Starting your first hike, whether its half an hour long or several hours, can be an exhilarating moment. For many, it’s the point where they really connect with the outdoors. In my case, it lead to a lifelong adventure by prioritising the outdoors in my life. And it all started with a hike...
Whatever your long terms goals, many just start a hike as something different to do on the weekends. So before you get out on your first trail, have a think about the following tips.
5 THINGS YOU NEED TO REMEMBER
► Start Small!
It’s so easy to get into something big straight away. It’s vital to always accurately assess your abilities.
So start small!
For someone who has a good level of fitness, start on a maintained trail that’s half a day or less. For those who are feeling unfit and haven’t been outdoors much, start with something under an hour.
Ideally, pick a place that’s popular and has a few options for hikes. If you finish your short hike and are feeling great, you can always do another short one. But start too big and it’s hard to make a 5 hour slog back to the car any shorter once you are feeling done in.
This is the single most important lesson to doing any activity outdoors. Until you have a better idea of the different variables involved in your activity, start small and stay small until you are truly ready to progress!
► Don’t Buy Expensive Hiking Shoes Straight Away!
Leading my adventure group for 2 years, I always had newcomers and beginners new to hiking do this. Brand new, expensive hiking shoes. And you know what? I once did the same!
But you don’t want to do that!
Because it’s important to start slow and figure out what you really need.
Some simple $30 trainers will be perfectly fine for anything under half a day and easy- moderate difficulty. In fact, it’s important to build ankle strength by allowing the ankle to do its job.
High side hiking boots actually weaken the ankle, as do hiking poles for balance, but they are very important when carrying heavy loads so have their place. But since you won’t be doing that, using sand shoes/trainers are the best way to develop the right muscles and joints from the beginning.
Provided you take it slow of course!
► Leave No Trace!
With more people getting outdoors the effect of all of use using the same space becomes quite noticeable. So for all of us on the trails, and those to follow, leave no trace and carry out ALL your rubbish, including things like apple cores or orange skins.
For more information on the leave no trace (LNT) principles, have a look at the leave no trace website: HERE.
► Take the Right Clothing and Gear!
This is where many people get confused. I know I was in the beginning. There's just so much to consider and there’s websites a plenty with 100 tips of what to take, adding to the confusion.
So, keep it simple!
◘ Water. This is the most important thing. If you ignore all advice given to you, at least just take some water. I always carry a minimum of 2 litres for a half day hike. Carry more if the weather is hot.
◘ Food. Take food or snacks even on short hikes. Snacks are great to have when you hit that wall of fatigue. It’s good to have something on hand then.
◘ First aid. Take some things to take care of small cuts, some pain relief, tweezers, scissors, and if you live in countries with snakes, 3 compression bandages. Have a read HERE about snakes if they live in your country.
◘ Clothing. When you first start, you don't need all that technical hiking clothing. But just remember one thing when you start hiking:
Cotton is terrible at insulation and helping you regulate temperature. So in both hot and cold climates, wear synthetics like Polyester or other variations of that. Wool is great but for its price is more of a investment.
So wait until you have done a few hikes before buying hiking specific clothing!
Always take a raincoat or poncho of some kind. Ponchos are great since you can pick them up at variety stores for a couple of dollars.
For more gear tips and a FREE essentials hiking gear list PDF download, have a look HERE.
► Tell Someone Where You Are Going!
When you start, and even once you are experienced, letting someone know where you are is the single most important thing you can do for your safety. For an example of what I use, try this basic setup to send as email or text to a trusted contact:
***In case of an emergency, please give this information to the police***
TRIP LOCATION:______ national park.
Details of trip: Hiking the ______ trail.
Group members: I will be going with ________.
Vehicle location: ________ National Park. My car (White ________. Rego is XXX XXX).
Emergency devices & equipment carried: _______
Special notes for this trip: ______
Time I will be back by, please call emergency services if I am overdue from this time: Sunday 1/1/XX 7PM
A great idea is to add important contacts and their mobile numbers as well as any medical information relevant to you (allergies ect).
And if you don’t see why this is so important, even on a short hike, watch the movie 127 Hours.
STARTING IS EASY!
I know many people have different hesitations when starting a outdoor activity. For some, they find it easy, but for most of us, it can be a big step.
Living in our cities of concrete, steel and glass doesn’t help of course, we lose touch with nature and our ability to stay safe.
The most important step is actually taking A STEP outside.
Use common sense, follow and apply these 5 tips when starting, and continue to keep learning and progressing.
And don’t forget, have fun, stay safe, and enjoy the outdoors!