beginner hiking tips

7 Beginner Hiking Tips to Crush Trail Anxiety [2024 Guide]

The great outdoors is calling your name, but your anxiety got you stuck on the couch.

You’re itching to hit the trails, feel the crunch of leaves under your boots, and breathe in that crisp mountain air.

But let’s be real – the thought of getting lost, encountering wildlife, or looking like a total newbie has your stomach in knots. We’ve all been there, friend.

The good news? Here are 7 beginner hiking tips to help you enjoy hiking safely.

With a few simple tricks up your sleeve, you’ll be crushing those trails (and your anxiety) in no time.

Ready to take that first step towards becoming a trail-blazing superstar? Let’s dive in and kick those hiking jitters to the curb!

Tip 1: Choose Your Perfect Trail: Confidence Starts Here

beginner hiking tips

Picking the perfect trail is like choosing your first dance partner – you want someone who won’t step on your toes or twirl you into a tizzy. For beginner hikers, this means finding a hiking trail that’s more of a gentle waltz than a breakneck tango.

Understanding trail difficulty ratings is your first step. Most trails are rated easy, moderate, or difficult. For your inaugural hike, stick to the easy ones. These are usually well-maintained paths with minimal elevation gain – perfect for building your trail legs without burning them out.

Use an app or website to choose a hike, picking three potential trails that catch your eye. AllTrails and Hiking Project are goldmines of information, offering detailed trail descriptions, user reviews, and difficulty ratings. It’s like having a seasoned hiker in your pocket!

Start with shorter, well-marked trails. A good rule of thumb? For your first few hikes, aim for trails under 5 miles round trip. It might not sound like much, but trust me, those miles feel a lot longer when you’re out in nature.

It’s a good idea to start with popular trails, too. They’re usually well-maintained and have plenty of other hikers around if you need a hand. Plus, you’ll get to see why they’re so loved!

Actionable step: How to research and select your first trail

  1. Pick three potential trails using an app or website.
  2. Check the length, elevation gain, and difficulty rating.
  3. Read recent reviews for current trail conditions.
  4. Choose the one that best matches your fitness level and comfort zone.

Remember, there’s no shame in starting small. Even seasoned hikers sometimes prefer a leisurely stroll to a gruelling summit push. The goal is to enjoy yourself and build confidence, not break records.

Tip 2: Gear Up Smart: Essential Kit Without Breaking the Bank

hiking tips for beginners

Let’s talk hiking gear for beginners. Don’t worry, you don’t need to raid REI and empty your wallet to hit the trails. Start with the Ten Essentials – a list that’s been keeping hikers safe since the 1930s.

The Ten Essentials include:

  1. Navigation (map and compass)
  2. Sun protection
  3. Insulation (extra clothing)
  4. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
  5. First-aid supplies
  6. Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
  7. Repair kit and tools
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. Emergency shelter

For clothing, focus on comfort and moisture-wicking fabrics. Cotton might be comfy for Netflix marathons, but on the trail, it’s a recipe for chafing and blisters. Opt for synthetic or wool blends that’ll keep you dry and comfy.

Now, let’s talk about those hiking boots. Your feet are your most important hiking tool, so treat them right. A good pair of hiking boots or trail runners can make the difference between a blissful day hike and a blister-filled nightmare.

Look for something with good ankle support and a grippy sole. And please break them in before your big hike! How long you’ll need to break your boots in depends on the type of boots you have. It could take a couple of short, local walks, or more.

Actionable step: Checklist for budget-friendly beginner gear

  • Borrow or thrift when possible
  • Invest in good hiking boots and moisture-wicking socks
  • Use a regular backpack to start (no need for fancy hiking packs yet)
  • Repurpose water bottles instead of buying specialised hydration systems
  • Check pound shops for basic first aid kit supplies

Remember, the best gear is the gear you’ll actually use. Start simple and upgrade as you go along.

Tip 3: Navigate Like a Pro: Never Lose Your Way Again

Getting lost on a hike is about as fun as finding a spider in your sleeping bag. But fear not! With a few basic navigation skills, you’ll be finding your way like a pro in no time.

