Here are 27 essential hiking tips aimed at beginner hikers.
If you’re new to hiking and want to make the best out of a hiking experience, this article is definitely for you.
I’ve been hiking most of my life, but I got into serious hiking over a decade ago. Based on my own experience as a new hiker and the hiking tips of other seasoned hikers that I know, I felt it was a great idea to put this resource together.
As you get better at hiking, you’ll be adding more tips to this list based on your own experience.
Hiking Tips 1: Choose a Small and Popular Hike
When you’re just starting out hiking, don’t try to choose a trail for seasoned hikers.
Instead, focus on a trail that is short and popular.
A short trail will help you decide your hiking ability and won’t be too much of a struggle if it becomes a little rugged.
A popular trail will help you be safe because other people frequent the trail just in case you need help. A popular trail is nice just in case you get lost as well.
Hiking Tip 2: Fitness Level
Make sure you choose hikes that align with your fitness level.
If you don’t like hills and you’re not in the best shape, you don’t want to choose a hilly route.
Pay attention to trail ratings. Go for a more accessible rated trail before a moderately complex trail.
And don’t ever be afraid of having to turn around and go back. We’ve all done that.
Hiking Tip 3: Get to Know Your Trail
While hiking on a trail, could you familiarize yourself with it?
Take notice of weird trees, rocks, roots, and anything that looks different.
This will help you with memory if you get turned around and don’t know where you are.
Hiking Tip 4: Tell Someone Where You’re Going
Never leave for a hike without telling someone where you’re going.
Make up a packet of information about where you will be hiking.
Tell them the trail, where you’ll park, and when you plan to be done.
If something happens and you don’t make it back home, the information will be vital for search and rescue efforts.
Hiking Tip 5: Watch the Weather Forecast
Know what the weather is supposed to do before you go.
You don’t want to risk hiking if thunderstorms are forecast or it is supposed to be windy.
If it is forecast to be hot, you want to know this—the same with cold weather.
Weather can make or break your hiking experience.
Hiking Tip 6: Get a Hiking Backpack
I highly suggest you purchase a hiking-specific backpack.
These usually have internal support frames to help keep you comfortable while on the trail.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a good starter backpack.
However, I do suggest going to a local hiking gear store as they will be able to fit you with a better backpack than the retail chain stores will.
Hiking Tip 7: Navigation Gear
You should at least have two forms of navigation.
You can use a dedicated GPS or a good hiking app for your phone, such as All Trails.
A good paper map and compass is also great alternative navigational tool. REI has an excellent online course on reading maps with a compass.
You might also look into a personal locator beacon just in case you need extra help.
Hiking Tip 8: Sun Protection Gear
Pack some essential sun protection gear.
This would include sun protection lotion and Chapstick.
You might also bring a hat and sunglasses as well.
If you’re in an area with a lot of sunlight, you might consider sun protection clothing.
Hiking Tip 9: Extra Layers
Bring extra layers in the colder months.
If you get colder, the extra layers will keep you warm, and if you get too hot, you can take off layers.
Go for a lightweight layer.
I’m a cyclist, so I tend to carry my cycling tights, arm warmers, and leg warmers as layering options.
A good sock cap or beanie covering your ears is another excellent option for good layering.
Hiking Tip 10: Lights and Chargers
Pack at least two forms of lights, even if you don’t plan to hike at night. You never know what can happen. You might be injured, lost, or put into a situation where you’re out there past dark.
Bring a flashlight with extra batteries.
Bring a headlamp with extra batteries.
Turn your batteries the wrong way to prevent the device from accidentally turning on and draining your batteries.
Consider bringing a charger and charging brick for GPS or cellphone devices if you need to recharge them.
Hiking Tip 11: First Aid Kit
Bring a first aid kit. But only bring items in it that you know how to use. Things you don’t know how to use are extra weight and useless.
Bring stuff you’d likely need in nature, such as blood clotting solutions, peroxide, band-aids, sheers, Ibuprofen, and anti-diarrhea capsules.
Bring any inhalers or epi-pen medications that you require.
Hiking Tip 12: Fire Gear
If you need to make a fire, you have the right to do it.
You never know what can happen! You might need the fire to get warm. You might fall in the water and need a fire to dry your clothes. You may need a fire to cook with.
Bring waterproof matches, a fire starting kit, and even a lighter as an alternative flame source.
Hiking Tip 13: Repair Kit and Hiking Tools
Bring a basic repair kit. Here is a good hiking hack, wrap duct tape about your water bottle. Duct tape can fix a backpack hole in a pinch and even keep a medical wrap on you.
A few hiking tools should be carried.
I recommend a basic handheld folding saw if you need to cut small limbs for an emergency fire.
Bring a knife for cutting in case you need it for protection.
Bring a folding shovel (and toilet paper) if you need to dig a hole, and you know…
Hiking Tip 14: Food and Snacks
Bring plenty of snacks with sugar, carbs, and high calories. These snacks will give you fuel and replace salt in your body that you significantly lose during your hikes. Trail bars are great for these types of snacks and beef jerky.
Bring some regular food too in case you need a bigger meal. For great full-course meals, I highly recommend Mountain House Meals.
Pack something small to cook with. I carry a pocket rocket with a gas canister and a basic cooking cup/spork set.
Hiking Tip 15: Hydration and Filter
Bring plenty of hydration with you on your hike. This may be water or some electrolyte-infused drink.
