Updated: Apr 7, 2020
It may come as a surprise to you, but I did not start hiking until I was 19. Sure, I would've considered myself a tomboy growing up- I spent a lot of time hunting, fishing, four wheeling and spending time in the outdoors with my brothers. It wasn't until I met my now husband that my passion for hiking really took off. And that's one of the reasons why I love it- you can make hiking an intense hobby or a simple way to distress from daily life. You can start hiking in your childhood or not until your 60s. A step outside and a reliable pair of shoes are all you truly need!
Deer Creek Reservoir in Alliance, Ohio. Fun Fact: Fishing here was our first date and it would end up being where we had our engagement pictures done. Such a special place to us!
Colton and I started out hiking random, short trails in Metro Parks near our college in Canton, OH. We'd drive 30-60 minutes off campus to an unpopular park and hike for the fresh air and conversation alone. At the time, as an overly stressed out nursing student crushing on a tall, football player, that's all I wanted. I would save other's social media posts of beautiful places like the top of Half Dome in Yosemite or The Grand Canyon in AZ, never thinking of them as more than breathing taking views to potentially set as my cell phone home screen.
And I want everyone to know, that is okay. You don't have to climb Mount Everest to call yourself a hiker. I know we haven't.
I love hiking to the core and have quite a few epic pictures to prove I can hang with the best of them, but I want this blog to be a place where anyone from any season of life can come and learn, see, and be encouraged to go outside and explore.
So this post is dedicated strictly to the newbies. Hi friends, I'm so happy you're starting this hobby! I wanted to write a post specifically for you as a place to find some helpful tips we've learned along the way as newbies ourselves.
When starting this hobby, one can find themselves down a deep, dark rabbit hole of different hiking brands- I know I did. It's hard to decipher what equipment is actually necessary versus just flashy and what brands are better than their competition or just claim to be. And if you're anything like me, the feelings of uncertainty can make you want to throw in the towel from the start.
I'm going to offer a breakdown of the gear we've used from the start as well as some other stuff we've grown accustom to packing for the trail.
Before I start with the suggestions, I want to offer a disclaimer: This is all just my opinion. This is what my husband and I do. If you've found something different that works for you. Great, let me know! We're not experts and always looking for ways to make our experience better.
We'll start off with something super simple, but could be categorized as the most important for some......what snacks do you bring?
Honestly, the possibilities are close to endless in this category. The main thing I want you to think about is the environment you're planning to hike in. Is it summer? Always remember foods that melt do not handle well pulling out to eat 2 hours into a trail on an 80 degree day.
I have to include the reminder, PLEASE leave no trace of you or your snacks on the trail. I suggest taking a large Ziploc bag to store any food wrappers (& another separate one for any toilet paper you may use!)
Also remember that hiking is a strenuous activity. You're burning lots of calories and your body is in need of fuel. Protein is something we always make sure to pack as well as something sugary for a quick energy boost (and reward for pushing yourself!) Our sugar boost/treat is usually Oreos or Sour Patch Kids.
-Trail Mix (duh)
Find other yummy trail additions here: https://amzn.to/3e1wSDU
The most important piece of equipment I encourage everyone to invest in are a good set of hiking boots!
There are many brands to choose from. My husband and I don't even have the same brand of boots, so don't stress. He owns Merrell and I have Keen boots. Both have seemed to hold up well over the years.
A few tips to take with you when purchasing a pair are:
-Preventing blisters is essential, especially on longer trails. I've learned to never leave for the trailhead without a pair of thick hiking socks. Take a similar pair with you when trying on and purchasing your boots. This will help you figure out the right size!
Also make sure to look into waterproof boots. Having versatile boots has helped us hike over differing terrain.
Find your perfect pair here: https://amzn.to/2xJBI7Z
Another HUGE piece of advice I can give you is packing enough water! Sweating is inevitable and this is causing your body to dehydrate. Make sure you are continuously replenishing yourself!
A super convenient way to do this is through Cambelbaks. I'm sure you have all seen these. The backpacks that double as a water bottle. There is a bag or "bladder" section in the backpack connected to a hose with a mouthpiece on the end. They are super helpful at preventing frequent stops to reach for a water bottle in your bag and almost always store more water than bottles anyway!
Find one for yourself here: https://amzn.to/2yoZ2bo
Trekking Poles can prevent injuries....trust me
Trekking poles are the stick-like equipment you've probably seen depicted on signs designating hiking areas. When I first starting hiking, I didn't think these were necessary to have. In fact, Colton and I only had one pair when we decided to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon via the South Kaibab Trail. If you're unfamiliar with this trail, it is mostly made up of declining steps. Having 2 previous surgeries from an ACL tear in my knee, the continuous stepping motion took a beating on my leg. I actually fell! It was totally embarrassing. Long story short, they have saved me from a tumble or two since and I can tell a huge difference in my legs not getting fatigued as quickly now that I use them often and correctly!
I know what you may be thinking- trekking poles aren't always a necessary "must-have." And to that I'd say, you're right. Hiking as a hobby is what you make of it, and if you're one to keep to smooth terrain- I still support that. Getting outside is what really matters to me! Trekking poles are a huge help if you like to push yourself through rougher trails and can be relatively inexpensive, too!
Find a pair for yourself here: https://amzn.to/3aEouIc
Plan for The Unknown
Although hiking can be a relaxing, safe hobby-the outdoors can become unpredictable and unsafe unexpectedly.
Planning for the unknown doesn't have to cost a lot. Here are some simple items to keep in your backpack in case things ever go south:
-Water Filtration System (Colton and I have had to use this!)
I'd like to remind you, ESPECIALLY if hiking alone, ALWAYS tell someone else where you are headed and when they should expect you to return!
Research the Weather Ahead of Time
There are many different things that can spoil a day of hiking, but few make me as angry as getting soaking wet from rain I should've known about...
Modern technology is available to us! Use it to your advantage (I'm talking to myself here, too)
Check the forecast to known the weather conditions for the day, but always prepare for the unexpected!
Handy stuff to keep with you when planning for the weather:
DON'T FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE TO BREAK THE BANK
Like I mentioned before, there are numerous brands for all of the equipment mentioned in this post. Don't let that get you discouraged! Colton and I started out with a quick trip to Walmart's camping aisle and Amazon browse. Ozark Trail and Outdoor Products are both relatively inexpensive outdoor brands that offer various hiking necessities.
Click on the images below to view Outdoor Products merchandise
I hope if you're a newbie to the hiking world, I've helped to point you in the right direction. This hobby is what you make of it and I would love to hear any experiences or equipment you can't hike without! Thanks for reading! Talk soon :)