After a few years of hiking, I wanted to share a helpful beginner’s guide with all of the gear essentials you need and some tips for hiking. It wasn’t really into my late twenties where I found this new passion. I had dabbled around with some coastal hikes in California, but nothing too serious.
Thinking back to my first really challenging hike, it was the 4 Mile Loop up to Glacier Point in Yosemite around five years ago. I showed up in a pair of old Nikes and very unequipped for the grueling climb. From there, my next major hike was in the Dolomites. That time I showed up prepared, did my research and had a wonderful time. At first, the hikes were focused on getting to a viewpoint or perhaps seeking out a photo seen on the internet. Of course, a view isn’t necessarily a bad thing to work towards. But the more and more I pushed myself, the more hiking became more of a mental challenge. A test of my mental strength, that even when I thought I couldn’t go any further, I could.
My love for hiking is now equal parts that — a mental and physical challenge as well as seeking out the great outdoors. My hope is to encourage you to get outdoors and connect with nature. Even if it’s a short hike or a long day hike, or perhaps even a backpacking experience. It is such a wonderful opportunity to disconnect.
Take a look through these tips for hiking as well as what essentials you’ll need for gear.
A Beginner’s Hiking Guide:
Essential Gear + Helpful Tips
7 Helpful Hiking Tips
#1 Do Your Research Before
One of the biggest mistakes I made early on was showing up without doing the proper research. There are so many factors to consider before embarking on a hike. We personally use All Trails for researching hikes. You can even find nearby hikes on the website.
Some of the factors I always look at while researching are:
- How much time do I need? (considering when it gets dark as well)
- Is the time of year important? Do I need to consider weather conditions like snow?
- What is the elevation gain?
- Is the trail well-marked?
- Are there things like wildlife spotting or risk points?
All of these factors are what help me make a decision in planning for a hike. I can show up more prepared and be adequately geared up for a hike. What I love about some of the more popular hikes is that there are plenty of reviews so I’d recommend for your first-time hikes to stick those trails first. You’ll feel much more at ease and can work towards more backcountry hiking.
#2 Choose The Right Trail For You
Choosing the right trail for yourself will be a combination of the determining factors listed above. I know for myself, I can push to some limits but if there’s any rock-climbing on hikes, that is outside of my comfort level.
It’s good to start with easier trails first and work your way up to more advanced trails as you begin to hike.
#3 Have Offline Trail Maps
I cannot reiterate this part of all tips the most: have the trail saved offline. Whether it is a physical map, Google Maps offline, or my new found love of Gaia GPS. I’d recommend Gaia GPS as it is everything you need in one place, saved offline.
If you’re going to use your phone as your GPS source, I’d highly recommend a portable battery charger for your phone.
The biggest key takeaway is not to get lost while out hiking, so researching the trail ahead of time and having an understanding of it will be helpful in addition to offline maps.
#4 Hike With a Group or a Friend First
If it’s your first time hiking, you’ll feel much more comfortable hiking with a friend or a group. I still don’t love to hike solo, so this is what I opt for.
Hiking in numbers is especially important in certain geographic areas when wildlife comes in as a factor. So I’d keep this as a consideration when planning hikes in areas like Yellowstone or Glacier area.
When it comes to bear safety, I can share honestly that after my first bear encounter in Yellowstone (it was a black bear), I found that they’re not as interested in me. A black bear is MUCH different than a grizzly bear. When we hike in grizzly bear territory, we ALWAYS carry a can of bear spray each and a knife. For more tips on bear safety, read here.
#5 Hydrate + Nourish
Hydration is key prior to a longer (or any length) hike. I try to keep my body as hydrated as possible before a hike so that I can show up prepared physically. When it comes to nourishing my body, for the longer hikes I am very diligent in not drinking the night before and eating properly.
I think you have to sort out what works best for your body and what factors will make you feel good for when you hit the trail.
#6 Leave No Trace Behind + Etiquette
One of the most important things in hiking is understanding the etiquette. The first and most important: leave no trace behind. This means if you pack it in, you pack it out. Look where you’re hiking, so not to trample down plants and flowers.
