Top Hiking Tips for Beginning Hikers

Hiking is more than just a fun pastime—it is also a great way to relax, lose weight, and tone up. If you are just starting and ready to take off on your first hike, here are some do’s and don’ts to help you make the most of your first journey.

1.Don’t pack more than you can carry. One of the more common mistakes beginner hikers make is bringing tons of extras along, including electronic devices, lots of food, and entertainment items. Having a camera with you is fine, but leave the CD player, books, and make-up kit behind. If you are going to carry extras of anything, make it bottles of water or energy bars.

2.Don’t underestimate the power of nature. Storms can be dangerous if you are caught in the middle of nowhere without adequate clothing and shelter. Lightning can be especially dangerous in a forest, so always look around for a cave or flat terrain where you can seek refuge in case of an electric storm. Don’t cross rivers if you don’t know how deep they are or if the current seems strong. Be aware of high winds and of whether or not they can carry things around.

3.Do buy hiking shoes. Sneakers, boots, or sandals are just not sufficient for hiking. You need sturdy footwear that will protect your feet as well as your ankles. Hiking shoes usually need to be bought in a size larger than you usually wear, as they don’t stretch and conform to your feet like other footwear. Wearing thick cotton socks is also important to prevent friction and to facilitate the absorption of moisture.

4.Do know what you’re doing. Hike in groups, preferably with others who have experience walking the area (or at least experience with hikes in general). Make sure you have trail maps and understand the signs and markers (which color represents which level of difficulty, for example). Never hike alone, no matter how easy the trail seems to be.

5.Don’t rely on your cell phone for emergency help. It is very possible that it won’t work once you hit backcountry roads. Even if it does, you may have a hard time explaining to somebody exactly where you are. Instead, learn your way around and carry maps and a guidebook so you can rely on yourself.

6.Do start with an easy hike. When it comes to hiking, “easy” can mean many things: hiking a short trail, taking on a flat route rather than a hilly one, or choosing a course that contains no obstacles, such as river crossings or unkempt roads. As you build up your fitness level and learn more about the sport, you can keep increasing the difficulty of the hike.

7.Do bring some basic equipment along such as a first-aid kit, a Swiss army knife, and waterproof matches. They take up very little space and can make a world of difference during an emergency.