Hiking is a great way to get fresh air, exercise, and spend time with friends or family. It's the 4th most popular outdoor activity worldwide, with over 118.26 million people doing it. If you're new to hiking, your first trip can be a little intimidating. Here are some tips for preparing for your first hike to stay safe and have the best experience!
Plan Your Route
The first thing you'll need to do is plan your route. To find places to hike, you can search by typing "hiking trails near me" into any search engine and making a list of the results that appeal to you. To decide on the type of hiking trail that best suits you, consider how long you want to be out, your fitness level, and the difficulty of the hiking trail. Choose an easy trail for your first trip.
Get a Map
The number 1# rule in hiking is, "Don’t get lost." Getting lost in the woods is not just scary, it is also dangerous. A map is not only a great way to get acquainted with the area, but it is also essential for helping you find your way back if you lose your bearings. Many people use their phones as GPS devices, but it's good to have a physical map and a GPS in case one or the other becomes lost or stops working.
Pack Extra Layers
You may think you're prepared for anything, but Mother Nature has a way of surprising you. Pack some extra layers that you can add or remove as the temperature changes. This is especially important if you're going to be out for several hours since temps will cool down as night falls and it gets dark earlier in wintertime. Here are some items to bring along:
Bring Water and Food
It's important to bring snacks and water while hiking. Water is a must, but food can be a lifesaver if you're planning on spending the day outdoors. If you're planning to walk for more than 2 hours, it's best to pack some snacks that won't weigh down your backpack too much. Snacks can include:
- A sandwich
- Granola bars
- Trail mix
- Dried fruit
Dress for the Weather
- Wear layers. Be prepared for temperature changes, both up and down. Layer your clothing so you can take off or add more as necessary. Cargo pants and a sweater can be put on over shorts and a t-shirt and then taken off if it gets too hot.
- Wear a pair of waterproof hiking boots or shoes with a good grip that doesn't slip on wet surfaces like rocks and mud. A thick pair of socks will help cushion your feet and keep them dry as you walk.
- Bring a waterproof jacket, hat, and gloves to keep you warm and dry during rainy weather conditions. You may also want to bring sunglasses as protection from the sun's glare and harmful UV rays!
- Use your map and compass.
- Carry your cell phone or get a satellite phone
- Tell someone where you're going (text a friend when you get there)
- Stay on the marked trails
- Bring a flashlight and batteries
- Dress appropriately
- Bring a first-aid kit
Ultimately, it is all about being aware of your surroundings and taking care of yourself. Many hikers are hurt or lost because they didn't take a moment to study the map, think things through, and be prepared for what might happen.
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