Hiking is a fun activity to do any time of the year and everyone in the family can do it, even the four-legged ones. Some people go on hikes to clear their head while others do so to get some perspective. On occasion, they hit the trails simply to be closer to nature. Depending on where you go, you’ll also encounter challenges that can either be big or small. There are literally dozens of reasons why people hike so if you’re just about to start, consider these five hiking tips for the novice to help you stay safe and injury free on your first excursion.
5 Hiking Tips for the Novice
Stay on the trail path
There’s much temptation to go off the trail especially if the views look particularly enticing, but if you’re just starting and going off on your own or with others who are also inexperienced as you, it’s probably best to stay on the trail path. You might end up getting lost or worse injured and lost. When you get more comfortable with the area, then you can give yourself permission to gear away, but until then remain on the well marked and often more traveled pathways for your own safety. Keep in mind that you’re no longer in your own familiar territory.
Follow the signs
Perhaps the most important advice in this list of hiking tips for the novice is something even experienced hikers often take for granted: following the signs. Signs are placed there for a reason, so take a note of them. At Yosemite National Park, rangers forbid visitors to feed animals. This is so that they remain “wild” and won’t get used to approaching people every time they want food. At Denali National Park, there are markers warning visitors to limit their wildlife observations from a distance. Yellowstone National Park puts detailed instructions on how to properly dispose food so that bears don’t come knocking on your cars and motorhome or RV rentals to steal your food. Pay attention and adhere to the signs to avoid any unnecessary consequences to yourself and to the nature that surrounds you.
Don’t hesitate to take a walking stick
It wasn’t until my own hike yesterday that I realized how useful walking sticks are so if you’re new to the circuit, don’t hesitate to take one with you. They lessen the pressure on your knees and ankles when going down steep steps. They also help with balance when you’re traversing unpaved paths. Most importantly, you can use them to check out crevices and distract creatures that you normally can’t see on the ground because they are covered with leaves or fallen tree branches. Disregard the notion that they don’t make you look cool. You’ve already lost that label when you put on that bulky hiking boots anyway.
Hydrate and bring light snacks
This next one on this list of hiking tips for the novice is a particularly important one especially since it’s safe to assume that you won’t likely be able to tell which fruits or sections of nature is edible or not. Depending on the location and trail you take, hiking can certainly take the wind out you. The steep vertical ascents and rock scrambles will have you working quiet a sweat, which means that you’ll need to rehydrate to keep up your energy. Make sure to bring some water or if you prefer something with more flavor, one of those natural thirst quenchers like coconut water. You’ll also need a boost of energy so take light snacks like granola bars, a handful of healthier nuts such as walnuts or almonds and/or fruits like bananas or blueberries. Just remember to throw your trash in the designated bins.
Wear comfortable and close-toed shoes
It doesn’t matter what shirt or pants you choose to wear when hiking, but it makes a heck of a big difference what shoes you wear. This might come as a surprise to some, but this one is definitely among the top hiking tips for the novice that’s worth following. I still find it bewildering when I see some women on hikes wearing high pumps or men with flip-flops. When hiking, wear footwear that has traction on the soles. This will alleviate the possibility of slippage. You also want something that protects your toes as much as possible especially if the trail you plan to take is rocky and heavily wooded. Closed-toe shoes also provide protection from creepy crawlers that are often too small to notice. Brands like Merrell, Timbaland and Columbia Sportwear usually have a number of options to choose from.
What other hiking tips for the novice do you have? Let us know in the comments below.