Are you craving a breath of fresh air after a long, cooped-up winter? Why not skip the gym during the first sunny spring weekend and take a hike? You’ll still get your heart pumping while the beauty of nature steals your breath away.
Hiking provides a great cardio workout while toning your whole body as you climb, balance and boulder — yes, that is a verb! If you’re new to hitting the trail, you’ll want to learn a few things so you can get lost in earth’s beauty without wasting too much time wondering where the heck you are. The following 12 tips for beginner day hikers will have you finding your inner zen while exploring this beautiful planet.
1. Invest in a Local Trail Guide
Trail guides help you know what to expect on your trek. Many guides provide useful details such as the length of your route and overall trail difficulty.
2. Choose an Appropriate Trail
Select short hikes of only a mile or two on trails rated as easy when you first start. As your fitness level grows, you can gradually progress to longer, more strenuous routes.
3. Wear the Right Shoes
Too-tight boots pinch toes and cause painful blisters. Get your feet measured length and width by a pro, and choose shoes with appropriate ankle support and tread for the terrain.
4. Prepare Your Gear
Pack your backpack the day before your trek. This way, you won’t find yourself scrambling to remember things at the last minute.
5. Dress in Layers
We’ve all heard this advice in terms of going out in the winter, and the same goes for hiking, too. Early morning hikers may catch a chill, but as the sun and exercise warms you, you’ll want to be able to shed top layers.
6. Drink Plenty of Water
The importance of hydration cannot be overstated, especially for those hiking in the desert southwest. Carry one liter of water for every two hours you intend to spend out on the trail in moderate temperatures, or one liter for each hour in arid climates.
7. Follow Weather Reports
Weather can change quickly in many areas. Hikers in northern climates should check for rain, snow or ice before heading out. Meanwhile, those in hot, desert areas should avoid canyon hikes during monsoon season, as flash floods can prove tragic and strike with little to no warning.
8. Learn Basic First Aid
Twisted ankles, cuts and scratches from thorns and even strains and sprains sometimes occur despite the best preparation. Consider signing up for a first aid course — or at least pack a kit with bandages, slings and cleansing pads to treat trail injuries.
9. Inform Others of Your Itinerary
Always let at least one person know where you’re heading and what time you expect to return. Should you lose your way, rescue crews will know where to search for you.
10. Watch Your Step
From twisted ankles to rattlesnakes, pay attention to your feet to keep yourself safe. Additionally, avoid straying from the path in areas of delicate foliage that can’t thrive when trampled.
11. Obey Trail Etiquette
Even if you hike to spend time alone with your thoughts, you may encounter others in the wild. Keep to the right on trails and pass on the left. Take a cell phone for pictures and emergencies, but turn the ringer off. Other hikers enjoy the sound of silence, too.
12. Enjoy Nature’s Bliss
Hiking isn’t just all about cardio, even though it provides a great workout. Take time to sit on a rock and absorb the beauty around you. Breathe deeply, and exhale away any stress.
Share Your Knowledge
Now that you’re familiar with all the knowledge and tools you need to enjoy hiking safely, get on out there and find your bliss! What tips would you give to hiking beginners? Stop by when you get back from your adventure to share your journey, as well as any suggestions we may have missed in this list. Happy trails!