Do you want to know how to get into hiking but have no clue where to start?
No worries, you’re in the right place. One of our big goals here at The Adventure Junkies is to inspire you to get out and have new adventures and outdoor experiences. We know getting started is the hardest part so we want to get you all the info you need to get you on your way.
Luckily for you, hiking is one of the easiest ways to get outdoors. You just need decent shoes and a pack to hit the trails for a day. Are you letting a burning question hold you? That’s why we put together some of the top questions about how to get into hiking and answered them for you.
Have a question you don’t see on this list? Leave it in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer it.
ALL ABOUT GEAR
1. WHAT GEAR DO I NEED FOR HIKING?
First ask yourself two questions: how many nights am I going for and what’s the weather going to be like?
For day hikes you don’t need much, just some comfortable shoes or boots and a backpack to carry water, layers and sun protection.
For longer multi-day hikes, you’ll need to bring camping and cooking equipment. Checkout our Ultimate Hiking Packing List to make sure you don’t leave any essentials at home.
2. WHAT KIND OF SHOES SHOULD I WEAR HIKING?
To determine what kind of shoes you need for hiking you need to consider how much weight you plan on carrying and what the trail conditions are like.
It also comes down to your personal preference, some people just aren’t comfortable wearing heavy hiking boots. It’s something you’ll figure out as you go, but here’s some guidelines to give you a place to start:
For day hikes, hiking shoes or trail running shoes are best. Since you aren’t carrying a heavy backpack, boots are overkill.
For multi day hikes, mid cut boots and full boots are the best option. These will help support your ankles. Having said that, if you have strong leg muscles, you can probably get away with wearing hiking shoes.
For multi day expedition treks with tough trails and bad weather, those heavy duty, waterproof boots come in handy. They’ll support your feet and ankles while carrying a heavy back and help you grip on rough terrain.
Don’t forget to check out our post on how to choose hiking boots for more in-depth information.
3. WHAT CLOTHES ARE GOOD FOR HIKING?
This also is dependent on the weather. For hiking, it’s best to dress in layers, that way you’re never too hot or too cold.
Basically you’ll want a thermal layer on the core, an insulating layer like a fleece for around camp and a waterproof outer layer to protect you from the rain and wind.
As far as materials go, merino wool and synthetic fibers are the best options.
Merino is soft on the skin, light weight, odor resistant and dries quick. Performance synthetic clothing also dries quick but it’s not as odor resistant as merino.
4. EVERY TIME I’VE TRIED HIKING I END UP GETTING BLISTERS, HOW DO I PREVENT THEM?
It’s much easier to prevent blisters then have to deal with treating them. If you have new shoes make sure to break them in, you can do this by going on a shorter trail before taking on a big one.
A little trick you can use for multi day hikes is to rub a light layer of vaseline on your feet before you put your socks on in the morning. This helps prevent your socks from rubbing and creating a blister.
5. SHOULD I USE HIKING POLES?
Hiking poles aren’t just for grannies, they help you carry a heavy load and keep your balance while trekking. They’re also knee savers for steep up hills and downhills.
Some people love them and others don’t bother, so it’s really up to you. I’ve done an 8 day hike carrying a heavy pack without poles but I would have appreciated them. So while they aren’t always an absolute must, they’re a piece of gear worth bringing.
Want to get a pair for yourself? Find out what are the best hiking poles out there.
6. WHAT SIZE BACKPACK DO I NEED?
The size of your backpack will depend on how many days you plan on hiking. Also, you need to consider if you’ll be camping or will you be staying lodges/ huts. Pack capacity is measured in volume (liters). Here’s some sizings to give you a place to start:
Weekend Trips: 1-3 nights = 35-50 liters
Multi-day: 3-5 nights = 50-80 liters
Longer Trips: 6 nights+ = 70 liters+
7. I’D LOVE TO GET INTO MULTI-DAY HIKING BUT I CAN’T AFFORD TO BUY ALL THE EQUIPMENT JUST YET, IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO?
Multi-day hiking is gear intensive and you’ll eventually have to invest. But, to get you started, you have some options.
Team Up: You can buddy up with a friend who has some gear.
Huts & Lodges: Look for trails that huts or lodges along the way. This will cut out the need to have a tent and sometimes a stove (if they serve meals).
Rent: If you are still testing the waters to see if you even like hiking, renting gear is a great option. Ask at your local outdoor store if they rent camping equipment.
8. DO I NEED SPECIAL HIKING SOCKS?
The simple answer is no, you don’t need hiking socks but, they will make your experience a lot more enjoyable. They provide cushioning and help keep your feet dry (which helps prevent blisters).
9. WHERE’S A GOOD PLACE TO GET ADVICE ON BUYING OUTDOOR GEAR?
When it comes to choosing hiking gear, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the models and features out there. Local outdoor shops can be a good place to start, but keep in mind that the salesperson probably has sales targets to meet and might earn a commission on certain gear. They also tend to spend more time drooling over gear than actually using it (I know, I used to work as a sales girl in an outdoor store).
Another option is to browse the internet. You can check out the gear reviews and guides we do here on The Adventure Junkies. We talk about the hiking gear we personally use as well as some other great products. Here’s a few articles to help get you started.