Hydration is essential. Dehydration is a top killer or source of injury for hikers.
Bring a water filter just in case but make sure you know how to use it and have tested the one you have brought.
Hiking Tip 16: Rain Poncho
Bring a rain poncho, even if you have rain gear.
A rain poncho is great for a raincoat when you need it.
But it is even better as an emergency shelter when you need it the most.
Bring some paracord with you and make sure the poncho is an oversized one.
Hiking Tip 17: Hiking Footwear is Essential
This may be one of the essential hiking tips I can give you – get the best footwear that you can get.
I spend more money on hiking footwear than anything else because your feet are the number one asset. Protecting your feet and your ability to walk is your primary safety goal.
I wear waterproof boots in the winter and hiking-specific shoes in the summer.
Hiking Tip 18: Get Hiking Socks
Don’t wear standard socks when hiking.
Change your comfort experience and get hiking-specific socks. Get the ones made out of wool in particular. The wool is synthetic and feels very comfortable. They make summer and winter versions.
In the winter, I wear alpaca wool socks, and they are so warm and even resist water.
Remember, you have to pay special attention to your feet.
Hiking Tip 19: Try to be Lightweight
You don’t have to be ultralightweight, but you should have the goal to be as lightweight as you can be.
And anything you can do to shed weight, you should do. This includes removing heavy packaging materials and replacing them with lightweight Ziplock bags.
Sometimes it’s worth spending the extra money for gear that is lighter in weight.
Don’t sacrifice gear meant for health and safety because you want to save weight.
Hiking Tip 20: Pace Yourself When Hiking
Don’t get into a hurry when you start out hiking.
Pay attention to your steps and the distance you’re acquiring.
Learn how to pace yourself where you’re not fatiguing yourself too quickly.
Hiking isn’t a race, don’t treat it like one.
Hiking Tip 21: Take a Break
Now and then, take a break!
Sit down. Rest against a tree. Stop to take a photo. Stop and take a drink. Use the bathroom. Just take a break here and there.
There is no reason to hurt yourself and commit more than required when hiking.
Most people who end up hating hiking are the ones who get into a hurry and don’t rest.
Hiking Tip 22: Leave No Trace, Please!
Follow the basic Leave No Trace principles when hiking.
This includes staying on the trail as much as possible, especially in areas where it is marked, such as Nature Preserves and Wildlife Refuges.
Pack out what you pack in and if you see litter, consider picking it up and leaving the trail better than you found it.
Take your banana peels with you. They are not suitable to drop on the trail.
Hiking Tip 23: Start Hiking as Early as Possible
The earlier you start hiking, the more daylight you’ll have.
In the hot summers, earlier hiking beats most of the heat.
Having extra daylight means you can walk slower and explore more.
Hiking Tip 24: Try Not to Hike Alone
Some people prefer to hike alone.
But if you’re new to it, you might consider hiking with someone experienced.
If you run into an issue, it will be easier for your hiking buddy to assist you.
If something happens to one person, the other person can get help.
Hiking Tip 25: Respect Wildlife and People
If you see wildlife, keep your distance, and respect their right to remain wild.
Don’t ever attempt to harm or harass a wild animal—this even includes trying to hurt or handle a snake. If you see a snake, you don’t have to panic; give it plenty of room and go around it.
It would help if you also respected other hikers. That might include not blasting a radio while hiking nearby and camping spots.
Hiking Tips 26: Watch Your Step
Watching your step is the most important of all the safety-related hiking tips that I can give you.
By watching your step, you will prevent many safety hazards.
It will prevent you from falling. It will prevent you from stepping on a rattlesnake.
Watch your step and always put safety first.
Hiking Tip 27: Shop Local
For an even better experience, make sure you shop at the local stores around your hiking area.
Most local communities around hiking trails have restaurants, wineries, breweries, cabins, campgrounds, and stores that cater to outdoor users.
Shopping locally supports the economy of these communities, but it usually gives you a better experience.
Plus, most local places have great hiking-related gifts to bring back home.
And there you have it – 27 different hiking tips to help you enjoy hiking when you’re just starting. If you enjoyed this article, please share it with a fellow hiker or two, and thank you for reading it.
PLEASE SUPPORT HIKING WITH SHAWN
Alrighty folks, I hope you have enjoyed this content. I provide it for free and it takes a while to create. If you would be so kind enough to support my efforts, you can do so by sharing this post with others, especially on social media. Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel to see my latest videos, shorts and live streams. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok for unique content that you will only find on those pages. You might also join my Southern Illinois Hiking & Outdoor Resources Group on Facebook, too!
You can also support me by becoming a Patreon Supporter for as little as $3/month and you can cancel anytime (no contracts or catches). Patreons get access to extra features, exclusive articles, sticker packs, gifts and more. Consider buying official Hiking with Shawn Merchandise as another way to support me. I spend a lot of money on Hiking with Shawn and because of extremely high public land permit fees, I make very little money in return so everything helps.
Thanks again for checking out another one of my articles and until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!
Founder, Hiking with Shawn
Howdy folks! My name is Shawn Gossman and I founded Hiking with Shawn. I’m an avid hiker, cyclist and outdoorsman here in the Shawnee National Forest. I was born and raised in Southern Illinois and never want to leave. I hope you enjoy my website and I encourage you to interact with me!