Hiking is amazing! It’s one of the lowest budget options for exercise, weekend entertainment, and ways to spend free time. One you get past the beginner’s hiking stage you might start to accumulate more gear as you start trekking more advanced trails…but we won’t worry about that for now. To start hiking, many people just hop onto a trail with friends and enjoy the scenery. But, to become a good, responsible hiker, you need to be prepared. This is not meant to scare you off! 99% of the time, your hike will be uneventful (this is a good thing), but as with most sports or outdoor adventures, there is a small bit of risk. Being responsible and prepared can make you feel more secure and save you having small issues turn into major problems with just a few pieces of gear!
Start With These 5 Things
#1 HAVE SOME SORT OF IDEA WHERE YOU’RE GOING
- Map & Compass – Get yourself a map of the trail you are planning to hike. It’s always good to study it ahead of time so you are prepared and know what to expect. The map should show you topography (changes in elevation), different trail paths and alternate routes, and landmarks such as bodies of water and roads.
Don’t know how to read a map? REI offers many introductory navigation classes.
#2 DRINK UP, STAY HYDRATED
- It’s important that you take something durable to hold water like a Nalgene bottle (BPA free!) I wouldn’t recommend just bringing any old plastic water bottle since warm weather and plastic bottles are an unsafe combination. Bring your Nalgene already full of water since you might not have reliable water sources once you get to the hiking trail.
#3 KEEP YOUR FEET HAPPY!
- Go ahead and wear your tennis shoes if they are comfortable and worn-in. Consider the terrain you are exploring on your hike. If you are going to be walking through a lot of water (crossing steams), you might want to consider wearing comfortable outdoor sandals or at least getting some waterproof socks! A hiker might have multiple shoes for hiking since terrains can vary so much. For your first hike, you might want to stick to a dry, clearly marked trail.
#4 JEANS AND DESIGNER CLOTHES ARE NOT FOR HIKES
- This is not a fashion show, save it for the runway! The last thing you want to be doing is worrying about adjusting uncomfortable clothing, or sweating profusely because your clothing isn’t breathable. Cotton is not a good choice, it holds moisture (sweat) and will cling to your body. You want to find something moisture-wicking. It pulls the moisture away from your body and allows it to evaporate quicker. I really love my Capilene shirts; they are super lightweight and dry really fast.
*Petite-friendly shirt! Sizes down to XXS.
#5 BE PREPARED FOR AN (UNLIKELY BUT POSSIBLE) EMERGENCY
- You don’t think something bad will happen to you? Of course, it probably won’t. That’s why it’s called “emergency”! Perhaps you get lost and end up taking awhile to backtrack. Maybe you slip and get cut on some rocks and need to stop the bleeding. Worst case, you get stuck in the wilderness overnight. There are a few things that can alleviate the worry and help you survive.
- Headlamp: Got dark earlier than you thought? You’ll be able to see your surroundings to safely continue navigating your trail.
- Gorilla tape: Don’t overlook this one, this tape is multipurpose! Use it to tape up a gash, wrap it around broken shoes, repair a broken water bottle, or mend your torn clothing.
- Medical kit: Keep some band-aids and gauze on hand for a medical emergency.
- Emergency shelter: Didn’t plan on staying the night? A super lightweight emergency shelter is always good to have on hand.
- Multi-tool/knife: I always keep a little pocket knife on me.
- Food: Always pack extra snacks in case your hike is extended longer than expected. It will help keep your energy up and fueled to continue thinking straight and moving forward. I recommend Larabars!
Final first hike tip:
Don’t go alone and tell someone where you are going.
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