Hiking is not only a great way to get in shape and add some physical activity to your routine, but it builds confidence, reduces stress, and helps you gain new skills. Getting started hiking is relatively simple, but it can definitely be intimidating if you don’t know where to begin.
This beginner guide will take you through everything that you need to know to prepare you for the trails, including what to wear, how to get started, and what you need to bring for a safe and fun outing.
Getting Started Hiking
Walking out the door is often the most difficult part of being new to hiking. Heck, even seasoned hikers may find it challenging to get out of bed some days.
The right preparation, mindset, and finding a friend or two to get you on the trail can help you feel less anxious about getting started with the activity.
Find a Friend
If you know of some friends who enjoy hiking, tell them that you’d like to give it a try and ask if they can take you on a beginner hike. Don’t worry about feeling like they’re going easy just for you. They’ll be excited that you want to start hiking and will be more than happy to take you out on some beginner-friendly trails.
If you don’t have friends that hike, look for local hiking groups online. Social media sites like Facebook and MeetUp are great places to start looking for hiking buddies.
The benefit of going with a friend is that they can teach you the ropes and unspoken rules of skills like trail etiquette.
Can’t find a friend to join you? No problem! Hiking alone can be incredibly empowering, build confidence, and give yourself a chance to really learn new skills.
Of course, it can also be intimidating and feel lonely at times.
Start out with short hikes in places where you’re very familiar, even if that means the nearby nature area in your city. You’ll start to feel more and more comfortable as you get outdoors alone.
Just be sure to follow the safety tips discussed below.
Finding an Appropriate Trail
It’s easy to get big eyes for hikes with epic views, but starting out too hard, too soon may cause you to dislike hiking altogether or result in injuries. Start out with some easier hikes with little elevation gain and build up to more challenging ones over time.
It’s ok to pick some more difficult hikes as motivation for when you build your stamina over several months.
Guidebooks and hiking sites like AllTrails are great places to start looking. You can often set filters for distance, difficulty, and elevation gain to find suitable hikes for your level.
Other ways to find hiking recommendations include friends, tourism boards, and local outdoor stores.
Building Physical Endurance
If you are not currently engaging in any kind of physical activity, then you’ll want to start out very slowly and build endurance over time, otherwise you’ll put yourself at risk for injury.
Start out with regular walks every other day just around your neighborhood. Increase duration and distance at a rate of no more than 10% per week. Gradually incorporate elevation and varied terrain.
Hiking Gear + What to Wear
The beauty of hiking is that you can generally use what you already have at home before investing in more expensive gear. With just a few essential pieces of gear, you’ll be ready to hit the trail lickity split!
Footwear is one of the most important items you’ll need for hiking and this is where you’ll want to spend your money in the beginning. If you’ve ever hiked with the wrong shoes, then you’ve paid the price!
You’ll want to look for shoes that have good grip on dirt surfaces. Choosing high-top or low-cut shoes depends on your personal preference. It’s best to try on different shoes and see what you feel most comfortable wearing.
Lems offers a variety of shoes that work great for hiking, including:
Mesa - This slip-on knit mesh shoe may seem like an unlikely hiking choice at first, but the Mesa is a great all-around shoe with tread built for the trail.
Trailhead - If you’re looking for a stylish hiking shoe that can do it all, then the Trailhead is just for you. Built on our Mountain-to-Town outsole, this shoe can handle the rugged terrain of the trail, while the cushioning will keep your feet feeling happy as you log miles.
Boulder Boot - If you prefer a high top shoe for hiking, then the Boulder Boot may be just the pick for you! Available in a variety of materials, including a waterproof leather option, you can trek through any kind of weather without worry.
When you’re just getting started, use a backpack you already have in your home if you have one. If you decide that you want to make hiking a regular activity, then you’ll want to hit up your local outdoor store and try on several different packs to get one that fits your body and needs.
Features to look for in a backpack:
- Various pockets for organizing gear
- Appropriate volume for your needs
- Ergonomic fit
- Weatherproof materials
Just like with a backpack, when you get started, wear athletic clothes that you already have in your wardrobe. Eventually, you’ll want to start accumulating clothing that wicks sweat. Merino wool is a great choice because it is insulating in all weather and will keep you comfortable no matter the temperature.
Dress in layers because the weather can change in a moment and you’ll want to be prepared for sun, rain, wind, and temperature changes. Keep in mind that exposed trails and peaks can mean more intense weather conditions.
Avoid cotton, especially with socks, because it is not moisture-wicking. Look for technical fabrics to avoid blisters. We love Injinji socks for hiking.
Food & Water
Knowing how much food to pack when you’re still new can be tricky. Even longtime hikers often misjudge the right amount of snacks to bring.
A good rule of thumb is to bring about 200 calories of food and a half liter of water per hour of hiking. Trail conditions and weather can change the requirements, so base your food and water consumption on the weather and difficulty of the trail.
Health & Safety
Heading out prepared is the best way to stay safe and healthy on the trail. Have a plan for what to do in the case of an emergency and bring what you need to stay safe in the event something does go awry.
The 10 Essentials are a list of the items to bring along on a hike that will keep you safe and prepared if you need to stay out on the trail longer than anticipated. These items include:
- Extra layers
- Light source
- Extra food
- Extra water and/or a water filter
- Navigation (map, compass, etc.)
- Fire source
- Shelter (tent or emergency shelter)
- Sun protection
- First-aid kit
Leave no Trace
Each time you go out to hike, the intention is to make it seem like you were never there at all, and, in fact, the goal should be to leave it even better than how you found it. Bring a bag to collect any trash you see along the way and serve as a model to other hikers.
Do Your Homework
Before heading out in the morning, make sure that you understand the land rules (do you need a permit? Are dogs allowed?), know the weather (will you need a rain jacket? Gloves?), and have familiarized yourself with the trail conditions by reading maps and recent trail reports (is there still snow? Is there a tricky section you may not be ready for yet?).
Tell Someone Where You’re Going
Whether you’re hiking alone or with a friend, always tell someone your plans and when you expect to return home. In the event of an emergency, your friend can help search and rescue teams find your location more easily if they have an idea where to look.