First up: reading trail maps and understanding blazes. Trail maps might look like a jumble of squiggly lines at first, but they’re‌ pretty straightforward. Look for the legend to understand symbols, and pay attention to contour lines – the closer they are, the steeper the terrain.

Blazes are those colourful marks you’ll see on trees or rocks along the trail. They’re like trail breadcrumbs, guiding you along your way. Different shapes and colours mean different things, so do a quick Google search for the blazes used in your hiking area.

Using a compass might seem old school, but it’s a skill that could save your bacon if your phone dies. The basics are simple: the red arrow always points north. Pair this with your map, and you’ve got a foolproof navigation system.

Speaking of phones, GPS devices and apps can be super helpful, but don’t rely on them entirely. Batteries die, signals fail, and suddenly you’re left wondering which way is up. Use them as a backup, not your primary navigation tool.

If you do use a GPS device, take batteries or power banks, which hold a good amount of charges.

Actionable step: Practice navigation in a local park before hitting trails

  1. Bring a physical map of the park and a compass
  2. Try to locate specific landmarks using only your map and compass
  3. Practice orienting your map to north
  4. Compare your results with your phone’s GPS for accuracy

Remember, getting a little lost is part of the adventure. As long as you’ve got your navigation skills (and your Ten Essentials), you’ll always find your way back.

Tip 4: Find Your Tribe: Hike Safer and Happier Together

hiking group - beginners hiking tips

According to popular belief, misery enjoys the company of others, but do you know what enjoys it even more? Adventure! Hiking with others isn’t just more fun – it’s safer, too.

Hiking with a buddy or a group provides an extra layer of safety. If someone gets hurt, there’s help right there. Plus, let’s be honest – it’s way easier to scare off a curious bear when you’re not alone (not that you’re likely to encounter one, but still).

Finding local hiking groups or clubs is easier than ever. Check out websites like Meetup or Facebook for local hiking communities. Many outdoor stores also organise group hikes for beginners. It’s like speed dating, but with more trees and less awkward small talk.

When it comes to group hikes, there’s a bit of etiquette to keep in mind. Stay with the group, respect the pace set by the leader, and be prepared to help others if needed. And please, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t blast your music on speakers. Nature has its own soundtrack, and it’s way better than your playlist (sorry, not sorry).

Actionable step: How to find and join a beginner-friendly hiking group

  1. Search for local hiking groups on social media or Meetup
  2. Read group descriptions and look for beginner-friendly outings
  3. Reach out to the organiser with any questions
  4. Show up prepared and introduce yourself to fellow hikers

Remember, everyone starts as a beginner. Don’t be afraid to join a group – hikers are generally a friendly bunch who love sharing their passions with newbies.

Tip 5: Master Trail Etiquette: Become a Respected Nature Lover

Hiking isn’t just about connecting with nature – it’s about being a good neighbour to your fellow hikers and the environment. Let’s dive into some trail etiquette basics that’ll make you look like a pro, even on your first hike.

Right-of-way rules on the trail are pretty simple. Uphill hikers have the right of way (they’re working harder, after all). If you’re coming downhill, step aside and let them pass. For different trail users, it generally goes: Horses > Hikers > Bikers. But always be ready to communicate and adjust as needed.

Leave No Trace principles are the golden rules of hiking. In a nutshell:

  1. Plan and prepare
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  3. Dispose of waste properly
  4. Leave what you find
  5. Minimise campfire impacts
  6. Respect wildlife
  7. Be considerate of other visitors

When it comes to wildlife, remember: you’re in their home. Keep your distance; don’t feed them (no matter how cute they are), and store your food properly. That squirrel might look friendly, but trust me, you don’t want to deal with a racoon or fox raiding your backpack at 2:00am.

Actionable step: Trail etiquette cheat sheet to carry on hikes

  • Yield to uphill hikers
  • Stay on marked trails
  • Pack out what you pack in
  • Keep voices down
  • Don’t feed or approach wildlife
  • Ask before petting trail dogs

By following these simple rules, you’re not just being polite – you’re helping preserve the trails for future hikers. It’s a win-win!

