Hiking is a fantastic form of exercise! It’s just as good for your soul as it is for your body. Research has shown that being outside for even short periods of time can help you in meaningful ways. It can put you in a better mood, help you think clearly, and give you an energy boost! Best of all, there’s a pretty low barrier to entry compared to other sports. You simply need to throw on a pair of good shoes and throw some water and snacks into your backpack! For good measure, check out our hiking guide, and you’ll be ready to go.
Hiking Your Way Around the Globe With Let’s Roam
We never miss the opportunity to hit some of the world’s best hiking trails. In fact, we’d love you to come along with us on our next adventure! So we’ve created a wide range of hiking guides to prepare you. Head over to the Let’s Roam Explorer blog for more info on hiking trails. If you want to make the hike really special, bring along an Adventures From Scratch travel journal or scratch-off book! These are expertly designed to help you learn more about your hiking buddies and yourself. They’re a great addition to any hiking trip!
How to Get Started Hiking as a Beginner
Below, you’ll find our guide to getting started with hiking. We’ve covered everything from preparing for the hike to cooling down afterward. We want to make sure you have the best hiking experience possible!
Disclaimer: This guide is being written by a somewhat avid hiker. I’ll go through long periods of time when I don’t really hike at all and then will suddenly try and get a ton of long trails under my belt in a short period of time. I’m a full-time traveler, so I’m usually hiking in different places all over the world. This means that every time I start hiking again after a long break, it’s almost like starting all over again. These are the hiking tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way—you should be able to begin your hiking journey anywhere!
Preparing for the Hike
As our teachers always told us, proper prior preparation prevents poor performance. This is certainly the case when it comes to hiking. Not being adequately prepared for a hike can have a major impact on your overall experience.
Don’t go chasing waterfalls.
Choose the right trail for your skill and experience level. This is extremely important. If you’re going on your first hike, make sure it’s an easy hike. If you’re normally very active, you may want to jump into some hard hikes early on. But keep in mind that hiking uses very different muscles than running or biking. It can be especially tricky if you’re hoping to hike somewhere high altitude. That means you have to battle with low oxygen levels on top of the physical activity.
Pushing yourself is fine, but try not to overdo it at first. Choose trails that are appropriate for your fitness level. Always remember that the hike may end up feeling harder than you expected simply due to how your body is feeling that day. If you’re tired or had a hard workout the day before, even the easiest of hiking trails can make you feel like you’re climbing Mount Everest!
Research the hike on AllTrails.
When you think you’ve found a trail that is low-key enough for newbies, research the trail on the AllTrails app or website. This is basically the TripAdvisor of hiking. It can help you find the best hiking trails in your area. You can read recent reviews left by fellow hikers and also see the length, feet of elevation gain, and route type (round trip or point-to-point).
They list hiking trails all around the world. So regardless of whether you’re hiking the Quilotoa Loop in Ecuador or exploring the red rocks of Sedona, you should be able to find tons of great up-to-date info there! Unfortunately, AllTrails doesn’t go as in-depth as a trail guide. So if at any point in the future you plan on tackling some of America’s epic multi-day trails like the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail, you may want to invest in actual guidebooks.
If you don’t already have it on your phone, this is also the time to download Maps.me. This app allows you to view maps offline, which is perfect for navigating in areas where there is no cell phone coverage. Often, the app will show you hiking trails that aren’t visible on Google.
Expert tip: I recently completed the Quilotoa Loop in Ecuador. Although the hostels located along the route gave out maps of the trail and there were signs along the way, they were a little outdated due to landslides. As a result, most hikers relied on Maps.me to be able to finish the hike without being led too far astray!
Check and re-check the weather forecast.
As you get closer and closer to the big day, check and re-check the weather forecast for the area you’re hiking in. Keep in mind that if you’re going to be hiking at a high altitude, the weather can change quickly and be colder or hotter than you expected.
If you’re hiking in a national park or a state park, there is often a visitor’s center where you can ask about the weather, closed trails, and other challenges you should look out for. This will generally give you the most up-to-date information and help you stay safe out on the trail!
