A little over two years ago, I was invited to go on my very first hike. Going into it, I knew nothing about hiking. I was totally unaware that people took it so seriously to the point of which they would buy specific gear and train for hikes. What’s even worse, though, is that I didn’t know basic information on hiking, either. I didn’t know what to wear, pack, or the precautions to take to be safe. So, I want to help you not show up in uncomfortable Converse shoes (yes, that happened) and learn the things I have over these past couple of years.
Before You Leave the House
The tips you need to know don’t just start when you get to the trailhead. There’s lots of important information to be aware of prior to arriving at the park. Before you even leave the house, you need to know:
- your fitness level and what you’re capable of doing – Oftentimes, people will go on a hike and not know what their body is capable of doing. This results in them going on hikes that are way too hard for them. This can be incredibly dangerous. It’s so important to choose a hike that equals your activity level. It’s way more enjoyable when you’re not feeling like you’re about to die. Know your limits.
- what trail to do – When you’re planning to go on a hike, please do your research! Know where the park or trail is, what kind of trail it is (out-and-back, loop, etc.), how long it is, and the difficulty. Showing up to a park for the first time and choosing a random trail can be dangerous. You could get lost, go on a trail that’s too hard, or too long. Knowing how long the trail is supposed to take is important info, especially if you’re going in the afternoon or evening. You don’t want to get left in the dark to finish the trail, and most parks close around dusk.
((to learn more about choosing the right trail for you, click here))
Personally, for your first few hikes, I don’t think packing a backpack is necessary. Two years in for myself, and I still rarely ever pack anything. If I do, I always pack light. In my backpack, I will usually only carry a bottle of water, my dog’s leash, and my keys. If you’re going on a short hike, packing a ton of snacks isn’t necessary. Now, it’s smart to have snacks and water in the car afterwards if you want. But, think of it this way, if you pack a lot of stuff, you’re carrying it in and out. While your bag may seem light at first, over time, it’s going to start getting heavy. Therefore, it’s best to either not pack one or only pack the essentials.
When you’re out in the woods, there’s no one to impress. Make sure you dress comfortable. You’re going to be walking a good bit, climbing over things, walking on crunched up leaves, mud, etc. You need to dress for these kinds of terrain. Wear a good pair of tennis shoes or hiking shoes and avoid jeans. Make sure you know the weather when you’re going hiking too. You can always take off, but you can’t put on more.
Pay Attention to Trail Signs
This is really important! To avoid getting lost, you must pay attention to what’s around you. It’s very easy to get off of your trail and get lost. In most parks, they have trail signs hooked onto nearby trees or blazes painted on them. Keep an eye out for these to make sure you’re staying on the right trail. This is a tip you should never stop using, no matter how experienced you become.
Know Trail Etiquette
Trail etiquette is so important. These rules have to do with keeping yourself safe, those around you safe, and the environment safe. To do a quick overview, here’s what you need to know:
- pack in what you pack out
- know who to yield to
- keep your dog on a leash and under control
- respect nature and those around you
((to go more in depth on trail etiquette, click here))
These are a few of the tips I have learned over the past couple of year. Hiking is meant to be fun, and these tips should help you to enjoy life outdoors without it being difficult. If you want to see my hiking journey, check out my Instagram!