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As a beginner hiker, you might be tempted to spend a ton of money on expensive gear and fancy equipment, but unless you’re going with experienced hikers on a long or overnight trip, you really don’t need anything a lot.
I recently got back from my first hiking trip up in Lake George, NY and I had so much fun. I could’ve been better prepared, but as a result I have a bunch of great advice for newbies! I want you to be confident and fully prepared for your first hike as a beginner!
Keep reading for my best tips and gear recommendations for a beginner hiker!
Tips for a Beginner Hiker
Do Your Research
Research the hiking trails you want to explore, find out what the cell service availability is, and make sure you know what nearby resources are around if you end up needing help. Please please please don’t take off to explore without a plan! No one wants to go looking for you in the middle of the night, and I’m sure you don’t want to be stuck in the middle of the woods with no idea how to get out!
When researching hiking trails, check multiple sources for difficulty rating, mileage, safety considerations, and other important information like landmarks to look for and the best time of year to climb. Some trails may be more difficult or have other considerations to take into account depending on the time of year.
If you’re brand new, this is not the time to fake it till you make it! DO NOT attempt a difficult hike as a beginner. If you want to enjoy your trip and not have to get air-lifted out of there (yes this is a possibility if you overestimate your hiking abilities), pick a beginner-friendly hike!
Dress In Layers
You will get hot on your hike even if you started early in the morning and the air is still crisp. You might also get cold even if the temps were warm earlier in the day. Bring light sweat-wicking layers that you can peel off or add on during your hike and make your outer layer waterproof. Even if you’re on a beginner hike, rain in the mountains is always a possibility. Sure you might think a little water isn’t so bad, but once you’re drenched and your shoes are squishy, you’ll be wishing you packed a rain jacket.
Pack Light, Waterproof, and Comfortable
Alright, so story time! I 100% underestimated the terrain of our hike and the possibility of rain. The hike up Buck Mountain is definitely suitable for beginners with the right shoes and minimal gear. Please learn from my mistakes and don’t wear regular sneakers or bring your (not waterproof) nylon Longchamp Le Pliage tote. (Face Palm) Oh yea and I did my eyebrows and put mascara on too…why you ask? Instagram. That is why. Moral of the story: Don’t be like me!
Get hiking shoes, pack a waterproof backpack with just the essentials, and please don’t let Instagram be your excuse for having mascara running down your face in the photo you take at the top of a mountain! At least make it waterproof mascara!
Take Breaks and Watch Your Step
Listen to your body and take frequent breaks to hydrate, eat a snack, and appreciate the scenery. It’s not a race, so enjoy the hike up and make sure you’re checking in with yourself and your hiking parter(s).
Watch where you step so you stay on your feet and you don’t squash a little friend. I found the cutest little lizard during my hike who might have been squashed if I wasn’t looking where I was walking. You can also roll your ankle pretty badly if you’re not paying attention and step wrong. That’ll cut your hike short really fast, so make sure you invest in some quality footwear and pay attention to where you step!
The False Summit is Beautiful
The false summit of a mountain usually has just as beautiful a view as the actual summit, so don’t feel bad if you’re spent and only made it to the false summit. Take in the amazing views, snap some photos, and be proud of how far you’ve come. Like Miley once said, it’s all about the climb!
Follow the Trail Markers
Don’t go off the trail and try to forge your own way. You’re going to get lost and it won’t be a fun time for you or the people who have to track your butt down! Follow the trail markers along your hiking trail. They’re there for a reason. Any trip is much more satisfying if you get to where you want to go. Don’t veer off the path and try to find a “quicker” way. Trails are marked to keep hikers and wildlife safe!
If You Need to “Go,” Be Respectful About It
Okay, no one wants to talk about “going” in the woods, but let’s face it, when nature calls… lol I really couldn’t resist. Sorry not sorry for my mildly entertaining puns! Anyway, there are usually port-a-potties or restroom cabins at the start of a trial before you begin, so I highly recommend emptying your tank before you set off on your hike. If you need some #1 relief while on your hike, try to get at the very least 200 feet away from the trail and conceal yourself in the greenery while you “go.”
