Welcome to the wonderful world of hiking!
Be prepared for an adventurous walk among the wonder of nature. Plus, you’ll reap a ton of physical, social, mental, and emotional benefits as a result. It’s one of the best ways to get outside and exercise with friends, too.
As a new hiker, you are likely wondering:
- what supplies and gear to pack
- what to wear for comfort and safety
- where to go and how to navigate
- what to do in emergencies
You are already on the right path toward hiking excellency by asking these questions already. While experiences on the trail are amazing, you can’t forget about the dangers that may come along with them.
It’s unlikely something is going to go wrong. Hiking is a relatively safe and enjoyable activity when hopping on trails for beginners. However, if something does happen, your preparedness is going to pay for itself in spades.
In fact, it could end up saving your life or the life of another.
Here are our top seven hiking safety tips for beginners that guarantee a great adventure when out on the trail:
1. Know What You Are Getting into
Before embarking on your next adventure, hit pause. There are a few things to consider when planning your first hike, such as:
- trail difficulty
- available resources
Weather is an excellent place to start. Make sure the forecast calls for clear skies. If you are feeling frisky and don’t mind a little rain, then dress for the occasion.
Selecting the right location is critical to the enjoyment of your first trip. The most important consideration is finding a trail with an easy rating. You can use apps and sites like AllTrails.com or TrailLink to find ratings, reviews, and photographs of areas you may want to visit.
2. Dress for the Occasion
The clothes you wear, from a fashion standpoint, do not matter when hitting the trails. Instead, as hikers, we shift our focus toward comfort and performance. Here are a few tips regarding the clothing to take along with you:
- Avoid wearing cotton or denim materials. Try moisture-wicking fabrics instead.
- Take a long-sleeved with you for extra sun protection or added warmth.
- Carry a rain poncho or jacket for unexpected storms and sun showers.
- Wear a lightweight knit cap or baseball hat for added sun and weather protection.
- Find a good pair of hiking boots that are appropriate for the trail grade.
- Keep a clean pair of wool or liner socks on hand in case your feet get wet.
Staying dry is essential. Avoid cotton and denim materials since they don’t dry quickly. Instead, opt for synthetic fabrics for optimal comfort and health safety.
3. Bring the Gear You Need
Aside from appropriate clothing choices, it is helpful to take along the right gear and equipment to assist you in your journey. Most first-time hikers select a day hike for their first adventure. However, you may stay outside shorter or longer.
The length of time you spend outside largely dictates what you bring with you. However, there are a few items you should plan to bring on every trip:
- an appropriately-sized backpack to carry your items
- a sleeping bag and pad
- a trailhead map of where you are going
- a water bottle full of water
- water purification tablets or filters
- sunscreen, lip balm, and sunglasses
- food in quantities that meet your energy needs
- flashlights or headlamps
- knives or multitools
- lighters or matches
- a small, lightweight hand towel
- a first-aid kit
- animal defense sprays
The preceding list is an excellent jumping-off point. You can add to it or subtract as you come up with your own personal hiking preferences. Keep in mind that it is easier to carry a lighter pack versus a heavy one, so it’s best only to take what you need.
4. Make Sure Someone Knows that You’ve Hit the Trails
Did you see the movie “127 Hours?” If you haven’t seen it, check it out. It’s a true story about a man who didn’t tell anyone he went hiking. His lack of preparedness almost ended his life.
A cardinal rule of hiking safety is letting someone outside of your hiking party know where you are going. Let him or her know:
- where you are going
- how long you’ll be gone
- the name of the trailhead
- the route you plan to take
- your driving path to the trailhead
- when you expect to be home
- whom you are going with
If sharing this information sounds intrusive, it is meant to be. Your safety is a top priority. The more information your lifeline has back home, the easier it is to handle the situation if you didn’t return when you said you would.
5. Watch Out for the Elephant (or Mountain Lion) in the Room
The most frightening element of hiking for the first time is the sudden exposure to playing on Mother Nature’s terms. There are several real threats, rational or not, that exist when a human spends its first moments without accommodations and creature comforts include:
- getting lost on the trail or in the wilderness
- the trail’s elevation or length
- wild animal maulings and attacks
- not having cellular connectivity
- not having access to a typical bathroom
- getting caught in inclement weather
It’s perfectly normal to experience anxiety in these areas. Most people are. However, time and experience can make you more comfortable and aware over time. Make sure you spend some time learning how to handle specific situations related to the above scenarios.
Enjoy Your First Trip with These Hiking Safety Tips for Beginners
As you can see, the ultimate goal of hiking is enjoyment. Beginner hikers who prepare beforehand can achieve the same look of satisfaction on their faces that they see in outdoor magazines.
And, of course, the opposite is true as well. Not readying yourself for the experience is miserable, even for the most experienced hikers. If you aren’t safe and comfortable, the chances are that you’ll never make it to the trailhead again.
Mother Nature is beautiful. Hiking offers you the opportunity to appreciate it up close and personal. There is even a chance you may see a wild creature or two!
If you follow the safety tips presented in this article, there is a surefire chance that you are going to have the time of your life. You’ll likely be mentally planning your next trip on the walk back to your car. It’s an addicting activity that easily captures your heart and mind.