Hiking Tips for Beginners

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Hiking Tips for Beginners

After being cooped up indoors for several weeks now, people are ready to get out of the house and into the sunshine. One popular activity people are looking forward to is hiking. If you haven’t hiked in the past, now is a perfect time to get started. Trails and parks are opening back up, and they will give you the chance to breathe in some fresh air (through your face mask, of course) while working off some of the “Quarantine pounds.”

Getting started in the world of hiking can be daunting for some people. Perhaps you have images of people scaling Mt. Everest or rock-climbing from equally dangerous heights in expensive gear and tools you’ve never heard of. The truth is, hiking does not have to be an extreme sport or commercialized. Americans have been hiking for fun since the end of the 19th century, and they certainly didn’t need $500 backpacks to do so.

When going on your first hike, you will want to select a trail that is appropriate for your fitness levels. All Trails has a simple search feature that allows you to find trails in your area and labels them according to difficulty. Users can leave reviews and describe their experiences on the trail. These reviews are goldmines for information about tough spots, where to go for the best views, and what wildlife you can expect to find the in the area.

As you are preparing for your first hiking trip, the best piece of equipment you can invest in is a pair of good shoes. While there is no need to blow your budget on top of the line shoes, you will want to make sure you have a decent pair, especially if you plan to hike often. Some people prefer hiking boots for better ankle support and others go for “trail runners,” a type of lightweight sneaker that has exceptional traction. Outdoor stores like REI have employees that can suggest types of shoes for the area you will be hiking in.

Whichever type of shoe you decide on, you do not want to wear them for the first time on your hike. You will want to break them in a couple weeks before your hike. Wear them around the house and around town to soften the shoe and to help the material conform to your feet and walking pattern. Taking the time to break them in will help prevent blisters on your hike, so make sure you don’t skip this step.

Another important consideration is clothing. Wear clothing that is comfortable and appropriate for the weather you are hiking in. Remember that you are going to get warmer as you hike, so don’t overload with warm clothing that you will end up carrying the whole way. On the flip side, some regions, especially in the mountains, experience quick weather shifts. You will want to have layers (including a light rain jacket) in case you are caught in a sudden shower.

Bring plenty of water and snacks. The North Country Trail Association has some great tips for determining how much water to carry on your hike and the best options for carrying this water. Bring high-energy snacks like nuts and dried fruit that aren’t too heavy but also pack a lot of calories per ounce.

When you set out for your hike, remember to take your time. If your breathing is becoming labored, slow down your pace. Set out early in the day to give you plenty of time to return to the trailhead before sunset. Take frequent breaks and enjoy your time in nature. Hike with a friend for safety purposes, and remember to bring your cell phone with you, setting it to airplane mode to conserve battery.

Once you accomplish your first trail, you will be ready to start planning your next adventure!

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