Hiking is a hobby and a sport that is growing in popularity by the day. A report noted that an additional 20 million people in the U.S. have started hiking regularly since 2006, a figure that hit nearly 50 million hikers in 2019. So, it’s safe to say there is an influx of beginners.
If you’ve been interested in taking up hiking as a hobby, or hiking as a way to keep fit - it’s important that you get the essential beginner-friendly hiking gear. Similar to other sports, hiking requires specific clothes, shoes and equipment to keep you safe. In this article, we’re going to cover some of the best hiking gear for beginners, so keep reading!
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Why has hiking become so popular?
According to recent reports and news articles, hiking has become more popular than ever. This has likely happened as a result of the pandemic – for the first time ever, people were told to stay home as businesses closed internationally. Social distancing was put in place, and the great outdoors became a place of solace and solitude for many.
Hiking is the perfect combination of a sport and a hobby. It’s an effective calorie burner, helps to build lean muscle, and promotes aerobic endurance. But it can also be a social activity, an opportunity to spend time in nature and unwind, and it’s free! When all things are considered, it’s easy to see why hiking has become so popular.
How to start hiking as a beginner
If you’ve never swam before, you wouldn’t enter a swimming competition - and it’s the same for hiking. Just because it seems like an easy-to-grasp sport that involves walking, it can be challenging, and even dangerous for beginners. Here are some tips to help you start hiking.
- Start walking more
If you’re typically sedentary, it may be difficult to jump into a 5-mile steep-incline hike. You may quickly feel physically fatigued or injure yourself because your body isn’t used to the activity. Start your hiking hobby by increasing your daily step count to 10,000 steps - not necessarily all in one go, either. You can do this by walking to work, taking the stairs, and taking phone calls on-the-go. It will help to strengthen your lungs and heart.
- Research hikes
Not all hikes have a clear path. Some involve using a map or compass to guide you, which can be extremely dangerous for beginners who aren’t used to navigating themselves through different terrains. If you’re a beginner, aim for hikes with a clear trail and phone signal to keep you safe.
- Get a hiking buddy
As covered in Men's Journal, hiking alone increases your risk of a bad fall, injury, sexual assault, animal attack, and risk of getting lost. Hiking with someone else cuts these risks greatly.
- Buy essential hiking gear
Attempting to hike the Appalachian Trail in old Nike tennis shoes is not going to protect your feet and ankles sufficiently, increasing your risk of injury, pain and falls. Getting the basic essential hiking gear and clothes is the most important place to start for a beginner. Let’s cover some of the best hiking equipment for beginners now.
The best hiking gear for beginners
- Hiking boots
Hiking boots have been specifically designed by experts to protect the feet and ankles during hikes. They are durable - to provide enough support and cushioning against the impact of long hikes. They have traction on the soles to help you grip the floor in tough terrains to avoid slips, and they are made to be comfortable to wear for hours on end.
FitMyFoot creates custom insoles that can be easily inserted into all shoes and hiking boots to ensure that your feet have maximum protection and support during intense hikes. These insoles have been customized to fit your unique feet and can make a huge difference, particularly for people with foot issues like flat feet or plantar fasciitis.
Check out this article that covers the 11 best hiking boots for beginners in 2021.
- Hiking backpack
A hiking backpack should:
Be between 10 to 25 liters in size for a day-long hike and up to 35 liters for longer
- Be lightweight
- Be suitable for the climate - you don’t want it to absorb moisture!
- Be functional - multiple pockets are better to keep things separate and easy to grap, and have attachment points for any ropes or other equipment
- Have a hydration pack – a hydration system containing a straw (bladder) for accessible water throughout the hike
- Have breathable and adjustable shoulder, chest and waist straps
Once you’ve found the perfect hiking backpack, you need to fill it with some essentials, like:
- Sunscreen and sunhat
- Extra clothes (depending on climate and/or length of hike)
- Map, compass and/or phone (assuming it has cell signal)
- First-aid kit
- Hand sanitizer
Depending on the length of your hike, these may be redundant. For example, a short two-mile hike with a small incline will not require some of these items, but buying all of them to keep in your hiking backpack is a good idea for future, longer hikes.
- Hiking clothes
According to REI, it’s a good idea to get hiking clothes that are quick-drying and moisture-wicking. During a hike you will likely sweat and experience climate changes which may dampen your clothes. Clothes that have been specifically designed for the purpose of hiking, like Patagonia, will prevent your clothes from staying wet, which can impact your body temperature or comfort.
When getting dressed for a hike, layer up in light fabrics like polyester, so your attire is easy to adjust should the temperature change. This greatly depends on the climate during the hike, which brings us back to our initial point of ensuring sufficient research has been done prior to the hike.
Hiking is a great way to stay fit and have fun. The US is home to thousands of hikes ranging in difficulty and intensity, but always promising beautiful views and nature. We hope this article has given you the knowledge you need on hiking gear for beginners, to set you up correctly. Enjoy the hike!