9 Beginner Hiking Tips For Anyone Looking To Explore Nature This Summer
As the weather gets warmer, you might be considering taking your workout outdoors to soak in all that vitamin D. And if you've ever dabbled in hiking, then you know taking on the trails is such an incredible way to connect with nature, clear your mind, and fill your lungs with glorious amounts of fresh air. But hey, even if you're a beginner, these hiking tips will make you feel comfortable and safe out there in the wilderness, even if it's something you're low-key scared of doing for an entire day.
If you ask me, hiking is such an underrated way of not only staying active, but enjoying the gorgeous summer weather, too. According to Huffington Post, a good hike can literally make you a happier and healthier person from the inside out. From lowering blood pressure, to reducing the risk of stroke, diabetes, and heart disease, there's really no reason not to break out those hiking boots when the weather warms up, the sun is shining, and nature is clearly calling your name.
However, there are some things to keep in mind before, during, and after your hikes so that you'll get the most out of your outdoor adventures. Here are nine tips to help you stay safe, comfortable, and happy during your time in nature.
1. Start Small And Take Breaks
The length and difficulty of your hike definitely depends on your own level of physical fitness, so be sure to gauge that and plan accordingly. According to the online fitness resource Liftopia, you should select a hiking distance that's a little shorter than the distance you can normally walk during a casual stroll outdoors.
Additionally, don't be afraid to take breaks throughout your hike. The National Park Service says 10-minute breaks are absolutely essential, especially on hikes that last longer than an hour.
2. Map It Out
I will never forget the time my BFF and I couldn't really read the map on our hike and decided to wing it and just go with the flow. Worst. Idea. Ever. We wound up getting lost for three hours, and we low-key accepted that we might die out there in the wilderness.
Trust me, learning to read an actual, physical map so you know where you're going is beyond important before you go hiking. After all, if you venture far enough, there's no WiFi (and therefore no GPS) in the woods, fam.
3. Pack Smart (And Light)
It might be tempting to pack everything from sunscreen to a first-aid kit, but according to the National Park Service, the heaviest items in your backpack should be food and water.
Technically, this makes sense, because you'll be wearing sunscreen, as well as a hat, sunglasses, and hiking shoes, and you'll be carrying your handy-dandy map. So if you're stuffing your bag with crap before your trek, and you're having trouble fitting your snacks and water bottle, take everything out and reprioritize so that the food and H2O will definitely fit in there.
4. Choose Your Snacks Wisely (And Yes, They're Necessary!)
Speaking of food, snacks are bae when it comes to maintaining your energy during a strenuous hike. Some go-to hiking snacks include trail mix, nuts and seeds, dried or freeze-dried fruits and veggies, energy bars, and granola, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. So be sure to fuel up, friends — your body will thank you for it.
5. Tell Someone Where You Are
Hiking on your own can be so therapeutic, and spending some "me" time in nature can be a great way to clear your head. However, according to Liftopia, it's super important that someone knows where you are, in case you need emergency help along the way.
It may not seem like a huge deal, especially if you're hiking through familiar terrain, but in any context, it's extremely important that a friend or loved one is aware of where you're hiking and when you're expected to return home. This way, in case anything does go wrong on your hike, someone will notice ASAP and be able to call for help.
6. Hydration Is Key
As with all physical activity, proper hydration is very important for keeping your body in tip-top shape. According to REI.com, the amount of water you'll need for your hike depends on your fitness level, the intensity of your trek, how long you're trekking for, the weather, your sweat rate, and your body type.
However, the outlet says, "about a half liter of water per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures" is a good rule of thumb.
7. Wear The Right Clothing And Footwear
Dressing the part is key to making sure you stay safe, secure, and comfortable throughout your hike.
According to Reader's Digest, hiking apparel should include synthetic clothing that wicks water and perspiration away from your skin (i.e. stay away from cotton clothing), nylon sock liners to wear under your socks so your feet won't get irritated, and the proper hiking shoes that will support your body throughout your outdoor adventures.
8. Don't Leave Anything Behind (That Includes Your Trash)
Pollution and littering are huge problems for the environment these days, so the last thing you want to do is contribute to that in any way during your summertime hikes. I know it's all too easy to let that granola bar wrapper fall to the ground when you reach for a snack in your backpack, but it's just as easy to shove the trash in your bag and throw it out at home later on.
Wilderness.org recommends staying on designated hiking trails and leaving only your footprints behind — nothing else.
9. Remember To Check Yourself From Head To Toe Afterward
Unfortunately, ticks are a big risk that comes with the joys of hiking — but rest assured, they're totally avoidable, and as long as you catch them quickly if they do stick to your skin or clothing, you should be fine.
Make sure you thoroughly check your body after your hikes, and wash your hiking clothing ASAP to remove any pesky insects that might've tried to make their way home with you.