Hiking is one of my go-to activities because of its low-impact workout. Not only that, I get to experience nature and the spectacular scenic views. There’s so much to do in this activity, but it doesn’t need to be overwhelming, especially for someone who’s just starting out hiking.
To start hiking, you only need to like water, comfortable clothing, and shoes. Bringing these items alone is enough to start a great hike especially if you’re aiming for shorter hikes. However, for longer hikes, you will need more items.
With these items on hand, I feel that you can have a fun-filled hike especially if it’s your first time hiking. Although you might ask, other than the mentioned items, what are the other items needed to start hiking? I’m going to share and discuss some points on what is needed in hiking when you are about to start.
The Essential Items You Need To Hike
When I go on a short hike I usually only bring hiking shoes, a water bottle, and a hat. I find that I don’t need to pack everything because I usually don’t need them. If you’re just starting out you might find that having too much stuff might make your experience less enjoyable. I like to always keep it light and simple.
So if I was just starting out with hiking, I would start with level hiking trails that are easy to walk on and don’t take too much time. I think that an hour of hiking for a beginner would make a good experience. Maybe two hours with some breaks.
Starting Out With Longer Hikes
I have listed some of the essential items that many people bring on longer hikes. You can add these items depending on your needs or the situations you might be in (multi-day hike, day hike, weather condition, or others).
First Aid Kit – I always make sure that I have a first aid kit ready to pack. Although there’s a low risk to encounter any life-threatening scenarios, you can never be sure what goes around whenever you are hiking. When bringing a first aid kit, ensure it has the following items:
- Emergency whistle
- Medical Adhesive
- CPR Mouth Barrier
- 4×4 Gauze Pads
Hydration – Bring some water whenever you are going to hike. Try to avoid drinking from the rivers or any other water sources from the forest unless you boil it or you have some water filtration system because it’s dangerous which can be life-threatening. It’s a safe bet to bring some water with you.
Navigational Guide (Compass, Maps, Or A Charged GPS) – Sure, your mobile phone or a charged GPS can be quite handy, but you shouldn’t heavily rely on those devices especially if you are hiking in remote areas. I learned it the hard way that’s why I taught myself to use traditional compass and maps and I always bring them just in case.
Always Bring A Repair Kit, Pocket Knife, Or A Multi-tool – These items are super handy especially when I’m hiking in longer trails in which I’m obliged to set up a camp when it’s sundown. I usually bring a multi-tool and a repair kit for a quick fix and for cutting twigs.
Illumination — Flashlight, Head Lamp, or Lantern – You can disregard this if your day hike. But if you are planning to go for a few days’ hike, then I urge you to bring some light source. Also, I bring some extra packs of batteries in case of emergency.
Sun Protection – When hiking, it’s inevitable that you are going to bask under the sun which can cause sunburn. That’s why it’s important to bring some protection from the sun be it a shade, a hat, or sunscreen (that is SPF 15 or higher). In this case, I bring a hat, sunscreen, and shades.
A Comfy Backpack – I consider this essential and a very important item. After all, this is where you put the essential items. I recommend buying a good quality backpack which provides comfort not straining. It should be well-padded and has adjustable straps and hip belts. Never skimp on your backpack.
Insulation – Weather is always unpredictable even if you know that it’s going to be a sunny day on your hiking day. This is why I make it a habit to bring some additional extra insulation. Even simple quick-dry clothing and layering are enough when the temperature drops. Rain protection and a down hooded jacket will get you covered in your hiking trips.
Tent and Sleeping Bag – Another optional item for a day hiker. But if you are like me who often go on a multi-day hiking trip, bringing a sleeping bag and a tent is a must. Although for a day hiker, you can still bring some emergency shelter. But I suggest that it should be lightweight. Emergency bivys and blankets are great options for day hikes.
Trash Bag – If you are about to start your hike, make a habit to bring a trash bag. I never forget to bring a trash bag and always observe a “leave no trace” policy. Thankfully I learned this from the moment I start to hike. Pick up your trash and dispose of your trash properly. Don’t forget to bring a trash bag with you. Always.
Nutritious Snacks – Food should always be on your list of essential items regardless if it’s a strenuous or easy hike. Snacks are important in restoring your energy. Remember, no junk foods. Better to bring healthy snacks such as granola bars, cereal, trail mix, dried, to name a few.
Hiking Pole – Lastly, bring a hiking pole especially if you are planning to hike a long distance. Never underestimate the terrain and paths you are taking when going to hike. Because of the uneven surface, varied terrain, and steep uphill and downhill, there’s a large chance that you may go off balance. This is an extremely useful item, especially for beginners.
You can also check REI’s checklist for more.
Things You Need To Know Before You Start Your First Hiking
Every beginner hiker is under the impression that hiking can be intimidating and overwhelming. Even I thought of that, but I was wrong. As long as you are well prepared and carefully planned your hiking trip, except that it will going to be fun and exciting.
So, for you to make your hiking fun and exciting, I have listed some important tips when you are about to start your first hiking experience. Check them out below.
Always Keep It Simple When Hiking
Maybe you see some cool videos about hiking in extreme conditions with challenging terrain like the Appalachian trails, and you notice they are equipped with complete gears. This is among the reason why people think hiking is intimidating and a bit overwhelming while actually it’s not.
