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.


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.


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:


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


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]


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!


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.


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.


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!


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.


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!


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.


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!


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.


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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  • Drea Sebastiano-Stanley

    Have you guys heard of Boulder Denim. They make jeans for hikers/rock climbers. Can’t wait to take my pair and test their warranty.


  • Cris Hazzard
  • anneliese rafis

    For socks i use Icebreaker Hike+ (marino wool), stay dry warm and never smell

  • Willem

    Don’t go to your local shop to try on all the jackets and then go home to buy the best one online. You will drive your local store out of business. Just buy it in the shop you’ve tried it on in.

  • Candid One

    From a retired field geologist and former 4-season backpacker/mountaineer, be wary of Vibram soles. They are optimal for dry conditions, including subfreezing. On wet rock, they’re like walking on ice, which must be done with considerable care or else. My point is that Vibram traction/gripping in dry conditions can lead to overconfidence in wet conditions. If you’re wearing them in changing weather conditions, awareness can avoid surprises. Fortunately, alternative sole materials that perform better in wet conditions are more commonly available today. You shouldn’t need mountain goat traction if you stay on trails, but trails can include smooth hard rock that gets wet in inclement weather. Caveat emptor. Happy trails!

  • Ruth Belmont

    Great tips for hiking. But I would advice that while we must also carry pole bag to keep the pole safe and it will make easy to carry the pole. Before going for mountaineering I too bought trekking pole bag and it made easy for me to carry the pole. I would recommend http://polepac.com/about-us/ where you can buy trekking pole bag online. Thank you

  • Niamh Robertson

    This was great thanks bit i have a problem its not your fault or anything but i was just wondering … im dping a 20k tomorrow and its to be 55 – 58 f i live in ireland so thats not freezing for me but i hate being too hot idrather be cold so i was wondering if you have any ideas on what to wear… ive been in scouts sinve i was 7 and have all the stuff ..waterproofs thermals gaiters etc. but i dont have all brand names

  • I was just looking for more information on hiking on google. Once again I was lead here to Nerd Fitness! Awesome post Steve, thanks for the information.

  • Choosing the right hiking boots is essential. For example, you probably don’t need bulkier boots for day hikes. You will also want to choose a heavier and more durable boot for backpacking and more demanding hiking adventures. Some hiking boots offer a mix of lightweight construction and durability that makes them ideal for hiking as well as other outdoor activities. A good, secure fit is essential for keeping your feet happy as you hike. GearTrade Online Outlet Store offers a mix of brands, features, and prices for men and women.

    Gear Trade has a range of Men’s Hiking Boots to make your outdoors trips much easier.

  • shani kumar

    I want to make a hecker….

  • Okay this wasn’t the point of this post, but I kinda want to buy an ocarina and use learning that and playing in the woods as one of my next level up goals… Who knows, maybe it will even call a wild horse to my side? 😉 Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Lisa

    Great post Steve with some really useful travel tips for hikers. We are based in Ireland and also love Killarney 🙂 If you know anyone planning to hike the Camino all of the above tips would be useful too, along with our beginners guide of course – http://caminoways.com/download-camino-ebooks

  • Great Post with the very helpful tips. This is really true that “Not all who wander are lost.” Hiking is one the most adventurous activity which fill your mind & body with full of enjoyment. Hiking is a popular adventure activity among the tourists too.

  • jessica lewis

    What an amazing post on hiking. I just loved the way you have described the interesting and useful hiking tips for a beginner.

  • Kimberly Ford

    I really appreciate the fact that you tell folks to clean up after themselves when hiking. How can the rest of us appreciate nature if someone’s littered all over it? Good tips too!

  • Gail Conway

    What are the pros and cons of hiking poles?

  • king


  • Grace Dugas

    Loved this… I’m an 18 year old wanting to hike more and this was super helpful, and the LOTR references were a bonus… awesome job on the song! Thanks!

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  • Andy Irving

    A scarily relevant post; yesterday lunchtime I just finished a casual 100k hike from London to Brighton (UK) for the Britsh Heart Foundation over the weekend! I don’t have an pictures of me in my NF T-shirt but I did change into it after I’d crossed the finish line.
    I absolutely love hiking, especially as a group activity, although I plan to do significantly shorter distances in the future!