Other etiquette to know:
- Give way to faster hikers
- Uphill hikers have the right of way
#7 Let Others Know Where You Are
The last thing we always do when we hike is to let someone know what trail we are on and are estimated time of being gone is. This is another extra layer of safety for us and to let our family know where we are.
Essential Gear for Hiking
I’m going to break this into two categories: what to wear hiking and what to pack for hiking. Over the years, I’ve trusted Backcountry as my gear supplier as they have fast and free shipping + returns. Also, their sales are incredible so I’m always keeping an eye out for those. (none of this is sponsored)
What to Wear Hiking
This is very personal when it comes to what you want to wear hiking. Over the years, I’ve hiked in my running shoes most of the time until this summer I finally made the upgrade to hiking boots. My consensus? I wish I would have changed to boots earlier on. There are some trails that are definitely doable in a pair of running shoes but my preference for longer hikes is these boots.
These are the ones I have, the price point is unbeatable at under $150 for hiking boots. I wore them brand new on a 11 mile hike and not a single blister.
I do love my KEENs, so I think these would be another great option for summer hikes since they have the ventilation.
Danner Adrika Hiker Boot A bit more pricier, this boot came highly recommended as a mid-weight boot for almost year-round hiking.
Do not underestimate how helpful good socks are for your hiking boots.
Outfits for Hiking
This is probably the part of hiking where I’ll never get into traditional hiking gear. I almost exclusively wear a pair of active leggings or biking shorts with a loose shirt. I’m big on the layer components, but the basics underneath, I keep well, basic.
I never leave without my basic accessories. I almost exclusively hike with my Patagonia hat at all times to protect my face and always pack a pair of sunglasses.
If you invest in any thing for hiking in addition to hiking boots, let it be proper layers. I’ve found over the years that good, packable layers make all the difference. I’ve almost exclusively only worn for Patagonia as I love their mission as well as quality. I always have a vest, puffer, and rain layer. I will also pack an extra thermal or two for colder climates. Here are my favorites:
Patagonia Nano Puff Insulated Jacket — I personally prefer the Nano puff as I don’t get overly hot in it and can wear layers underneath.
Patagonia R1 Fleece Pullover — I have an old Nike version of this and this one is pretty comparable. Love having this as an extra layer.
Patagonia Rainshadow Jacket — Always pack a shell for the rainy season, it’s a game changer for when the weather is unpredictable .
Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Vest — Another layer I love for hikes where a jacket is not necessary.
Patagonia Retro Pile Marsupial Pullover — a cute option for a pullover as well.
What to Pack for Hiking
These are some essentials you can’t leave with out, like a Backpack, water bottle, and other important gear. Here are my favorites:
Pacsafe Venturesafe X34L Backpack — we’ve used this as our day pack for long hikes for years now and love it.
Osprey Packs Daylite 13L Backpack — Osprey is another brand favorite, and if one of us has the large pack, I’ll bring this as well.
Hydro Flask 40oz Wide Mouth Prism Pop Water Bottle — water is always my number one fear, so we pack A LOT of it. Usually around 40-60 oz minimum a person.
Larq Self-Cleaning Water Bottle — if you have access to running water, this bottle can clean water on the go.
Sunscreen + Bug Spray — the amount of times I wish I would have had these two things on hand is endless. I love All Terrain Bug Spray + All Good Sunscreen.
Snacks + Food — this is all dependent on how long your hike is but I ALWAYS recommend bringing extra protein and snacks of your choice. I love all EPIC bars and will bring protein bars + trail mix.
A few safety items to consider
BioLite 200 HeadLamp — if you’re headed out and coming back at dark, you’ll need one of these.
Opinel No 8 Outdoor Knife — they are very handy to have and I’d recommend to have one.
Adventure Medical Ultralight & Watertight Series Medical Kit — smart to have in general, I recommend this + a blister kit for your long hikes.
Hiking should be a fun experience for you. Test the waters, and get comfortable with hiking different trails. It’s fun to have a goal in mind or for me, I always enjoy being disconnected. Photography is a big component for me, so I always bring my Sony A7 RIII + 24-70mm f/2.8 lens as it is really versatile. You can find more outdoor photography tips here + all my camera gear here.
I’d love to hear where you’re hiking this summer. We just completed this epic hike near Mammoth Lakes and are looking forward to more this summer in Oregon and Washington.