conditions going to be like? Proper planning is essential for having a safe and enjoyable hiking adventure and knowing your groups physical limitations is also a considreation.

For day hikes you don’t need too much, comfortable shoes or boots with recommended good ankle support and a backpack to carry water and a few basic items for just to be prepared for the unexpected. For longer multi-day hikes, you’ll need to bring camping hammocks and camp equipment either prepared food or your own cooking equipment. Checkout my Day Hiking Checklist to make sure you don’t forget the essentials.

What Clothes Are Good for Hiking?

This is dependent on the weather and your preparation. For hiking, it’s best to dress in layers, that way you’re never too hot or too cold. Basically, you’ll want a thermal layer on the core, an insulating layer like a fleece for around camp and a waterproof outer layer to protect you from the rain and wind. As far as materials go, merino wool, bamboo and synthetic fibers are the best options. Merino is soft on the skin, light weight, odor resistant and dries quick. There are also performance synthetic breathable materials offered by high end brands. There are many options based on personal budget.

What Size Backpack Do I Need?

The size of your backpack will depend on how many days you plan to be hiking. Good and proper planning makes the difference and defines your experience, the most important thing for any adventure to be successful is proper preparation.

Having the perfect backpack won’t mean much if it is poorly packed. Efficient packing is easy to learn and relies on a few principles. There are many resources to assist and most manufactures of backpacks provide detailed assistance.

A good tip is to visualize your backpack broken down into three zones, the first being the bottom, core and top. Before going on your first trip, practice packing and unpacking your backpack at home so that you can quickly load up after breaking down your camp, this will save you time and you will become more efficient. Checkout my post Hammockers Guide To Backpacks for more detail.

What Kind of Shoes Should I Wear Hiking?

Determining the right footwear, you need to consider how much equipment you are planning on carrying and what the trail conditions are like under foot. Some people just aren’t comfortable wearing heavy hiking boots but there are fortunately many brands on the market and this can be your personal preference but ensure you have good ankle support and correctly fitted footwear.

For day hikes, hiking shoes or trail running shoes are suitable. Since you aren’t carrying a heavy backpack, boots may not be necessary. For multi day hikes, mid cut boots and full boots are the best option. These will help support your ankles.

For multi day expedition treks with tough trails and wet weather heavy duty waterproof boots are essential. They will support ankles while carrying a heavy backpack and help your traction on rough terrain.

Preventing feet blisters is a much better than having to treat them. If you have new shoes make be sure to break them in. You can do this by going on a shorter trails or walks before taking on a big one. A little trick is to use for multi day hikes is rub a light layer of Vaseline on your feet before you put your socks on. This will help prevent your socks from rubbing and creating blisters.

Do I Need Special Hiking Socks?

The simple answer is no, you don’t need special hiking socks but, they will make your experience a lot more enjoyable. They will provide cushioning and help keep your feet stay dry which will help prevent blisters. My personal favorite is Bamboo fabric.

How Can I Stay Dry While Hiking?

Staying dry while hiking is important, For Multi-Day hikes pack a good quality waterproof jacket and rain pants. Fully waterproof clothes have a breathable liner and seam sealed zips. If they don’t have these two features it’s only water resistant, not waterproof.

It’s also important to keep your backpack dry so you don’t arrive to camp with wet clothes and a wet sleeping bag or hammock. A good recommendation is putting your sleeping bag in a dry bag and using a pack cover which fits around you backpack. Some packs have these built-in. Another option is to use a pack liner, which is a bag that you first put in your backpack then pack everything inside that bag.

What’s Quick & Easy For Hiking Meals?

Meal planning is one of the most important skills to have as a hiker. It’s about finding the balance between taste and what’s practical to carry weight and expiration.

As easy option is to pack freeze dried meals, Mountain House has some great pack meals, they’re light, surprisingly tasty and super simple to prepare, all you need is to add boiling water into the bag. The flip-side is they’re expensive.

Mountain House Meal Kit

Food Ideas To Get You Started.

Calories are the basic unit of energy found in all foods. The amount of calories a person needs depends on factors like their age, gender, body size and physical activity level. When you’re hiking, climbing in the wilderness, your body needs lots of extra energy and calories.  You can burn up to 530 calories per hour on the trail and hiking in a stormy weather can increase this burn potential by 5 percent.

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal, fruits fresh or dry, granola bars, bread, honey, jam, tea, coffee

  • Lunch: Sandwiches salami lasts well for multi-day trips.

  • Dinner: instant rice, pasta with sauce, instant potatoes.