  • Deb Strong

    Steve, you share some great resources; thank you so much! My goal for the summer with my children (ages 10, 7, and 3) has been to hike with them. In the first two and a half weeks of summer vacation, we have already completed 7 hikes. More to come this week, when the weather cools just a bit. We’re very lucky in Maryland to have wonderful State Parks and their trail system to use.

  • Amanda Tatara

    Love hiking, and always trying to get family and friends to go with me! For my hike this weekend,

    1 ) Where you’re going: A local park with several miles of hiking trails, including a deer run and a chunk that follows the bank of the river.
    2) When you’re going: Probably once on Wednesday, and then again on the weekend, if weather/scheduling permits
    3) And what you’re most excited about!: Getting my brother and his wife to come hiking with me and my dog! They’re trying to lose weight/get healthy, but the activities they enjoy are far and few between.
    4) Promise that you won’t hike pants-less: I definitely will not hike pantsless. Too much poison ivy and too many mosquitoes for that.
    5) Any tips you have for your fellow hikers? Look out for false trails and dried up riverbeds! Last year I lost the trail for just a minute, and even though my dog and I made it through the riverbed we ended up on, our taller and heavier companions sunk into the mud. It took us forty minutes to get everyone back to safety (and in the process we destroyed two pairs of shoes, got mud all over all of us, and got laughed at by some ladies passing by on the overgrown trail next to us), and we had to abort the hike less than five minutes away from our car.

  • Joshua A.

    Just a heads up: Your two merino wool shirt links don’t seem to be working.

  • We have a SERIOUS heat advisory here, so I’m just planning a short hike with my fiance and daughter for Saturday evening. Our local library does a “Get Outdoors” program every summer where they hide 30 posts in local parks and you have to find them based on written directions (sort of a combination letterboxing/geocaching/orienteering thing), and so far this summer we’ve only done two. So we’re going to the local state park, which is conveniently shady, to pick up at least one more! Most excited about the shade, TBH.


    Steve, you hit most of my tips (drink water, wear pants, check for ticks). Probably the only other one I’d give is get off your phone and really look around! I carry my phone in case of emergencies, but it stays in my pocket or backpack. There’s so much cool stuff to see!

  • Tara Thomas

    This is my favorite exercise ever. I actually just went on two hikes this last week! I will have to see if the daughter is up for another one this week. If so, we will probably go for an easy one like Cosumnes River Preserve. If it is just me, I may go a little harder/longer like Johnson Ridge

  • Christopher Durkin

    The Fond du Lac Loop – 16 miles around the city. July 4th early morning or July 7th early morning. I’m excited to see how quickly I can crush this trail. I Promise that you won’t hike pants-less, but I’ll be wearing shorts.
    Tips: know your limits. Also, baby powder can be your friend to help prevent and relieve chafing down below.

  • Kevin Liberty

    I’m heading out to Galveston for the weekend, and look forward to exploring a new place! After reading this article, I will definitely bring pants and snacks!

  • Awesome post as always.

    I just recently started hiking. My wife and I use hiking as our gym substitute whenever we are away on vacation.

    This is by far the easiest way to stay fit on vacation, while enjoying the beautiful scenery and exploring a new country.

    In Costa Rica we did an awesome 6 hour hike and a few other smaller ones in Nicaragua and Mexioco.

    We came prepared with almost everything you mentioned, especially the water, nuts and homemade protein bars.

  • Jennifer Ward

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4104df16eb8b58a8168bd53ca611b5f79e461afdbf85f4279569ac0ebdf0616d.jpg I picked up hiking last year as I was trying to get into shape, but have bad shoulders. Nothing quite like setting out on an adventure just to find out you can’t really use your arms without pain. But hiking (and a good backpack) make it easier!

    I love it. Fortunately, I also live in area that’s 45 minutes from Yosemite in one direction and 45 minutes from Sequoia in another. Next time I tackle a big hill, I’ll have to wear my NF gear. For now, it’s Cubs jerseys and bike shirts.

