Hiking For Beginners – The Hiking Guide For Beginners (2021 Update)

January 8, 2021 by
POSTED BY January 8, 2021

Hiking For Beginners

Hiking for beginners can sometimes be frustrating and arduous when they see other people who are able to hike much farther distances than them, and at a far more rapid pace on top of all that.

Everyone has different reasons for hiking. You might be hiking for weight loss, hiking for pleasure, or training for a long-distance hike.

However, everyone has to start somewhere so it’s time to don your new hiking boots and work towards your goal of your first long-distance hike!

1. Get Comfortable Footwear

Comfortable Hiking Boots

Investing in a sturdy, well-fitting pair of hiking boots should be top of the list for any beginner hiker. Some things to consider when choosing your hiking boots are:

  • Do they have good ankle support?
  • Are they waterproof?
  • Are they warm or cool enough for your hiking destination’s climate?
  • Do they have soles which are of a high enough standard to provide adequate grip on slippery rocks and in wet conditions?
  • Do they fit snugly to prevent any friction and reduce the risk of blisters?

The most important thing is finding a pair that are right for you. Your friend may recommend a certain brand because they serve him/her very well, however the boots might not seem comfortable to you.

Try on many pairs in a shop until you find the right fit, and break them in about two weeks before you use them on a hike. Even if you think you don’t have time to properly break them in on some shorter walks before you depart for your longer journey, simply chuck your boots on every time you’re able to, whether you’re walking the dog or just doing the shopping down the road.

Flower Hiking Boots

If you’re purchasing brand new boots from an online store, this is obviously going to be a bit trickier when it comes to finding the exact right fit, shape and size for your own feet. However, there are more and more online retailers supplying high quality hiking boots which also accept one or even two returns to help you get the size right. If you really get into hiking and purchase a new pair every couple of years, you’ll eventually learn how the sizing works for different brands and types of boots and will get your measurements down pat when ordering online.

Also, don’t forget there doesn’t always have to be a hard and fast rule when it comes to the correct hiking boots for each individual. Depending on the climate and what you’re used to, you might even be able to get away with more sneaker-like hiking footwear such as trail runners. This is of course only suitable to those beginners who are hiking in much warmer, drier destinations and where the ground is stable enough to not put you at risk of rolling your ankles.

2. Build Up Your Hiking Distances Gradually

Hiking for beginners - build up your distances gradually

Rather than starting with the Pacific Crest Trail, why not start with a local walk? These walks are usually ideal for hiking for beginners as they get you used to repetitively putting one foot in front of the other for a few hours.

It’ll also give you the chance to break in your new hiking boots.

Think of hiking in terms of pilot training. You need to build up the hours on smaller planes before taking on the trans-Atlantic passenger airliners.

Also, you don’t need to do too many shorter hikes first if your overall fitness level is OK and you simply don’t have the time to get out and about before your holiday. If you’re flat out at work until right before your planned long-distance hiking excursion, you can always don your boots on ‘casual Fridays’ in the office – if your office does this – or while doing day to day activities at home or while running errands.

3. Learn By Example

West Highland Way

The best way to learn about hiking for beginners is to watch how a more experienced hiker prepares.

You can take tips from how they pack their bag, what equipment they bring (depending on the length of the hike), and how they plan their route.

Hikers are a friendly bunch and are always more than happy to help out with advice on hiking for beginners!

Furthermore, thanks to technology and the Internet, we now have a brilliant tool at our disposal in the form of YouTube. Countless tutorial videos are now at our fingertips for when we are seeking out instruction and guidance on how to become a better hiker. This is perfect for beginners who can learn what to bring for certain destinations and seasons, and overall how to navigate and move more efficiently along the trails.

4. Learn By Doing

The Dingle Way

Once you’ve taken tips and advice from more experienced hikers, it’s time to learn it your own way.

Take to the trail and adapt what you need to bring with you. Perhaps you didn’t need five spare pairs of socks last time, or your camping stove went completely unused on your two-hour hike.

It’s all about trial and error so the more you hike, the more you’ll know exactly what you need when you’re hiking.

5. Understand The ‘Onion’ Layering System

Dingle Way

Layering is an important concept to grasp for hiking for beginners. The idea is that you start off cool with a base and mid-layer on. Once you start walking, you’ll inevitably warm up.

If it starts to get colder as you get higher up a hill or mountain, you can then put your top-layer on. Your rain-jacket then comes out if and when the rain arrives.

Having three to four layers gives you greater temperature control, rather than just having one under-layer and one big jacket.

Here at Hillwalk Tours, we’ve also already prepared a handy hiking checklist to help you acquaint yourself with what you do and don’t need to bring with you on a long-distance hike in Europe.

6. Understand Basic Map-Reading

How to read a map - a Hillwalk Tours' guide

Basic map-reading is a must-learn skill for hiking for beginners. It allows you to plan your routes effectively before a hike, and prevents you from getting lost while on your hike.

Luckily Hillwalk Tours has you covered, as we’ve written a blog about how to read a map.

Hiking For Weight Loss

Hiking Walking Blog

Everyone has different reasons for hiking. Hiking for weight loss is both an effective and enjoyable way to do it – and a great reason to start hiking for beginners.

Hiking can burn up to 500 calories an hour, and you’ll barely notice that time pass!

There are so many reasons to start hiking for beginners – it’s truly a great pastime from both the mental and physical aspects.

We hope that you enjoyed this guide and for more information on our range of gentle, moderate and challenging walking tours in Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales and on The Camino, just get in touch.