Go Take a Hike:
Tips for Getting Started
So, you want to get outside, take a break, enjoy nature, and walk a bit without worrying about your Wi-Fi? You've already won, because often the hardest part is just getting out the door. And hiking is one of the most accessible ways of enjoying the outdoors without going full hunter-gatherer. Here are a few tips to get you on your way.
Find your path
One of the main differences between hiking and just walking is doing it on a route intended to take you beyond the ordinary. Word-of-mouth recommendations can provide some of the best boots-on-the-ground intel so don't be shy about asking friends, colleagues, and the staff at your local outdoor store about their favorites. You can also use the AllTrails app or the American Hiking Society's "Hikes Near You" feature to scout out potential trails.
Be realistic about your ambitions, whether you're searching for a nice pre-brunch hike in the city or looking to go off-road and off the grid—if only for a day.
- Sunday stroll (Easy): On average, this hike will take between 30 minutes to 2 hours while covering around 1-5 miles with light elevation gain/decline on groomed trails.
- Feel the burn (Intermediate): This hike will take around 2-4 hours while covering about 5-10 miles of moderate elevation gain/decline across varied terrain with some obstacles.
- Whose idea was this anyway? (Difficult): Half-day to full-day hikes, covering longer distances and/or routes with higher elevation gain/decline, rough terrain, and numerous potential obstacles.
Whether you're planning your hike well in advance or hitting the trail on a whim, be sure to check weather conditions and routes so you can pack accordingly. Here are some essentials:
- Boots or Shoes. A mid-high trail shoe provides support with the lightweight flexibility to cover more ground faster. A classic hiking boot has a taller silhouette for added support and protection against ankle-grabbers like rocks, roots, and ruts.
- Navigation. A compass is a timeless tool for general bearings, but using a physical trail map, the AllTrails app, or a GPS-equipped device is also recommended. Whenever possible, scout out your route online beforehand.
- Water. Bring more than you think you will need, especially on warm days. Insulated bottles (like Hydro Flask®) can keep liquids cooler—and warmer—longer while backpack hydration systems can be a convenient way to carry multiple liters on longer excursions.
- Food. The amount depends on hike length and difficulty, but it's always a good idea to have lightweight snacks like granola bars or homemade trail mix at the ready to keep energy levels up.
- Layers. Conditions can change dramatically in a short amount of time, regardless of season. Having at least one extra lightweight layer handy will help you adapt to whatever the weather—or the trail—dishes out.
- Emergency supplies. Even on shorter hikes, it's wise to carry at least a small first aid kit (bandages, waterproof tape, gauze, antiseptic wipes, ibuprofen, etc.) and a pocket multi-tool, just in case.
- Illumination. For early morning or evening excursions, a headlamp can provide convenient hands-free lighting, while a flashlight and waterproof matches are a nice-to-have for longer or more remote outings.
- Garbage bag. If you pack it in, pack it out.
- Daypack/backpack. For carrying some or all of the above, a durable, lightweight pack is one of the most useful pieces of equipment you can take with you.
- Trekking Poles: Trekking Poles provide a range of benefits and extra uses to hikers of all skill levels and abilities. From balance to bushwhacking hiking poles are a great addition to your hiking gear.
Now you're ready to hit the trail. Pace yourself and remember to stop and smell the (wild) flowers along the way.