Hiking can be one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors and get closer to nature while adding exercise to your life. Hiking is simple; it's just walking through beautiful outdoor landscapes. But that simplicity can be deceptive. If you're interested in taking up hiking as a hobby, this article offers 20 quick and easy hiking tips to make your hiking trip both safe and enjoyable.
What Is Hiking?
Outdoor hiking is basically just walking, usually along a trodden path through an outdoor space. While most of our walking takes place in the city or suburbs, on roads and sidewalks, hiking takes place in the great outdoors on trails through backcountry expanses or national, state, and city parks. As these places are often more remote and in wild environments, hiking is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in nature in a way that walking on a treadmill or in a city just can't match.
20 Quick and Easy Hiking Tips
To help you get the most out of our list of 20 hiking tips, we have organized them into tips for planning your hike, the equipment you will need, and tips for the hike itself.
Hiking Tips to Help Plan Your Hike
1: Join a Hiking Group
For many, hiking can be a solitary activity, but this is only advisable for advanced hikers with years of experience in the outdoors. For those with less experience, the first hiking tip is to join a hiking group. This is a great way to find a trail buddy and to learn from more experienced hikers who have spent time on the trails nearby. You could also meet great new friends!
2: Research, Research, Research
Before you head out on your first hike, research the trails in your area to find one that is best for beginners. Things to look for are a short length (1 to 3 miles) for a day hike, and a trail with little elevation change. Maps of trails in your areas are likely available online to make your research easier.
Hiking, especially over-night or longer hikes, can require a lot of equipment, food, and water, depending on how long you'll be outside. There is nothing worse for hikers than finding themselves miles in the backwoods and discovering they forgot something vital for the trip. Making a checklist of all the equipment, food, and water you will need, and double checking it before you leave, can be of the most important tips for having a great hike.
Hiking Tips Related to Equipment
4: Your Backpack
The backpack is one of the most important pieces of equipment for a hiker because it carries the rest of your equipment. Find a backpack you can wear comfortably for a long time. When shopping for a backpack, remember that you will not be hiking with an empty backpack, so be sure to test it with some weight in it.
5: A Day Pack
When going on a multi-day hiking trip, there are often opportunities for shorter day hikes. If you plan to go on a day hike while in the backwoods, packing a lightweight day pack inside your backpack is a good hiking tip. This will let you take food and water with you, without having to carry your whole backpack.
6: Water Purification
The human body can only survive for about four days without water, and in the backwoods, water sources often contain bacteria that can make you sick. This makes having a water purification method a must when going on a long hike. Thankfully, there are several water purification methods on the market, and you can always boil water should you find yourself without one.
7: Practice with Your Gear at Home
Before you take any of your gear on the trail, an important hiking tip is to practice with your gear at home. The two most important pieces of gear to practice with are your backcountry stove and your tent. Both items are designed to take up the least amount of space possible, so setting them up can be complicated. Practicing at home will help you learn how to use them, and it's better to learn at home than while you're out on the trail.
8: Pack Efficiently
There is an art to packing a hikers backpack, and it might take you a while to find the perfect way to pack for your hike, but there are some general hiking tips for packing that are universal. Pack the items you will use the most in a place where you can get easy access to them. This includes water purification tablets, your compass, snacks and water, and anything else you use a lot while you're on the trail. It can also be important to keep a first aid kit in a place where it can be easily accessed as well.
9: Dress in Layers
The weather can change quickly out on the trail, and you want to stay comfortably dry and warm while enjoying a hike. Dressing in layers is the best way to achieve this. When dressing in layers, you can take a layer off if you get too warm, or add one if the wind starts blowing.
10: Pack a Lightweight Rain Jacket or Poncho
Rain can strike even when it's not in the weather forecast. A quality, lightweight rain jacket or poncho is an essential part of your trail equipment. There is nothing worse than being soaked to the bone in the backwoods so the importance of this hiking tip cannot be over-stated.
11: Pack a First Aid Kit
The Boy Scout's know how important it is to be prepared, but you don't have to be a Boy Scout to follow this important rule. Accidents happen and when hiking, help can be far away. Carrying a well-stocked first-aid kit is the best of those hiking tips any one can give you to help you avoid injury. However, just having a first-aid kit is not enough, you must learn how to use it.