  • Elisa

    Absolutely! I’m planning to hike on the 4th of July, in the morning. I’m the mom of a 3-year-old and a 3-month old baby, so I’ll be ‘hiking’ at Warner Park in Madison, WI. The toddler will be in a backpack on my husband’s back, so he’s really getting a workout. The baby is finally big enough to ride in a stroller, so longer hikes are coming up! And I promise to wear pants! . . . .My tip is, don’t let having small children keep you from being active. If the kids see it as normal, it will be part of their life as they grow.

  • Hinermad

    Oh man, I’m ahead of the game for once! I hiked 3.5 miles yesterday across a couple of parks in the city. (I’m getting back into film photography and it was a good workout for my camera too.) This isn’t an entry for the drawing, but I’ll answer the questions anyway.

    Where you’re going: Seneca Park and Ontario Beach Park in Rochester, NY. They’re on either side of the Genesee River, and Ontario Beach has a 1/2 mile breakwater that extends out into Lake Ontario.

    When you’re going: Yesterday (Sunday, July 1)

    And what you’re most excited about: Being able to take photos without the kids complaining about being bored. Even if it was 91 degrees outside. (In this heat the Southern Hemisphere sounds pretty inviting.)

    Promise that you won’t hike pants-less: I never do. I wore shorts since the parks are well maintained and it was windy enough that mosquitoes weren’t a problem. But in less improved areas I wear long pants and hiking boots. (Former Boy Scout here.) And I agree, jeans aren’t optimal wear for hiking. The fabric tends to be stiffer and more confining. You’ve got enough work to do, you don’t need your clothes fighting against you.

    Any tips you have for your fellow hikers: A few:
    1) Toss some toilet paper in your bag. Even parks with restrooms run out.
    2) Don’t hang heavy items like water bottles on the outside of your bag where they can swing around. It takes more effort to keep your balance, and can tire you out sooner. (If you’re looking to make your hike into a workout, I can’t help you.)
    3) If you plan to carry a GPS (or use the one in your phone) to find your way, learn to use it at home before you need to rely on it in the field.
    4) If you get lost in the woods and don’t have a way to call for help, sit down in a sheltered spot and wait for rescue. Conserve your energy, let the searchers come to you. (You did let someone know where you’re going and when to expect you back, right?) Do something to make yourself visible, like hanging a bright handkerchief where it can be seen. Consider taking some kind of whistle along. Shouting to attract searchers will tire out your throat quickly.

  • Emma B

    This is exactly what I needed to read. I’ve wanted to start hiking, but just “becoming” a hiker seemed like it had to involve secret woodland skills. Now I know it’s mostly shoes, pants, and water.

  • Fig

    Great article. I wasn’t aware of alltrails. Might find something new to me around here for this weekend.

  • Allie

    I’m going hiking in one of the local nature parks this weekend with my sister. I’m most excited to find a new trail. I will be wearing pants of course. I actually prefer jeans over other kinds because I always manage to find thorns.

  • Allie

    Also I appreciate that you quoted correctly and said “Not all THOSE who wander are lost.”

  • Becky ‘Stroud’ Csernik

    Where: Red Rock Wilderness Overlook Regional Park!
    When: Saturday morning!
    Excited About: Almost everything. I’m very excitable ? Alone time, nature, and getting my sweat on first thing.
    Promise to Wear Pants: Promise! I too am horribly allergic to Poison Ivy, and ticks love me.
    Tips: Bug spray is legit! Esp this time of year.

  • LadyMonk

    My other comment didn’t go through! But I ended up going hiking in the arboretum with my friend and her kids. For 3 hours. What a commitment with those little ones!!

    I love hiking, so thank you for the motivation!

  • Madamoizillion

    I think this was a crucial step missing from the article: check for fees at your intended destination. Many locations will require a parking or trail use fee.

  • Neyman42

    Sounds like fun, I’m in!

  • rebel pilot gar

    Great article! Also… how did I miss that NF gear is back!!?!?!!