If you find yourself needing to go #2, you’re **** out of luck. Alright that one wasn’t funny, and it also wasn’t true. If you must, please be cognizant of hiking etiquette and get yourself at least 200 feet away from the trail, any body of running water, and campsite. Dig a hole at least 6 inches deep and bury it when you’re done. Don’t leave toilet paper behind because it takes a long time to decompose, so be sure to pack it out with you. Check out this resource from bearfoottheory.com for more info. Human waste can be VERY VERY harmful to wildlife and domesticated dogs should they come in contact with it, and I think it goes without saying that it’s at the very least unpleasant near the trail and can potentially contaminate water sources.
As a beginner hiker, if you go before you head out, you’ll most likely be fine, but it doesn’t hurt to know what to do if the urge arises!
Let Someone Know Where You Are And How Long You Expect To Be Gone
Better safe than sorry! Cell service can be spotty at best on a lot of hiking trails in the mountains, so make sure that you let someone, who isn’t in your hiking party, know exactly where you are hiking, how long you expect it to take, and what you’re wearing just in case they need to call for help. It’s also better to overestimate how long it will take for you to hike a trail just a little bit to give yourself extra time before your designated person calls for a rescue team! Also don’t forget to call/ text them when you’re done.
Gear for a Beginner Hiker
Click Here For Your Full Beginner Hiker’s Packing list
Get The Right Shoes
The one piece of gear I would 100% recommend investing in is hiking shoes. My poor pink Nike Free sneakers (may they rest in a beautiful pink peace) were obliterated by my hike up Buck Mountain in Lake George. They also almost obliterated me a couple of times! Basic sneakers don’t have the grip or construction to keep you upright and your ankles intact on uneven terrain. I slid down rocks on my butt a few times as my boyfriend peered over his shoulder to check that I was still alive.
Even if you’re only hiking for a weekend and don’t plan on going again for a while, get yourself some hiking shoes! I promise you that they’re worth it and they’re cheaper than a sprained or broken bone!
Bring Snacks and Hydration With Electrolytes
You will without a doubt get hungry and thirsty on a hike. Even a relatively mild incline and even path will eventually call for a snack and hydration break. Bring energy bars, protein bars, beef jerky, and any other high carb snack that travels well. Keep in mind that you have to carry whatever you bring in back out. As the saying goes, “leave no trace.” We all have a responsibility to keep the wildlife along our hiking trails safe and healthy. Bambi does not need or want your Clif bar wrapper and plastic all over the place! Don’t be that person!
I highly recommend bringing some kind of powdered electrolytes to add to your water like Liquid IV or Nuun tabs. You loose a lot of water and electrolytes when you’re hiking and you might not realize dehydration setting in until it’s too late. Be proactive and grab a couple of packets of electrolytes to boost your hydration so you can hike to the summit or false summit!
First Aid Kit
Do – do you got a first aid kit handy?? A Danity Kane Classic! No seriously, do you? If the answer is no, get this one now. A first aid kit is always a good idea to have and arguably the most important piece of equipment you can bring right after your shoes! A good first aid kit will help you with everything from a minor scratch to a fully sprained ankle. As a part-time cheerleading coach, I always add a small ice pack to it just in case. From cooling down a bout of heat stroke to bringing down swelling, ice packs are infinitely useful!
Bring a Solar Powered Portable Battery Charger
What’s worse than not having cell service? Having cell service and a dead phone. Grab a portable battery charger to help you stay plugged in if you’re one of the lucky ones with service! Opt for a solar powered one like this one so you don’t end up in a situation where you have service, but all your electronics are dead. Now that’s a crappy situation.
Put Your Phone or Camera in a Durable Case
What’s the best thing about hiking? The personal satisfaction of making it to the summit or false summit! What’s the second best part of it? Taking photos of course! Make sure your phone and/ or camera are well protected in durable and waterproof cases that will keep them and your memories safe! I’ve loved the Otterbox line of phone cases for a long time and still recommend them for iPhones all the time!
If you made it this far, I applaud you friend and I appreciate you! Download your free Beginner Hiker’s Packing List here with specific item recommendations to make your hike one to remember!
There you have it! My very best advice for beginner hikers and hiking gear essentials. If you missed my Lake George, NY recap and travel guide, check it out here and don’t forget to download my list of beginner friendly Lake George hiking trails too! For more travel tips and tricks, petite fashion fun, and all around lifestyle content, sign up for my newsletter and follow me on Instagram and Pinterest!