Having the Right Hiking Gear
The right hiking gear can make a major impact on your overall hiking experience. Think of it this way: You would be much happier walking around your hometown with an umbrella than being without one when it starts to rain. Having the right gear with you when you’re hiking is no different. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy a ton of high-end equipment. However, having a few basic things, like rain jackets, hiking shoes, and hiking poles, can be a lifesaver when you’re out on the trail!
Expert tip: While there are a few things you can skimp on, there are others you really want to invest in. Rather than ordering things online, we suggest going into outdoor stores and talking to salespeople to get their recommendations on specific products. It may cost you a little bit more money than ordering it online. But believe me—it can save you a lot of time and aggravation in the future.
This is the most important thing you should invest in when hiking. They don’t have to be top-of-the-line hiking boots. You can usually wear good-quality trail runners! But they must be comfortable, well-made, and somewhat water resistant. They should also be able to provide traction on a variety of different surfaces.
If you don’t wear good shoes, there is a strong chance you’ll get blisters. These will get bigger and more painful when you walk, which can eventually make you give up and go home. If the shoes don’t give you the proper support, they can also impact the way you walk, which can cause a lot of problems in the long run.
Expert tip: If I’m traveling to a trailhead via public transport, I also like to carry a pair of flip-flops or sandals with me. That way, I can change my shoes when I finish the hike. This can actually save me from walking another mile in my shoes and gives any tender spots on my feet some much-needed rest.
When you’re hiking, it’s always a good idea to have lots of layers with you that you can put on and take off as the weather changes. Your layers should be sweat-wicking and lightweight. Ideally, they will also be quick-dry so that you aren’t stuck putting on and taking off sweaty clothes all day.
I normally wear a tank top and a T-shirt on top of it when I start the hike. I’ll also have a jacket in my backpack in case it starts to get cold or rainy. I usually wear shorts but will also wear leggings if it’s a bit chilly! Many hikers wear hiking pants and long sleeve shirts even in hot weather. This not only protects you from the sun, but it can also help ward off pesky insects and plant-induced scratches.
The other important thing to consider is the type of socks you wear. Normal athlete socks are usually okay if you’re only hiking for a couple of hours. But if you’re going to be hiking for the full day, you should really wear higher-quality socks. Merino wool and double-layer socks are the usual go-to’s for frequent hikers. So give these a try first to figure out which ones work best for you.
If you’re hiking for any period of time, you’ll need to get a backpack. The size depends on how much time you’ll be hiking. If you’re only going for day hikes in the beginning, you can probably get away with just having a day pack. However, if you’re going on longer hikes and need to carry camping equipment, such as a tent or sleeping bag, you will likely need something bigger.
Larger backpacks are normally based on torso size or height and can feel very different once you put weight in them. Rather than simply ordering a cheap backpack from Amazon, we recommend going to your local camping or sports store like REI and checking out the different backpacks they have available. Try on a few different ones with weight in them, and walk around the store for at least ten minutes. Pay attention to any parts of the pack that are rubbing on your shoulders, back, or hips.
Trying on a weighted backpack in the store will also allow you to see where the weight of the pack is sitting. Ideally, a backpack sits on your hips so that they absorb the bulk of the weight rather than your back. If you’re unsure about how it’s sitting, ask one of the customer service staff. They will usually help fit it for you and give you tips on how to wear it correctly when you’re hiking.
Most hikers usually choose to carry the smallest bag possible while hiking and are very concerned about keeping the amount of stuff they carry to a minimum. While packing an extra pair of shorts or some deodorant may not seem like a huge deal when you’re sitting at home, that weight begins to add up very quickly, especially when you’re attempting to climb a steep slope. Get into the habit early on of taking just the essentials with you. It will make hiking much more enjoyable.
Once you’ve been hiking for a while, your backpack may start to get a bit smelly and grotty. An easy way to handle that is simply by giving it a bath! I like to throw my backpack into a bathtub or shower every once in a while to get it feeling a bit cleaner. Remember: The shoulder straps can get especially stinky, and those parts of the bag are closest to your face!
If you have any trouble with your knees or have a problem with balance, trekking poles should be an absolute necessity. For other hikers, they are optional. However, keep in mind that they can give you a lot of support, especially when you’re going downhill or carrying a heavy backpack. Normally used as a pair, trekking poles are generally very lightweight and collapsible, which also makes them ideal for traveling. Some trekking poles also have internal springs that help absorb shock.
