As summer rolls in, it’s time to put away your screen and explore the outdoors! Hiking is a great way to get outside quickly without too much planning or gear. Never been hiking before? We got you! Here is our first-time hikers checklist to make sure your hike is fun, safe and rewarding.
What to Do Before Your Hike
Choose a trail. For your first hike, we recommend a 2-5 mile trail with minimal elevation gain (below 400 feet). You can find trails online on platforms like AllTrails Gaia GPS, Hiking Project, Outdoors Project or in local guide books. You can also ask for recommendations by posting in local hiking Facebook groups or Meetups. Pick a trail that has recently been reviewed. Reviews are a great resource to get current info on trail conditions and trailhead parking. If you can’t find reviews, contact your local city or county Parks office to find this info.
Research weather. All trails have seasons, so make sure to check the weather before you go on a hike. If you are a beginner hiker, pick a cool or sunny day without rain or wind. On a hot day, choose a trail without too much sun exposure (or make sure you have adequate sun protection).
Find hiking buddies. Hiking is one of the best ways to connect with friends and family outdoors, so invite them along! Don’t have any hiking buddies? You can often find partners in local Facebook Groups, Meetups or hiking clubs. If you end up hiking solo or with someone you don’t know, pick a high-traffic trail so you can feel safe.
What to Do Day Of Your Hike
Pack a daypack. For your first hike, your pack should include water, snacks, a navigation tool (e.g. map, guidebook or downloaded trail app), a trash bag (e.g. Ziploc), insect repellant and sun protection (e.g., cap, sunglasses, sunscreen and lip balm). With water, the rule of thumb for adults is to bring at least a half liter of water and one small snack for every one hour of hiking. If you’d like, you can pack additional items like a notebook, camera or binoculars, but make sure you feel comfortable with the extra weight.
Wear weather-appropriate clothing and hiking shoes. If you don’t own hiking gear, wear comfy, sweat-resistant exercise clothing (e.g. polyester or nylon workout leggings or running shorts). Avoid denim and other heavy materials, especially on a hot day. Depending on weather conditions, you may want to wear full-sleeves or bring a light jacket. We recommend investing in hiking boots if you plan to hike regularly. If you don’t own hiking boots, start with with grippy sneakers with good support. Your shoes should be sturdy enough to provide support on rocks, mud or wet surfaces, so avoid wearing shoes that can easily slip (like flat sandals). Have fun with your hiking clothing! I wear fun prints and hoop earrings when I hike. So long as your gear is weather-appropriate and comfortable, that doesn’t mean it needs to be boring!
Let someone know your plans. Text your hiking plans to a friend or family member before you leave for your hike, even if you’re hiking with others. This is a good safety practice, even for an experienced hiker.
Bring or download a trail map. You may lose service on your hike, so make sure you have access to a trail map. You can bring a physical map with you or take screenshots of your route. Some apps, like AllTrails, allow you to download trail routes so you can access them offline. Many trails will also include maps at the trailhead and signs on the way.
Go to the bathroom! Many trails don’t have bathroom access, so make sure you take care of your business before you head out.
Get an early start. If you are driving to a popular trail on the weekend, chances are that parking will be tough to find. Starting your hike early will ensure you find parking and privacy on the trail, plus then you have all day to recover afterwards!
What to Do On the Hike
Woohoo, you’re on your first hike! Now, you can stop planning and enjoy walking in nature. Worried about getting bored or need extra motivation? Try documenting new plants you come across or creating a personal challenge for yourself, like completing the hike by a certain time. Make sure to take breaks on the way and pack out your trash.
Have any questions? Want help planning your first hike? Reach out to us here.