Basically, you just need to keep it simple. You begin by running a marathon, you start running from 1k to 5k up until you can do a half marathon than a marathon. It’s the same thing with hiking. You don’t need to start hiking in the Appalachian trails or Kalalau Trail. You start hiking in a state park trail near you where it’s always a good start to hike.
Also, I think it’s not necessarily needed to buy high-quality gear particularly when you are starting. Maybe you will need it later or if you are going to make a career out of hiking. Although, I usually go with simple gear like a good pair of shoes and comfortable hiking clothing. Your goal is to get used to hiking and establish it at a baby-step pace.
Track Your Progress And Know Your Walkability
How well do you know your walkability? The best way to know this is by tracking your progress and knowing your walkability by a simple calculation. With this, you are able to know how far you can go.
If you don’t want to trouble yourself with calculating your walkability, there’s another simpler method which you can try which is having a hiking app or a tracker app like Strava or AllTrails. This way, you can map your ability. In this case, I opt to download the tracker and hiking app because I’m able to evaluate my hiking skills.
It’s Okay To Use Hiking Apps In Your Hiking
Some hikers will say that using hiking apps is like cheating. You should just ignore them. Gone are the days where we heavily rely on using traditional navigational guides such as a map and a compass.
Although it’s much better if you know how to use both traditional and high-tech guides, the important thing is that you won’t get lost and you stay on track. Sometimes I buy some maps to the local state park because most often they are more detailed than the apps.
I love to use hiking apps because not only I can stay on the right path, I’m also able to track my progress which is very helpful and important. I get to know my hiking ability and where to improve. I can also research effortlessly with hiking apps.
Find A Friend To Hike With
It goes with a saying that “no man is an island”. Sure, you can go on a hike in solitude on rare occasions, but there’s so much fun and memorable experience when you have a hiking buddy or are involved in a community with like-minded people. Much better if both of you will progress as you decide to go on a hike on a regular basis and share the success and conquered milestones.
Not only that, it’s important to have a hiking buddy or go on a group especially if the place you are hiking seems unfamiliar to you. Better be safe than sorry as well as the chances of having accidents are low.
If you don’t know anyone that hikes, that’s okay. There are tons of hiking communities on social media platforms. The best way to start is to narrow down your search and find a community within your area.
Hiking Gear You Might Consider If Hiking Regularly
As I previously said earlier, you don’t need high-quality gear when starting out hiking. Yes, high-quality hiking gears are a great investment if you are going to hike frequently and make it a career. You don’t want to break the bank by buying new gear.
You don’t want to end up buying the wrong gear and you don’t want to buy expensive gear wherein later on it will just end up on the storage box. What you only need is hiking gear for beginners. As a matter of fact, you can probably hike with things you already have.
Let’s start with shoes. Shoes are crucial in hiking activities. Good quality and comfortable pair of trail runners or sneakers will be your safest bet. You may not want to use stiff hiking shoes when first starting out. They can cause you blisters and may hinder you.
Clothing is also important. Most beginners will go for wearing regular clothes or even jeans which is a big no-no. These clothes are chafe and get heavy when you get wet or sweaty. Just wear a dry-fit or any wicking sports clothes which are specifically designed for strenuous activities. Tights or long pants for hiking will do but make sure you are comfortable with it.
If you want to know more about hiking gear, I recommend reading these articles:
- Breathable Hiking Shoes [Which Shoes Breathe Well?]
- Hiking Pants vs Leggings [Does It Matter What I Wear?]
Research And Planning Are Always The Key To A Good Hike
Hiking is not a spontaneous trip where you can just pick any random location and will immediately go for it. While it’s not bad for a bit of spontaneity, I prefer to hike smart. This activity involves careful research and planning before you venture into it.
It’s amazing how the web is full of hiking resources that you can use as research and determining the weather and terrain condition of your preferred hiking spot. This will get you some idea about the hiking location.
Additionally, as you plan your great hiking trip, make sure you time it right. Check when is the most crowded and least crowded time. I strongly suggest that you hike early as possible. Later on, as you leave, that’s the time where it’s getting crowded. Also, always check the park website for more information and details.
Other important details you need to consider when planning and researching are:
- Get some weather updates
- Examine the trail location
- Familiarize with the trail
Is Hiking Really Fun?
It’s amazing how people’s interest in hiking grew drastically over the years, especially in today’s situation where people just stayed indoors. As the restrictions slowly ease, more and more people are seeking outdoor activities such as camping, trails, and hiking.
Given that these activities are ideal because it’s done outdoors and you can safely practice social distancing. If you are among the people who find hiking an interesting activity to try, I think that hiking should be experienced by everyone.
Hiking greatly benefits both physical and mental health (americanhiking.org). This activity is a great stress reliever from work, problems, and pressures in life. Hiking is also a great way to reduce any osteoporosis and other health-related issues. I believe this is among the reasons why I do love hiking.
Hiking has always been so much fun for me. Even with just a comfortable pair of shoes, clothing, and some essential item, you are good to go.
It’s not an overwhelming nor intimidating activity especially if you are well prepared and know some tips just like some tips I provided.
Also, when you are just starting to hike; you don’t need to force yourself to hike on hard trails, just go for baby steps and then slow make a progress with your hiking ability. I hope you find this article extremely useful. So, good luck on your first hiking trip.
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