Top 13 Hiking Tips for Beginners

If you are looking for an adventure, the mountain might be the place for you. Hiking is not just a form of exercise—it is a way to get to know yourself and to discover the nature in its original form. When you decide to take that path, you will probably ask yourself what we need to start a hike. As we venture through the woods, here are a few things to keep in mind!

Cover photo: Andrew Miller in the Guadalupe Mountains

1. Weather conditions

Weather plays the decisive role for your enjoyment in the mountains and the success of the hiking trip. Snowstorms, poor visibility, rain, fog and similar conditions are unfavorable for hikers, and can often be the cause of accidents during the trip if you’re not prepared. Before going out on your hiking trip, be sure to inform yourself what type of weather is expected in the coming days so you know what to bring.

2. Hiking equipment: what to bring?

Photo: Clara Novich in Yosemite National Park

What you bring depends on how many days you plan to spend on your trip, where you plan to sleep and what time of year is it. If you’re not planning on camping overnight (in a tent, at least), here are the essentials for every hiking trip that you can just leave in your backpack to have on hand:

  • Map
  • Compass
  • Water
  • Extra food
  • Rain gear and clothes
  • Fire-starters or matches
  • First-aid kit
  • Army knife or multi-purpose tool
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Sunscreen and Sunglasses

3. Orientation

You should know how to use a compass – a real compass, not just the one handy on your iPhone! It is even easy for experienced hikers to stray from the path, especially in adverse conditions, and it’s never enough to rely solely on technology, especially when out in the woods with limited cell range.

4. Picking the right camping spot

Photo: Julie Kukral near Bishop, CA

If you’re planning a multi-day hiking trip, you’ll want to know the tricks of the trade to finding a sweet camping spot.

  • Placing your tent: put it in a place that is dry, protected from the wind, has trees near it, and is at least 2 miles away from the swamp. It is desirable to camp in the proximity of water.
  • Avoid rocky grounds: avoid places with dense vegetation (you probably don’t want to be camping with the critters that live in there!). In the mountains, you should watch out for landslides of rocks, snow and blizzard.

5. Food and water

Photo: Julie Kukral in Desolation Wilderness, CA

More often than not, it’s easy to find water in nature. Pick up a topographical map and ask for information on water levels from locals prior to your trip. The real challenge is knowing if that water is drinkable once you’re out there. We found that some of the best ways to ensure clean water is to understand some of the best ways to purify water.

As for the food, you should take a sufficient amount of carbohydrates like fruits, grains, milk and bread. Carbohydrates provide energy to our bodies and they, usually, come in the form of sugar. It is also good to bring some chocolate or glucose sweets which can quickly restore your energy. If you are hunting for meat and need to kill the bacteria before consumption, it is imperative that you either know how to start a fire or invest in some of the best camping stoves.

6. Learn how to start a fire

Photo: Northbound and Down at the High Desert Hideout Camp in Colorado

If you don’t know how to start a fire, you should definitely learn! Campfires can be the focal point to every camping trip. Who doesn’t love sitting by the fire, singing your favorite songs, ruminating on life or telling spooky ghost stories after dark?

7. Bring a cell phone

You should always start your trip with a fully charged battery in case of an emergency. You’d be surprised how much service you can find way up on the top of a mountain if you need it. Not to mention, it’s nice to have a camera on hand!

8. Bring some light with you

In hiking, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Even if you are planning to hike only during the day, bring a source of light with you. If you stay in the mountain longer than intended, the descent will almost be impossible without light.

9. First aid

It’s important that every hiker has some basic knowledge of first aid to help keep your group healthy and comfortable in the event of any type of injury, minor or serious. Here’s a basic first aid kit to have on hand during any hiking trip.

10. Stay together

Photo: Jorge Camil in the Angeles National Forest, CA

Separating from your group can sometimes be dangerous, especially for the new hikers who don’t know their way around. Sometimes the mountain draws you to wander away from the main track to find its inner beauty. If you’re feeling like you need some alone time, tell your group when and where you’re heading, and try to stay in at least hearing range of the rest of the group.

11. Pace yourself

Photo: Ryan Shingledecker in Big Bend National Park, TX

Eat regularly, drink plenty of water and rest more than you think you may need to when on a big trek. While over-exhaustion can be dangerous, it may also just be a discomfort that weighs down on the morale of the group. (Pro tip: when people first start getting cranky, pull out the trail bars.) Make sure you’re dressed warmly because you do not want to spend extra energy heating your body when you’re already in overdrive. Also be sure to save the beers for campsite — boozing on trail is dehydrating and will wear you out faster than you can say cheers.

12. Bring something to defend yourself

There’s a whole great world of wildlife out there! And when you’re hiking, you’re entering their home. Don’t try to feed wildlife – it’s not only dangerous if you attract unwanted predators, but human food is also not great for wild animals either. As with all matters of hiking, it’s best to hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst. At the very least, you should have a knife on hand. Make sure to check local conditions about bears and other more dangerous wildlife to consider bringing bear spray or more intensive hunting equipment.

13. Have fun!

Photo: Ryan Shingledecker in Big Bend National Park, TX

This is the most important one of all. The mountains are calling… will you go?

Hipcamp Staff

Hipcamp is an online marketplace where you can list, discover, and book campsites and accommodations on private and public land. Hipcamp is your go-to guide to getting outside. If you’re a landowner, Hipcamp creates new revenue streams for your business, which can help conserve your land and keep it wild. #FindYourselfOutside #LeaveItBetter

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