First Time Hiking? 14 Hiking Tips for Beginners

Beginner Hiking Tips

There can’t be any serious disagreement. Frodo’s trek across Middle Earth is the greatest hike in all recorded hiking history. And that monumental journey is even more amazing when you realize it was accomplished without benefit of our hiking tips for beginners.

1.  Don’t hike alone (unless you actually need solitude)

Coping with ticks and sunburn doesn’t require companions with Fellowship of the Ring capabilities, but there are good reasons to avoid hiking alone.  It’s nice to have companionship, especially when facing unexpected or risky circumstances. If you’re injured, a hiking buddy can be a literal lifesaver.

If none of your friends are hikers, find and join a hiking group. It’s a great way to meet new people, with at least one similar interest.

2.  Wear the right hiking footwear

Frodo was naturally well-equipped with hobbit feet, which are huge, hairy, and have soles thicker and tougher than the most durable boot leather. If you are not similarly equipped, you need to obtain some hiking footwear.

Unless your hiking path is short, flat, and smooth, sneakers are not going to cut it. Many lightweight yet sturdy hiking shoes are available. Choose waterproof hiking shoes and break them in around the neighborhood before your first hike.

Here’s a good hiking shoe for women from Hoka that can accommodate orthotics. And another one from Altra. For men, here’s a good Hoka hiking shoe and one from Altra.

Be sure to wear socks made of synthetic fabric or wool. Never wear cotton socks on a hike, unless you’re hopelessly masochistic.

3. Wear the right hiking clothes

Layer up.

If you’re going to hike in cool weather, start with a base layer made of wool or polyester.  Next, T-shirts and pants of polyester or wool are appropriate layers for hiking in cool or cold areas.  A final insulation layer can be provided by a vest, a jacket, or a lightweight fleece pullover.

Whatever the weather may be, do not forget to bring a hat, and consider gloves.

4.  Pick your places to hike and learn all about them

Websites detailing places to hike are rife on the Internet. The websites of most park systems describe their trails and rate them by level of difficulty.

Use these resources to plan a hike that matches your current ability. Begin with shorter and easier trails until you’ve ramped up your abilities to tackle the tougher treks.

You’ll also want to learn about poisonous plants in the area, animals that might pose a threat, and trail closures for maintenance or weather.

When estimating the time of your hike, use a rate of about 2.5 mph. Add an hour for each 1,000 feet of elevation change.

If you’re going on a full day hike, pick a good spot for lunch, like a lake, or a peak with a view.

If you’re not going to be using a loop or a back-and-forth trail, you’ll need to figure out how to get back to your car.

5. Check the weather forecast

You don’t want to be surprised by storms, so get updated on the current and predicted conditions a couple of hours before your hike begins.

6. Tell a trusted friend all about your hike, in writing

Whether your hike is going to be long or short, easy or tough, leave a written summary of it with someone who’s not going with you. Include details of:

  • The trails or route you plan to take
  • Where you parked your car
  • When you expect to return, and
  • Who to call if you’re significantly late

7. Take along orientation gear, and know how to use it

Buy a compass and learn how it works. Even more important, get a topographic map of your hike area, and learn to interpret it.

8. Get the right backpack

For a short hike in pleasant weather, on a trail that is close to home, a daypack with a capacity of 15-20 liters should suffice. For longer day hikes, use a 30 liter backpack.

9. Hiking essentials: food and water

Beginner Hiking Tips

For a moderate hike in moderate weather, figure on a food intake of 200-300 calories per hour, and water requirements of about a half liter per hour.

These estimates will vary, of course, depending on your height, weight, age, and perspiration rate. As you get more experienced, you’ll develop a better sense of your actual needs. It’s always a good idea to overestimate a little on water.

If you think that you’ll need more than 3 liters of water, you might consider learning how to purify/filter water that’s available along your hiking trail.

10. Bring the right types of food 

  • Trail mix
  • Nuts, seeds, energy bars, or nut butter packs
  • Dried fruits and vegetables
  • Granola or granola bars
  • Jerkies, such as chicken, turkey, salmon, or beef

11. More hiking essentials for your backpack

  • Compass
  • Topographical trail map
  • Cell phone – keep it handy for all those great pictures
  • First-aid kit
  • Fire-starter
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Lightweight and waterproof poncho
  • Insect repellent
  • Toilet paper
  • Flashlight or LED headlamp

12. Prepare for insects

You’re unlikely to encounter the Great Spider Shelob, or any of her ghastly brood, but get ready for ticks, mosquitoes, Lesser Spiders, and bees. See how here.

13.  Get ready to go radio silent

Cell coverage is the exception, rather than the rule, even on many popular trails. If you’re heading into the backcountry, you might consider a personal locator beacon or a satellite messenger. If coverage is available, think about taking along a portable charger.

14. Waste management

Tolkien is no help at all here. Use your knife, a stick, or that small trowel that you were thoughtful enough to bring along, to dig a 6- to 8-inch hole. Make sure it’s at least 200 feet away from the trail or any campsites. Afterwards, refill the hole and tamp the dirt down. Used toilet paper should be closed up tight in a baggie and taken out with you.

Happy trails from all the folks at UFAI!

Why choose University Foot and Ankle Institute for your foot and ankle care?

If you’re experiencing foot problems, we’re here to help. Our nationally recognized foot and ankle specialists offer the most advanced podiatric care and the highest success rates in the nation. We are leaders in the research and treatment of all foot and ankle conditions.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (877) 736-6001 or visit us here to make an appointment online.

Dr. Justin Franson, DPM

Dr. Justin Franson, DPM

After studying accounting and then leaning toward a physical therapy at Brigham Young University, Dr. Franson decided to pursue podiatry as his career. He then attended the School College of Podiatric Medicine in Chicago.

Upon graduation in 2001, Franson accepted a three-year residency program at the Greater Los Angeles VA and UCLA County Hospital.

Dr. Franson specializes in several areas including total ankle replacement and sports medicine.
Dr. Justin Franson, DPM

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