    Where: Delaware Water Gap OR local trails (basically depends on storm forecasts and whether it’s worth the hour+ drive)

    When: Friday

    Excitement: If it’s the DWG, new trail! Either way I’m excited for adventures outside with my four legged partner in crime.

    I will wear pants. The dog will not 😉

    Advice: Download the trail map or print out/grab a copy to bring with you.
    Bring more water than you think you’ll need. On longer hikes I also bring a cooler with even more water. Because the dog always drinks it all…. (Ruffwear has some great soft, portable bowls that are essential for doggy adventures. Definitely recommend for any canine copilots)

  • doh! thanks for heads up, will fix 🙂

  • Will

    So does it count if I just went LAST weekend? Because I checked off one of my Rising Heroes goals for 2018 by doing a three-day, eighteen-mile backpacking trip in Shenandoah National Park. I saw my first real-life bears (momma and a cub, which was equal parts awesome and terrifying), spent two nights in the back country, and generally had the best time ever. My recommendations:

    – Pants not shorts, IMHO. Better to be sweaty than covered in poison ivy.
    – The waist strap on your backpack is your friend. I had about 35 lbs in my pack, and became a much happier camper when I figured out how to carry it with my hips instead of my shoulders.
    – This is where those lunges pay off. I was most proud of my ability to CRUSH our uphill climb out of the Valley, so thanks to NF for getting me there!

  • Cristi Rivera

    I’ve been doing some day hiking this summer and I am loving it. This weekend I am going on my first overnight hiking trip at the Manistee National Forest here in Michigan. I am excited to try out some it the gear I have been accumulating, including pants which I promise to wear. I think the best tip is to just get out there and do it. Take the chance!

  • Audie Demeter

    I’ll be hiking (walking?) with my little kids so we will be hitting up a park with a mile loop (paved – good for strollers) and a beach with a lake to cool off in after.
    I LOVE hiking – I can literally feel the weight on my shoulders being lifted (even when carrying a baby in the carrier) and stress just melts away. I’ve made it a goal this year to go hiking with my kids at least monthly (ideally weekly)
    If hiking with kids bring snacks!!!! Nothing is worse than hiking with a hangry toddler….Also, appreciate going slow. On our last hike the weather changed to hot after a few days of cold rain and we could hear the prairie popping like rice krispies as the sun warmed up the grass/hay – something we would have definitely missed if we were going at adult pace rather than toddler pace.

  • Elyse Horan

    Where: Howth Cliff Walk (just outside of Dublin)
    When: this Saturday
    What I’m excited about: I think half the reason I moved to Dublin (from Oz) is that James Joyce is pretty fun to read and the Joyce culture here is weird and wonderful. I want to see the cliffs he immortalised and tick off a Martello tower if I can (gotta catch em all!).
    I won’t hike pants-less; it might be summer but this is still Ireland.
    I don’t have any specific hiking tips as I am a n00b but as an Australian speaking to anyone Irish or British: WEAR SUNSCREEN. The sun will kill you.
    Thanks for the article!

  • Intrepid Steel

    My husband and I just bought a year pass to our state parks. This weekend will be perfect for checking out D’arbonne State Park together! I’m hoping to see some snakes and other herps as we have so many in our region. I love them! We will not be hiking pantsless, for sure. I would say if you hike where snakes frequent, never step over or grab any obstacle before you get a look at the other side. Also pay attention to the spaces beside logs and rocks, and also look up. Snakes will sometimes drop unexpectedly out of trees if startled by your passing.

  • Kiersten Morgan

    I’m actually going hiking/camping at the Grand Teton, leaving on the 4th! I’ll be going with my boyfriend and his extended family and all four of our dogs. I’m excited because I’ve heard it’s a gorgeous area and I’ve never been! We also may be able to stop in Yellowstone park, which, again, I’ve never visited.

    I can definitely promise I won’t hike pants-less. Too much thigh rubbing to do that!

    If you’re hiking with dogs, make sure if you’re allowed to let them off leash before doing so, and if you do, make sure you dog is voice controlled! Having a dog wander off and calling them over and over in hopes they’ll come back is stressful and that’s not good when hikes are supposed to be fun