How to Start Hiking as a Hobby: From Novice to Trailblazer

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Embarking on the journey of how to start hiking as a hobby was a question I asked myself many years ago. This seemingly simple question opened the door to countless adventures and a newfound love for the great outdoors.

I began my journey in the bright lights of Las Vegas, a city more known for its entertainment and casinos than its hiking opportunities. Yet, beyond the neon glow, I discovered the raw beauty of the desert and mountain trails.

These experiences sparked a passion that I took with me when I moved to Missouri, where I continue to explore the diverse natural landscapes on foot.

The Appeal of Hiking and Discovering How to Start Hiking as a Hobby

If you’re contemplating whether to dive into hiking, I’m here to give you that friendly nudge. Learning how to start hiking as a hobby not only presents a chance to uncover local hidden gems but also provides significant physical and mental health benefits.

The Benefits of Hiking: It’s More Than Just a Walk

how to start hiking as a hobby benefits

When it comes to hobbies, few can boast the wide range of benefits that hiking offers. The journey of learning how to start hiking as a hobby isn’t just about discovering nature’s beauty; it’s also a pathway to improved physical and mental health.

Physical Health Benefits

  1. Cardiovascular Fitness: Hiking, especially on trails with inclines, gets your heart pumping and can be a fantastic form of cardio. Regular hiking can help lower your risk of heart disease and improve overall cardiovascular fitness.
  2. Strength and Endurance: The varied terrains and gradients encountered while hiking work out different muscle groups, strengthening your legs, core, and even your upper body as you navigate the trails.
  3. Weight Management: Hiking can burn upwards of 400 calories per hour. It’s a fun and enjoyable way to keep those extra pounds at bay and maintain a healthy weight.
  4. Bone Density: Weight-bearing exercises like hiking can help improve your bone density and fight off conditions like osteoporosis.

Mental Health Benefits

  1. Stress Reduction: Immersing yourself in nature is a proven stress reliever. The calmness of the outdoors, away from the noise and rush of everyday life, can help lower stress and anxiety levels.
  2. Improved Mood: Physical activity releases endorphins, also known as “feel-good” hormones, which can boost your mood and foster a sense of wellbeing.
  3. Improved Concentration and Creativity: Studies suggest that spending time in nature can enhance creativity and focus. The tranquillity of the trails can give your brain the break it needs to recharge.
  4. Better Sleep: Regular physical activity like hiking can help regulate your sleep patterns and lead to better quality sleep.

From my personal experience, I’ve noticed a significant improvement in both my fitness level and mood since I took up hiking. The diverse landscapes of Las Vegas provided challenging terrains that worked my muscles, while the peaceful trails in Missouri offered a sanctuary for stress relief.

Step-by-Step Guide for How to Start Hiking as a Hobby

how to start hiking as a hobby guide

Embarking on your first hike can seem daunting. However, discovering how to start hiking as a hobby doesn’t need to be complicated. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you prepare for and enjoy your first hiking adventure.

1. Choose an Appropriate Trail

First things first, you need to choose a trail that’s suitable for beginners. Consider factors like the trail’s length, elevation gain, terrain, and overall difficulty level.

There are plenty of resources online, including apps and websites, that provide detailed information about various trails. Look for one that’s relatively short (under 5 miles) with minimal elevation change for your first hike.

2. Check the Weather

Before you head out, make sure to check the weather forecast. Weather can impact the difficulty of the trail and your overall hiking experience. If there’s a chance of heavy rain, extreme heat, or cold, it might be best to choose another day.

3. How to Start Hiking as a Hobby and Pack Accordingly

Once you’ve picked your trail and checked the weather, it’s time to pack. Ensure you have plenty of water, high-energy snacks, a map or trail guide, a first-aid kit, and suitable clothing layers.

Don’t forget your sun protection essentials—sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat—especially if you’re hiking in an open area or during the hotter part of the day.

4. Dress Appropriately

Dressing in layers is the best way to stay comfortable during your hike. Synthetic materials or wool are preferable as they wick away sweat and moisture.

Avoid cotton, as it takes a long time to dry when wet. Ensure you have sturdy footwear that’s appropriate for the terrain you’ll be tackling.

5. Follow Trail Etiquette

When learning how to start hiking as a hobby respecting nature and other hikers is crucial. Stay on designated trails to protect the environment and reduce your impact.

