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Hiking 101: The 5 Things You Need to Know Before You Start Hiking

Updated: Dec 21, 2021

A hiker on a trail looking down at their hiking boots

While hiking in itself is really a simple task, find a trail and walk, you should always be prepared when heading out into nature. You'd be surprised at the things I've seen while hiking relatively strenuous trails, people bringing nothing but a bag of gummy bears, wearing flip flops, and dressed in 10 layers on a boiling hot day.

This is why I decided to write this to anyone just starting out and needs a few pointers or even a refresher on how to stay safe and feel prepared when you're out on the trail. Because I just want everyone to enjoy hiking as much as I do, and I'm sure if you follow these tips you'll be able to feel safe and comfortable while enjoying the trail.



1. Always Bring Water

A hiking water bottle

While it may seem like a mild day, and the hike isn't that long, please bring water anyway. This includes every person going with you, do not bring one bottle for the entire group. REI states that it is a best practice to drink roughly 16oz of water per hour of activity. While this will vary based on the temperature and difficulty of the hike, just keep in mind that it's probably more than you normally drink.

An Osprey hiking water bladder

I also highly suggest bringing water in a way that isn't simply carrying it in your hand. Hiking with something in your hand the entire time will get annoying, I've done it, it sucks. Either a backpack, bottle sling, or water blatter will save you from this minor inconvenience. I also suggest not bringing an insulated metal bottle, such as a Hydroflask because of how heavy they get when full, and having cold water is not as important as simply having water at all.


2. Wear the Right Clothing

Starting with shoes, make sure you at least have proper tennis shoes for walking. Having the correct shoes can save you from painful blisters and slipping and falling. While I highly suggest getting trail runners or hiking boots because of the ankle support and traction, all I'm really saying is that flip-flops or converse are not going to cut it.

As for clothes, this really depends on the weather. If it is warm, you want to make sure you're not going out in jeans, and if it's cooler layer up! I always bring a backpack which is very helpful for stowing away all of my different layers I bring out from fleeces to rain jackets.

An Osprey hiking backpack filled with clothes and water

Also, don't forget to bring a hat for sun protection, and a knit hat and gloves for the cold. It seems like an easy thing to remember, but sometimes these things slip our minds.



3. Stretch Beforehand

While this is something I forget quite often, I'm always happy when I do it. Stretching not only warms up your body and gets you ready for the hike, but you're also preventing injuries. I'm not saying you need a 30-minute yoga session before, but make sure your legs, ankles, and hips are nice a loose before you go putting your body through some intense outdoor walking. It will make getting up and down steep inclines a lot easier as well.



4. Bring First Aid Equipment

A bag full of first aid supplies for hiking
Minimalist first aid kit for hiking

While I haven't used my first aid equipment on a trail

yet (knock on wood), the whole point of it is to have it for emergency situations. If you happen to slip and scrape a knee or move a bush aside that cuts your hand, it's so much better to clean it off and put a bandaid on it now, than 4 hours later when it's covered in dirt and crap.

I'm not saying you need a full-blown medical kit, but some bandaids, Neosporin, and Ibuprofen is not going to take up too much space in your bag.


5. Look Up the Weather

Always look up the weather for the exact location you're going to and multiple times before heading out the door. I often get caught waking up the morning of my hike to completely different weather than I anticipated going into that day.

My favorite weather app to use is Accuweather, it gives me extra weather stats such as wind speed and air quality. Plus, it's supposed to be one of the most accurate weather apps on the market, and while you can't always trust the weather it's best to have the closest estimate possible.

Once you know the weather be prepared for it. Not only with the clothing I mentioned before but also with sunscreen or extras like cooling towels (towels you can get wet and they get cooler) for hot-weather situations.



A hiking trail between two mountains in Colorado

If you follow all of these tips and keep and keep an open mind, you'll have so much fun out there. Hiking has become one of my favorite hobbies and I'm sure it will be yours too!

You can also check out my other hiking 101 blog here if you're looking for more helpful tips on becoming a better hiker.

If you have any questions on the tips mentioned above or any general hiking questions please comment below, Dm me on Instagram, or Email me. I love to converse with fellow nature lovers!

Until next time,

Happy Trails!

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Hey there! My name is Hannah Smentkowski, I'm the photographer, writer, hiker, camper, and craft beer drinker of this blog!


Here, I share my travel, camping, and hiking tips to help anxious explorers get outdoors with confidence!

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