10. WHAT SHOULD I PACK IN MY FIRST AID KIT?
When it comes to preparing your first aid kit, consider the length of your trip, the size of your group, and your medical knowledge.
You can buy a pre-assembled kits or put together your own.
Basic first-aid essentials for most hiking adventures should be: adhesive bandages (various sizes), medical tape, moleskin, sterile gauze, ibuprofen, Benadryl, antibiotic ointment, and alcohol wipes.
11. HOW DO I STAY DRY WHILE HIKING?
To stay dry while hiking be sure to carry a good quality, fully waterproof rain jacket and rain pants. Fully waterproof clothes have a breathable liner and seam sealed zips. If they don’t have these two features, it’s water resistant not waterproof.
It’s also important to keep your backpack dry so you don’t arrive to camp with wet clothes and a wet sleeping bag.
I recommend putting your sleeping bag in a dry bag and using a pack cover (which fits around you backpack). Another option is to use a pack liner, which is a bag that you first put in your backpack then pack everything inside that bag.
Photo by Franz Marcherhammer
FOOD & MEAL PLANNING
12. WHAT ARE SOME QUICK & EASY HIKING MEALS?
Meal planning is one of the most important skills to have as a hiker. It’s about finding the balance between taste and what’s practical to carry (weight and expiration).
The easiest option is bring along some freeze dried meals, Mountain House is a good brand to start with. They’re light, surprisingly tasty and super simple to prepare (you just have pour boiling water into the bag). The downside is they’re expensive (around 8 bucks for a meal for 2).
If you don’t want to splurge on these, here’s some ideas to get you started.
Breakfast: Oatmeal, fruits (fresh or dry), granola bars, bread, honey, jam, tea, coffee, juice (mix or fresh).
Lunch: Sandwiches (salame holds up the best for multi-day trips).
Dinner: Instant rice, pasta (with sauce), instant potatoes. a personal favorite of mine is pasta with garlic olive oil topped with fresh tomatoes.
If you want more inspiration, don’t forget to check out the best camping food ideas for your outdoor adventures.
13. WHAT ARE SOME TASTY TRAIL SNACKS?
Nuts (almonds and cashews), dried fruit, chocolate, fruit, granola bars, cookies, trail mix cheese and crackers and jerky all make for good snacks.
14. WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO TREAT WATER?
If you’re going to drink from a river, lake or stream, you should treat it unless a ranger tells you it’s safe to drink.
There are a few ways to treat water: Boiling, tables, pump filters and UV light filters.
Boiling is the cheapest way to purify water. The downsides are you’ll have to light up your stove on the trail to get water during the day and you have to wait around for it to cool down before drinking it.
Water purification tablets such as iodine or chlorine dioxide are super easy to use but you have to wait for them to work and they can have a bad taste.
Pump filters work by of squeezing water through a ceramic or charcoal filter. Some modern models can pump up to 2 liters a minute but most are much slower than that. The downside is the tend to be bulky and they require you to use a pot to collect the water (which can be annoying during the middle of the day).
UV light filters are simple to use, you just press a button, swirl it around in your water bottle for 90 seconds and then you have safe drinking water. These tend to be the most expensive option but can be worth while if you spend a lot of time outdoors. We always go hiking with our beloved SteriPen Ultra.
15. WHAT DRINKS ARE GOOD FOR HIKING?
Just drinking water every day can get boring but carrying extra drinks like juices aren’t alway practical. The best option is to go for a drink power like Nuun or Tang.
Bringing drink mixes are also a good idea for incase you get sick. Even if you can’t hold any food down, at least the drink will give you some calories to hopefully get you through.
Picture by istockphoto.com/es/en/portfolio/jacoblund
FEARS & CONCERNS
16. WHAT ABOUT BEARS & OTHER WILD ANIMALS?
Bears and pumas can be a real concern on some hiking trails. Luckily, having a run in with one of these creatures rarely leads to any aggressive behavior and attacks are even rarer.
17. I’M OUT OF SHAPE & NOT FIT ENOUGH TO HIKE FOR LONG HOURS, WHERE SHOULD I START?
The best way to get in shape for hiking is to get out on the trails.
Start small, you don’t want to just jump right to the toughest trail and end up hating hiking. Perhaps, look at doing a local trail that’s relatively flat, one that you could tackle in an hour or so on the weekends.
18. WHAT DO I NEED TO DO TO STAY SAFE WHILE HIKING?
Compared to other adventure sports hiking is one of the most safest activities, but there are still some risks involved. The best ways to avoid these risks is to know what they are how to avoid them. Here’s 3 of the most common.
Being underprepared: You never know when the weather will turn bad, so be sure that you’re prepared for the worst. Read up on the right gear to bring while hiking.
Getting Lost: Bring a map AND learn how to read it.
Not telling anyone: No matter how safe you think the trail will be, let someone know that you’re heading there and when they can expect you back.
19. NONE OF MY FRIENDS ARE OUTDOORSY, HOW DO I FIND PEOPLE TO GO HIKING WITH?
If you don’t have any friends or family members you can drag outdoors, there are still plenty of ways to find hiking buddies.
Open up google and type in hiking clubs near (your city or town). There are some websites and clubs that help connect hikers. Try Meet Up, Sierra Club, American Hiking Society, South American Explorers Club and Trekking Partners.