Remember the “Leave No Trace” principles—whatever you bring in, you should take out. Also, yield to uphill hikers if you’re going downhill and give way to larger groups.

6. Pace Yourself when Learning How to Start Hiking as a Hobby

Don’t rush; remember, hiking isn’t a race. It’s about enjoying the journey. Keep a comfortable, steady pace that allows you to enjoy the scenery and avoid overexertion.

7. Post-Hike Care

After your hike, take time to cool down and stretch to prevent stiffness and soreness. Hydrate and replenish your energy with a good meal.

My first hike in the deserts of Las Vegas was a memorable adventure that instilled in me a love for hiking. The anticipation of the unknown, the thrill of starting something new, and the satisfaction of completing the hike were incredibly fulfilling. Yours can be too!

How to Start Hiking as a Hobby: Gear for Beginners

hiking boots

A smooth and enjoyable hiking experience begins with the right gear. As you begin your journey to start hiking as a hobby, consider these essentials:

1. Hiking Footwear

Your choice of hiking footwear can make a significant difference in your hiking experience.

  • Look for shoes that offer excellent traction for different terrains.
  • Check for ample ankle support to help prevent injuries.
  • Opt for waterproof or water-resistant shoes to keep your feet dry.
  • Try on several pairs with the socks you plan to wear hiking.
  • Break them in with several short walks before taking them on longer hikes.

2. Backpack

A reliable backpack will hold all your hiking essentials.

  • A 20-30 liter backpack should be sufficient for day hikes.
  • Choose one with multiple compartments to easily organize your gear.
  • Look for a backpack with padded straps for added comfort.
  • An added rain cover can be beneficial in unexpected showers.
  • Opt for a backpack with a hydration reservoir for easy water access.

3. Hydration and Snacks

Staying hydrated and energized is crucial on your hike.

  • Carry a reusable water bottle or a hydration bladder.
  • Pack high-energy snacks like trail mix, granola bars, or fresh fruit.
  • Remember, it’s always better to overpack food and water than underpack.
  • Consider the length and difficulty of your hike when deciding how much to bring.
  • Packing a lightweight, reusable water filter can be a lifesaver in emergencies.

4. Navigation Tools are Key for How to Start Hiking as a Hobby

Ensure you’re always on the right path with reliable navigation tools.

  • Carry a physical map and a compass, even on well-marked trails.
  • Consider using hiking and trail apps for easy navigation.
  • A GPS device can also be a great tool, especially on longer, more complex hikes.
  • Always carry spare batteries or a power bank for your electronic devices.
  • Learn the basics of map reading and compass use before relying on these tools.

5. Clothing and Layers

Dressing appropriately can greatly influence your hiking experience.

  • Opt for moisture-wicking fabrics and avoid cotton.
  • Dress in layers to easily adjust to changing weather conditions.
  • Pack a lightweight, insulating layer for sudden temperature drops.
  • Don’t forget a waterproof layer for rainy conditions.
  • An extra pair of socks can be a lifesaver if your feet get wet.

6. How to Start Hiking as a Hobby. Don’t Forget the First Aid Kit

Stay prepared for minor injuries or health issues with a basic first aid kit.

  • Include items like band-aids, antiseptic wipes, tweezers, and medical tape.
  • Bandages, gauze pads, and adhesive tape can be useful for larger cuts or injuries.
  • Pack personal medications and any specific items like insect repellent.
  • Include basic medications for headaches, allergies, and stomach issues.
  • A compact guide to first aid procedures can be handy, especially for beginners.

7. A How to Start Hiking as a Hobby Essential: Sun Protection

Shielding your skin and eyes from the sun is crucial on open trails.

  • Always pack a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Wear sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection.
  • A wide-brimmed hat provides added protection for your face and neck.
  • Lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants can provide additional sun protection.
  • Lip balm with SPF can prevent chapped lips in sunny, windy conditions.

8. Rain Gear and Extra Clothes

Stay prepared for rapid weather changes.

  • A lightweight rain jacket is a must, even on clear days.
  • Pack waterproof pants for heavy rain or wet trail conditions.
  • An extra pair of socks can be useful if your boots get wet.
  • Gloves and a warm hat are great for unexpected temperature drops.
  • A pack cover or liner can keep your gear dry during showers.

9. Emergency Kit

A basic emergency kit can make a huge difference in unexpected situations. It’s mandatory when learning how to start hiking as a hobby.

