man hiking near the sea


How to start hiking?

Publication date: 30 May 2024

Hiking 101PreparationTips

When you look up hiking in the dictionary, it says, “a long walk.” But hiking is so much more than that! Hiking is a chance to get outside, to meditate as you move, to exercise, to push yourself, or to calm down after a long day. Hiking is a way to experience your surroundings with a new appreciation, or the perfect way to spend an afternoon. When you started thinking about how to start hiking, you were already halfway to the trails.

Whether you’re seeking a new adventure, a challenge, or simply want to explore nature and the outdoors, this initial step toward your first hiking trail will carry you far. Hiking is not only accessible to everyone, but is also a gateway to experiencing nature with major mental and physical health benefits. Before you know it, you’ll be on the trail!

women in blue smiling at camera

Katie Mitchell

After a whirlwind of 8 years on the road (and trail!), Katie has hiked the Camino Frances, the Peaks of the Balkans, the Fisherman’s Trail, and extensively in the United States. She is an avid trail runner and now lives in Colorado where she plays in the mountains in her free time. You can follow her adventures on Instagram.

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Start hiking

man hiking near white cliffs

Understanding the basics of hiking

Hiking is more than just walking outdoors; it’s an activity that combines physical exercise with an appreciation for nature. You don’t have to be an athlete to be a hiker! Everybody can do it with the right preparation.

Choosing the right gear and packing the essentials

The right hiking gear can make or break your experience. To make it easy, start with the essentials and remember to always take enough water and snacks with you.

  • Footwear: Look for durable, comfortable hiking boots or shoes with good grip.
  • Clothing: Choose moisture-wicking fabrics and layers in case of changing weather.
  • Backpack: A lightweight, comfortable pack is crucial for carrying your essentials.
  • Hiking poles: If you opt for a long-distance trail, hiking poles will help with balance and reduce stress on your knees.
  • Food and water: These are super important. Always bring more than enough food and water with you, depending on the length of the trail.

Gear lists

items needed for camping

Planning your first hike: choosing the right hiking trail

Start small with a local, well-marked trail. Consider the trail’s length, elevation gain, and difficulty level. Use some local websites to research the trail you want to hike and read reviews from other hikers. To find the trails near you, we’ve set up this website to discover the hiking trails that suit you the best.

Find your trail

Hiking Safety Tips

Safety should always be your top priority. Some basic safety tips include:

  • Choose the right trail that suits your experience and fitness level.
  • Always tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return.
  • Check the weather forecast and be prepared for changes.
  • Carry a basic first aid kit and a map or GPS device (or GPX on your phone). Don’t forget a power bank for your mobile phone.
  • Pack the essentials for your hiking trail to stay safe.

The Leave No Trace Principles

We can’t stress this enough. One of the most important things is to respect nature and fellow hikers by following trail etiquette and the Leave No Trace Principles. Only when we do this can we preserve the trails and enjoy the hiking trails for a lifetime.

  • Plan ahead & prepare
  • Stay on marked trails to protect wildlife and vegetation.
  • Leave no trace of your visit; pack out everything you bring in
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find
  • Camp on durable surfaces
  • Minimize campfire impacts
  • Respect wildlife
  • Be considerate of others

Learn more about the Leave No Trace Principles

trash bag hanging on backpack

Building your fitness and endurance

Hiking is a physically demanding activity. Gradually increase your fitness level by incorporating cardio and strength training into your routine. Practice hiking on easier trails and tackle more challenging hiking trails after a while as you get stronger. There’s no need to start with the Pacific Crest Trail or the Tour du Mont Blanc. The best way to train is to hike more in your area and scale up bit by bit. If you start with long-distance hiking, opt for easier trails for beginners such as the West Highland Way or the Fishermen’s Trail. Of course, strength training for your core, legs, and back will make the experience more fun. Always consult your doctor or physical therapist before you start something you’re unsure about, though.

Expanding to new hiking trails

As you gain experience, consider exploring new terrains and longer, or more difficult, trails. Each hike is a learning experience, and the world is full of beautiful trails waiting to be discovered.

Share your experiences, tips, or questions in the comments below to join our community of hikers. Happy trails!

Find your trail



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