by Diane Spicer
How does a person start hiking?
To answer that question, these beginner hiking tips are organized and laser focused on getting you started hiking as fast as possible.
You're here for how to hike advice, and I'm here to deliver.
This Beginner Hiker Guide outlines exactly what you need to get started hiking, based on hundreds of reader's questions and my 45+ years of trail experience.
I won't let you down!
To show you how serious I am, I've summarized what you need to know as a beginner hiker.
Now it's time to navigate to some detailed beginner hiking tips!
This guide walks you through everything you need as a beginner hiker.
(Hiking puns are used freely on this website, so avoid them like you would a deep mud puddle, or splash on through for a bit of fun.)
It covers hiking basics, starting with what to wear on a hike, the types of food and hydration a day hiker needs, and how to plan for your hygiene and safety during a hike.
It shows you how to find trails near you, and why maps are so important to hikers.
This beginner hiking tips guide also shares suggestions and resources to enhance your hiking, so you will want to keep on hiking year after year.
Let's get this out of the way right now as far as beginner hiking tips go:
Don't wear cotton for anything except the driest, hottest hike.
And maybe not even then!
It doesn't have to be branded as the best athletic clothing on the planet, but it does have to do a few important jobs, without using cotton fibers.
Cotton absorbs water nicely, but then takes its sweet time releasing it, leaving you clammy and potentially hypothermic in cool weather conditions.
You also need hiking clothing that moves with your body as you bend, twist, and step over rocks.
Here's the absolute minimum hiking clothing that will work for you on the trail, based on what I wear and know that it works.
I organized it in layers, which is a basic hiking concept to build a clothing system that works for you in any season.
Read more about layering here.
This is the layer up against your skin, so make some careful selections to guarantee your comfort.
Hiking sports bras are designed to prevent chafing and bouncing while wicking away sweat.
Plus size sports bras for hikers can be difficult to find.
Wicking underwear is also essential for your lower half.
But your current cotton or nylon underwear might be just fine when you're starting out in warm, dry weather.
Repeat: Warm and dry.
For anything else, experiment until you find what works best for you.
You'll get overheated if you wear too many layers on a nice day.
Here are the styles of shirt that I wear for day hikes, in three versions:
Hiking pants need enough room for your knees and hips to move freely.
Avoid really tight fitting clothing because it compromises your circulation and literally cuts into your muscle power.
You can get away with lightweight pants like these when you're just starting out. They are available from REI Co-op in petite and tall sizing, too.
If you're searching for plus size hiking pants, these tips will help.
You can also hike in great pair of shorts.
You probably don't need an outer layer for a day hike, but extra clothing is one of the famed Ten Essentials.
If you don't wear hats in your daily life, it's time to consider what a good hiking hat offers you on a day hike:
Now consider all of your options in the best hiking hats!
Still not convinced you need a hat?
Then at least take a look at why carrying a bandanna is a smart move as a beginner day hiker.
If your feet are sore, cramped, blistered, or too hot, you're not going to hike very far for very long.
Or your hiking time will be pure misery, which means you'll give up your hiking goals after just one hike.
Take that as one of the best beginner hiking tips you'll find anywhere: feet first.
Before you do anything else to join the day hiking community, get the best hiking boots or most comfortable trail shoes you can afford.
Read how to do that here.
For specific tips on how to choose the best hiking boots for your particular arch and foot shape, read this Ultimate Guide to choosing trail footwear.
Whew! That's plenty to get you started on the right foot (groan).
Now let's take a close look at what I recommend for beginner hiker foot comfort in moderate price ranges.
The brands I recommend are the ones I use myself, year after year, mile (or kilometer) after mile.
It will take some trial and error before your trail footwear is error free, so here's what I recommend:
Start off on the low end of the hiking boot price range if you are going to stick to well established, mostly flat trails.
In fact, trail shoes might be your best bet.
Read my recommendations for the best beginner hiking boots and shoes.
Here's what's on my feet:
Here's a basic but often overlooked beginner hiking tips winner:
And you should think of hiking boots/shoes and hiking socks as one high performance unit on a day hike.
Both have to perform well in order for feet to stay dry, cool and free of blisters.