If you’ve never bought trekking poles before, keep in mind that your arm should be bent at a 90-degree angle when the pole tips are on the ground. Double-check how easy they are to adjust and how secure they feel when they are locked in place. If you’re over 6’0 tall, you should aim to buy trekking poles that are at least 51 inches tall. Many trekking poles are adjustable, so if you’re shorter than 6’0, you should be able to easily buy standard-sized poles and adjust them accordingly.
If you think you may be hiking in the evening, it is also a very good idea to have a headlamp. While the flashlight on your phone can work in an emergency, headlamps allow you to keep your hands free. This is necessary if you plan on walking with hiking poles or if you’re hiking on uneven surfaces where you need a little extra stability.
Another great thing to have is a bladder bag. These are pouches you can fill with water and have in your backpack. There is a long tube with a mouthpiece that goes over your shoulder. They make it really easy to drink while you’re hiking, which ensures you stay hydrated throughout the hike. If you’re worried about sweating a lot, you can even throw in a packet of rehydration salts to replenish the minerals you’re losing.
Bladder bags also help balance the water weight in your bag so it doesn’t pull your backpack from one side to another. Trust me—not only is it annoying to hear water sloshing around in your bag, but it can really start to hurt your back after a while!
The last thing you will likely want to bring with you is a power bank. While you should always have a fully charged cell phone with you when you start your hike, the battery on some phones doesn’t last for the whole day. Having a power bank allows you to keep your phone charged so that you can use it for navigation, as a flashlight, and to take photos!
Finding Some Hiking Buddies
If you’re a beginner hiker (or even if you’re an experienced one!), it’s always better to hike with at least one other person. This means there is someone to help you in case you run into trouble.
It’s important to pick the right hiking buddies. Ideally, you will have people that go at roughly your same speed so that you aren’t having to sit and wait for one another. You don’t have to be best friends, but it should also be someone who you can have a conversation with as this can really help the miles go by faster when you’re out on the trail or driving to a trailhead.
Join a hiking group.
If you can’t find anyone to hike with, you may want to consider joining a hiking group. Facebook and MeetUp are good places to start looking for groups. Many of these groups will frequently list group and guided hikes for people of all skill levels. As an added bonus, this is perfect for anyone looking to make friends with like-minded people who want to get closer to nature and get fit at the same time.
Hiking in big groups isn’t usually everyone’s idea of getting out into the wilderness. However, this is a great option for people who really want to get into hiking but aren’t quite sure where to even start. It gives you the opportunity to get to know the different hiking trails nearby. Once you get comfortable hiking and know how to prepare for a hike, you can branch off and do your own thing.
Hire a hiking guide.
If you aren’t able to find someone to hike with, you may also want to consider hiring a hiking guide. While this may mean dishing out some extra money, guided hikes are a wonderful way to learn more about an area and are usually worth the money. A good hiking guide can teach you about the flora and fauna of an area, help you watch out for obstacles, and help you in case of an emergency.
Expert tip: I have had good luck finding hiking guides on Airbnb Experiences. They are generally less expensive than going with a guide you hire on the spot. Plus, you can read reviews about their hiking trips to make sure they welcome beginners on their hikes.
Expert tip #2: Also, check to see if it is required to have a guide to hike a particular trail. This is often the case if you’re hiking through dangerous places or in areas that are sacred to a particular group of people. You find this a lot all over the world. This can be a pain if you prefer to hike on your own. But just remember that you are helping local people earn a living.
Tackling the Trail
Now that you’re all prepared for your first hike, let’s talk about some of the things you should do when you’re hiking. This includes hiking safety tips and trail etiquette recommendations.
Check your GPS frequently.
When you go out hiking, it is usually a good idea to check your location via GPS frequently. This ensures you stay on the correct trail and helps decrease your chances of getting lost.
Apply sunscreen liberally.
Apply sunscreen often, even on cloudy days. The sun can be surprisingly strong when you’re out on the trail, especially when you’re at high elevations. Try to apply it at least 20 minutes before you go on the hike. Once you start sweating, the sunscreen doesn’t last as long. Make sure to reapply every two hours after that to make sure you’re fully protected.
Don’t forget to put sunscreen on your ears, neck, and chest. These areas seem to be particularly vulnerable when you’re out hiking. If you don’t love the idea of coating yourself with sunscreen all day, make sure you have another form of sun protection.
