Make Your First Hike an Epic Adventure!
If you've never gone hiking or have never planned your own hike there are a few things you should know before hitting the trail. The last thing you want is to become a news story about an unprepared hiker who got lost or needed to be rescued. Luckily, preparing for a successful first hike is not rocket science. Just follow these tips and you will be on your way to a great first hike that is safe, fun and memorable. So keep reading, and then get out there and go hiking!
1. Pack the 10 Essentials
The 10 Essentials are number one on this list because they are everything you need for a safe first hike. Prior to your first hike, you should obtain the 10 Essentials and get familiar with their use.
The 10 Essentials Include:
- Navigation: Topographic Map, Compass, and Optional GPS / Altimeter
- Sun Protection: Sunglasses, Sunscreen, and Hat / Clothing for Sun Protection
- Insulation: Extra Clothing for Coldest Possible Weather
- Illumination: Headlamp or Flashlight and Extra Batteries
- First-Aid Supplies: Enough for the length of Trip
- Fire: Lighter, Waterproof Matches, and Firestarter
- Repair Kit and Tools: Knife, Multitool, Duct Tape, etc
- Nutrition: Enough Food for an Extra Day
- Hydration: Enough Water for an Extra Day
- Emergency Shelter: Tent, Tarp, Bivy Sack, Poncho, Space Blanket, etc
2. Research and Select a Good Beginner Trail
As part of your 10 Essentials, you obtained a map of the area you would like to hike. You can use this map to look at trails and pick one that seems like it will match your fitness and experience level. Part of the fun of the outdoors is pushing your limits and endurance, but it's best to be conservative on your first hike. You can also check sites www.alltrails.com for suggestions and recent trail reports. Lastly, it's always great to ask a friend for their recommendations.
3. Check the Weather Forcast Before Heading Out
Checking the weather before your hike is a must. A current weather report will help you pack the right clothing and avoid planning your hike during any big storms. Most weather is not a problem as long as you are prepared but try and schedule your first hike for clear and sunny weather to maximize comfort and views.
4. Tell Someone Where You're Hiking and When You'll Be Back
Always let at least one reliable person know when and where you are hiking, and when you expect to be back. This can be a quick call or even better a text message so they can easily pull up the details later if you don't check in. This is often called a "Trip Report." The last thing you want is to end up lost with no one knowing where you are or that you are hiking.
5. Bring Snacks to Stay Fueled and Hydrated
Snacks are one of the joys of hiking and best of all you'll be burning enough calories to enjoy your favorite treats guilt free. We always bring enough to have something to snack on if we end up unexpectedly spending the night in the woods because the weight of a little extra trail mix in your pack sure beats eating bugs. Also, bring enough water for an extra day on the trail. It's also a great idea to bring a water filter or purification tablets so you can refill at lakes or streams.
6. Dress for the Trail with the Layer System
Plan your layers for the coldest weather you could possibly encounter on your hike. Wear fabrics that wick and dry quickly like merino wool and synthetic materials, always avoid cotton. Even in warm weather, the top of a windy peak can feel pretty cold if you're sweaty from the hike up, so pack a layer to wear while you enjoy the view.
7. Bring a Friend or Two – AKA "The Buddy System"
Solo hikes are great, but your first outing will be more enjoyable if you bring friends. A more experienced friend can lead the way, but even if everyone is a newbie there is safety in numbers. Plus we strongly believe that adventures are better when they are shared!
8. Practice the Principles of Leave No Trace
Next to bringing the 10 Essentials, practicing Leave No Trace principles is the most important thing to do on your hike. Don't litter, pick wildflowers, or leave the trail and trample vegetation. If you see garbage pick it up, basically leave the trail better than you found it.
Additional Info: Read up on how to Leave No Trace
9. Hike Your Own Hike
Lastly, "Hike Your Own Hike." Enjoy the trail at your own pace, hike as far as you want, take breaks when you want, and don't feel the need to keep up with the trail runner that just sprinted up the switchbacks ahead of you. Hiking should be an escape from the pressures and competition of everyday life.