A Beginner's Guide to Safe and Fun Hiking Trips
Go for a Hike!
Hiking is a wonderful way to relieve stress, get some fresh air and exercise and discover some new places. Whether you are new to hiking and want to try a short day hike on a local trail or if you're an experienced backpacker planning a multi-day adventure in a foreign country, proper planning is critical to making the most of your experience and staying safe.
This article will help provide you with resources, food and supply lists and other helpful information to ensure that your next hiking trip is a memorable and enjoyable experience.
Planning Your Hiking Trip
Things to consider:
- How long do you want to hike for?
- What type of terrain or location appeals to you?
- What supplies will you need?
- What clothing will you need?
- What food will you bring?
- Where will you find maps for the trails?
- Who will you be hiking with?
- What is your current fitness level?
If you are planning an extended backpacking trip it's advisable to try some shorter hikes first to test out your equipment and your stamina.
What to Wear Hiking
For all hiking trips, proper footwear is essential for safety and comfort. Ensure you have a well-fitting pair of sturdy hiking boots or shoes, as well as comfortable hiking socks. Stay away from cotton socks, to avoid blisters and help ensure your feet stay warm and dry.
In fact, it's a good idea to avoid cotton clothing altogether when hiking. Synthetic materials like polyester, fleece or wool are better choices, as they are breathable and won't hold water like cotton does if it gets wet.
Dressing in light layers is recommended, so you can add or remove clothing depending on the weather conditions you encounter on your hike.
Sunglasses and a hat are a good idea, to protect you from the sun and possibly bugs.
What to Bring on a Day Hike
Essential supplies for a day hike are:
- Bug spray
- First aid kit
- Trail map (unless you're walking on well-marked trails)
Although not essential, a camera or binoculars will certainly contribute to your enjoyment of the hike.
Good Hiking Snacks
It is important to bring food along on your hike, as hiking works up quite an appetite, and you don't want to run out of energy on the trail. Ideally, you want your hiking snacks to be lightweight, and able to withstand a bit of wear and tear in your backpack.
Some good options are:
- Trail mix
- Granola bars
- Dried fruit
- Energy bars
- Oatmeal cookies
- Crackers and cheese or peanut butter, if it's not too hot out.
Food for Longer Hiking Trips
For longer hiking trips, you are going to need more food. Since you will need to carry your food with you, you'll want to ensure you pack things that are light and don't take up a lot of room.
Many companies make dehydrated or freezer dried meals that you can buy. You only need to boil some water and add it to the package, and you can have a hearty meal like chili or pasta . These meals, while convenient and tasty, tend to be quite expensive, so you may want to consider packaging up some of your own foods for at least some of the meals.
Some other foods, in addition to the snacks and dehydrated foods already listed, that are great to take on hiking trips are:
- Tuna in vacuum sealed packages
- Packages of instant oatmeal
- Instant soups
- Instant rice mixes
- Coffee, tea or hot chocolate for cold nights and mornings
Inexpensive Backpacking Meals
Supplies for Multi-Day Hiking Trips
If you're going to be hiking for more than one day, you're obviously going to need more supplies.
In addition to extra food and clothing, you may need:
- Water filter and/or water purification tablets
- Small pot to boil water
- Flashlight or headlamp
- Sleeping bag
- Bandages (for blisters)
- First aid kit
- Sleeping bag
First Aid Kit for Hiking
It's always smart to bring a first aid kit with you on a hike. You never know when someone might trip and scrape their knee or come into contact with something they're allergic to.
Here's a list of things to include if you're making your own first aid kit for your backpack:
- An assortment of bandages
- Gauze pads and adhesive tape
- Alcohol swabs
- Antibiotic ointment or cream
- Small scissors
- Sterile gloves
- Anti-inflammatory / pain reliever (ibuprofen)
- Antihistamine such as Benadryl for allergic reactions to plants or insect bites
Always ensure your first aid kit is in a waterproof container or Ziploc bag, in case it gets wet.
Before Leaving for a Hike
- Check the weather forecast
- Ensure your cell phone and camera are charged
- Let someone know of your planned route and when you expect to return
- Doublecheck that your gear and foods are all packed
Helpful hiking apps
There are many iPad or iPhone apps that can help you plan your next hiking trip, such as
MapMyHIKE GPS Hiking
OutDoors World Topo Maps
AllTrails Hiking & Mountain Biking Trails, GPS Tracker & Offline Topo Maps
Guided Hiking Trips
If you're want to take an extended hiking trip or try hiking in a foreign country, and are overwhelmed by the idea of planning everything, you can find a wide variety of guided hiking trips through various tour companies.
These trips offer advantages of being with experienced guides, so you don't need to worry as much about mapping your routes or getting lost and they will often provide many of the supplies you need and even setup camp for you.
Guided hiking trips can be an excellent way to enjoy the benefits of hiking and see new places.
Hiking Trip Poll
Where would you like your next hiking trip to be?
Resources for Hikers
- How to Buy Hiking and Backpacking Boots
A helpful guide if you're looking to buy new hiking or backpacking boots.
- Backpacker Magazine - Your Backpacking, Hiking, Camping, Outdoor Gear, Adventure Travel, and Skills
Source for gear reviews, outdoor skills information and advice, and destinations for backpacking, camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities. Plan trips, download hikes, find gear, and learn outdoor and survival skills.
- Resource for Hiking Trails and Hiking Maps | MapMyHIKE
Provides you with the resources you need to map your hiking route, including a GPS for hiking, a pedometer, hiking trails, hiking maps and a count of the miles you've hiked.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Kathy Sima