Hiking is an activity that allows you to get a workout while enjoying wide open spaces, beautiful scenery, and fresh air. Although it can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone, getting started can be a little intimidating, confusing, and expensive.
But, it does not have to be scary. If you are really interested in the activity, there are a lot of ways you can get started, even if you are on a budget. You just need to prepare, know where to start, know what gear you need, and follow the rules and safety tips of the activity.
Choosing the right footwear for your hike is very important since you’ll be on your feet a majority of the time. Choosing the wrong footwear could lead to sore feet and blisters which will prevent you from enjoying your hike to the fullest. Lucky for you, we have a list of the best hiking shoes for men, women, and children all in one article.
To make your first hiking experience easy and comfortable, you need to research and plan before heading out.
Do your research
Research where you want to hike, what the weather is like over there, and what facilities are available along the trail. To avoid making mistakes or wrong decisions, researching and planning before heading out is a must, especially for beginners.
Here are some things to look up:
- What is the weather like?
- What do I need to wear?
- What is the difficulty rating/elevation gain?
- How far is the hike?
- How long will it take me to hike the area?
- What are the current trail conditions?
- Are there any animals and other important things to be aware of?
- Are there any camping shelters and do I need a permit?
Pack the right gear
There are different gear required for different hikes. For instance, you may need several layers of clothes to stay warm, and sometimes, will just need shorts and a shirt for warmer weather. This entirely depends on the season, location, and your preferences. Regardless, it is always wise to be prepared and bring your raincoat, map, and compass.
Have a plan
While it’s nice to clear your head and hike, you still need to have a plan in place. You have to know where to start and where you end. Plus, always inform someone about your trip and expected time or date of return.
Tips for beginners
We’ve been on numerous camping and hiking trips, but like you, we also started as beginners. To help you get started on your hiking journey, here are some tips that you should keep in mind.
Start with short and easy day hikes
Although long hikes are tempting, it is best for a beginner to start slow and then build up. Search for trails that are 3 to 4 miles long or less, and avoid higher elevation gains or, to put it simply, stay under 500 feet of gain because the more elevation gain, the further you have to hike and the more difficult the experience.
However, every person is different, so if you have strong endurance, then your idea of “difficult” might be different.
When it comes to hiking, maps are essential, especially for beginners. If you do not want the hassle of bringing big maps, download offline maps instead.
Hiking into the wilderness will take you far from any cell tower, which is why downloading offline maps is a way to make sure you do not get lost and can return home safely.
If you are going far, you might also want to pack a physical map in case you run out of battery.
While planning, you should be able to determine how much water you need for the hike. A good rule of thumb is that you should bring half a liter of water per hour of hiking. That means that for a 5-hour hike, you need at least 2.5 liters of water.
Always remember to inform a family member or close friend where you are heading and at what time you are expected to return. Whether you are hiking alone or with a group, always take that precaution.
If you are new to hiking, you have probably heard about the different types of hiking, some of them being backcountry and frontcountry hiking. Which one of these two should you try first? Read our article on the differences between backcountry and frontcountry hiking to learn more.
When you’re out hiking, it’s very important to be respectful to the environment and the other hikers on the trail. Here are some hiking etiquettes that you should be familiar with to avoid being rude.
Do not play loud music
Everyone should respect nature while hiking in the wilderness. Loud noises can cause a lot of disturbance to wild animals and birds who cannot tolerate these loud noises and the frequency emitted by speakers and phones.
Avoid wearing headphones
While music has become an important part of our lives, it is also important to unplug every now and then. You should be fully aware of your surroundings, especially when walking alone, and even with a group.
Avoid alcohol intoxication
Alcohol affects our brain and spine coordination, which results in imbalance, heavy breathing, and bad decision-making. That is why you should not smoke or drink before or during a hike.
Do not eat wild fruits
Although it may be tempting to eat fruits you see in the wild, some fruits and mushrooms are poisonous and should not be consumed or even touched. You should have complete knowledge about them before consuming them.
Do not litter / Leave No Trace
Let us respect nature and avoid damaging it by littering on the trails or mountains as this can be irreversible and harm our climate and the entire ecosystem. We should be responsible hikers and leave nothing but footsteps behind us.
Do not hike in the dark
Make sure you make it home or to your destination before it gets dark as hiking when it’s dark can be dangerous.
Hike on the right, pass on the left
That is just like road traffic. Respect other hikers by hiking on the right and passing on the left. You also need to let hikers who are climbing uphill pass whenever you are going down.
