Hiking is fun, free and has a multitude of benefits; from improving fitness levels to releasing endorphins and reducing stress. It gives us a much-needed hit of green space, allows us to experience natural beauty and fills our lungs with fresh air. What isn’t there to love?
I thoroughly enjoy sharing my hiking adventures across social media and by far the most frequently asked question I get in response to this content is “how do I get started hiking?”. I totally understand that if you haven’t been born and raised in a family of hikers that it can seem a little intimidating. However, I promise that it is an activity for anyone and everyone. Hopefully this beginner’s guide to hiking gives you the confidence boost you need to lace up your boots and get outdoors!
How To Find Hiking Trails:
There are so many amazing resources for hikes, here are a few of my favourite ways to find trails near me:
- Google. The internet is, of course, an incredible resource when planning trails. I like to look at local tourism board websites, local hiking websites and even hiking blogs for recommendations.
- Apps. I love the app AllTrails and am a paying subscriber. You can find trails near you and save them to be offline, so you can access the route even if you lose phone signal.
- Hiking Trail Books & Maps. I like to use these in combination, using the guidebook to find a route and then cross-referencing with a map to see the terrain and get a better idea of the trail.
- Local Tourism Information Centres. If you’re in a foreign country and are struggling to find trails online, I always recommend hitting up a tourist information centre. Simply ask them for a hiking trail map and to show you some recommended routes.
Choose Your Hike:
When looking at a hike it is essential that you choose one which is appropriate to your ability. Don’t go throwing yourself into “difficult” trails if you’ve never hiked before or don’t have a strong base level of fitness – it just won’t be enjoyable. Instead, look at these key variables:
- Difficulty (some hikes will be classified by difficulty, especially online. This isn’t usually written in guidebooks.).
- Time Of Year
Then based on these, make a choice on the trail you want to take depending on the time you have available. As a general rule you usually walk at around 2 miles per hour (without inclines) so a 6 mile hike on flat land would take around 3 hours.
Get The Right Kit:
Hiking is much more enjoyable when you have the right kit. The most important elements are:
- Waterproofs. Jackets, trousers, shoes and a backpack cover. I recommend looking for kit which is made from Gore-Tex – the best waterproof but breathable fabric on the market.
- Layers. Always bring multiple layers for both your upper and lower body, the weather is unpredictable.
- Footwear. Comfortable and broken in footwear. I personally wear specialist hiking trainers for short and simple routes and chunkier hiking boots for longer distance or more challenging trails.
- A backpack. For a day hike around 20-25 litres should be enough storage. Make sure you get one with comfortable straps and a breathable back.
Pack The Essentials:
For a day hike I would always recommend carrying:
- Water (roughly one litre for every 2 hours).
- Suncream & sunglasses.
- A first aid kit.
- A mobile phone (& a portable charger).
- Snacks (more than you think).
- Navigation tools (not just a GPS enabled phone but some options for if your phone dies i.e. a map and a compass).
- A headlamp/small torch.
- Your clothing layers, waterproofs and appropriate kit for the weather.
What To Do Before You Hike:
- Find a friend to hike with, especially if you’re a novice. This is for safety reasons, but also because it’s such a pleasure to share the great outdoors with someone.
- Fuel up. Hiking can be hard work so ensure you have eaten a good solid meal before you hit the trail.
- Double-check the weather and that the kit you’re bringing is appropriate.
- Go over the route and make sure you have it saved offline, as you may well lose phone signal.
- Tell someone where you are going and how long you will be, for safety.
Basic Hiking Etiquette:
When you’re on the trail, here is some basic hiking guidance to bear in mind:
- If it’s narrow trail, those hiking uphill have the right of way.
- In general right of way goes horses, hikers then bikers.
- Don’t play music out-loud, use headphones.
- Similarly, no shouting or excessive noise out in nature.
- Stay on the trail, don’t contribute to erosion of natural habitats.
- When peeing outdoors, do it away from the trail and 200ft minimum from any water sources.
- Leave no trace.
- Don’t disrupt wildlife and don’t feed wild animals.
All in all…
Just get outdoors! This might sound like a lot to consider but honestly, once you have a couple of hikes under your belt it will all become second nature. Hiking is an amazing way to explore, get out in nature and move your body – just give it a go and you’ll never look back.