Tip 6: Expect the Unexpected: Stay Safe, Stay Prepared

hiking tips - preparation

Even the best-laid plans can go awry, especially in the great outdoors. But with a little preparation, you can handle whatever Mother Nature throws your way.

Checking the weather forecast before your hike is crucial. A sunny day can turn into a thunderstorm faster than you can say, “Is that lightning?” Check the weather not just for the trailhead, but for the entire area you’ll be hiking‌ in. Mountains can create their own weather systems, so be prepared for anything.

Packing a basic first-aid kit is non-negotiable. You don’t need to bring an entire pharmacy, but essentials like plasters, bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and any personal medications are a must. And know how to use them! A first-aid kit is useless if you don’t know what to do with it.

Always inform someone about your hiking plans. Tell a friend or family member where you’re going, when you expect to be back, and what to do if they don’t hear from you. It might seem paranoid, but it could be a lifesaver if something goes wrong.

Actionable step: Creating a “just in case” plan for emergencies

  1. Write down your hiking plan (trail, expected return time, etc.)
  2. Leave this info with a trusted friend or family member
  3. Agree on a check-in time and what to do if you don’t check in
  4. Know the emergency numbers for the area you’re hiking in
  5. Carry a whistle for signalling in case of emergency

Remember, the goal isn’t to scare you, but to empower you. Being prepared means you can relax and enjoy your hike, knowing you’re ready for anything.

Tip 7: Build Your Hiking Superpowers: From Newbie to Trail Boss

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is your hiking prowess. The key to becoming a confident hiker is to start small and build up gradually.

Setting realistic goals for your first hikes is crucial. Don’t aim for that 15-mile trail with 3,000 feet of elevation gain right off the bat. Instead, choose shorter, flatter trails to start. A successful 3-mile hike is way better than an exhausting, demoralising 10-mile slog.

Tracking progress and celebrating small wins is a great way to stay motivated. Maybe you conquered that little hill without stopping to catch your breath, or you remembered all your gear without having to double-check. These are victories! Celebrate them!

As you build confidence, gradually increase the difficulty and distance of your hikes. It’s like levelling up in a video game – each hike makes you a little stronger, a little more skilled, until suddenly you’re tackling trails you never thought possible.

Actionable step: Creating a 3-month plan to build hiking confidence

  • Month 1: Weekly 2-3 mile hikes on easy, well-marked trails
  • Month 2: Bi-weekly 4-5 mile hikes, introducing some elevation gain
  • Month 3: Weekly 5-7 mile hikes, varying terrain and elevation

Remember, hiking isn’t a competition. It’s about enjoying nature, challenging yourself, and having fun. So take it at your own pace, and before you know it, you’ll be sharing your own beginner hiking tips with the newbies on the trail!

Ready to Hit the Trail? You’ve Got This!

beginner hiking tips - hiker in the mountains

So, you’ve made it to the end of our guide, and maybe you’re still feeling a little jittery. That’s okay! You might be thinking, “What if I forget something important?” Alternatively, “What if I come across as completely inexperienced?”

Trust me, every hiker – even the most experienced ones – had those same thoughts when they started. Your feelings are totally valid, and they’re a sign that you care about doing this right.

But here’s the thing: you’re now armed with seven powerful tips to crush that trail anxiety. You know how to choose the perfect beginner-friendly trail, gear up without breaking the bank, and navigate like a pro.

You’ve learned the importance of hiking buddies, trail etiquette, and being prepared for the unexpected. And most importantly, you understand that it’s all about starting small and building your confidence step by step.

Picture this: It’s a crisp morning, and you’re lacing up your hiking boots. The trail ahead is calling your name. With each step, you feel more confident, more connected to nature, and more alive. The worries that once held you back have faded away, replaced by the thrill of discovery and the pride of conquering new challenges.

This isn’t just a daydream – it’s your future as a hiker. Every great adventure starts with a single step, and you’re ready to take yours. The trails are waiting, the views are breathtaking, and the experiences are life-changing.

So what are you waiting for? Lace up those boots, pack your backpack, and step into the amazing world of hiking. The mountains are calling, and now, you’re ready to answer. Happy trails, future hiker – your adventure starts now!

