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How to Get Started as a Beginner Hiker

Hiking is a great leisure activity. It’s as social or as isolated as you want it to be, and it’s good for your physical and mental health. However, figuring out how to get started can be overwhelming. A casual perusal of outdoor guides and magazines can leave you discouraged, assuming that you need hundreds or even thousands of dollars before you can set foot outside your door. The truth is that humans were made to walk in a natural environment, and it’s not as complicated to get started as you think as long as you follow a few simple principles.

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Start Slow

There are people who have never hiked a day in their life before and think they can get into shape fast from the process. So, they set out on a long-distance trail, and some of them even complete it. However, day hiking is an approach that requires far less commitment. There are apps that can help you find trails nearby. Plan to hike just a few miles to start with. Once you’re used to that, start taking a loaded pack to help you get ready for your first overnight backpacking trip. Don’t be too ambitious in your mileage for that first overnight. A ten or twelve-mile round trip journey is plenty.


In general, even if you have a fairly generous budget to work with, it’s a good idea to hold off on spending too much money on gear until you’re sure you are enjoying hiking and backpacking and you have a better idea of what exactly you want. The one exception to this is a good pair of shoes. An outdoor store can help you get fitted with a pair that suits you. As a beginner, if you aren’t going into cold or remote conditions, you can probably go with a budget sleeping bag and tent to start with as well. However, if you’d like to or need to spend a little more because you’re setting off on a more ambitious journey, one way to pay for it is by taking out a personal loan. These loans often offer a better deal than a credit card and you’re able to pay in installments going forward.


If you spend much time reading outdoors pages and forums, you’ll notice people often mention something called the ten essentials checklist. These are items you should take even on a day hike in case of emergency. However, the form they take will vary from person to person. On a well-marked, busy trail, you might not need a satellite messenger, but you should have some sort of navigation. Some people will say phones mean no one needs a map or compass any longer, but remember that phone can fail. Other examples of the ten essentials are extra food, water and clothing as well as some kind of shelter. You can read more about the ten essentials and the pros and cons of various selections in a number of places online.

Leave No Trace

These principles encourage you to tread as lightly on the earth. In addition to packing out your trash, you should make an effort to disturb the areas where you walk and camp as little as possible.


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