Hiking is one of the greatest activities on the planet because you don’t need much to start with but there’s still so much you can do with it. One the one end you can start with little more than shoes and a neat place to explore. On the other end you can spend hours, days even, tinkering with gear, weighing your pack, planning your trip and researching the best stuff to buy and places to go. The best part of all is that you can you can have an amazing time hiking no matter where you are on the spectrum.
There isn’t anything complicated about starting to hike but here is a bit of a process I think about when I’m getting out there.
Steps to start hiking
Get the right shoes for you
Hiking isn’t any fun without comfortable shoes. Ill-fitting shoes can rub on your feet and give you blisters and be uncomfortable to wear. You don’t have to go out and spend $300 on fancy hiking boots but you do have to find something comfortable to wear out on the trails. You don’t necessarily have to get boots either. Many trips are prime candidates for hiking shoes, they’re lighter and not as stiff but offer less support. You’ll have you decide how much of a shoe you’d like to wear for you hike. Your local hiking or sports shop can get you into some really comfortable hiking shoes or boots.
Find some hiking buddies
Hiking alone is tough to recommend. It can be very peaceful and satisfying to wander the trails by yourself or maybe with your dogs. The most fun and fulfilling trips I’ve been on have been the ones with good hiking buddies. Hiking with a group is definitely much safer. You can help each other out if something goes wrong and combine your ideas if you get lost. Make sure your hiking partners are people that you get along with. Trips can quickly turn into an uncomfortable situation if you don’t get along with your partners. I’ll go into more detail in another post with tips for choosing your hiking partners and good places to find them.
Research a cool place
Before you go hiking, you’ll probably want to know where you’re going! You may have heard about good places to hike from other hikers, folks at the local outdoor store or from good local websites online. Anywhere is a good source for leads on new and exciting trails to try out. Be careful with the information you hear though, a lot of it can be second hand and patchy or just plain wrong. Try and double check your information as much as you can with books, websites, or friends so you know what you’re getting into. Trails can be tricky things to find and it’s good to have as much information as you can get before heading out. I’ll discuss finding and researching trails in a later section in more detail.
The most important step in the whole process. The exploring is the reason why a lot of us are out hiking when we are. It’s hard not to feel free to do anything you want, to think whatever you want, and to feel optimistic about the moment and the future. You’ll probably want to pay attention to where you’re going though. I highly recommend taking some sort of map with you when you go hiking, even if it is a place that you know well. Who knows when you’ll decide (voluntarily or involuntarily) to take a different tracks or go somewhere you haven’t gone before. Any number of things can change when you’re out in the woods and you’ll never know when you really need that map to get home.
Don’t let that scare you though, with a map and a few good habits on the trail you’ll be adventuring around unexplored territory and making it back safely in no time.
Get home safely
Mountaineer Ed Viesturs has a saying that has kept him alive over many years of dangerous hiking and mountaineering on the world highest mountains.
Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.
You may not be summitting 8000 meter tall mountains but any hike can become dangerous if you’re out in bad conditions and you’re not prepared. As awesome as it can be to reach your objective and take in the beautiful sites, they’re not worth much if you don’t make it back. It’s always a good idea to let someone know where you are going and when you’ll be back. If you keep your priorities in the back of your mind when you’re out hiking, you won’t run into any problems.
Share your adventure
Aside from the trip itself, my favorite part of adventuring is sharing the trip with others. With websites, blogs, forums or email it’s so easy to share photos and writing about your trips. Many people will find reading your stories and looking at your photos exciting. They may not be able to get out there themselves. Hopefully those that see your stories and photos will be inspired to go hike the trail themselves and share their story. By sharing your information with everyone you’ll be passing on first hand knowledge of the places you’ve been which is extremely valuable information to the people you pass that on to. Think about how much you gain from talking to someone who has detailed information about a trail.
Now it’s your turn
You know all you need to know to get started hiking, now you just need to put these steps into practice and see what hiking is all about!
Comments: If you have any questions about starting hiking, let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts!