A Beginner’s Guide to Hiking: Everything You Need to Know

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings.

I’m going to make a bet with you.

By the end of today’s article, I bet I can convince you to say the following, “Damn Steve! Now I want to go hiking. FINE.”

After all, Hiking is one of the greatest things you can do for your health, both mental and physical:

  • It’s amazing way to get off your ass and explore your local surroundings.
  • It requires next to nothing to get started.
  • It’s a great bonding activity with friends, family, and significant others
  • It’s a great date idea for the right person!
  • You already have everything you need to get started.
  • It’s free. As in, zero dollars.
  • It’s a great reminder that this world in which we live is pretty amazing.

Our community members love hiking too. In fact, one of our recent success stories specifically cited hiking as one of the fun activities she loved to do to help her lose 50 pounds.

Today I’m going to teach you how to hike with a little help from our furry-footed friends.

By the end of today’s post, my goal is convince you to have picked a trail, picked a date, and identified a fella or gal to join your fellowship (galship?).

I took the above picture while hiking through Killarney National Park in Ireland many years ago, and every time I look at it, I couldn’t help but think of Tolkien’s middle-earth masterpiece, so I apologize (not really) for all of the Lord of the Rings nerdery running throughout this post!

Let’s get you hiking.

Hiking 101: How to Get Started With Hiking

When you think of hiking, you might imagine a bunch of road-tested perma-travelers with oversized backpacks, hiking through epic mountains for weeks upon weeks at a time. 

Or maybe, a pair of hobbits setting out on a worldwide adventure to destroy a ring of awe-inspiring power.

If you’re just beginning your journey to a better lifestyle, just thinking about serious hiking can be enough to keep you inside your comfy hobbit hole.

Although hiking can an epic undertaking, it doesn’t need to be!

It can also be super simple and fun:

  • A quick jaunt (such a great word, right?) around your local park after work.
  • Exploring the woods behind your house with your kids on a saturday morning.
  • A half-day hike with your friends on a fun nature trail.
  • A full day or overnight hike that also includes camping.

Here’s my definition for hiking: A person (or self-aware robot) exploring their surroundings and their feet are on actual ground. Like, dirt. And grass.

Some might say it needs to be difficult, have a certain elevation change, require a blah blah blah. It literally doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you go outside and do something you wouldn’t have done otherwise.

Here in the Nerd Fitness Rebellion, hikers would fall into the Adventurer class.

If you’re looking for a fun “cardio” activity and want to exercise in a way that’s exciting, hiking is a great way to get your legs, feet, and body used to strenuous activity.

You get to pick your speed and difficulty, you can always find a way the right amount of challenge for you.

HIKING101: 5 STEPS TO PLAN OUT YOUR ADVENTURE

1) Decide how long you have to hike.  This is a beginner’s guide to hiking, we’re not looking to hike the Appalachian Trail. Instead, we want to start with  trails that can be done in less than a day, that won’t require you to pack a tent, or bring extra change of clothes.  Pick a hike based on how much time you have – do you have the entire Sunday? Or do you just have a few hours on a Tuesday afternoon? It took Frodo and Sam 6 months to get to Mordor, but you probably don’t have that much time.

However, if you DID want to “walk to Mordor,” I got you covered there too. You’re welcome!

2) Decide if you’ll be hiking solo or with a friend/group – I love hiking solo – it’s mobile meditation for me.  However, it’s also more dangerous should anything happen while you’re out on the trail! If you’re heading into the wilderness, I’d recommend buddying up with a friend or your significant other for your hike. It’s the perfect bonding opportunity. This is especially true if they have more hiking experience or they know the area that you’re hiking in.

3) Determine your level – if you are a hiking newbie and horribly out of shape, sending yourself out on an eight hour hike through the unmapped wilderness is incredibly unintelligent. And as your mom has probably told you before, “I thought you were smarter than that.”

Start slow, and pick places around your town that will allow you to stop when necessary and get back to your car or home quickly. No need to be a hero; it’s always better to come back excited and say “wow that was easier than I expected!” than to realize you’re six hours from home and out of steam. Well, being a hero is cool. But not THAT kind of hero.

4) Pick your hiking location – Keep it simple! Go to AllTrails.com, put in your zip code, find your hiking trail!

Or pull up Google Maps and look for big green plots of land. We call those “parks.” Google the park name, learn about it, and decide if that’s where you want to go. Do not over complicate this step. Just get started.

Ask your active, adventurous friends or coworkers if they know any good spots.

The world is FULL of hiking trails and awesomeness – you just need to know where to look.

5) Regardless of where you are going, let somebody else know where are when – if you are out hiking alone, take the time to email or call somebody and let him know that you’ll be hiking and when you expect to be back.

We don’t want to hear about any 127 Hours[1] stories on NF…that would make playing video games way more difficult.

You don’t need to tell them the brand of your underwear (please tell me you’re wearing underwear) or how many almonds you’re bringing, but let them know the important details so if they don’t hear back from you by a certain time they know to alert the proper authorities.

So right now, you should have answers to the following questions:

  • How much time you can dedicate to hiking.
  • Who you will be hiking with.
  • Your level of experience
  • Using AllTrails.com or GoogleMaps to pick your hiking location.
  • Who you will tell about your hiking experience.

HIking Footwear: What to Wear on your Feet Hiking!

This is simple: stilettos, your favorite mini skirt, a fishnet halter top, and a vest made out of raw meat. You’re welcome!

In all seriousness, I’m a big fan of being comfortable without breaking the bank. Like, you probably already have most of the clothing you need to go hiking.

WHAT SHOES SHOULD I WEAR TO HIKE IN?

We cover footwear extensively in our healthy feet article, but I’ll cover shoes specifically in the case of hiking here, but we at Nerd Fitness are huge fan of Merrell products – Merrell shoes of various types have treated me well for the past decade.

Just don’t a lack of quality hiking boots keep you from a hike. If you’re concerned, pick an easy paced hike with your current shoes to be safe and ramp up when you can ramp up your gear!

Some people hike the Appalachian Trail in their bare feet (must be part-Hobbit), so whatever you do: don’t let your footwear choice keep you from getting started. Just make sure you break your shoes in and take them on test drives! Don’t take the tags off a new pair of shoes and then go on a multi-day hike – that’s a recipe for blisters and a miserable time.

Okay, let’s look at our feet. 

Now that we’ve done that, let’s look at some shoe options:

LEVEL ONE: Hiking shoes – “hiking shoes” are great if you’re going to be doing simple day hikes or hiking occasionally: they have good grip on the bottom, give you enough support, but aren’t too heavy that they are a hindrance.

Here are my favorite options if you in the market for some new hiking shoes:

  • Merrell Vent Hiking Shoe
  • Merrell Trail Glove 4 (Men) – I have the blue ones. They rock.
  • Merrell Trail Glove 4 (women)Oh what’s that? “Steve I don’t have hiking shoes! Is this the end of the world?” Well, do you have any sort of athletic shoe? Depending on the grip on the bottom, they could be decently okay for you to get started with when it comes to a basic hike.If sneakers are your only option, lace em up, pick a beginner hike, and see how they do. Just be careful on slippery surfaces – your kicks might not give you the grip won’t give you the grip you need to get over them.

LEVEL TWO – Hiking boots – I don’t hike enough or do enough multi-day hikes to justify the cost of hiking boots, but again I would point to Merrell boots if you’re in the market.

“Why boots over shoes, Steve?” 

Although many prefer trail shoes (like yours truly), I can absolutely see the value in a great pair of hiking boots if you’re going on a serious hike, traveling for multiple days, or more. They have more ankle support, thicker tread, thicker shoes, and provide your feet with significantly more protection.

REI has a great article helping you pick between Trail shoes and Trail boots. My advice? Start with what you currently have before deciding whether or not to invest in big boots. Once you build up the habit of hiking and decide you want to make it a bigger part of your life, you can make the investment.

My advice? If you are going to buy boots, go to a professional store, get fitted properly, and then break them in over many weeks before going out on a trail.

WEIRD BUT FUN FOR SIMPLE HIKES: Vibram FiveFingers I hiked all around the globe, in various situations, wearing my Vibrams for close to 4 years. They made me feel like a ninja monkey, and a hobbit. I got weird looks, but something just felt right about being able to feel the contours of the ground beneath me. I will say, when hiking in Vibrams it can be easier to twist an ankle when stepping on a root or rock, stepping on sharp rocks can hurt, so I found myself watching my feet much more than expected.

These days, I’m much more of a trail shoe kind of guy, but some still swear by Vibrams!

If you’re in the market for buying new boots, this quick video is a good primer:

WHAT SOCKS SHOULD YOU WEAR?

If you’re wearing boots or sneakers, you want to wear socks that aren’t going to give you blisters or make your feet all sweaty and gross.

Depending on how long the hike is, how serious you are about hiking, and your budget, you can look into merino-wool socks.

Like the rest of your outfit, what you wear on your feet will largely be dependent on a few things:

  • Weather! Are you hiking in the a forest and it’s 72 degrees out? Or are you hiking up the side of the mountain in cold conditions?
  • Shoes! Are you in lightweight hiking shoes, lightweight hiking socks for the win. Hiking in big boots in cold months? Big thick warm socks are almost a requirement.
  • Budget! Are you shopping for specific socks? Tall or short? Great. If you are brand new to hiking, just wear whatever athletic socks you wear while exercising.
  • What’s the environment? If you’re hiking through grass, tall plants, etc. I’d go with tall socks (with your pants possibly tucked into them too). You’re not out there to win a fashion show!

Here’s Switchback Travel’s best hiking socks of 2018, and here’s a great article from Art of Manliness on proper feet care after a hike or ruck

What to Wear While Hiking: Clothing

SHOULD YOU WEAR PANTS OR SHORTS?

Pro tip: Don’t go pantsless through the wilderness. I cannot stress this enough.

The real advice when it comes to pants/shorts is heavily dependent upon your environment. If it’s going to be cold, shorts might keep you shivering. If it’s going to be hot, pants might get too uncomfortable.

Jeans? Ehhhhh. Sure. ONLY if its going to be a comfortable temperature and you have no other option. Being sweaty and hot while wearing jeans isn’t very fun.

I’m a big fan of my nerd pants – the Columbia Silver Ridge pants. Although they look kind of goofy, they’re incredibly light weight, dry quickly, and can transform from pants to shorts in mere seconds!

Traveling through woods, not sure what you’ll encounter? Wear lightweight pants. I am horribly allergic to poison ivy and who knows what else, so I like to keep as much of my body covered while hiking to make sure I don’t make contact with anything I’m allergic to. [2]

WHAT TYPE OF SHIRT SHOULD YOU WEAR? 

My favorite options are merino wool long shirts and t-shirts: they’re light, wick away moisture, hide odors, and breathe well – though you will be paying top dollar for them.

If you’re just starting out, pick an old t-shirt and rock that – you can work on optimizing performance once you’ve got a few hikes under your belt.

Shameless plug: the Nerd Fitness t-shirt does hold up quite well to wear and tear over long periods of time – I’ve been rocking my shirt in heavy rotation on lots of hikes for years. It can also withstand gamma rays and makes you invisible.[3]

if you’re on a multi-day hike in various conditions then having lightweight merino wool shirts you can layer and not need to wash would be great. But just going for a hike in the woods in your back yard? Whatever you would wear while running, training, etc. Aka whatever won’t chafe!

SHOULD YOU BRING A JACKET?

I’ve been wearing this Mountain Hardware jacket on most of my hikes and it has been awesome (10 years and counting) – very lightweight so packing it isn’t a hassle, waterproof so it keeps me dry when it rains, and heavy enough to block the wind to keep me warm when it’s chilly.

Don’t go out of your way to buy a new jacket if you have a decent wind breaker, but if you’re going to be doing a lot of hiking or you’re in the market for a new coat, here’s my advice: go to a local store and try out all of the jackets until you find one you like.

Once you find the perfect jacket, go home and check online (you can sometimes find the same jacket for up to 60% less) – then, ask the local store if they’ll price match or just buy it online.

SHOULD YOU WEAR A HAT?

You should definitely bring a hat. I’m usually rocking my Nerd Fitness hat or my Red Sox hat (booo Yankees), but while hiking in Australia I wore a hat with a giant floppy brim to keep my ears and face protected from the sun.

The tops of your ears and back of your neck are highly susceptible to getting burned while on the trail, so either get some sunscreen or wear a hat that keeps them covered.

The same is true for keeping pesky things out of your hair, the sun from burning your ears and face, and keep you a bit cooler.

WHAT KIND OF BACKPACK SHOULD YOU BRING?

Digging into the ins and outs of backpacks is far beyond the scope of this article. I’d recommend you check out my friend Chase’s Bag Review Youtube channel – guaranteed to be the most fun you’ll ever have learning about bags.

So what would I recommend for a beginner on a hike? The bag you currently have! If you’re going on a short hike, you can start with simply whatever bag you have. The lighter and more comfy it is, the better.

Multi-day hikes where you’re living out of your bag, packing up and building a tent each day – this is beyond the scope of this article. I have rocked a Kelty Coyote bag that I’ve lived out of for months at a time, and have also used on multi-day hikes.

If you have the means and the time, and you’re planning to go on certain hikes, go to a outdoor speciality store, speak with a professional, and get fitted for your body type and type of hike you’re doing!

THE MORAL OF THE STORY: VERSATILITY

If your weather forecast is “75 and sunny,” and you’re hiking for the afternoon through a gradually sloping wooded forest, you can severely limit what you’re bringing with you.

If it’s questionable or looks like things might change during the day, versatility is your best bet – a jacket, pants that can become shorts, a long sleeve shirt that you can take off or roll the sleeves up, etc.

Don’t go out and buy all new stuff until you’re sure hiking is an activity you want to invest in.  Borrow from friends, make do with what you have

Just get started.

BY NOW YOU SHOULD HAVE A ROUGH IDEA OF WHAT YOU WILL BE WEARING! 

In your head you should be saying, “Steve how can you read my mind?!

I just decided:

  • I’d hike in my current gym sneakers.
  • I have a pair of gardening pants and tall socks I can wear.
  • I have a floppy hat.
  • My new Nerd Fitness t-shirt.

I feel like I’m good to go!

Perfect.

How Much Water Should You Bring On Your Hike?

If there’s ONE thing you should not leave home without, it’s a water container so you can stay hydrated.

“How much water should I be drinking on my hike, Steve?”

Great question. I knew you were smart from the moment you started reading this article.

You should be drinking 1 liter of water every two hours as a rough guideline. Increase this amount if you are hiking in very warm/desert climates.

FAVORITE WATER CONTAINERS:

I’m partial to stainless steel bottles or aluminum bottles over Nalgene or reused plastic bottles, but make do with what you have.  Make sure you bring enough water with you to keep you hydrated through your adventure.

Going on longer hikes? Get yourself a hydration backpack (which can double as your hiking pack!) to transplant water more conveniently.

Not only that, but make sure you have been consuming water before you go hiking so that you’re not starting at a hydration deficit.

Hangovers + early morning hikes – water = bad news bears.

Important Gear to Bring On Your Hike.

If you’re just getting started, I’m going to guess you won’t be climbing to the top of a mountain in Alaska, but rather going on an introductory hike that will help build your confidence and get you rolling.

Here’s what I’d recommend you bring with you on your adventure:

SunscreenIf it’s sunny outside and you’re hiking through the woods or up a mountain with a cool breeze in your face, you probably won’t be able to tell that your ears and face are getting absolutely torched.  Get yourself some waterproof sweatproof sunscreen (SPF 30 minimum) to cover up those ears, cheeks, and back of your neck.

Bug spray especially if it’s “that time of the year” in your area where bugs are out in full force.  Nothing worse than coming home to arms and legs covered in bug bites.

First aid kit – Having some first aid stuff with you is a good idea: band-aids and moleskin for blisters and cuts, Neosporin or some type of disinfectant for cuts/scrapes, and maybe a bandage or two just in case. Outdoor stores sell travel first aid kits (as does Amazon), but I’d advise you to make your own (you should have these things in your medicine cabinet anyways – and then you’ll know exactly where everything is!).

Pocket knife – Not essential if you’re in a park, but a good thing to have with you out in the woods so you’re prepared for anything. Like McGyver.

Sunglasses – No need to go blind while out on the trail.  You probably already have sunglasses floating around your house: I’d recommend bringing the $5 ones rather than $250 Ray-Bans.

Cellphone – a phone can help bail you out in case of emergency, and if you have a smart phone it can multitask as your compass, distance tracker, mapper, and so on. Even if you have a cellphone, bringing a compass or GPS system isn’t a bad idea (unless it’s bright and sunny and you’re good at orienting yourself).

If you’re going on a longer hike, bringing a lightweight phone charger that you can use to charge your phone up quickly is usually pretty easy.

Great Hiking Snacks and FOod!

FOOD!

You know, the stuff that keeps us alive.

The answer to this will vary greatly depending on how long you plan on hiking for, the time of day, your love of snacking, so the advice here is going to largely mirror the advice we give in our nutritional posts!

Although by no means a complete list of snacks, this is usually what I like to pack in my bag before a hike:

Nuts – Almonds or walnuts. Great for snacking on, loaded w/ healthy fat and protein.

Nut butters are a good healthy fat option too – my favorite is trader Joe’s raw unsalted almond butter. Ingredient: almonds!

They are high in calorie content however, so if you are trying to lose weight, don’t do a 10 minute walk and eat 4000 calories worth of nuts.

We in the business like to call that “counterproductive.”

Fruit – I throw two or three apples in my bag; apples and nuts mean I’ve pretty much got all of the fat, protein, and carbs I need for my day.

Things like bananas, raisins, and other fruit are good options as well – pick based on your personal preference and tastes.

Fruit (especially dried fruit) can have lots of sugar and calories, so don’t kid yourself into eating 5000 calories worth of dried fruit and call it healthy!

Beef jerky! Make your own or go with some high quality store bought stuff.  Lots of protein, easy to pack, and keeps well. Mmmmmm.

What about trail mix or granola bars? You’d probably think granola bars and trail mix are synonymous with hiking, but I’m actually not a fan of either unless they’re homemade – these products are usually loaded with salt/sugar and processed grains and are pretty damn unhealthy.

If you’re gonna go with trail mix, make your own with dried fruit and raw unsalted nuts. If you DON’T have other options, tossing a few granola bars in the bag isn’t the end of the world.

More food advice here:

Primal Trail Food

A book (optional) – I LOVE READING (more than I love lowercase letters), so I always travel with my Kindle. Although hiking with friends can be fun, I also get a huge thrill out of hiking out to a remote location overlooking a valley or sitting on the edge of a river with a book so that I can spend a few hours getting lost in a story.

If it’s a multi-day hike and you’re avoiding technology, then bringing a dead tree book is worth the extra weight in your bag!

A camera (optional) – Although I have a camera that I travel with, most of the pictures I’ve been taking recently have been done with my iPhone using apps like Camera+ or ProHDR (which I freaking love). Both apps are worth the price.

You don’t need to be a great photographer, just need to capture the moment to look back on fondly as a crotchety old grandpa. Obviously if you’re a serious photographer, you’ve already planned to pack your DSLR so I won’t get into that.

Tips and Tricks

**KNOW THE LOCAL WILDLIFE!** Do a quick search of your hike to know what sorts of critters you’ll encounter on the trail. If you are hiking in bear country or snake country, these are things it’s very important to know. Whether it’s carrying a can of bear mace or knowing what to look for, this can help you prevent serious problems.

Also watch out for wild ostriches.

**CLEAN UP, CHECK FOR TICKS** – if you’re in a heavily wooded area and carving through the wilderness, check yourself for ticks and make sure you take a shower with hot water and soap immediately when you get home in case you came in contact with any poisonous plants or things like that. I can’t tell you how many times I woke up with a swollen face as a kid because of my hike through poison ivy the day before.

Aim for the high ground – I love hiking to tall things: the top of a mountain, the high point in a town, the roof of a building.  It gives you a great halfway point to stop, eat some lunch or dinner, and enjoy the view; plus, you already know exactly how far you need to go on your way down.

One piece of advice on going DOWN a steep mountain or a lot of steps: Shorten your stride, and take care to land on the balls of your feet with a bent knee if possible – if you’re landing on your heels for thousands of steps, it can wreak havoc on your knees and joints as there’s no shock absorption.

I remember how sore my knees were the day after hiking down Colca Canyon in Peru with my buddy Cash because I didn’t make an effort to soften my steps and take care of my body.

Urban Hiking – “But Steve I live in a city, I can’t go hiking!” Why the hell not? Load up your backpack, map out a route on Google maps, maybe even find a tall building – avoid the elevator, climb the steps.

Or walk until you find a park, sit on a bench and read a book. Sure, it’s not the same as hiking the Rockies, but it will still get your heart pumping and feet moving!

Like The Goonies teaches us, adventure can be found in your own backyard with the right attitude!

Keep track of it – If you have an iPhone or Android, download a hiking or running app to keep track of how far you go and how much hiking you do.

Although I haven’t been tracking my hikes abroad (I leave my phone in Airplane mode while traveling), I’ve heard great things about RunKeeper and EasyTrails. If you have more apps or suggestions on how to keep track of your hikes, let me know in the comments and I’ll add them here.

I personally use a cheap Fitbit Flex 2, which tracks my steps and elevation. Good enough!

Geocaching – Great fun can be had while geocaching.  Simply go to the website, track your location, and then decide on which cache you’re going to track down. Think of it like a real life version of Indiana Jones or Uncharted, minus the Nazis and undead warriors. We geocached around Sydney for a Nerd Fitness meetup, and it was delightful!

Give a hoot, don’t pollute – Pack it in, pack it out. If you bring anything with you, it better be coming back with you. Don’t leave trash in the woods, and pick up any extra trash you see out there. The wilderness thanks you for your service, citizen!

Not all those who wander are lost

This article is just a primer, meant to whet your appetite and make you excited to go hiking and exploring the wonderful world around us. 

Here are a few other resources on hiking if you want more information.  Feel free to let me know about more in the comments:

I challenge you to plan a hike for this upcoming weekend. YES, even if you’re in the opposite hemisphere and it’s really cold out!

Get some great snacks, strap on your shoes, grab a friend, and go explore.

I’d love to hear from you about the place you’re going hiking this weekend.

Leave a comment below and let me know:

  • Where you’re going.
  • When you’re going.
  • And what you’re most excited about!
  • Promise that you won’t hike pants-less.
  • Any tips you have for your fellow hikers.

-Steve

PS: We’re celebrating “Outsiders Month” here at Nerd Fitness, so if you have pictures of yourself rocking your Nerd Fitness Gear outdoors doing something epic, send a photo to contact@nerdfitness.com so I can feature you!

PPS: Today’s Rebel Hero: Saint, whose success story has inspired hundreds of thousands of people. 8 years since publishing that success story, Saint is now happily married, a father of two, and just built a new swing set for his kids!

Notice that little rock climbing wall? I’m sure his 1 year old daughter and 3 year old son (both Rebels already!) will be scaling sheer rock faces in no time. He’s a Rebel hero indeed.

###

photo credit: 77krc Mixed Nuts

All other photos from my Photostream

 

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  • Hinermad

    If you leave out “those” the meter is all wrong.

  • Tony Delgado Jr.

    My girlfriend and I are both off on the 4th and we’ve been meaning to start taking walks outside and such, so we’re gonna start with a nearby 16 mile walking trail. Not gonna walk the whole thing and back most likely, but it’s at least a good start for us!

    I’m excited about getting to get out and active with her; my life has been a little chaotic lately and I’ve sorta fallen out of my exercise routine because of it ?

    And yes, we’re gonna try our best to not go pantsless =P

  • Tiff-Gon Jinn

    I’ll be hiking probably at the park with my toddlers. Barefoot of course. Probably Wednesday; we avoid the park on weekends because too many kids is not fun. I’ve never been on a real hike in the wilderness… It is a dream of mine to hike the Appalachian Trail. Most excited about getting out in nature again, I’ve been slacking due to a lot of stress and depression and low energy lately…

  • Bryan Zavestoski

    Great timing on this article. It’s just starting to get into Summer up here in Maine, so I’ve been planning out lots of hikes! Easy access to hiking a big part of why I live where I do.

    • Where you’re going – Schoodic Peninsula in Acadia National Park
    • When you’re going – This weekend!
    • And what you’re most excited about – A secret sea cliff spot that a co-worker told me about
    • Promise that you won’t hike pants-less – Deal! I spent some time pants-less (okay, I had shorts on) in the garden last weekend, and the bugs made sure to let me know not to do that again.
    • Any tips you have for your fellow hikers – If you’re going on a full-day hike or multi-day backpacking trip (especially for the first time), bring some foods that you know you really like even if they aren’t the most healthy. Your food schedule, diet, etc. is likely going to change, and sometimes nothing will sound good and you just won’t feel hungry even though you know you need calories. Having that treat can really help. Also, I’m pretty nerdy about all organic, natural, sustainable products, but 100% DEET bug spray is essential depending on where you’re hiking.

  • Sarah Franco

    This has inspired me to visit Mt. Charleston in the Las Vegas area.
    I’ll be going this Friday.
    I’m most excited to escape the Vegas heat-Charleston is like 20 degrees cooler than the city.
    I promise that I won’t hike pants-less.
    If you’re new to this, your legs are probably going to be so incredibly sore the next day so make sure you have very little to do the next day because your ability to walk will be impaired.

  • Daniel Fridley

    My name is Daniel Fridley, a Rebel / opera singer spending the summer in Colorado for a training program. We get Mondays off, and so far, groups of us have been taking various hiking trips around the Rocky Mountains (warning: Estes Cone is NOT a moderate hike).

    I actually got this e-mail while I was at the Royal Arch in the Boulder Flatirons (look it up, it’s beautiful). Next Monday, we’ll be tackling the Timberline Falls and Sky Pond loop. I know it’s not technically the weekend, but it’s the only day we have off!

    I’m most looking forward to the hike that we’re planning to try at the end of our program — Long’s Peak! Not only is it at 14,000 feet, it’s also known to be a very difficult hike, but one that’s also completely worth completing. Gradually working up to it in elevation, distance, and difficulty will be a fun adventure.

    I solemnly swear to hike in appropriate lower-body outerwear.

    Finally, a tip for people who are considering hiking: JUST GO. Underpants collecting is just as possible an option with hiking as it is with any other fitness activity. It’s incredibly easy to tell yourself that you can’t afford the right shoes, so you can’t start hiking yet. But that’s a lie. There are always hikes that you can do with what you have and where you are in your fitness journey. Even the smallest and “easiest” hikes can have absolutely stunningly gorgeous views along the way. (I’ve been doing the Colorado hikes so far in jeans and pair of starting-to-fall-apart Adidas, so don’t let the lack of expert-level gear be a road block!)

    Enjoy exploring!

  • Tony Langdon

    Hiking is awesome. I used to do quite a lot of it around 10 years ago – sometimes just go on a day hike either alone or with a small group, sometimes I’d go rogaining (best described as a combination of hiking and orienteering, and worth talking about on its own).

    Don’t get to specifically hike as much these days, due to my sporting commitments, but I will make a point of taking a short hike before or after cross country on Saturday afternoon in the bush to the north of here (at a place called “Notleys”).

    Exciting? I always love getting out in the bush, but the hike will be a nice relaxing contrast to the speed of the race. 🙂

    Haha, it’s a family friendly event, so the pants will be on. And contrary to what you might think, winter is often prime hiking season in Australia, because the cooler temperatures (still 10C or higher most days during the day) allow you to go harder, and the fire danger is at its lowest – Tip for Aussies, ALWAYS check the fire danger rating before going hiking in the summer months., and if it’s too high, best not to go.

    One more tip. If you encounter snakes (as I have on many occasions), don’t panic. Give them space, so they can find a safe hiding place. Most snakes will do what they can to get away from you, they’re probably more afraid than you are.

  • Steve Curran

    Where: Green Run Trail, Richmond Hill GA
    When: Saturday
    And what you’re most excited about: Seeing wildlife in the actual wild. Maybe I will see a jackalope, they aren’t native to GA but I can dream.
    Promise that there will be no photographic evidence that I did or did not hike pants-less.
    Tips: Spend a little time standing still on the trail. You never know what you may see and hear when you are quiet.

  • Tony Langdon

    Wildlife wise, there’s always a good chance of seeing kangaroos this time of year. 🙂

  • Holly Reichert

    I will walk the Chapin Forest trail that kicked my butt last time (though to be fair I attempted it after a run). I will accomplish it this weekend. I am most excited to get my puppy out of the house. I promise to wear shorts, no promises on pants. Finally my tip would be to also pack first aid specifically for dogs if you hike with yours.

  • David Rivadeneyra

    I will NOT be hiking this weekend. Here’s a quick picture as to why: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/65e7db46f6f34c286578e3de50986b1ca9b9433e4c9cd5277bd22d7d8537bcc7.jpg

    I will, however, be hiking in Sedona in August on my anniversary. 🙂

  • Keely

    Great article. I’ve never been a “hiker” per se, by my daughter is almost three and has already established that she is an outdoor child. She loves being outside more than our dog. After this heatwave passes, I’m inspired to take her out onto some of the simple nature trails near the grandparents’ houses, the ones I grew up on.

    She’s still a little too young for formal/long form hiking, but anyone have any suggestions for hiking with a toddler?

  • This is a great article! You really inspired me to take your hiking challenge. We are planning to hike at Linda Vista Trail here in Tucson EARLY (before it gets crazy hot) Sunday morning. It is supposed to be an easy beginner’s hike, and they tell me Linda Vista means “Beautiful View” in Spanish so we can’t go wrong. I am most excited to see the desert plants and the view of Pusch Ridge (a cool mountain thingie). I promise I will NOT hike sans trousers. Really. And I advise any other wanna -be hikers to follow Steve’s advice in his awesome Intro To Hiking blog post. It’s legit. Can’t wait to get busy hiking! Thanks for the inspiration Steve!

  • Tony Langdon

    Agree totally with the last bit. Even when rogaining, I’ve actually bought very little specialised equipment – I think about as sophisticated as it got was a rain jacket that folded into a small package (within one of its own pockets!). I mostly hiked in ordinary running shoes, and the rest of my clothes were fairly standard street or sports clothes that I already had.

    Only other thing I really had to worry about buying was a small pack, which could carry what I needed and a couple of water bottles, and a little camping equipment for setting up at the base camp.

    But for a day hike, just put on some comfortable clothes and walking shoes, and take some water and snacks as a minimum. Add clothing/gear as appropriate for the specific weather conditions (e.g. hat, sunscreen, rain jacket, thermals, etc), whatever appropriate that you have on hand.

    As the Nike ads say “Just do it”. 🙂

  • A

    Thanks for the article. I actually live in the city, but I found out there’s a lighthouse nearby. And because of some Aquaman vibes, and the kick in the butt from this article, I’m going to go exploring around it, and see if I can’t go to the top while I’m around. Wish me luck 🙂

  • Jennifer Lombard

    As long as the heat and humidity ease up, we are tackling a local southern NH mountain this weekend. Super excited because my husband has finally agreed- he is an anti-hiker after being forced to do it too much as a kid. (I learned the trick is to use the word “walk” not “hike.”)

  • Jason

    Great post Steve. Just hiked through Killarney National Park myself last week. I have the hiking bug now, and I’m gonna try out Geocaching next time I’m out!

  • Jessica Hunter

    Great article! Just in time for my big hiking trip and overnight camping this weekend. ^_^

  • Matthew Bacon

    I’m a big guy (very overweight), but I dream of walking the AT. Thanks for the motivation and reminder that we don’t start at the ending. Gotta take that first step. I’m in Texas, and it’s HOT. And flat. But there’s woods near me, so I can still get my wilderness on. With pants! And bugspray. July 4th is my 10th anniversary. Going to try to convince my wife to go hiking with me. In the morning. With water. In TX heat. It’s always a good idea to pre-hydrate.

  • Keri Davenport Rodriquez

    I’m doing the north loop at Clinton State Park in Lawrence, KS this Sunday afternoon. It’s been a while since I’ve hiked and I’m looking forward to reconnecting with nature! I vow to keep my pants on!

  • Jennie

    Went hiking on Saturday along the Bruce Trail in Ontario. Part of it, at least, the trail is huge! I was most excited about the waterfalls, they’re absolutely gorgeous. I can 100% promise there were pants involved. A tip I’d give fellow hikers is to bring a friend – I always enjoy my hikes more when I can share the experience!

  • Patricia Gee

    This wknd, as part of our family movie night, we are going for a short hike along the trails by our house! Maybe this will be the beginning of family hikes – with the glacier being our first big hiking goal!

    It’ll be slow-going at first as I’m just getting moving after our newest addition to the family – wish us luck!

    And don’t worry, we won’t be pants-less, although my daughter will most likely be rocking a dress or tutu 😉

  • Kristina Mooney

    I hike a couple times a week at the Wetlands in Vegas. You have to go super early or super late because of the very unforgiving heat. Bring at least two bottles of water. Here I am today at 8:30 a.m. It is 94 degrees out. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/fdd5a6da9b42f5a21da2af6a1d7c6dc68eb6103249022ed5cb412c215ef88103.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/937d493b91846e4aacbbe74207dfe26bbf5951e3e9e1e78c0921ad66819d5f9c.jpg

  • Jasmine

    Since I’m currently on vacation visiting family in Newfoundland, I’m going to go for a hike on Saturday in the woods around my grandparents’ house with my mom and grandpa (who’s probably fitter than me!). I’m excited to be able to see the beauty of nature in a place that’s not exactly like where I live. I promise that I will not hike pants-less, and my tip to other hikers is to also not hike underwear-less. You’ll thank me later.

  • Jessica

    I try and hike every weekend. There are so many waterfalls to explore and photograph in northern Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas! Been every weekend for the last month so far

  • Sheena Tidwell

    Love this post! My husband and I have been hiking a lot this year, preparing for hunting season this fall.

    I agree that shoes are an important part of this, and I’m also a fan of Merrells! But my go-to hikers is a pair of Solomon boots (I have an old ankle injury that’s a concern when hiking, and these have rigid sides to support and prevent re-injury).

    I love that NF is supporting getting out and hiking! 😀

  • Roxanne Lafond

    Hey Steve … Thanks so much for the great article. Although I’ve hiked once or twice in my life it was fun to read and good tips and tricks. I am planning to do the Presidential traverse in New Hampshire 3rd week in July I’m a little nervous but very excited this will be the first time I camp out in the great White Mountains, I have only ever done day hikes including Washington twice !!!! Wish me luck and to all my fellow hikers out there, SAFETY first, EGO last !!!
    Roxanne

  • CTGirl

    Headed to Gillette Castle Trail in CT this weekend, which is practically in my backyard. I’m most excited about just getting started. I’ve always wanted to hike, but was never in shape enough to do so. I was morbidly obese and have lost 130+ pounds and now work out five times a week, so I’M READY! And I promise to not go pantless!

  • Hannah Rose

    I’m so excited to take my Mama on an urban hike in our city this Friday! If you live in a good place for public transit (I am so lucky to!) take that to your hiking destination! It’s nice to kick back on the train after a long wander.

  • Monique At Kaninchen Farm

    This sounds like it might be what I need to respawn. We’re going to go to the Lilian Anderson Arboretum loop with our family tomorrow (4th of July). I found it on that All Trails website (cool site), and it looks like fun. We will definitely be hiking with pants and I’m looking forward to starting to be active again. I miss the daily exercise before I fell off the wagon a year ago. We won’t forget to bring the bug spray either.

  • Jamie

    Hey Steve! Great article. I’ve recently started hiking more so this is timely. I plan to hike with friends at nearby wooded parks, both tomorrow (4th of July hike!) and on the weekend. I’m most excited about spending time with friends and being active at the same time. And I promise I’ll wear pants. 🙂 (Btw I’ll also likely be wearing my NF shirt, which I’ve already worn on a few hikes! It’s my favorite hiking shirt.)

  • Sara Morse

    I’m planning on either the Chagrin River Park trail or the Buckeye trail at Mentor Marsh sometime this weekend. ?

  • Matthew

    Another great resource for hiking trails is the “Hiking Project” app.

  • Amanda Whitbeck

    Sounds like a great weekend to take the pup and take a hike. Just after I finish reading this guide. Learning some new things and remembering some old.

    Thanks Steve!

  • Shaun Henry

    Hey Steve! Thanks for the great article and the motivation to get out on a hike. I checked out AllTrails (they have a smartphone app) and didn’t realize there were so many trails near me ?. Anyways, to answer the five questions:

    1. My family and I are going to try out the Ramble Trail at Caledonia State Park, PA
    2. We’re going tomorrow (July 5th) as the weather is supposed to be nice and I have off work
    3. I’ve never been on this trail before so I’m most excited to see where it takes us
    4. Fine, I promise to wear pants
    5. I don’t have much advice for newbies as I’m still pretty new to this myself, but if anything, I’d second your recommendation of AllTrails. Especially the mobile app. It gave me so many ideas for areas to hike that I really want to try this more regularly

  • Cindy Youngstrom

    Gotta post. My first time ever!! But I gotta say….Damn Steve! Now I want to go hiking. FINE. But seriously. I live in a beautiful area with plentiful hiking and I’m missing it. Haven’t been in a couple years for health reasons. Gotta go…. Maybe I’ll share pics. (Not of my NF gear as I don’t have any. Hint. Hint. 🙂
    Cindy

  • Anthony R

    I use the Sportstracker app to track all my walks and hikes. It also lets you set a weekly distance or time goal, and lets you do ghost races against your previous times on a route. It also lets you categorize all your tracked activities, so my hikes are separate from my walks, my runs, my bike rides, and my skateboarding. It also tracks your elevation changes, with some accuracy, so you can really tell when you climbed a mountain.

  • Monique At Kaninchen Farm
  • Todd

    In November for our 39th birthdays, a friend and I are going to hike a 72 mile stretch of the Florida trail. I’ve never gone backpacking before, but he has experience. I enjoy car camping and day hiking so this is going to be a fun way to combine the two.

  • Link

    I’m going to be on tour with a chorus this coming weekend, but this article inspired me, so I got up super early yesterday (July 4th) and drove the couple hours from my home in the Seattle metro area down to Mount Rainier National Park. If you haven’t been there, it’s basically Mordor and Mount Doom, but green and lush (and unseasonably snowy) instead of blasted and polluted. It’s stunning and I can’t recommend visiting highly enough.

    Hiked the Grove of the Patriarchs at ~8:30 am and Trail of Shadows around 10:30 am — two easier, flatter trails on the southeastern and southwestern slopes of the mountain, respectively. I’d been meaning to check out the Grove of the Patriarchs since I first moved up here 4.5-ish years ago, and it was *lovely*.

    Then I headed back home and got back in time for a shower, a nap, and then heading over to a friend’s house to enjoy the fireworks. =)

    Oh, and I zipped on the bottoms of my nylon zip-off pants for the hiking, then transformed them back into shorts before I headed back. No pantsless hiking! …Though I did once see a German mountain guide jog up a trail in only his underwear, but that was among alpine meadows where there were few plants, let alone poison ones, and he was also a trained professional. 😉

  • Harlie

    Where: Probably Silver Falls
    When: This Saturday or Sunday
    Excited about: Getting outside and spending time with my SO
    Promise that you won’t hike pants-less: I promise lol.
    Tips: If you bring your dog, keep them on leash if they don’t have a strong recall or are not friendly with other dogs/people. Or if the area is not off-leash friendly.

  • Amanda

    I’m headed out to Lake Lurleen on Saturday. Hoping to hit a couple of miles out of the almost 24 that exist out there. Hopefully this will build my confidence to maybe spend a weekend hiking and camping out there.

  • Victoria Beplay

    For this Saturday I’ll be hiking one of the new trails I just started using! It’s a three mile section of The New Santa Fe Trail in Colorado that I go out and back for a total of 6 miles. I promise to not hike pants-less 😉

    I’m most excited to see if I’ve made any more progress and we (my boyfriend and I) might have a friend go with us this time. My tip for beginners, even though I’m still one myself, is to definitely pick a trail at your level! I’m training to be able to hike with my parents on they’re favorite trails that are MUCH more difficult. I tried hiking with them once and could barely make a mile, so I walked back by myself and cried the whole way. Take everything in stride and progress up to more difficult feats! I feel a lot more confident now that I’m training at my level. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d48d74a1f703feb0fe71d278a4a6e39d7c74ad29efbf684f40e71090808784db.jpg

  • Private Joker

    And… 7 years later we are still waiting

  • Chloe Hawker

    Sunday morning I’m headed up to Harpers Ferry with at least one friend to hike part of the Appalachian trail! Very excited!

  • Ealde3

    Epic post! I love hiking dearly, getting out into the great outdoors. I just moved to a big city this year and I’ve really noticed the difference, and have been sure to specifically plan hikes now to get back out into the bush. I also love walking around and exploring the city, but there is something especially magical about hiking through nature.
    The hike I am currently planning and looking forward to very much is one in the Blue Mountains next week. It’s going to be the middle of winter (I absolutely promise I won’t go pant-less, brrr) but I am so keen! I’m going with a group of friends that I don’t get to see that often since moving, and I am super excited to catch up with them and meet some of their friends that they are bringing along. I’m also pumped for the hike itself as it is longer and more difficult than any we’ve done together so far.
    I feel like you covered most of my usual tips in the article, but I recommend taking some duct tape/zip ties/travel sewing kit to fix things on the run. You never know when your gear is going to decide to break and you need to Macgyver a solution.
    Thank you!

  • Jasmine

    Update: We went on a hike today through the woods to see a hidden waterfall where my mom used to swim when she was younger! It was a lovely and challenging hike, and I’m so happy I did it! (and I managed to get some beautiful pictures along the way!)

  • Lisa Goodjila

    let go