  • A whistle for signaling in case you need help.
  • A multi-tool with a knife, scissors, and tweezers can be handy.
  • A headlamp or flashlight is essential, even if you plan to hike only during daylight.
  • A fire starter or waterproof matches can be lifesavers in an emergency.
  • An emergency blanket (also known as a space blanket) can provide warmth and shelter.

With this gear, you’ll be well-prepared for your hiking adventures. The right equipment not only enhances your safety but also makes your hikes more enjoyable. Remember, personal needs vary, so adjust this list according to your specific needs, the weather, and the terrain.

How to Start Hiking as a Hobby Tips and Advice

Knowing how to hike is more than just stepping onto a trail; it’s also about being prepared, respectful, and aware of your surroundings. Here are some helpful tips and advice to consider:

1. Start Small and Choose the Right Trail

For beginners, the main goal of your first few hikes should be about adapting to the activity, getting a feel for the trail, and most importantly, enjoying the outdoors.

  • Select an easy, short trail for your first few hikes. There’s no need to conquer the highest peaks right from the start.
  • Always do some research about the trail in advance. Understand its length, altitude changes, terrain, and make sure it matches your current fitness level.
  • Gradually increase the distance and difficulty of your hikes as your fitness improves.
  • Don’t rush your hike. Take the time to enjoy the surroundings and take breaks as needed.
  • Aim to complete your hike before sundown to avoid getting caught in the dark.

2. Tell Someone About Your Hiking Plans

Before you hit the trail, always let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to return. This is an essential safety measure that shouldn’t be overlooked.

  • Share your planned route, estimated return time, and any other important details with a friend or family member.
  • If your plans change, inform your contact as soon as possible.
  • Always check-in with them once you’ve safely returned.
  • There are apps available that allow you to share your live location with a trusted contact.

3. Check the Weather

Weather can be unpredictable, especially in mountainous areas, so staying informed about the forecast can help you better prepare for your hike.

  • Check the weather forecast for the area you’ll be hiking in just before leaving.
  • Be aware of the signs of changing weather, like dark clouds, increasing wind, sudden drops in temperature, etc.
  • Always pack for different weather conditions, even if the day starts clear.
  • If the weather forecast predicts severe conditions, postpone your hike. Safety should always come first.

4. Practice Leave No Trace: Crucial for How to Start Hiking as a Hobby

The outdoors is our playground, and it’s our responsibility to take care of it. Practicing the Leave No Trace principles is an excellent way to help preserve nature.

  • Carry all trash, including biodegradable items like fruit peels, back out with you.
  • Stick to established trails to avoid damaging plant life and causing erosion.
  • Do not pick flowers or remove any natural objects. Take only photos, leave only footprints.
  • Respect wildlife by observing from a distance. Never feed animals or disturb their habitats.
  • Camp only on designated sites and avoid making a fire in areas where it’s prohibited.

5. Understand Basic Trail Etiquette

Just like any other community, the hiking community has its own etiquette, which promotes respect among hikers and helps everyone enjoy the trail.

  • Hikers going uphill generally have the right of way, as they may be in a challenging stride that’s hard to regain after stopping.
  • If you’re playing music, use headphones. Not everyone on the trail may appreciate your taste in music.
  • When encountering others, a simple smile and greeting can enhance the trail experience for everyone.
  • Keep group sizes small to reduce trail impact and minimize disturbance to others.
  • Respect trail signs and closures, they are there for a reason.

The Benefits of Hiking

Hiking isn’t just a walk in the park; it’s an adventure in fitness, mental wellness, and embracing the great outdoors. Here’s a rundown of the benefits you can expect when you start hiking as a hobby:

1. Physical Health Benefits

Hiking is a powerful cardio workout that can benefit your body in numerous ways. It’s a key reason to learn how to start hiking as a hobby.

  • Enhanced cardio-respiratory fitness: Hiking, especially when it includes hills and mountains, can get your heart pumping and lungs working, improving your overall cardio fitness.
  • Increased muscle strength: Hiking regularly strengthens your core and leg muscles, including your quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
  • Improved balance: Uneven surfaces and navigating obstacles like rocks and fallen trees can improve your balance and coordination.
  • Weight control: Depending on your pace and the terrain, you can burn around 400-550 calories per hour while hiking, assisting in weight control and maintenance.
  • Better bone density: As a weight-bearing exercise, hiking helps improve bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
  • Lower risk of chronic diseases: Regular hikers often have lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol.

