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Outdoor Hiking for Beginners

For many people, their workdays are filled with busy office spaces, crowded highways, and lengthy commutes. Hiking is an activity that provides an escape from the hectic nature of everyday life and is enjoyed by people across the country. Hikers are not only subject to the fresh outdoor air, open skies, and scenic beauty of nature, but they're also participating in an excellent form of exercise that works out their bodies and relaxes and soothes their minds. Provided that they are in decent physical condition, almost anyone can participate in hiking, but beginners must know what to expect and how to prepare for the experience. Hiking with a more experienced partner and following helpful hiking tips can make one's experience safer and more enjoyable.

1. Start Small and Choose the Right Trail for Your Fitness Level

Not all hiking trails are suitable for everyone, particularly beginners and people who may not be in the best physical shape. People who are new to hiking should select the right trail for their capabilities and fitness level. Consider starting on an easy trail in a location where it's possible to stop and go home if necessary. To determine the best trail, one should take both distance and elevation into account. Hike a distance that's slightly shorter than what the participants are able to walk on flat surfaces. To determine the hiking time, use an estimated speed of 2 miles an hour. Initially, choose a trail that has minimal elevation, and when planning out the timetable, add an hour of time per 1,000 feet of gain in elevation.

2. Familiarize Yourself With the Trail

Before starting out on a trail, get familiar with it using maps and other resources. Digital maps can be found online that allow hikers to plot out their routes. One can research trail conditions, water sources, and camping sites or find relaxing spots or side-trips. It's also important to look up the trail's rating, its layout, and any surprises that could cause the hiker to get lost or confused.

3. Check the Weather

People who are new to hiking should avoid setting out in poor weather conditions. To ensure that the weather is suitable for beginners, check the forecast several days and several hours before the planned hike. If the forecast calls for inclement weather, be prepared to cancel or postpone the excursion.

4. Tell Someone Where You Will Be

Ideally, people who are new to hiking should go with someone who is experienced and can offer them guidance, but some people would rather go it alone. When this is the case, always alert a family member or a friend about the plan, including the destination and how long the hike is expected to take. Because a hike can take longer than anticipated, the hiker should also instruct their friend not to worry until a certain time has passed without contact. After this time has passed, however, the person should seek help in case the hiker is injured or lost. Hikers might also want to wear an emergency locator or GPS device as a backup.

5. Pack the Ten Essentials

The ten essentials are things that all hikers should bring to ensure their safety. These include a topographical map and compass, sun protection, insulation, illumination, first aid supplies, survival tools, fire-starting materials, food, shelter, and water. These can be adjusted depending on the season and circumstances of the hike.

6. Wear the Right Shoes and Socks

New hikers often make the mistake of wearing the wrong shoes. This can lead to discomfort and pain during and after the hike. People interested in hiking and climbing should invest in a pair of lightweight yet sturdy hiking boots or shoes that have been sized to fit properly. The boots should provide support and traction to prevent slides and falls. Before wearing them on a hike, they should be broken in for comfort. People should also wear socks made of synthetic material or wool.

7. Dress for Success

What a hiker wears is just as important as what's on their feet. Clothing should be comfortable and help keep sweat away from the wearer's skin. Avoid clothing made of cotton, which holds water and will make the wearer hotter in the summer and colder in chilly, damp conditions. Opt for clothing that's well-made, sturdy, and made of fabrics such as wool, polyester, nylon, and fleece. Clothing should be worn in layers so pieces can be added or removed as needed.

8. Keep it Light

Because hiking can require a large number of supplies, it can be difficult to truly keep the load light, particularly for beginners. While more experienced hikers may be more familiar with what they need or don't need, people who are new to hiking shouldn't take the risk of being without something crucial to their safety and comfort. Instead, hikers can lighten their pack by opting for smaller, travel-sized versions of necessary items.

9. Pace Yourself

When a person first starts their hike, it's natural to feel energized and refreshed. All of this energy can cause beginners to move forward at a pace that's unsustainable and will leave them worn out by the second half of the day. It's important to set a moderate pace that conserves energy, which will make it easier to tackle more difficult terrain or uphill climbs without feeling the need to cut the hike short.

10. Leave No Trace Behind

A large number of people travel hiking trails on a daily basis. If people aren't careful with their trash, nature and the beautiful trails that people enjoy could become cluttered and polluted. For this reason, it's crucial that hikers leave no trace of their presence behind. Anything that a person brings with them on a hike should go home with them. If necessary, people should dispose of bodily waste properly in 6-to-8-inch-deep catholes that are at least 200 feet from the trail and any water source. In addition, hikers should never take any part of nature from where they find it.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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