I get it – I know I’m always like, “blah blah blah” GO HIKING, and “blah blah blah” GET OUTSIDE. I acknowledge that walking through wild outdoors isn’t for everyone because I use to feel the same way. Hiking just wasn’t something that I did. Movies, dining, hitting the bars, now that’s something I knew, and frankly, why would I want to spend my weekends walking through the woods?
Hiking is now a huge part of my life. I guess if you didn’t know me you would think I grew up camping with my family on the weekends and visiting National Parks in the summer by how much I talk about how great it is, but that is in fact completely opposite from the truth. Scroll down to the end to read how I got into hiking, and here are some tips to get you started hiking the great outdoors too.
Find a trail | There are dozens of ways to find trails near you; ask around, get a map of your area, the classic google search, but my go-to is AllTrails. The AllTrails app will guide you to nearby trails or allow you to search trails by a specific location. The app shows you the difficulty level, mileage, and provides easy-to-follow directions helping you to not get lost. When you are out in the wilderness, service likely is nonexistent so making sure to use AllTrail’s ‘download’ feature to load the full trail prior to the hike. There are many other great features to the app, but my favorite is that it is set up for people to review the trail which can be very helpful to understand the trail conditions. Its direction tool is also pretty sweet as it will literally take to the start of the trail. You can also use the AllTrails website version here.
Choose the right trail for you | It’s easy to want to jump into a huge hike, but while you are starting out, take it slow and low. Consider the mileage and elevation. Estimate 1-mile will take you 30 minutes to start. Elevation change will also be a huge factor. I highly suggest sticking under 1,500ft of elevation change until you get the feel for it. Add an hour to your estimated hiking time for every 1000 feet of gain.
Check the weather | Leading up to your hike, check the weather for temperature, wind, and rain in the forecast. This will give you information on how to dress and what to pack. See my gear guide to make sure you are weather-ready and do not climb into higher elevations if there are storms on the horizon.
Tell someone where you will be | Communication is key. Let someone not on the hike know exactly what trail you are hiking and approximately how long you think the hike should take you. Add a few hours to that time for site-seeing, stopping for a food break, or even soreness.
Use the equation: (Number of Miles/2) + (Elevation Gain x .001) + 1.5 = Time out
Picking Footwear | You’re only as happy as your feet are. You want to make sure that you wear shoes that are already comfortable for you. Investing in quality hiking shoes and socks could get pricey, but can also go a long way. Remember that any good shoe needs to be broken in, so don’t slap on new hiking boots and then hit a super long trail. For socks, no cotton! Wool or synthetic socks are the way to go. Check out my beginners guide hiking gear here.
Keep it light | You may get the urge to just shove everything in your backpack for that “just in case” moment. I would advise against this. Too much weight could definitely be your enemy and hold you back when you’re hiking. Just ask yourself if you really need it. Remember the essential 10.
- Navigation: map, compass, altimeter, GPS device, personal locator beacon (PLB) or satellite messenger.
- Headlamp: plus extra batteries.
- Sun protection: sunglasses, sun-protective clothes and sunscreen.
- First aid including foot care and insect repellent (as needed).
- Knife plus a gear repair kit.
- Fire matches, lighter, tinder and/or stove.
- Shelter carried at all times (can be a light emergency bivy).
- Extra food Beyond the minimum expectation.
- Extra water Beyond the minimum expectation.
- Extra clothes Beyond the minimum expectation.
Pace yourself | When you first get on the trail, you may feel like powering forward like a hero. However, you’ll be zero by the end of the day if you don’t pace yourself. Instead, pick a pace you can maintain all day. It might feel a little awkward at first, but after a few miles, especially uphill, you’ll be glad you saved your energy.
How did I get into hiking? About 5 years ago, when I was a young 20-something professional working in my 9-5, I did what any other person does, HAPPY HOUR! Long story short, I ran into the President of my company, braved the courage to say hello, and somehow left the conversation having just signed up for a 35-mile, one-day hiking challenge with a small team of people from my work. Like what!! I was clueless. I’ve never been hiking, walking, sure, but I had never walked an actual distance switching between elevations.
Jump to the end of the story, I did NOT complete the 35-miles. In fact, after about mile 7, I called my mom begging her to come to pick me up (because you kinda needed to get to the end to get back to your car). She did not oblige. I ended up walking about 32 miles. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I remember literally crawling to the second to last check-point and saying that I was never going to do anything like this again. I’m never going hiking again. But I recovered. And after realizing that I had just pushed myself to the most extreme, I learned that you can do more than you could have ever thought. And although I would not recommend going to that extreme, that hike opened my eyes to so much of where I grew up that others would never have seen.
Suprise, I did hike again, but I started slow. I wanted to hike to the Hollywood sign while I was visiting the West Coast. And you know what, it was hard, but I took my time and I did it. Even if you think you think you’re too out of shape, hiking is really just walking at your own pace. You can do it too.
Baby steps, you got this!