2. How to Start Hiking as a Hobby: Mental Health Benefits

how to start hiking as a hobby mental health

Just as hiking helps your physical health, it also has profound effects on your mental wellbeing.

  • Reduced stress and anxiety: Spending time in nature and engaging in physical activity can reduce stress and anxiety, leading to a more relaxed state of mind.
  • Improved mood: Physical activity like hiking releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, which can elevate your mood.
  • Enhanced creativity and problem-solving: Studies have shown that spending time in nature can boost creativity and problem-solving skills.
  • Better sleep: The physical exertion of a good hike can lead to better sleep at night.
  • Increased self-esteem: Accomplishing a challenging hike or reaching a summit can give a powerful boost to your self-esteem and self-confidence.

3. Connection with Nature

There’s something profound about the relationship between humans and the great outdoors. Hiking can deepen this connection.

  • Mindfulness and Presence: Hiking allows you to be present and mindful, fully experiencing the sounds, sights, and smells of the trail.
  • Appreciation for the natural world: Spending time in various natural landscapes can foster a deeper appreciation for the earth’s beauty and biodiversity.
  • Learning opportunities: Each hike can teach you something new about the natural world, whether it’s identifying a bird song, recognizing a plant, or understanding how ecosystems work.
  • Inspiration and reflection: The natural world can be a source of inspiration, providing a space for reflection and introspection.

As someone who’s traversed various terrains, from the deserts of Nevada to the lush landscapes of Missouri, I’ve personally experienced these benefits. And it’s these rewards that keep me hitting the trail time after time.

Safety Tips for How to Start Hiking as a Hobby

While hiking is indeed a fun and beneficial activity, it’s crucial to prioritize safety. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind before you embark on your hiking journey:

1. Familiarize Yourself with the Trail

Understanding the trail you’re about to embark on is the first step to a safe hike.

  • Research the trail in detail before your hike. Familiarize yourself with its length, elevation gain, difficulty level, and any potential hazards.
  • Download maps and use GPS if possible. However, don’t solely rely on technology, as signals can be weak or non-existent in remote areas.
  • Learn to read a topographic map and use a compass.

2. Stay Hydrated and Pack Nutritious Food

Proper hydration and nutrition are vital when you’re exerting energy on a hike.

  • Carry plenty of water, even on cooler days. The rule of thumb is a half liter per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures.
  • Pack high-energy snacks like nuts, dried fruit, protein bars, or jerky. Don’t forget to pack a meal if you’re planning a long hike.

3. Dress and Pack Appropriately

What you wear and what you carry can have a significant impact on your safety and comfort during the hike.

  • Dress in layers, which will allow you to adapt to changing weather and activity levels.
  • Wear moisture-wicking materials to keep sweat off your skin and prevent chills.
  • Pack essential items like a first-aid kit, knife, headlamp, whistle, and a rain cover for your backpack.

4. Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Staying aware of your surroundings can help you avoid potential dangers and respond promptly if something goes wrong.

  • Watch your step to avoid tripping or twisting an ankle on uneven ground.
  • Be aware of wildlife. Know how to respond if you encounter any animals native to the area.
  • Watch for signs of altitude sickness if you’re hiking at higher elevations.

5. Know Basic First Aid

Knowing some basic first aid can be extremely useful in case of minor injuries or ailments on the trail.

  • Learn how to treat blisters, sprains, cuts, and heat or cold illnesses.
  • Carry a first-aid manual or take a basic first-aid course for more severe emergencies.
  • Always have a first-aid kit with you, and know how to use each item in it.

Hiking Gear Recommendations you Need to Know About How to Start Hiking as a Hobby

Equipping yourself with the right gear can make a world of difference in your hiking experience. Here are some recommendations for your hiking gear:

1. Footwear

The right footwear will depend on the type of trail and its difficulty.

  • Hiking Shoes: For short or moderate day hikes on well-maintained trails, a pair of hiking shoes should be enough. Look for ones that offer good support and have a durable, grippy outsole.
  • Hiking Boots: For more challenging hikes, multi-day hikes, or hikes on rugged terrain, investing in a pair of hiking boots will provide better ankle support and underfoot protection. Waterproof boots can be beneficial in wet conditions.

2. Clothing

When it comes to hiking clothes, the key is comfort and adaptability to changing conditions.