Stay on the trail
Stay on the trail to avoid ruining the vegetation. Even if you need to relieve yourself, it is important that you do not step on flowers and other plants just to overpass people.
Do not disturb wildlife
If you see animals in the wild, do not harm or disturb them to avoid incidents that can endanger your life and that of others.
Do not feed wildlife
Avoid interacting with all wildlife, even if you think you are helping. Although we may have good intentions by helping them, this may turn into an unfortunate event very quickly.
Packing for a day hike should not be complicated. Since you’ll only be on the trails for a couple of hours, you don’t need to pack a lot of things and equipment. But sometimes, it’s very difficult not to over pack. To avoid packing way too much stuff, read our article to learn how to pack for a day hike.
Hiking gear is not cheap. One of the first challenges that beginners hikers must face is acquiring hiking gear and this only becomes even more trickier if you’re on a budget. To help you prioritize your spending, here is a list of the hiking equipment that you should get first.
A sturdy pair of hiking boots is one of the most important gears you need for hiking. If you are on a budget, you might want to splurge on a quality pair of boots.
When shopping for hiking boots, consider the following:
Waterproof hiking boots will allow you to stay dry and keep your feet and whole body warm.
To prevent ankle sprains, a mid-ankle pair of boots is a good choice.
Check here to see what kind of hiking boots best suits you and the trail you are planning on hiking on.
It is best to try on the boots beforehand to see if they fit well. However, if you can’t do so, check for the reviews instead and see if it is true to size or if you have to size up or down.
A good daypack for hiking will allow you to carry all your essentials. Choose one that is neither too big nor bulky as it would weigh you down. However, it should be big enough to carry an extra layer of clothes, food, and water.
You should consider the following aspects when shopping:
- Water resistance or waterproofing abilities;
- If neither water-resistant nor waterproof, your pack should come with a rain cover;
- It should have water bottle pockets;
- It should be abrasion-resistant.
A rain jacket is important to anyone who loves the outdoors. If you are on a budget, the Columbia Women’s Switchback III Jacket and Marmot Men’s Precip Rain Jacket are great choices. They are both affordable and lightweight which is perfect for hiking, climbing, cycling, and engaging in other outdoor activities. Both jackets are made with 100% nylon shell that is designed to keep you dry and protected, even in the hardest downpours.
This is an essential for winter or cold-weather hikes. Down jackets are fantastic at keeping you warm in cold locations are also incredible to travel with due to how lightweight they are. If you are looking for a good winter jacket, check out our top choices for men and women.
Aside from quality hiking boots, you also need good hiking socks to ensure that you do not get blisters and keep your feet warm. Choose good hiking socks that can cushion your feet and keep them dry and warm for years.
For beginner hikers, fleece leggings or liners and cotton long sleeves from a local clothing store are fine. You do not need to buy pricey base layers unless you are planning to hike somewhere extremely cold.
Hiking poles come in handy on certain terrains, and if you think you need something to stabilize yourself or help your knees, you might need to purchase a pair. However, not everyone will need those.
Tips for Beginners on a Budget
To help you save money, here are some tips and tricks that you should do when you purchase your hiking gear.
Check outlet stores
If you want to buy high-end hiking essentials, checking outlet stores to see if some of the gear you need are on sale is one way to make sure you do not overspend.
Consider gently used items
While it is not recommended to buy used hiking boots or water bottles, you can find good quality backpacks, layers, crampons, hiking poles, and other items that have been lightly used for an affordable price.
Sales and Deals
Avoid buying items at full price and just wait for deals and sales, especially during Black Friday or after Christmas. You can also wait for brand-specific sale events to purchase the items you need.
Avoid buying big brands
There are many excellent brands out there, and some are very expensive. So if you are just starting out, go off-brand first and go for big brands if you think that hiking is for you.
Save and invest
If you have been eyeing an expensive item, you can save and invest in it and start the process again. Just make sure this item is worth it
You can also ask or request gift cards from loved ones, or ask them for hiking gifts for your birthday or holidays.
Hiking is a fun and simple activity that can be easily enjoyed by everyone. It allows you to enjoy nature and be physically active at the same time. Because of the benefits of the activity, more and more people are getting into hiking.
As a beginner, there are quite a few things that you need to know and prepare. You need to know about proper hiking etiquette, you need to know about your own limits, and you need to get your own hiking gear. It can be too much for a beginner but if you follow our advice and take things one step at a time, you’ll be soon enjoying a hike in an amazing location and making memories that you’ll cherish forever.