Tasty Trail Snacks

Nuts like almonds and cashews, dried fruit, chocolate, fruit, granola bars, cookies, trail mix cheese and crackers and jerky all make for good snacks. Nuts and seeds are a great source of vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, and fiber. These are great to have accessible in a side pocket of you pack for easy access.

Calorie density (per 100g)
  • Macadamia Nuts- 750Cal

  • Pine Nuts- 700Cal

  • Pumpkin Seeds- 601Cal

How Do I Treat Drinking Water?

If you’re going to drink from a river, lake or stream, you should treat it. There are a few different ways to treat water. Boiling being the most efficient the cheapest way to purify water. There is also tablets or chemical treatments (not recommended). Pump filters or UV light filters.

Water purification tablets such as iodine or chlorine dioxide are super easy to use but you have to wait for them to work and they can have a bad taste. Pump filters work by of squeezing water through a ceramic or charcoal filter. Efficient brands can pump up to 2 liters a minute. Again, they have their pros and cons as they can be bulky and they require use of a pot to collect the water.

UV light filters are simple to use, you just press a button, swirl it around in your water bottle for 90 seconds and then you have safe drinking water. These tend to be the most expensive option but can be worth the investment if you spend a lot of time outdoors hiking.

Life Straw

What Drinks Are Good for Hiking?

All be it essential water can get boring but carrying extra liquids aren’t always practical. The best option is to pack isotonic powder drink mixes. There are numerous brands and flavors. These are a great source of vital replacement of minerals for your body if you are hiking long trails and losing a lot of body water, (sweat).

What About Bears & Other Wild Animals?

Bears and other wildlife can be a genuine concern on some hiking trails. Before you plan your hikes, do your homework and find out how to avoid native wildlife and the preventive actions you should take if by chance you should come across wildlife. I have covered some of this in a previous post leave no trace hammock camping

How to Stay Safe While Hiking?

Compared to other adventure sports hiking is one of the safest activities, but there are still some risks involved. The best way to avoid risks is to know how to avoid them by awareness, one of the biggest risks is being underprepared. You never know when the weather can turn, so be sure that you’re prepared for the worst. Read up on the right gear to take for your planned hike.

Getting lost or disorientated is also one of the greatest risks when hiking. Take a map and compass and learn how to read it. GPS and phones are great but they can fail. Always inform someone responsible of your intentions, where you are going and when you should be expected back! No matter how safe you think the trail will be, you need to be prepared and inform someone of your plan.

What Should I Pack in My First Aid Kit?

When it comes to preparing your first-aid kit you need a few considerations. The length of your trip, the size of your group, and your medical knowledge and ability. You can buy a pre-assembled kit or put together your own. Basic first-aid essentials for most hiking adventures should include

  • Antiseptic wipes (BZK-based wipes preferred; alcohol-based OK)

  • Antibacterial ointment (e.g., bacitracin)

  • Compound tincture of benzoin (bandage adhesive)

  • Assorted adhesive bandages (fabric preferred)

  • Butterfly bandages / adhesive wound-closure strips

  • Gauze pads (various sizes)

  • Nonstick sterile pads

  • Medical adhesive tape (10 yd. roll, min. 1″ width)

  • Blister treatment

  • Ibuprofen / other pain-relief medication

  • Insect sting relief treatment

  • Antihistamine to treat allergic reactions

  • Splinter (fine-point) tweezers

  • Safety pins

  • First-aid manual or information cards

Small First Aid Kit for Hiking

Equipment Affordability?

Multi-day hiking is gear intensive and you’ll eventually have to invest if you really enjoy hiking. But, to get you started, you have options. You can buddy up with a friend who has some gear. Plan to stay in huts & lodges. Look for trails that have basic accommodation provided. This will cut out the need to cook or serve meals.

Some may even like the comforts better in a lodge. You can always rent gear if you are still testing and unsure if you even like hiking. Renting gear could be a good option. Ask at your local outdoor store if they rent camping equipment or there are always plenty of options to buy used gear.

Where’s A Good Place to Get Advice on Gear?

When it comes to choosing hiking gear, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the equipment and features available. Local outdoor shops can be a good place to start but keep in mind most sales are commissioned based so sales reps don’t always advise you on what’s best for you. The best option is browse the internet and read customer reviews. There are endless recourses on the internet for product research.

Hiking Gear Considerations

Backpack

A backpack is one of the very first pieces of gear you’ll need to get started with hiking. Consider you’ll be wearing it for hours at a time, you’ll want to make sure you pick the right one.

Sleeping Bags

Sleeping Bags, having a good night’s sleep is essential to be fully rested for a full day’s hike. Consider investing on a quality sleeping bag, especially if you’re planning to hike in cold conditions.

