There are many benefits to getting out and taking a nice long walk in the outdoors, otherwise known as hiking. Whether it’s just for the change of scenery to help reset the mind or a bit of physical exertion to tone the body, hiking is a great method to connect with nature and your self in a unique way.
But, as the saying goes: the wilderness is dangerous! And it can be frightening to venture out into the unknown wilds, especially if you are going out alone. I won’t claim to be some hard core ultralight thru hiking mamajama; I do not consider myself an expert even though I’ve logged thousands of solo wilderness miles. Like most content you’ll find on the Ersity of Was website, I’ve written this to hopefully encourage others to get out on the trail, even if they have to go by themselves.
Do Some Research
Before you even head out the door, do a little Google flying to get familiar with the area you’ll be visiting, even if it’s right around the corner from your house. Study up on available maps and search online for any tips from previous visitors. You should likely start on a well established trail.
Start slow – you’ll have time for miles soon enough. One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is overdoing things on their first few trips out, leading to sore muscles as well as sore dispositions. Find a short trail close to where you live that doesn’t include too much elevation gain and simply go for a walk to see how it feels. Do it again the next day, or maybe skip a day in between. This isn’t a race, so just start by walking as far as you’re comfortable and do a little more from there.
It’s the tried and true motto, but HOW prepared? If you try and bring enough gear for every potential eventuality you’ll be lugging 30 pounds all over the countryside. There are a few general essentials that you should plan on having on almost every hike, even if it’s a short one. These include: good shoes, water, a blade, and a small first aid kit. Shoes themselves could take up pages of importance; as your feet get you where you’re going when you’re hiking they are among the most key of items. Water is always important as staying hydrated can help you avoid a number of physical issues. It’s amazing the number of uses you can find for even a simple blade, whether it be as a fire striker or for cutting cordage, a blade can make all the difference on the trail. A first aid kit, even a small one is a good idea. Bandages, some aspirin, and a little bit of water don’t seem like much but should you get caught outside overnight they can prove real life savers.
Check the Weather
This goes for beginners as well as old pros as it’s something that seems to get frequently forgotten despite its obvious importance: the weather! Since you’ll be outside, it’s a good idea to see what conditions you’ll be facing as you head out. It’s good to look well into the afternoon even if you’re only planning a day hike as weather is often unpredictable and may arrive earlier than expected.
Nature never rushes, and yet everything gets accomplished. Take a queue from nature – go slow, take your time, and enjoy your surroundings. This isn’t a race you’ve started, it’s a journey. Being in too big of a hurry is one of the easiest ways to injury yourself, so slow down – take the time to take it in.
Don’t Be Ashamed to Turn Around
You aren’t Magellan. No peoples are depending upon your vital discoveries to save their way of life. You are going for a walk, and trying to possibly go for a hike. You don’t get awards for getting hurt and people just don’t feel as much sympathy when you do it to yourself. Don’t be ashamed to stop, say you’ve had enough, and turn around right on the spot – even before reaching the “destination”. There’s no shame. You’re just getting started; they’ll be plenty of time to beat up your body later.
I hope these beginner hiking tips will help you in getting started on the trail! It isn’t easy, especially when you are just starting out, but with some persistence you might just discover that you are a hiker after all!