If you’ve decided that you would like to take up hiking, you will no doubt be excited to get out there and immerse yourself in everything the great outdoors has to offer. There are so many destinations to choose from and so much to learn along the way. However, if this is your first big hike, there are a few key things you need to know.
It can be easy to get swept up in the excitement of all the adventures that await, but it is extremely important to be aware of your limits and not overestimate what you are capable of. Rather than choose the most popular or the longest trail, it would be best to start small on a trail with not too many challenges. Narrow your choices down to a few National Parks and then call ahead at the ranger’s office to see which trails they would recommend for beginners. You can also ask them any questions you may have about the trail. Make sure you feel comfortable with the route before you set off.
Pack the Right Supplies
First things first, you are going to need the right hiking equipment before you head out anywhere. You will need weather appropriate clothing, preferably made from moisture-wicking materials, and don’t skimp on hiking shoes. A good pair of hiking boots will provide support and comfort, and choosing the right pair can really make a difference to your hiking experience. Look for something lightweight, waterproof, and breathable. Additional items include a good supply of drinking water, a map and compass (and the ability to use them) a first aid kit, extra socks, insect repellant, a watch, and a whistle.
Don’t Go Alone
It is always a good idea to take a hiking buddy with you if this is your first time. Going it alone when you have never been hiking before is a recipe for disaster. Before you leave, write down the details of where you are going, how long you expect the hike to take, and when you will be heading home, and then give the details to someone responsible. Be careful not to underestimate the hike time, as you don’t want to unnecessarily panic anyone. Plan for hiccups such as traffic delays and your phone battery dying.
Know Hiking Etiquette
It is also important that you respect the natural environment you are in by leaving no trace of where you have been. There are a few simple rules that you will need to abide by in order to show respect to nature and fellow hikers. This includes hiking in small groups so as to minimize impact, taking all trash home with you, staying on the designated trails, and keeping noise to a minimum. There are a few unwritten rules that you will learn along the way too, such as giving way to hikers coming uphill if you are headed downhill, stopping to let horses on the trail pass, and keeping any water sources clean. If you have cooking supplies, make sure to wash your dishes at least 200 feet from lakes or streams, and only use biodegradable soap if you need to.
Sign Up to a Hiking Club
Last of all, if you want to meet likeminded people and get to know the best trails, you might want to consider signing up to a hiking club. When you mix with those who have much more experience in hiking than yourself, you will learn things that will help you along the way. Ask at your local state or national park if they know of any clubs or groups.
So, now all there is left to do it get packing and get going! Happy hiking!