Hiking for Beginners: A Guide to Get You Started

Many people get into hiking as a way to exercise or get outdoors.

Regardless of your reasons for wanting to start hiking, as a beginner, getting started can be pretty daunting, especially when you consider that trails can be tough and that the weather can change at a moment’s notice.

Before you hit the trails, here are some important hiking essentials to consider:

1. Keep your objectives small, at first

When starting out, you may be tempted to go out and accomplish a big day in the hills. Especially if you’re keen for a good workout, you might want to tackle quite a few summits and a whole lot of mileage.

Unfortunately, such a mindset, at least at first, can be a recipe for disaster. In the beginning, start small.

If you’re new to hiking, you might not know how quick your pace is or how much your body can handle each day. Elevation gain (and loss!) also significantly increases the amount of effort required during a hiking day.

Choose trails that are well-marked, somewhat popular, and relatively short (think a half-day outing) to get you started. Eventually, you’ll work your way up to full days, longer days, and overnight trips, but we all have to start somewhere.

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2. Do your research

Trekking in Australia

Especially if you’re going out on your own or with other inexperienced hikers, you’ll really want to do your research on your destination.

Check out trail conditions ahead of time and scour the internet or ask friends for information on the trail you’re hiking before you set out.

There are many great hiking forums for trail information out there these days, but don’t take any single person’s word as gospel – what’s easy or difficult for them might be the opposite for you.

Rather, we encourage you to make your own decisions based on the information you can gather.

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3. Tell someone where you’re going

Bush walking gear

This is perhaps the most important thing you can do when you’re going out for a trip in the backcountry. Although we hope that nothing bad will happen to us on our trip, conditions can change rapidly and turn a sunny day into a howling gale.

Telling someone responsible where you are and what time you plan to return can really help authorities if they need to come looking for you. It’s a great habit to get into and could save your life.

4. Pack the right gear

Although the gear you need to be prepared for a day out will vary greatly based on your itinerary, experience level, and the anticipated conditions, in general, you’ll want to pack food, water, warm clothing, waterproofs, a first aid kit, and navigation tools (e.g. map, compass, GPS).

Also, if you’re going to be hiking in exposed areas be sure to always pack sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses to help prevent sunburn and heatstroke.

There is no ‘one-size fits all’ answer to what gear you need, so you’ll need to do some thinking to determine what’s important for your location and the conditions you’ll encounter.

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5. Leave No Trace

When we travel into the backcountry, we will undoubtedly leave behind evidence of our activities, whether that be footprints, trash, or an overturned rock.

Following Leave No Trace principles can help minimise our impact on the landscape so that we can continue enjoying these wild places.

Do some research to learn about Leave No Trace before you set out and check with local authorities to see if there’s anything specific you ought to keep in mind. Keeping our wild places beautiful is a job for us all.

Photo of author

Gaby Pilson - Professional Mountain Guide

A professional mountain guide and experienced outdoor educator, Gaby enjoys travelling and exploring the world’s most remote locales. As a writer and editor, Gaby has written for a variety of climbing and travel blogs, news sites, and climbing magazines. She is currently finishing a master’s degree in outdoor education but in her free time, Gaby loves a strong cup of coffee and searching for the next great adventure. Learn more about what she does at www.gabypilson.com.