  • Moisture-wicking base layers: These will help keep sweat away from your skin, keeping you comfortable during your hike.
  • Insulating mid-layers: Fleece jackets or wool sweaters make great mid-layers for when it gets colder.
  • Waterproof and windproof outer layers: A good quality rain jacket and pants will protect you from unexpected rain or wind.
  • Hiking Pants: Choose pants that are durable, lightweight, and allow mobility. Convertible pants that can be zipped off into shorts can be useful in changing weather.

3. Backpack

The right backpack will efficiently carry your gear without causing discomfort.

  • Daypacks: For short, half-day hikes, a small daypack (15 – 20 liters) is often sufficient. For full-day hikes, consider a larger daypack (20 – 35 liters).
  • Multi-day backpacks: If you plan to hike for several days, you’ll need a bigger backpack (40 – 70 liters) to carry extra food, water, and camping gear.

4. Essential Gear

Don’t forget these essentials when packing for your hike.

  • Hydration reservoir or water bottles: Staying hydrated is crucial. Hydration reservoirs are handy for drinking on the go, while water bottles are easy to refill.
  • Map and compass/GPS: Even if you’re on a well-marked trail, always bring a map and compass. A GPS device or smartphone with GPS can also be helpful.
  • First-aid kit: Include bandages, antiseptic wipes, tweezers, medical tape, pain relief medication, and specific personal medication.
  • Multitool or knife: These can be handy for a range of emergency situations.
  • Headlamp/Flashlight: Useful if you end up hiking longer than planned and it gets dark. Don’t forget to pack extra batteries.

5. Optional Gear

These items aren’t necessary for everyone but can enhance your hiking experience.

  • Hiking poles: These can reduce stress on your knees, especially during downhill hiking.
  • Camera: If you enjoy photography, a good camera can help you capture the stunning landscapes you’ll encounter.
  • Portable charger: If you’re using your phone for navigation or photos, a portable charger can ensure you don’t run out of battery.

Special Tips and Advice for Women Wanting to Know How to Start Hiking as a Hobby

how to start hiking as a hobby

While many hiking tips apply to everyone, there are a few pieces of advice that can be particularly beneficial for women hikers. Whether you’re setting out solo or in a group, these tips will help ensure your hiking adventure is safe and enjoyable.

1. Choose the Right Gear

Women-specific gear can enhance comfort and functionality.

  • Backpacks: Opt for women-specific backpacks which are designed to better fit a woman’s frame.
  • Clothing: Wear sports bras and moisture-wicking underwear designed for physical activities. Layer your clothes for easy adjustments in changing conditions.
  • Footwear: Women’s feet tend to be narrower, so ensure your hiking boots or shoes fit well to avoid blisters and discomfort.

2. Prioritize Safety

Safety is paramount, especially for women hiking alone.

  • Share Your Plans: Always let someone know where you’re going, your planned route, and when you expect to return.
  • Carry Personal Safety Tools: Consider carrying a personal alarm or pepper spray for additional security.
  • Learn Basic Self-Defense: This can boost your confidence when hiking alone and is a useful skill in general.

3. Manage Hygiene

Maintaining personal hygiene on the trail can be challenging but is essential.

  • Pack Personal Hygiene Products: Pack biodegradable wipes, menstrual products (if needed), and hand sanitizer. Remember to pack out all used items.
  • Consider a Pee Rag or Female Urination Device (FUD): These can make it easier and more comfortable to pee in the wilderness.

4. Join Women Hiking Groups

These groups can provide camaraderie, shared experiences, and additional safety.

  • Community: Connect with other women hikers to share stories, advice, and plan hikes together.
  • Support: Women hiking groups can offer a supportive and understanding environment, particularly for beginners.

That’s a Wrap on How to Start Hiking as a Hobby

As you embark on this journey of making hiking your hobby, remember that the joy of hiking comes not only from reaching your destination but also from the journey itself.

The path will sometimes be challenging and steep, just like the terrain I’ve faced in Las Vegas and Missouri. Yet, it’s those challenges that make the summit views and the serenity of nature even more rewarding. As you take in the sights and sounds of the trail, each step brings you closer to the physical benefits, mental serenity, and sense of accomplishment that hiking provides.

To start hiking as a hobby, equip yourself with the right gear, familiarize yourself with the safety tips, know the trail, and embrace the benefits. Take it slow, enjoy the journey, and before you know it, you’ll be a pro at this wonderful hobby, eager to explore more trails and climb higher peaks.

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Elizabeth Crane

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