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Beginners Guide For First Time Hikers – The Do’s and Don’ts Explained

Being confident about your skills and ability to go on a hike without encountering any problems is completely normal, but most beginners underestimate the power of nature and overestimate their abilities.

As a beginner, you need time to figure out how some things from your backpack work, for example, how to set up a tent (they’re usually far more complicated than they look) or how to cook on a tiny camp stove.

Becoming a pro hiker takes lots of error and trial and almost all pros will agree when we say that the process of becoming a pro is basically by learning from your own mistakes. But don’t worry about it, we won’t leave you making mistakes without some basic knowledge! Below, there are five do’s and don’ts for the first time hiker – don’t worry, we’ve all been there!

Do Pack your Essentials

You can’t survive your hiking trip without some essential things like a water bottle, the best hiking knife, a top-quality sleeping bag, and comfortable shoes.
Although these things can be the heaviest items you’ll need to carry in your backpack this is what you’ll need the most. If you’re planning on walking all day, all your things need to be ultra-lightweight and serve their purpose at the same time which is why it’s best to consider tools with multiple purposes (a multi-tool for instance).

Do Learn How to Deal with Wild Animals

Mountains offer a home to a lot of wild animals like bears, mountain lions, wolves, and so on. They are all dangerous and, while they don’t like meeting humans, an encounter is possible. In such a case, you can’t panic; you need to act! Of course, you should also know what scares them off and how to protect yourself. For instance, with a bear, you can try loud noises and move away slowly but you should learn as much as possible about the local fauna before starting an adventure.

first time hiker guide

Do Check Out Surroundings Before Setting Up Camp

If you find yourself in a gap between two mountains and plan on setting up camp there, don’t! Just move on and find a better place. Although setting up camp in a spot sheltered by mountains can seem a good place to sleep over, it’s not. In case it rains, you’ll find yourself in puddles and mud and it’s only questionable if your tent is good enough to avoid disaster and protect you from drains and heavy rain.

Do Know the Weather

One of your main priorities during travel should always be comfort. The last thing you want to experience is being stuck in cold, freezing weather without having the right clothes in your backpack to keep you warm. It’s also important to know how to layer your clothes so you can adapt when the weather is changing.
Knowing how the weather will be will help you know exactly how and what you’re going to pack.

Do Hike at your Own Pace

If you’re planning to hike in a group or with your partner, don’t force yourself to reach their speed or the summit faster. You’re a beginner, you’re still getting to know what hiking is all about, and finding the pace that is comfortable for your body. Don’t feel pressured if it takes longer than your partners to climb some hill or to walk. It’s not embarrassing to take your time and hike at your own pace.

first time hiker

Don’t Wait to Read The Manual on the Last Possible Minute

The thing is that you need to know how your gear works before you start your trip. Don’t just assume that you know or understand how your water filter, stove or any other gear works. Read the instruction manual before you leave and make tests to check if everything is according to standard. Keep in mind: you can end up using your gear wrong, which can leave you in a very bad situation.

Don’t Overestimate The Weight You Can Carry

If you carry about 15 pounds of weight on your back, you probably won’t have the heaviest pack on the trail but you’ll be far from hiking ultralight. If you overestimate the weight you can carry it can lead you to sheer exhaustion and meltdown moments where you’ll want to give up.

Get rid of the unnecessary gear and pack only essentials you think you’ll need for a comfortable trip. Even if you reduce the size of your backpack for only 5 pounds, it’ll mean a lot if you’re planning on hiking more than 2000 miles.

Don’t Skip a Meal

Skipping a meal is generally a bad habit, especially when it comes to breakfast, and hikers are not excluded from this rule. If you don’t have a proper nutritious meal before you start your day on a hiking trail, you’ll definitely have a harder time to keep up with your activities and schedule. You’ll feel exhausted and tired faster and it will be incrementally harder to reach your goal. Remember: hiking is a demanding activity and you need the right fuel.

Don’t Rely On Your Smartphone

This is definitely something you need to get used to – living life without relying completely on your smartphone. Not even for emergency help! It can happen that it won’t work when you start hiking back country roads. Even if something happens and you manage to call and get emergency help, it’ll be hard for you to explain where exactly you are without GPS or a map.

Learn how to act in different situations and how to find your way around the quickest way, carry a guidebook and a map and gain a skill where you can rely only on yourself. [Read: Avoid Getting Lost in the Wilderness]

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Nature

This is probably the most important thing to keep in mind. The power of nature is something that’s beyond your imagination! Think of the worst storm you have ever seen in your life. Well, it can get 10 times worse, especially if you’re in the middle of nowhere with no adequate shelter and clothing. Lightning can be especially dangerous in the woods, so you should always look for a flat terrain or a cave where you can seek refuge in case you find yourself in the middle of an electric storm.

If you think that crossing a river to get to the other side is a great idea to get to the final destination, you’re wrong. If you don’t know how deep the river and how strong the current is turn around and continue hiking on the longest, but the safest trail.

Are you an avid hiker? Do you agree with these tips? Do you have something to add on to this list of tips for the first time hiker? If you have something to add, both Rebecca & I would love to hear from you. Please leave us your thoughts below in the comments, or drop us a note on our email. Happy hiking!

Also Read:

First Time Snorkeling Guide for None Swimmers

Safety Tips for the Solo Female Traveler

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About Rebecca Crawford

Rebecca lives in USA, but loves hiking all over the world. Her favourite is Everest Base Camp Trek in Nepal. It usually takes 16 days, but she likes to slow down, enjoy mountains, company of other adventurers and take more pictures, so it took her 28 days last time. Another of her passion is the ocean, so all short and long hikes along the ocean shore bring a lot of joy. She also writes for HikingMastery.com

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