Sleeping Pads

Pads provide warmth and cushioning. As it happens with the sleeping bag, the right pad equates to a good night’s sleep, something very important to fully enjoy your outdoor adventure.

Hammock

Your Hammock and Rain Fly is your house while exploring the outdoors and have the least impact on the environment of any shelter

Clothing

There are huge ranges of clothing for hiking, but it’s important to know how to layer clothes for winter and summer. You want to wear the right clothes to make sure you stay warm but don’t over heat.

Foot Wear

Foot Wear, a good pair of hiking foot wear is crucial part of every hiker’s equipment. Footwear can make or break our outdoor adventures. You need to find a pair that fits your needs and fits your feet! 

Camp Stove

Having a good stove is essential after a long day of hiking and simply to enjoy a tasty meal while in the outdoors. There are also many options just with camp stoves. 

Accessories

Using hiking poles, a hand-held GPS or a waterproof headlamp are great accessories that are convenient in the outdoors, this is a topic I will discuss in another article.

Environmental & Health Consciousness

Hiking is a fantastic way to enjoy nature and improve your health. When it comes to choosing outdoor products, I encourage you to make educated decision through conscious choices, buy from companies that promote protection of your environment. After all you want to enjoy the outdoors and ensure companies you purchase from have the same philosophy. Purchasing from environmentally conscious companies is vital to ensure natures sustainability and enjoyment for all for years to come. 

Benefits of Good Fitness for Hiking

If you exercise already regularly you will get the most from your planned hiking adventure. The best way to train for long distance hiking is to hike regular short distances and often. Begin with shorter hikes on the weekends, and walk as much as possible every day. Walking will get your leg muscles strengthened and improve your cardio.

As you are getting stronger, increase the difficulty of the hikes and start carrying a pack close to the weight you expect to take on your backpacking trip. Even if you aren’t able to hike or don’t have the access to trails, you can still get into good hiking shape by adding more walking into your daily routine. There are so many benefits to your overall health not just for hiking preparation.

Plan Hikes Within Your Ability

Some hikes might appear like common sense or even seem easy from the comfort of your home. Like with anything you set out to do, you learn best by trial and error. With proper planning and common sense, you will get the most from your planned hike. There is no substitute for experience.

Preparing to set off for your first long hike is exciting. Whether you are about to embark on a multi-day trek or just a short-day hike, there is a lot to consider before you set off. To help out first-time hikers I compiled a list of the best tips, so you don’t feel overwhelmed by all the information available on the web.

  • Study trail maps before you begin the hike.

  • Learn basic First-Aid and carry a kit.

  • Make checklists; Food and another for Equipment. 

  • Join hiking groups check out local hiking clubs. 

  • Tag along with an experienced friend or group.

17 Best Day Hikes

Here’s a list of 17 spectacular day hikes in the US to help you plan your next adventure.

Half Dome

Location: Yosemite National Park, California

Distance: 16 miles

Best Time to Go: April to October

This round-trip hike takes you to the top of Yosemite’s famous granite dome. You get amazing views of Vernal and Nevada Falls and the Yosemite Valley. The most iconic portion of the hike is the final 400 feet to the summit where you climb up using two metal cables,  and it requires a permit

Half Dome

Upper Falls Trail Hike

Location: Yosemite National Park, California.

Distance: 7.6 miles

Best Time to Go: March-May, September-November

In case you can’t get a permit for Half Dome, Upper Falls Trail Hike equally spectacular. You hike 2,600 feet and catch amazing views of one of the tallest cascades in the world. You see the falls from both, the bottom and top, and once you’ve made it, you overlook the breathtaking Yosemite Valley.

15 Breathtaking Things to Do at Yosemite National Park

Upper Falls Trail Hike
Yosemite National Park

Angel’s Landing

Location: Zion National Park, Utah.

Distance: 5 miles

Best Time to Go: March to October

This hike takes you up to dizzying heights with huge drop-offs both sides but rewards you with an amazing view of the valley.

Zion National Park

Devil’s Garden Trail

Location: Arches National Park, Utah.

Distance: 7.2 miles

Best Time to Go: Year Round

This national park is home to the most concentrated collection of natural sandstone arches in the world.  The highlight is the Landscape Arch, which is the longest arch in the world, the length of a football field.

9 Things You Can’t Miss at Arches National Park

Arches National Park, Utah.
Arches National Park

Franconia Ridge Loop

Location: Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire.

Distance: 9 miles

Best Time to Go: September to November

Only a few hours from Fenway Park, don’t let the proximity to civilization fool you. This hike takes you through alpine tundra and elevation gains of over 3,400 feet in four miles.

