Whether you do it as part of your camping trip or not, hiking is a great way to explore the outdoors, see beautiful sights, get some fresh air and experience nature first-hand. It doesn’t hurt that it makes for a great exercise activity for your body, too!
As a beginner, preparation for a hike is very important. A day spent hiking can be tiring and overwhelming – but if you’re equipped with the right gear and knowledge, you’ll find the experience rewarding above everything else.
Here are some important preparation tips for a day hike:
Choose a trail that is suitable for you
As a beginner, it’s ideal that you choose an easy trail for your first hike. “Easy” can mean many things, though – a flat trail (no uphill climbs), a short one, or a route that don’t contain river crossings, unkempt roads and other obstacles.
Depending on your physical ability and your personal preference, choose one that you’ll be able to enjoy. As you gain more experience and your level of fitness improves over time, you’ll be able to take on longer, more difficult trails in the future.
Do some research
Once you’ve set your heart on a place to do your hiking, research about it to know what to expect on the trails. Guidebooks and maps are helpful, but many of them are not updated to the area’s current changes.
The best place to get tips, directions and other helpful information from are active online hiking forums (most wilderness and hiking areas have their own forum) and your local hiking club. It’s also a great place to meet like-minded people who enjoy the outdoors as much as you do!
Check the weather forecast
Check the weather forecast for your chosen date to hike. This will help you prepare what to bring and know what precautions to take. If the forecast is rainfall, consider changing dates – a slippery trail can be dangerous, especially for beginners.
Pack appropriate clothing
Wear clothes that are soft, lightweight, moisture-wicking and of course, comfortable. Merino wool and polyester are great choices for tops, spandex and nylon for bottoms. Avoid using cotton, it will trap moisture and sweat, adding the risk of hypothermia when the temperature drops.
Layer your top with a light, long-sleeved shirt even in warmer weather – it will help protect your skin from scratches from plants and rocks as well as from sunburn.
Pack the right footwear
Consider purchasing a good quality pair of hiking boots or shoes, depending on the terrain. As experts would say, the boots are the platform upon which hiking is built – it can make or break your hike. It should be durable, comfortable and appropriate for the conditions.
Having the right footwear that fits just right will help prevent blisters and injuries. Don’t forget the socks! A good tip to follow is to wear 2 pairs – a thin one for moisture management and a thicker, scratchier one to help reduce blisters (pull them up over your ankles to help protect from snake bites, too!)
Bring only the essentials
While the goal is to pack light, there are some important things that you need to bring with you, even on a day hike. Just remember that if you carry it, know how to use it! It’s crucial to pack a watch, map, compass, whistle, first aid kit, a knife, matches/lighter, sunscreen and bug repellent, extra clothing or rain gear, healthy snacks and water. Do take your phone or a camera to snap some photos, but leave other electronic devices at camp or at home.
Another essential thing to pack is lighting, even if you plan to be back from your hike before dark. Our Camping Lantern is light and portable. You could easily hang it from your backpack. Learn more about it here.
Don’t pack more than you can carry. Wear your backpack and test the weight at home and decide whether it’s a comfortable weight for you to carry all throughout your hike.
Prepare yourself physically
Some people may think hiking is just walking. But try scrambling through rough terrain while carrying a pack and you’ll know how physically demanding it is. Even a hiking a short, easy trail can easily wear you down, especially if you’re not physically prepared.
Note: Hiking can be exhausting, but the more you hike, the stronger you become! All the body pain and hard work isn’t for nothing – it’s a great way to increase your fitness, reduce stress and even lose weight!
Eat plenty of healthy meals and snacks and hydrate for days before the big day. Stretch before and after you hike. If you’re unsure if you’re fit enough to go hiking, don’t hesitate to consult with a health professional.
Be in the know
Never hike alone, no matter how “easy” the trail seems to be. The outdoors are very unpredictable and can be very dangerous for a beginners. Invite friends or join a beginner’s group to hike, preferably with someone who is familiar with the area or has hiked that particular trail before. Hiking with a group makes the experience fun but safe.
As mentioned above, if you pack something, make sure you know how to use it. Learn how to read the trail map (make sure you understand the signs and markers!), how to use a compass, or what to do in emergency situations.
Create a trip plan
For safety purposes or in case of emergency, having a trip plan prepared is ideal, even if you’re just going on a day hike. Picking up this habit, especially for longer hikes in the future, will be very helpful.
A trip plan is basically to let people know about your hiking trip through listing important details such as:
- Trail/place you plan to hike
- Date and time of departure and expected
- Emergency contact information
- Name of companions
- Equipment carried
Leave a copy at home to someone you trust. Be sure to also sign in and out of registers at the trail. With these information, it won’t be difficult for rescuers to find you in case you get lost!
Have a safe and fun hike!
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