Take plenty of photos.
As you’re hiking, you’re likely to encounter sweeping vistas, interesting plants and wildflowers, and unique animals. Keep your camera out and ready, and don’t forget to take plenty of photos. As crazy as it sounds, there may be points during the hike when you’re tired or your feet hurt. You might forget to look up and enjoy the beauty all around you. Once you get home and start going through the photos, it will give you the time to reflect on all the breathtaking sights you saw and how much you accomplished!
Give yourself time to enjoy the experience.
It’s easy to start feeling like you need to rush from place to place. While this may be the case if you’re trying to beat nightfall, it’s important for you to actually take the time to enjoy the experience. This is what will keep you coming back for more.
Follow the principles of Leave no Trace.
As a hiker and a conscientious human being, you have the responsibility to leave the trail or campground the same or better than you found it. This means packing out everything that you brought in with you, including garbage and used toilet paper. Try to always carry an empty plastic bag with you that you can put garbage or wet clothes in. This will keep your backpack nice and clean.
Carry a first aid kit with you.
It is important to always carry a basic first aid kit with you. This doesn’t mean you must rush to the store and buy a ready-made first aid kit. However, you should have a few basic things in your backpack that will come in handy. Things like Band-Aids, medical tape, gauze, hand sanitizer, and alcohol pads can be very useful in a variety of situations. If you feel a blister starting to form, try to cover it ASAP. Medical tape and a bit of gauze can help protect it so it doesn’t get any worse throughout the hike.
Follow trail etiquette.
Like with all sports, there are certain “unwritten rules” you should follow to make sure you’re showing good trail etiquette. Some of these rules include staying on the path unless yielding to other hikers, always hiking single file, and allowing faster hikers to go ahead of you, etc. In general, you should always be respectful of the land and of other hikers.
After the Hike
The fun isn’t over when you step off the trail! There are a few more things you need to do to ensure you have a great hiking experience.
Don’t forget to stretch.
When you’ve finally finished a hike, you may be eager to sit down for a while. However, it’s really important that you stretch out and cool down just like you would with any other workout. As mentioned earlier, hiking uses very different muscles than normal walking or running. If you don’t stretch out after a hike, you may wake up the next morning to find parts of your body you never even knew you had aching!
Once you’ve finished stretching out and are starting to cool down, give yourself a huge pat on the back. You just did something awesome! Hiking is great for both your physical and mental well-being. And you just made the first step (literally!) towards a stronger and healthier you.
So, Are You Ready to Roam?
We hope this beginner’s hiking guide has left you inspired to lace up your hiking shoes and hit the trails! It may seem like there’s a lot of preparation to do. But don’t skip out on the research! And definitely buy any essentials you might need. Your body will thank you! And while we want you to embrace your adventurous spirit, we also want you to be safe while you do it.
If you’re setting out on your first hike, good luck! We’re sure you’ll love it as much as we do. This is just the beginning of a future filled with plenty of hiking, camping, backpacking, and other outdoor adventures.
If you want to read more great hiking or backpacking tips, make sure to head over to the Let’s Roam Explorer blog. Here, you’ll find hundreds of camping guides, must-see lists, and travel articles. You can also download the Let’s Roam app. This gives you access to a never-ending list of location-based scavenger hunts. These are a great way to learn more about the small towns and big cities surrounding some of the world’s best hiking trails.
Frequently Asked Questions
When someone is just beginning to hike, it is important that they bring proper hiking shoes, plenty of water, a headlamp, extra layers of clothing, and a backpack to carry everything in.
The most important things to bring when hiking are plenty of water, comfortable hiking shoes, trekking poles, and a jacket. Check out this beginner’s guide to hiking for a comprehensive list of hiking gear.
If you are a beginner hiker, the most important things to remember are that you hike trails that are appropriate for your fitness level, bring plenty of water with you, and take your time and enjoy it!
One of the best ways for beginner hikers to start hiking as a hobby is to put on a pair of good hiking shoes and go for it! Start on easy trails, and slowly work your way up to some of the longer trails.
The biggest reasons people begin hiking are to enjoy nature, increase their physical fitness, and destress. Hiking is great for both your physical and mental health and can have positive impacts long-term.