I have two hiking sock companies that I turn to over and over and over again:
Thin liner socks are used under these hiking socks to wick moisture away from your skin, thus preventing blisters.
There's no need to buy a bunch of hiking gear when you're getting started as a beginner.
In fact, there are only a few things you need to get started, and you may already own them:
If you want to dig into details, start here:
Let's be realistic.
On your first few hikes, you won't be carrying much weight.
You won't be going very far.
If you pick the right day, the weather will be mild.
Your chances of having to navigate off trail are low except to visit the bushes now and then.
And you don't need fancy stuff like an ice axe loop or a hydration system on your day pack - unless you want them.
But be reassured that guide is not TOO basic.
I have two brands which I absolutely recommend for a beginning hiker.
Here are a few words about why each brand is so trustworthy.
Deuter daypacks are incredibly sturdy and engineered for comfort.
This backpack is low volume (22 liters), just large enough to carry your essentials.
|Deuter Speed Lite 22 SL Pack - Women's | REI Co-op||
|Osprey Sirrus 24 Pack - Women's | REI Co-op||
Beginner Hiking Tip: If you're on a budget, share this Best Hiking Gift Guide with your loved ones when they ask you what you need to get started.
You can re-use a thin plastic bottle for your hiking water on your first few hikes.
In fact, you can do that for your entire hiking career.
But sooner or later, you might want to use a tough, well designed metal or plastic water bottle with a tightly sealed lid.
You can explore your options for hiking water bottles with a guide I created for you here.
And read some of my gear reviews:
Once out on the trail, you're responsible for your own safety and comfort.
Your pack will carry your food and water, but it should also be loaded up with these ten essentials.
Essentially (!!) they keep you safe & buy some time if something should delay your return to the trail head.
And they help you Leave No Trace, another important hiking principle.
Hiking For Her offers you the detailed beginner hiking tips you need in each of these 10 categories.
Just use the search box at the top of the page to find them.
This handy hiking infographic will remind yourself of the essentials of starting off your hiking career as prepared as possible.
You want to carry food and hydration that works with you, not against you, on a day hike.
You might be shocked at how hungry you get during a hike.
And the huge appetite might linger into the next day.
So here's a solid beginner hiking tips addition for your collection: begin to think of food and water as fuel.
Bring high quality nutrition along on every hike, and train your body to hike on lots of carbohydrates and water.
If the whole idea of hiking nutrition bores you, please take a few moments to at least consider the fact that you need to eat a bit differently as a hiker:
Here are some ideas for suitable hiking snacks that will give you energy, stamina and no digestive upsets. Bring plenty!
If you're really into the idea of trail nutrition, start here.
Best beginner hiking tips recommendation: Take precautions to keep your day hike food safe on a hot day with these tips.
Thirst levels might also surprise you on a day hike, even in mild weather.
Your body needs a constant supply of water in order to perform muscle contractions.
And it's not shy about asking for it.
Pay attention to those signals. And drink every hour or so even when you don't feel thirsty.
Because you start and end your hike with access to a bathroom, soap and water, there's no need to get very concerned about staying clean on a day hike.
But you will have to face having to pee and poop during the hike.
And if you're having your period, that's an additional hygiene issue to handle.
Use these tips to be sure you're prepared:
If you stick to the trail and pay attention to the amount of daylight you have for your hike, you won't have to worry about getting lost or spending the night outdoors.
However, there are still safety concerns to think about as a day hiker.
This comprehensive Hiking Safety Guide covers everything you need to know before you get on the trail.
As a day hiker, you want a great destination, with a plan to get there and back.
In other words, some resources for nearby trails and a map to navigate them.
Use the resources in your community to locate suitable, well marked trails of the length you want to try. Start with available resources in the visitor center.
Look at your:
This state trail guide can also be useful for beginner hikers.
If you own a smart phone, you can load a hiking map app onto it. A good one to try is AllTrails, with 75,000+ trails. There is a free version, and a "pro" account for a monthly fee.
You can filter by:
You can also create custom maps, community geotagged photos, and trail reports with this app, so it will grow along with your hiking bucket list.