For hiking, learn how to deal with cuts, sprains, and burns. These are the most common types of injuries you'll experience on the trail. Learn the signs of and treatment for hypothermia and frostbite as well as heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
12: Bring Extra Medication
Along with a well stocked first aid kit, bring more than you expect to need of any medication you take. Hiking can sometimes be unpredictable, so a four-day hike can sometimes turn into a five-day hike. If you take any daily medication, bring extra just in case. Ladies, this also applies to any of the supplies you need to deal with when you menstruate.
Keep any medications or other necessary supplies in waterproof bags and pack them away from the fuel for your camping stove, just in case it spills and to keep them from getting damaged.
13: Food for the Trail
There are many freeze-dried meals specifically designed for hiking, though they can be expensive. When looking for food for the trail, the most important hiking tip is to look for food that is both lightweight and easy to prepare. Pack your food far away from the fuel for your stove, and removing excess packaging from your food can also save space in your backpack and keep your pack's weight down.
If you use freeze-dried trail foods, you can add 1/2 cup of water to the preparations to make a soup. This will help ensure that you take in enough liquid, and the additional liquid will be better on your stomach.
14: Bug Repellent
Hiking tips? Everyone wants to know how to get rid of bugs. While nature can be beautiful and magical, there are a lot of bugs out on the trail. Their intensity will differ depending on where and when you hike, but bug repellent should almost always be packed. For hikes in areas with more insidious insects, a mosquito net might be advisable. Talk to other hikers in your area to find out about the bug situation.
15: Survival Supplies
Accidents happen in the backwoods and bringing survival supplies that will help you survive and find your way back to civilization in case you get lost is a key hiking tip. Always bring a map and compass when you go hiking. There are also several GPS units for hikers that can aid in finding your way should you get lost, but these can be damaged or run out of batteries. A map and compass will not.
Hiking Tips for the Hike
16: Keep Hydrated
Hiking is exercise and you will probably lose fluids through sweating. Without proper hydration you will be more susceptible to dehydration, which can exacerbate altitude sickness as well as heat or cold related conditions. When hiking in an area with high temperatures, hydration is of even more important as you will lose a lot more fluid to sweat when hiking in these situations.
17: Find a Good Pace to Explore
When you are hiking, think of it as a marathon and not a sprint. If you set too quick of a pace, you will lose more water and tire yourself out quicker, and you'll miss some great scenery you'd see if you took your time. The best pace is one where you can walk and talk without breathing heavily.
A 10-minute break every hour on the trail will also help to ensure that you are not overdoing it, and if hiking in a group, put the slowest member of the group in front to keep the pace. This will help keep them from falling behind and it will keep the speed demons in your group from rushing ahead.
18: Take Care of Your Feet
Your feet take the most abuse from hiking and taking care of them is a key hiking tip. Finding good hiking shoes or boots is the first step in taking care of your feet. The choice of shoes will differ from person to person, but most hikers prefer sturdy boots that cover the ankle. Break your hiking boots in by wearing them before your hike to ensure that they are the best fit for you.
For socks, choose wool or synthetic fiber socks and avoid cotton, and if your feet get wet, change your socks immediately. Hiking with wet feet can lead to blisters and other painful conditions that will make hiking difficult if not impossible. Packing enough socks to change should your socks get wet is a hiking tip that could save your feet a lot of pain.
19: Remember Your Trail Etiquette
There are two important considerations to remember about trail etiquette when you're going hiking. Know the rules for the right-of-way. The hiker going uphill on the trail has the right-of-way, and the downhill hiker should yield to them. Hikers always have the right-of-way against mountain bikers, but it is usually easier for the hiker to yield by stepping aside. Horses should always be given the right of way and a wide berth.
The other important thing to remember with hiking etiquette is to leave no trace. In order for others to enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings, never leave trash or any other item you take into the wilderness behind. Do not take souvenirs with you or cause any damage to the trees or other vegetation. If you are using a campfire, minimize its impact and make sure you put it out. Only existing fire pits or disassemble any impromptu fire pit you create.
20: Take a Travel Buddy
A solo hike can be a great experience for the advanced hiker. That said, hiking with at least one travel buddy will help keep you from getting lonely and help keep you safe. For beginners, a more experienced travel buddy is best. They can help teach you the best ways to travel on the trails and you'll pick up extra tips along the way.
Hiking can be one of the most rewarding hobbies you can have, and we hope that our list of 20 quick and easy hiking tips will make your next hiking trip a great success!