Your Burning Questions Answered: Beginner Hiking Tips 101

How do beginners train for hiking?

Start with regular walks, gradually increasing distance and adding hills. Incorporate strength training for legs and core. Practice with a loaded backpack on stairs or inclines.

What are the three basic skills in hiking?

Navigation (map and compass reading), proper packing (essentials and weight distribution), and trail etiquette (Leave No Trace principles and right-of-way rules).

What happens to your body when you start hiking?

Your cardiovascular fitness improves, leg muscles strengthen, and balance enhances. You may experience initial soreness but will build endurance over time.

How far can a beginner hike?

Start with 3-5 mile hikes on relatively flat terrain. Gradually increase distance as your fitness improves. Listen to your body and don’t push too hard too soon.

Does hiking get easier?

Absolutely! As your fitness improves and you gain experience, hiking becomes less challenging. You’ll find yourself tackling longer trails and steeper inclines with ease.

How to get in shape for a hike?

Combine cardio (walking, jogging, cycling) with strength training (squats, lunges, core work). Practice with a loaded backpack and tackle stairs for elevation training.

How often should you rest when hiking?

Take short breaks every hour or when you feel fatigued. Listen to your body and rest as needed, especially on challenging terrain or in hot weather.

How to walk when hiking?

Use a steady, rhythmic pace. Keep your eyes on the trail ahead, not your feet. Use trekking poles for balance on uneven terrain. Take shorter steps on steep inclines.

What are at least 3 health benefits of hiking?

Improved cardiovascular health, stronger muscles and bones, reduced stress and anxiety. Bonus: enhanced mental clarity and connection with nature!

Is hiking good for belly fat?

Yes! Hiking is an excellent full-body workout that can help burn calories and reduce overall body fat, including belly fat.

Why do I weigh more after hiking?

Temporary weight gain after hiking is often due to water retention from muscle inflammation. Don’t worry, it’s normal and will subside as your body recovers.

Does hiking tone your stomach?

While hiking engages your core, it’s not a targeted ab workout. However, combined with a healthy diet, hiking can contribute to overall fat loss and a more toned appearance.

Is it awkward to hike alone?

It can feel awkward at first, but solo hiking can be incredibly rewarding. Start with popular, well-marked trails and always inform someone of your plans.

How to start hiking as a hobby?

Begin with easy local trails, join a hiking group or club, invest in basic gear, and gradually build up to more challenging hikes. Consistency is key!

What is the difference between hiking and trekking?

Hiking typically involves day trips on marked trails. Trekking is usually multi-day, more challenging, and may involve camping or staying in huts.

What age are most hikers?

Hikers span all age groups! However, many surveys show a concentration of hikers between 18-50 years old. Remember, you’re never too old to start!

How can I hike without getting tired?

Start with easier trails and build endurance gradually. Stay hydrated, fuel your body properly, and take regular short breaks. Proper gear and footwear help too!

Can you get toned from hiking?

Absolutely! Hiking engages multiple muscle groups, especially in your legs and core. Combined with a balanced diet, it can lead to a more toned physique.

How can I hike without losing my breath?

Pace yourself, especially on inclines. Use the “talk test” – if you can’t hold a conversation, slow down. Practice deep, rhythmic breathing and consider using trekking poles.

Is hiking enough exercise?

For many people, yes! Hiking provides a full-body workout and cardiovascular benefits. However, mixing in other forms of exercise can enhance overall fitness.

What muscles do you need for hiking?

Legs (quads, hamstrings, calves), core, glutes, and back muscles are key. Don’t forget your arms and shoulders, especially when using trekking poles!

What is a zero-day hiking?

A “zero day” is a rest day during multi-day hikes or thru-hikes where you don’t make any forward progress on the trail. It’s crucial for recovery and preventing burnout.

How do I increase my stamina for hiking?

Gradually increase your hiking distance and elevation gain. Cross-train with cardio exercises like running or cycling. Stay consistent with your training.

Why am I so tired after hiking?

