Beginner Hiking Tips! How to Plan for your First Hike (2018)

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Are you planning to take your very first hiking trip? Are you wondering what to bring and how to prepare for it? I bet you must be so excited! I sure was when I was planning for mine a few years back.

I am not a pro- hiker, but these are information I have gathered both online and through my own hiking experiences. Hopefully you will find them useful! 🙂

Hiking for Beginners – Training & Workout

  1. How to prepare for a hike physically? Depending on the weight of your pack, try to get your body fit and ready starting at least 1-2 months before the hike. A good combination of cardio and weight training is very important. Are you going to be climbing a lot on trail? Know how much elevation you have to gain on trail, and train for it. Hiking will be much more fun without having to be in pain all day. I have been through that, and learned the hard way. Climbing stairs at every opportunity you have is a very important part of training.
  2. Trial Workout. Try going for a nearby day hike(Or climb up the stairs of your apartment building!) with your actual pack weight to test if you are comfortable with it. If not, you will need to compromise by taking out some unnecessary items that can save you some pain. For instance, I love taking pictures on my hiking trips, and on my first hike, I brought my 2kg Manfrotto tripod along, and soon realised it was a mistake on Day 1, because most of the time, I was too tired to take it out to shoot! The night was too cold etc. So from then on, I never brought it out on my hikes, and relied on just a small Gorillapod.

Beginner Hiking Gear – Budget and the Essentials!

  1. How much to pay? As a beginner, think about how much you should invest in your gear. The price range for each type of gear is very wide, and usually it’s differentiated by quality. For example, a 2-P tent can cost between $20 to $400 depending on it’s weather- proofing ability and weight. The better quality gear is understandably priced higher. For me, I first invested on a good pair of shoes, and as for the rest of my gear such as backpack/jackets/poles, I went for cheaper gear(of decent grade), as I wasn’t sure if hiking was something I was really serious about at that time.
  2. You can always Upgrade After. After my second hike, I figured I wanted to upgrade some gear to make hiking more enjoyable(less weight). It is only after experiencing through a couple of hikes that you will understand what you need and what you can easily do without. For instance, I never needed a pillow when camping out, but I know some people who can’t sleep without one. And I knew that weight is my biggest problem so I upgraded to an ultra-light 1-P tent, one of my happiest investments so far!
  3. Do thorough research. It’s fun! I often do my research on google, and one resource I found extremely useful is REI.com’s Expert AdviceThe information they have caters from beginners to pro hikers, so I highly recommend it. I buy most of my gear online(due to the lack of good shops in my country), so I also check out the item on Amazon for the most balanced reviews from users who have tried them out.
  4. Ensure that the online shops have free- return policy, in case you do not find the gear suitable.
  5. Reading articles online is static, so before purchasing a gear, I also go to Youtube to check out gear reviews and see the product in greater detail.
  6. Meet others! Of course, when out on trail, make friends, talk to others and exchange insights on gears and anything about trail life! You’ll be surprised by alternative ideas people use on trail.
  7. Essential items are listed below:
    1. Maps/Guidebook with maps. Note that phone signals can be non-existent when out on trails! Ensure that you have proper physical navigation on hand. If not, choose a trail that is very well- marked!
    2. Suitable clothing and raincoat/waterproof clothing!
    3. Emergency food and medication
    4. Water
    5. Sunscreen
    6. Tent, Sleeping Bag
    7. Good pair of trail shoe/boots
  8. Here’s my current hiking gear list, if you are interested to take a peek!

Beginners – How to Choose a trail to hike and Plan for it

  1. 1 Day? 4 Days? Am I ready? Choose the right trail for your fitness level. The hiking trail you choose should be one which you are able to navigate through, because safety is always a priority! Naturally, popular hiking trails such as the  Great Walks in NZ are well- marked with trail posts within measurable distances, hence, are most suitable for beginners. The distance also matters.
  2. For beginners, I would recommend a hike no more than 3 or 4 days, to first test your endurance for being out on trail. Trail life is not always comfortable and you may not be able to shower or eat the best meals.
  3. In addition, are you afraid of wildlife like insects, snakes, etc? Are you prepared for such encounters? This is also one of my considerations when selecting a trail to hike. As of now, I’m not prepared for bears yet, so hiking in the United States or Canada is a no- go for now. I’ve read that there are no snakes or bears in New Zealand, so I chose to do my first multi- day hike there.
  4. Are you using new equipments for the first time? It’s perfectly fine, but I think an exception should be made for shoes. They are the most important piece of item you need to rely on for hiking, so it’s best to break them in until your feet gets used to them! It is difficult to know whether a shoe is comfortable or not by only trying them out in the shop!
  5. Always check the weather months ahead, and keep checking it every day before setting off for the trails. The weather changes a lot especially if you’re hiking up mountains and traversing passes. The weather can tell you what layers to wear and if you need crampons for snow/ice.
  6. Research the best season to go for the hike that you have chosen, and avoid the start or end of season, as the weather changes can be quite unpredictable. I have tried to hike Mt Kumotori (Japan) too early in the season, and unfortunately had to make a bad weather turn back.

I hope you have found these tips useful, and please share with me any interesting ones you have. Thanks for reading!

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