Hiking is a great way to connect with nature, relieve stress, and get a great workout–all at the same time. It’s not just a hobby for experienced backpackers and rugged adventurers. There are trails all over the country for beginners and experts alike. All it takes is a bit of planning and the right equipment.
With so much great hiking gear for beginners to choose from, it might seem a bit intimidating to select the most useful items without overbuying or overlooking any hiking essentials. Here are a few tips for creating the perfect hiking gear list, along with five great items to consider.
Tips and recommendations for buying beginner hiking gear
First, consider the length of the hiking trip. Will it be a full day? A few hours? Several days? The answer will help plan the right route and the right packing list. Take fitness and general health into consideration when planning the length of a hike–especially for the first one.
Next, think about the weather conditions during your hike. Is there a possibility of rain or snow? Will there be elevation changes that could lead to dramatic temperature changes? Waterproof hiking gear is always a good idea in the event of an unplanned storm.
To choose an appropriate route for the first hike or two, it is wise to talk to friends or family who hike to get a feel for different trails and the skill level they require. Local hiking and outdoor stores, as well as state park rangers, are also great resources to help plan a hike.
What to consider before the first hike?
It’s a good idea for novice hikers to take a buddy or experienced hiker with them the first time. Not only is it fun to have company and conversation, but more experienced hikers can offer tips and tricks to make the hike safer and more enjoyable.
Before hitting the trail, first-time hikers should brush up on trail etiquette. Generally, hikers going uphill have the right-of-way. Mountain bikers are generally supposed to yield to hikers, but they may not. It’s best to be prepared to get out of the way. Horses always have the right of way, and hikers should give them a wide berth in case they stumble. Lastly, hikers should always pick up after themselves and leave the trail in better shape than they found it.
Preparing for the first hike
First, choose a trail that is long enough to present a challenge but short enough to be comfortable. Check the weather forecast for inclement weather or temperature changes and don’t hike if severe weather is in the forecast. Before packing up and setting off on the trail, hikers should be sure that someone else knows where they are going, their full route, and when they are expected to return.
How many miles should a beginner hike?
The biggest mistake that many novice hikers make is trying to hike too far, too fast. Consider the type of trail as well as the distance traveled. Flat trails are easier to navigate, so hikers can manage higher mileage. Changes in elevation are more difficult and should be limited to short trails for beginners who are still building up endurance.
When it’s time to hit the trail, here are five versatile hiking supplies for beginners.
4Monster Hiking Daypack
This lightweight, water-resistant backpack weighs only four ounces when it is empty, making it the perfect pack for a novice hiker that doesn’t want to carry extra weight. It has adjustable shoulder straps and folds into a small case for easy packing and storage.
Hikers love the pack’s room capacity when it is unfolded, and rave about the water-resistant fabric that protects articles against rain. Other users have had issues with the backpack tearing or the zipper breaking when overstuffing the pack or carrying heavy items.
Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS
Whether hiking with a buddy or not, a compass or GPS device is an essential piece of day hiking gear for beginners. This Garmin model lasts 17 hours on a single charge and features a trip computer, sunrise and sunset information, and an electronic compass.
Hikers report that the GPS is durable and withstands wet weather. They also love its versatile menu of features and long battery life. Other hikers have experienced issues when using the GPS in single-digit weather and don’t recommend it for use in extreme temperatures.
LED Headlamp Flashlight with Red LED Light
For night hikes (or hikes that accidentally turn into night hikes), this LED headlamp keeps hikers visible on the trail and able to spot possible hazards along the way. It switches from red light to white and weighs only three ounces.
Reviewers report that the light has an impressive battery life and works well even through extreme downpours. Some caution that the red light is much dimmer than the white light and may not offer a suitable level of visibility.
Mountain House 3-Day Emergency Food Supply Kit
“Better safe than sorry”certainly rings true on the trail. This boxed kit contains enough food to last one person for three days. It takes up minimal space in a pack and offers an assortment of meals for regular consumption or sustenance in an emergency.
Hikers report that the food is surprisingly delicious and filling. They also love the extended expiration date and weatherproof packaging. Others caution that most of the foods have high sodium content and shouldn’t be consumed by people with high blood pressure or certain other health conditions.
36-in-1 Emergency Survival Kit
This versatile survival kit contains over three dozen tools, from a folding knife, wire saw, and pliers, to a compass, whistle, and flashlight. The whole kit weighs under two pounds, and all tools fit neatly into the included case.
Users report that the knife and other cutting tools are sharp and cut through a variety of materials with ease. Others say that the first aid kit is limited and requires supplemental items to be effective in case of an emergency.