Hiking is a full-body workout that burns lots of calories. Fatigue can be from physical exertion, dehydration, or inadequate fuelling. Rest, hydrate, and refuel properly post-hike.

How do I prepare my feet for hiking?

Break in your boots before long hikes. Trim toenails, wear moisture-wicking socks, and consider using blister prevention products. Strengthen your feet with barefoot exercises.

Do you wear socks when hiking?

Absolutely! Wear moisture-wicking, cushioned hiking socks to prevent blisters and keep feet dry. Some hikers prefer wearing liner socks under thicker hiking socks.

Why is hiking harder than walking?

Hiking often involves uneven terrain, elevation changes, and carrying a backpack. These factors engage more muscles and require more energy than flat walking.

What type of footwear is most suitable for hiking?

It depends on the terrain, but sturdy hiking boots or trail running shoes with good traction and ankle support are typically best for most trails.

Which food makes a good hiking snack?

Energy-dense, easily portable foods like trail mix, energy bars, dried fruit, jerky, and nut butter packets are great. Don’t forget plenty of water!

What is a flat tummy walk?

It’s not a specific type of walk, but any brisk walking (including hiking) combined with good posture and core engagement can contribute to a flatter tummy over time.

Can you lose weight hiking 3 miles a day?

Yes, if combined with a balanced diet. Hiking burns calories and builds muscle, which can lead to weight loss. The exact amount depends on various factors.

Can you get in shape just by hiking?

Absolutely! Regular hiking provides a full-body workout, improves cardiovascular health, and builds strength and endurance. It’s an excellent way to get fit.

Why have I gained 10 pounds since working out?

Initial weight gain when starting a new exercise routine is often due to increased muscle mass and water retention. Don’t worry, it’s a normal part of the process!

Why do I get bloated when hiking?

Dehydration, altitude changes, or consuming unfamiliar foods can cause bloating during hiking. Stay hydrated and choose easily digestible snacks.

Should you eat after a hike to lose weight?

Yes! Refuelling after a hike helps with recovery and prevents overeating later. Choose a balanced meal with protein and complex carbs.

Does hiking tone your bum?

You bet! Hiking, especially on inclines, engages your glutes. Over time, this can lead to a more toned backside.

Is hiking better than the gym?

It depends on your goals. Hiking offers a full-body workout in nature, while gyms provide targeted strength training. Both have their benefits! And hiking is free – no monthly memberships needed.

Is hiking once a week enough exercise?

It’s a great start! For optimal health benefits, aim to be active most days of the week. Mix hiking with other forms of exercise for a well-rounded fitness.

How to build stamina for hiking?

Gradually increase your hiking distance and difficulty. Cross-train with cardio exercises like running or cycling. Stay consistent with your training.

How to start hiking as a hobby?

Begin with easy local trails, join a hiking group, invest in basic gear, and gradually build up to more challenging hikes. Consistency and patience are key!

How do I learn hiking skills?

Start with beginner-friendly trails, join hiking groups or classes, read hiking guides, and practice basic skills like map reading. Experience is the best teacher!

What fitness component is required for hiking?

Cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength (especially the legs and core), and flexibility are key. Balance and coordination are also important, especially on uneven terrain.

Why is hiking so tiring?

Hiking engages multiple muscle groups, often involves elevation gain, and requires carrying a pack. It’s a full-body workout that burns lots of energy!

How to get hiker legs?

Regular hiking combined with strength training exercises like squats, lunges, and calf raises will help build strong, endurance-ready legs.

How do you breathe easier when hiking?

Practice deep, rhythmic breathing. Use the “talk test” to pace yourself. If you can’t hold a conversation, slow down. Consider using trekking poles to help distribute effort.

What is the difference between hiking and trekking?

Hiking typically involves day trips on marked trails. Trekking is usually multi-day, more challenging, and may involve camping or staying in huts.

How to walk when hiking?

Walk at a steady speed. Look at the path in front of you. Take smaller steps when going uphill. Use trekking poles to help you balance on rough ground.

How to trek without getting tired?

Build endurance gradually, stay hydrated, fuel your body properly, and take regular short breaks. Proper gear and footwear are crucial for comfort on long treks.