Franconia Notch State Park
Franconia Notch State Park

Root Glacier Trail

Location: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Distance: 4 miles

Best Time to Go: June to August

This hike brings you face-to-face with a magnificent glacier in the country’s largest national park. Because you are traversing over ice  you will need crampons, but it’s well worth the effort.

Root Glacier Trail
Alaska National Parks

Hoh River Trail

Location: Olympic National Park, Washington.

Distance: 6.2 miles

Best Time to Go: Year Round

This trail takes you into the mossy, dense forest of Olympic National Park. Like no other place in the US, this temperate rainforest is like something out of a fairytale. The trail continues 17.6 miles to Glacier Meadows.

What You Can’t Miss in Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park

Wyoming Cascade Canyon Trail

Location: Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

Distance: 14.4 miles

Best Time to Go: June to November

Waterfalls, panoramas and breath-taking mountains, this hike has it all. The trail ends at Lake Solitude, which is a great reward for all that work.

15 Amazing Things to Do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Wyoming Cascade Canyon Trail
Grand Teton National Park

Lakes Trail

Location: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, California,

Distance: 7 miles

Best Time to Go: June to November

Waterfalls, panoramas and breath-taking mountains, this hike has it all. The trail ends at Lake Solitude, which is a great reward for all that work.

Wyoming Cascade Canyon Trail
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park

Elephant Canyon & Druid Arch

Location: Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

Distance: 11 miles

Best Time to Go: Year Round

This hike offers some of the best rock formations around. Spires, needles, and arches are littered throughout the trek. Be sure to get up for an early hike to catch the best light!

Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Canyonlands National Park

Halemau’u Trail

Location: Haleakala National Park, Hawaii.

Distance: 11.2 miles

Best Time to Go: Year Round

This otherworldly hike takes you to the floor of Haleakala’s crater. You get the chance to hike through a native scrub forest that hasn’t been overrun by non-native species, and explore a mars-like terrain of red and black cinder cones.

Haleakala National Park

Muliwai Trail

Location: Big Island, Hawaii.

Distance: 9 miles

Best Time to Go: Year Round

This 9 miles stretch takes you from Waipio Valley to Waimanu Valley where you’ll come across old ruins, swimming holds, and a black  sand beach. We only got a chance to explore the beach last time but hope to do the full hike next time we visit!

Muliwai Trail
Muliwai Trail

Precipice Trail

Location: Acadia National Park, Maine.

Distance: 1.8 miles

Best Time to Go: June to November

Although a short hike, this is far from easy. This is one of the most heart pounding hikes that takes you to an amazing viewpoint at the top. You don’t need to do any climbing, but there is some scrambling and boulder hopping involved. There are also iron rungs for you  to navigate and climb certain portions.

Precipice Trail
Acadia National Park

Washington Summerland Trail

Location: Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

Distance: 8.4 miles

Best Time to Go: June to August

In case you don’t have time to summit Mount Rainier, this hike takes you through a  beautiful  meadow  full  of Wildflower’s. You get pretty amazing view of Mount Rainier!

Washington Summerland Trail
Mount Rainier National Park

Highline Trail

Location: Glacier National Park, Montana

Distance: 11.5 miles

Best Time to Go: Mid-July and August

This hike takes you through the park’s high country. Stunning peaks, wildflower’s around every corner, plus wildlife like goats, bighorn sheep, and bears, makes this a must-do hike. This hike has a very short season, so go when you can. Depending on the snowfall, the trail or portions of the trail might still be closed. Check the trail conditions in Glacier National Park before attempting this hike.

Best Hikes in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park, Montana
Glacier National Park

North Vista Trail

Location: Gunnison National Park, Colorado.

Distance: 7 miles

Best Time to Go: March to November

Black Canyon isn’t as well-known as other canyons but will take you breath away with its narrow openings, jaw-dropping depths, and sheer walls. You can turnaround after you reach Exclamation Point, which is a spectacular overlook, or continue to Green Mountain to give you an aerial view.

Dom’t miss the Black Canyon Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon Of The Gunnison
Black Canyon Of The Gunnison
The Narrows

Location: Zion National Park, Utah.

Distance: 16 miles

Best Time to Go: April to October

Recommendation doing the full 2-day top to bottom hike to give you plenty of time for photos and have the canyons to yourself (permit required) you can still explore the iconic parts of this hike, like Wall Street, doing the bottom up day hike.

Zion National Park

Summary

Hiking is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the outdoors. Hiking with only your own two feet and carrying only what you need you can discover the beauty of nature. With a little planning and preparation, it’s an activity that almost anyone can do. I hope that this post has provided a little inspiration and provided you with a few ideas for planning your next Hike Adventure. After all…. Nature is our Therapy.

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