A good hiking map (app or paper) shows you distance and elevation gain/loss so you can calculate how long it might take you to finish a hike.
A map also shows you trail heads, parking areas, bail out points if something goes wrong, surface water sources, water crossings, and potential viewpoints on ridges or hilltops.
To get started with hiking maps for all these reasons, use these resources:
You can quickly find some of the best beginner tips for day hiking success right here.
But here's an even quicker summary:
Sometimes you won't be able to find someone to encourage your new hiking habit.
Or to share the best beginner hiking tips.
That's when you need a circle of hikers around you!
The Hiking For Her supportive, private virtual community welcomes hikers of all ability levels.
That means a beginner hiker is in exactly the right place to find support, answers, and maybe some hiking buddies!
It can be tough to find someone to hike with you in your area.
Use the Hike With Me service to find a compatible day hiking partner.
The mental game plan you should bring on every hike includes:
No hiking gear store in the world sells these :(
That's why this guide focuses on the basic beginner hiking tips you'll need to start down the trail of your choice.
You'll have to build your own mental game plan, and record it in your trail journal after every hike (a great habit to develop as your skills grow with each day hike).
Use these links to get started on building a better day hiking plan:
To round out this Beginner Hiking Tips Guide, here are some insider tips to make getting out on the trail much easier.
Although this guide stuck to the basics with beginner hiking tips, you might like to see a complete check list with explanations for why you need each item.
You won't need all of these supplies on your first few hikes, but it's good to keep an eye open for great gear deals and clothing sales.
The first and most important tip to succeed as a new hiker shopping for gear?
It's a good idea to take a close look at what an experienced hiker considers basic hiking gear before you go shopping for beginner trailwear and gear.
That's why I wrote this Beginner Hiking Tips Guide!
To avoid information overwhelm but to get a closer look at everything I recommend, use this beginner gear guide I put together just for you.
It uses REI Co-op as the source for recommended high quality, durable and trustworthy hiking gear and outdoor clothing.
Need some encouragement as you're starting out as a day hiker?
Don't go it alone!
Group hiking trips run the gamut from an overnight to a beautiful destination, to a week or more backpacking through the backcountry.
You can leave all the logistics and planning to experienced guides, and concentrate on your gear.
Being a beginner hiker is hard.
You don't want to make mistakes, or look silly.
So why not take a class with other beginners?
REI Co-op makes it low cost and easy to build skills. And once you build skills, your trail confidence soars. Great deal, right?
Here's how to pick exactly the right hiking or camping class from REI.
And don't forget, you can email me directly.
You know, just in case I didn't answer that one burning question you still have ;)
And please don't be shy.
As you search for beginner hiking tips on this website, you can dip into the Hiking Question archive here.
Or use the search box at the top of every page to find detailed articles on the topics that interest you the most.
Or this HFH Best Hiking Tips For Dayhikers book might be the best place to start. Many hikers have used it to solve dayhiking problems.
I thought you might!
You can enter for a chance to win all sorts of hiking and camping gear, athletic clothing, books, and fun outdoor products on this Hiking For Her current giveaways page.
By the way:
You're already a winner!!
This is just a chance to fill up your gear closet :)
Now you know how to get started with the basic hiking gear and athletic clothing that you need for day hiking.
You also have a heads up that eating and drinking for the hiking trail is a bit different than your usual daily routine.
Hygiene, safety, maps ... wow, you've learned a lot!
Use this link to the Hiking For Her site map to take a deeper dive into the reasons why I make these recommendations as solid beginner hiking tips.
Best Beginner Hiking Tips Guide
Just so you know, some of the links on this page and elsewhere on the website are affiliate links, which is the way all of this hiking information can stay available to you free of charge.
If you purchase hiking gear through one of the links, you pay nothing extra but Hiking For Her is rewarded with a very small percentage of your purchase price. It keeps this website humming along.
I only recommend, and link to, the stuff I know, trust and use myself. You can see it being used in the photos on this site.
These beginner hiking tips are only the tip of the iceberg, so please look around and use all of the resources that are provided for you.
About the author
Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.
She's been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for 5+ decades & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.
All rights reserved.
Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer except where noted.
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