Beginners Guide to Hiking
I feel like I owe it to myself to start my blog with this topic. I used to be in a position where I wanted to get out and see the world but I didn't know where to start and that stopped me from trying. The idea of seeing all the beautiful places I saw on social media felt so out of reach.. until I found hiking. This post will be focused around the tips I wish I would have known to start hiking and some tricks I've learned along the way. I hope this post helps you get out and enjoy the beautiful world we live in!! :)
Top 5 Hiking Tips and Tricks
Tip #1 Invest in a reliable hiking boot/shoe
The reason this is my first tip is because of safety. Not having a pair of "hiking" shoes isn't a deal breaker to get on trail, but having a reliable pair of shoes will prevent injuries and discomfort in the long run. A lot of trail terrain has loose gravel, sand, or shifting rocks and a sturdy pair of shoes will save you from rolled ankles.. or worse! There are two main types of hiking footwear, boots and trail runners.
Boots v Trail Runners
Boots are going to best for people looking for ankle support, longevity of use, and for those who don't mind a little extra weight on their feet. Boots are often times waterproof and do a great job of protecting your feet from the elements. I feel like I can conquer the world in mine! Trail runners are going to be for those who want something super light weight, more grip than a regular shoe, and a little bit of foot support. I recommend to go to your local outdoor store with a pair of hiking socks (merino wool is my recommendation) and try on a few different things and see what feels best for you. You want to know what they're going to feel like on your feet before you start walking miles in them, trust me!
BOOTS! I'm the type of person that can roll an ankle on flat ground so I was looking for alll the ankle support. My first and current pair of boots are the Merrell Moab 2 Women's Waterproof mids! I can not recommend them enough. I've never gotten a blister, my ankle rolling percentage has gone down by 99% and they keep my feet dry and warm. I got mine at REI for around $135 but only paid $35 because I had gift card so it was a steal! There are more affordable places to shop for shoes but I will always recommend REI. They have a lot of options and the team there is so helpful. They also do "field testing" to give you an idea of what the boots will feel like on trail. I'll share more information about REI down below.
Tip #2 Download the All-Trails app
The all trails app is available for free to both apple and android users and is a GAME CHANGER! The app is filled with trails all over the world. Of course like any another other free app, there's an option for upgrade. Here are my favorite features about the app with the free version:
Trail details and Reviews; All trails rates the hikes by difficulty (easy, moderate, hard), gives you distance and elevation gain, way points/points of interest, and short descriptions. Each trail has the option for a review so often times you'll see "star ratings", photos, and user reviews of people who have completed them.
Customizable location; You can search the area your located in or you can search areas of interest. For example, you can search "Mount Rainer National Park or Golden, Colorado" and it will show you all of the trails in the corresponding area! You can also move within the map if you want to widen the search.
Filtered search; You can edit what trails you want to see based on SO.MANY.THINGS. Distance, rating, difficulty, elevation gain, points of interest, and more.
List building; You can save all of the trails you find and organize them in different lists for different trips and planning later.
All trails Pro is $29.99 a year or $99.99 lifetime. I opted for the yearly first to see how I like it. Here's the difference with the paid version:
You can download maps and map layers so you're able to follow the trail even when your phone is without cell service. This is great for your first time on a trail or just for extra security.
Load into a trail and record your hike. After you download the trail you can load into it and track your hike, the app will show you if you get off trail and will track your pace, elevation gain, etc.
Track your stats!
Free v Paid takeaway
If you're just getting into hiking and are going to be staying on more popular and well marked trails you are totally fine with the free version. You get basically all of the best features of the app without having to pay any money. I will continue to re-new the pro subscription because it works for me and I like the security... Anxiety AMIRITE.. lol.
Tip #3 Get a hiking backpack with a hydro pack
Before I became a "hiker" and just went on hikes, I hated having to carry a water bottle with me. My solution was just to take a regular back pack with me and put water bottles in it. I quickly realized how uncomfortable it is to hike in a regular back pack and how inconvenient it was to have to stop and take your backpack off to drink!
Hiking backpacks are designed to keep the weight better distributed on your body and the compartments/features just make more sense for the things you'll be carrying. Most packs have both a hip and a chest strap (pictured above) to keep the weight closer to your body and take the weight solely off of your shoulders/back which makes all the difference for longer distances. There are different sized packs and often times you'll see them described in Liters. For a regular day hike pack, you won't really need anything bigger than 35 Liters. I got my first pack at Walmart for $30 and it lasted me for 3.5 years and it came with a hydro reservoir(hydropack).
Hydropacks are typically 1-3L water reservoirs that either come in or sit in your pack. They have a hose attached to them that comes over your shoulder (pictured to the left) and allows for you to drink your water without having to stop and take off your pack. You can fill them with water pre-hike and if you have a water filter you can always add more along your hikes. This does add weight to your back but its worth it. Always remember to empty the water out of your pack after a hike and to run water through the hose to keep it clean!
Tip #4 Shop REI and become a member
There is a REASONN I love shopping at REI.. So let me put you on. REI has an amazing return policy which allows for less stress when shopping for gear. REI allows you to return items for up to a year, even if they're used. This means that you can buy items and if they don't end up working for you, you can return them and get your money back. I almost never have to return my gear, but I feel better purchasing and trying gear out knowing I have a year to return it if it doesn't work for me or breaks. There is one exception to the 365 day return and that is on electronics, you'll only have 90 days. You don't need to be a member to benefit from this return policy but it makes it much easier to track your purchases. With a membership all of your purchases sync to your account so you won't have to save your receipts. We're always rocking our REI gear. (pictured)
Become a REI Co-Op Member
Now hear me out, because I'm always hesitant to sign up for things like this but I promise you this membership is worth it if you plan on hiking or doing any outdoor activities like camping, snowboarding, biking, rock climbing, etc.
It's a one time $20 fee for a lifetime membership and when you spend your first $100 dollars, you get $20 credit.
Get 10% back on all of your purchases with the exception of garage sale items.
Gain access to the garage sale! Garage sale items are items that have been returned and are resold at a discounted price. The items will all have the return reason on the tag as well as other info about the item. I love the garage sale because you find steals! Since their return policy is so generous sometimes you find brand new gear almost half off.
Rent certain gear and select items if you're ever need but don't want to purchase.
Tip #5 Prioritize
This tip seems vague but it's so important. If you want to hike and see all the pretty places out there, you have to make it a priority. Find the hikes you want to do, do your research, and plan out your weekends. You can hike pretty much anywhere within the state in a weekend if you're willing to put in the driving hours and can tough it out camping or sleeping in your car. My boyfriend and I do all of our California trips on regular weekends and we both work full time. The key for us is to leave to our destination on Friday night after work and put in most of our driving hours so we're either where we want to be, or close for the next morning. Three day weekends are GOLD! Utilize them. Hiking is a very affordable activity compared to others and a lot of items can be thrifted or purchased at a low price, but you will have to save for certain gear as well as for certain trips. I'll do more tips on road tripping and how to adventure in a cost effective way in another blog post.