So You Want to Hike? My Beginner’s Guide

When “hiker” comes to mind, most people conjure images of granola middle-aged folks, clad in over-sized khaki pants, athletic Jesus sandals and sloppy, huge backpacks – sporting a perpetual can-do grin and a thumbs up. Nah son, that ain’t it, at least, that’s not all of it.

If you follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or know me even remotely, you’ve probably realized that the call of the wild isn’t just a whim for me, hiking is an essential part of how I run my world – how I keep my balance. But you’re not here for all that zen sh*t. I get asked all the time how I started hiking, and how a beginner should start their outdoor athletic experience, and instead of typing the long soliloquy that I reply with when asked, I figure I’d give my guide some roots on TheAngelEra.com. You’re welcome. This is a beginner’s guide to hiking.

How Do I Start?

The first thing you should do is decide where you’re hiking. If you’re an absolute beginner-hiker, you should start on a trail that’s short, (a day hike) less than an hour from where you live, and has easy to moderate terrain (this also depends on your fitness level.) Several sites like AllTrails.com, Trails.com, EveryTrail.com, and AmericanTrails.org allow you to enter you zip code, and they’ll give you trail options close to where you live. Most of these sites offer reviews from users who’ve already traversed the trail, and tips on where the trailhead (beginning of the trail) is, and if the trail is worth the hike. Remember, DON’T choose a difficult or long trail if you’re a beginner. A big mistake beginner’s make is underestimating a hike. After you’ve chosen your trail, research it, read insights from other hikers, and actually look the trail up on a map. You want to try to familiarize yourself with the trail as much as you can. You know how fit you are, gradually push it. 

Pick a friend to go with you! This is the department I have the hardest time with. Most of my girl’s are city dwellers, and hiking on a Saturday just isn’t their idea of a good time. But if you’re just starting out, bringing someone with you is a safety issue. It’s harder for two people to get lost, usually one has a better sense of direction, and if you God-forbid get hurt, they can get help if your cell doesn’t work for some reason. This leads me to the next part.

What Should I Wear?

Hiking Essentials

It’s cold as sh*t outside right now, and about two weeks ago I made the mistake of not dressing properly for a mountain hike, yes me. An experienced a*s hiker forgot to wear Under Armor under her pants. Needless to say, I suffered right away. Bronchitis had me in it’s grips just because I didn’t take a little more time to prep my hiking outfit. Don’t worry, I won’t let you do the same. These are essentials: 

  • Wicking (wicking material draws of sweat and moisture from your body) long-sleeve shirt
  • Wicking long underwear or Under Armor
  • Hat, cap or headband (synthetic or wool)
  • Gloves
  • Insulating fleece jacket or vest (an inside layer)
  • Sturdy pants that don’t weigh you down, but also aren’t like, sweat pants… Nah
  • Coat (that allows you to move, and doesn’t weigh tons, I LOVE my Adidas Hiking Heldinnen Jacket, and it’s on sale right now)
  • Sturdy hiking boots or trail running shoes that preferably come above your ankle
  • Socks (I suggest SmartWool, not only does the material keep your feet dry, -yes your feet sweat don’t front- but SmartWool is comfortable as sh*t. Literally a cushion for your feet) 

For warm weather:

  • Wicking T-shirt
  • Wicking underwear
  • Quick-drying pants or shorts
  • Long-sleeve shirt (for bugs, sun to wear over the wicking sh*t)
  • A hat with a brim
  • Insulating fleece jacket or vest
  • Bandana or buff
  • Sturdy hiking boots or trail running shoes that preferably come above your ankle
  • Socks

In your backpack: 

  • A first aid kit (you can buy complete, yet mini ones at places like REI)
  • Map (physical, I’d store it in a ziplock or waterproof case)
  • GPS (on your phone is fine, a separate one is better)
  • Compass
  • Knife or multi-tool
  • Fold-up tarp or tent
  • Emergency blanket (the foil kind, they reflect your body heat to keep you warmer)
  • A flashlight w/ extra batteries or a headlamp
  • Matches in a waterproof container, or a lighter, matches and a waterproof case are better
  • Water bottle with water, or a Camelbak
  • Water treatment (like purification tablets, a LifeStraw, the new fangled portable purifying pens)
  • A fire starter (I like good ‘ol fashion FireSteel)
  • Snacks (the best kind are non-perishable like almond butter, granola, almonds etc.)
  • Insect repellant
  • Trail guide (tailored to the trail you’re on)
  • Duct tape (it’s literally good for anything, from repairing a rip in your backpack, the binding a limp if it gets injured)
  • Waterproof sunscreen
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Backpack (to put all this sh*t in… I thought that’d be obvious, but you know, some of y’all…) 

“Why do I need all of that? It’s just a beginning hike.” Because your a*s is a beginner, that’s why! Anything can happen in the wild, it’s not far-fetched scenario that you could hurt yourself, get lost, over-estimate your hiking ability and become disoriented. You’ll be glad you packed these things if any of that occurs. Don’t let this list deter you from the hike however, every activity in life has risk associated with it. It all depends on what you deem as acceptable risk. 

OK! I’m Ready, Now What?

Now, get out there, and go hike! The night before your first hike, check the weather forecast for the area you’re going to be hiking in and get a good night’s sleep (I don’t suggest hung-over hiking). When you wake-up day of, have a full, protein-packed breakfast, down some green tea and a multi-vitamin, and re-check your backpack. You can never be over-prepared. 

My Personal Tips and Tricks: 

  • I like to go hiking at the crack of dawn. You’re the most alert that you’ll be all day, you have tons of energy, (presuming you slept well the night before) and the trail is fresh. Believe it or not, sometimes tons of people on a trail can be disorienting, or a stupid experience. 
  • Follow the trail markers! Most hiking trails mark trees with different color stripes to indicate which direction and turns you should be taking. This will help you stay on course. 
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate before you hike! Drinking water before the hike, and taking small sips during will help you sustain energy, sweat less and stave-off the creeping fatigue that can sometimes be associated with hiking.
  • HAVE FUN! Take it in, de-stress, forget boyfriends, work, city problems, and take pictures! But don’t take pictures while you’re walking, lol. OH! And I shouldn’t have to tell you this but, charge your phone. 

Anymore questions about hiking? Feel free to hit me.

– Angel

 

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1 Comment

  1. :)
    February 21, 2014 / 5:12 pm

    Sexy ass hiker

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