our beginner's guide to hiking
If you've noticed, we've been doing A LOT of hiking. So much that my legs are protesting in denial as I write this blog, haha! I absolutely love hiking and we've fallen more in love with it since the pandemic happened and challenged how we spent our time outdoors. There is something so satisfying about traveling to a place where you can only access by foot. I am obsessed with the feeling of reaching that finish point and proudly saying, I DID THAT. I HIKED THAT. I'm still a relatively moderate/slow hiker, too. Honestly, even if you don't make it up to the point you've set out to reach, looking back and seeing how far you've traveled on foot is such an amazing feeling. Knowing your body can do that and pushing it to the limit... it's all amazing!
Anyways, if you've recently fallen in love with life on the trails or are looking to start hiking, I wanted to throw together a quick list of things we've learned and products we love so you can start hitting the trails, too!
PLAN IT OUT
First thing's first, it is always important to know where you are going, whether the hike is 1 mile long or 10 miles long. You need to know the trail, how to get there, and how to get home from there safely
CHOOSE A HIKE
Aside from discovering trails on IG or Pinterest, we love using All Trails or The Outbound as a resource to accurately map out and plan our hikes. You'll want to factor in hike distance, elevation, conditions, and time you hike - all things that All Trails feature! Doing research around our trail is the most important thing to do. A hike might be short, but have an insane elevation climb, while a longer hike might be more distance but have no elevation change - all things to take into thought. It's best to start with easier trails and then work your way up through longer hikes eventually to day-hikes and then backpacking once you've had the experience.
BE AWARE OF WHERE YOU ARE
Basic navigation skills play a huge hand in hiking. We're lucky to live in a world where we have technology on our phones, but remember service normally isn't available out on trails, so knowing your navigation basics is a must. Apps like Gaia GPS or onX Trail Guides are great for downloadable maps and offline functions but a physical map and compass are always a great idea!
HAVE AN SOS PLAN Again, back to the whole "let's not rely on our phones" rule. One thing you should research is if your trail has service, especially if you're hiking solo. No matter if you are hiking alone or with others, always let someone know where you're headed on a hike and check in with them when you're back. In case you do become lost, have a plan. If you're heading out and don't have any service, consider taking a tracking/SOS device. We've heard good things about the Garmin InReach Explorer+!
GEAR + GOODS
Above all else, put comfort first. I understand you might want to look cute for that 'gram snap when you reach the top, but if it isn't comfortable, DO NOT WEAR IT! The great thing is that "comfortable" means something different for everyone! Be sure to research the weather and environment of where you're hiking before you plan your gear so that you're well prepared.
HIKING BOOTS Each person has their own preference - some love trail runners and others love boots. I personally love to wear a light, waterproof boot with ankle support when I hike. I want the support and we're often trudging through many different types of environments. You also don't need a crazy expensive boot. mine were only $30 from Big 5! DO make sure you have a great hiking sock to go with those boots/shoes. Again, got mine from Big 5, but I always recommend a long sock and Darn Tough has gotten great reviews!
Can be whatever you want it to be! I've seen people hike in bikinis so.... to each their own. I prefer a great pair of leggings and a comfortable t-shirt. I'll usually bring a jacket or overshirt just in case the weather takes a turn - hiking in layers is best. My favorite legging to hike in are LuluLemon BECAUSE they don't slip down my body and are so comfortable. I also have a pair of heavy-duty hiking pants for winter.
HONESTLY MY SECRET WEAPON! Not everyone is a fan of trekking poles, but I personally loved using them on our past two hikes with had considerable elevation gain. They're super helpful for the way down since there is less strain on my knee and back - overall a win! They do slow us down but they are worth it in my opinion. We got these cheapy poles to try out but they worked great for us!
WATER / WATER RESERVOIR Fact: You will always need more water than you think. Nathan and I both carry our own water reservoirs that fit nicely in our backpacks - his carries 3 liters and mine carries 2! We carry additional water bottles with us on longer hikes. A good general rule is about 1/2 liter of water per hour of moderate activity at a moderate temperature. So if you're doing an easy hike for 4 hours, you need 2 liters of water. When the intensity of the hike or temperature rises, you should be drinking 1 liter of water per hour, or even more! So the harder it is, the more water you need.
You didn't think we could forget about food, did you?! Depending on the hike, we either pack a quick lunch (like a sandwich) with snacks or several snacks to sustain us. Either way, we like anything to be easily portable to pop into our packs. Some favorites include Clif bars, trail mix, peanut butter pretzels, and beef jerky.
SUNSCREEN + LIP BALM
Don't forget to protect your skin! Whether it's cloudy, rainy or sunny, put sunscreen on! I've gotten burnt the worst in overcast weather and it sucks. I prefer SPF 30 or SPF 50 and love Sun Bum and Sun Protector.
OTHER SMALL GOODIES
A mini first aid kit: you never know when you'll need bandaids or to clean a wound!
Headlamp: Always great to have on hand in case you get lost, or are hiking at sunset/sunrise
Sunglasses: To protect your eyes
Hat: Again, to protect your skin and eyes!
Knife: I always keep a knife on me for several uses like cutting foliage, rope, etc
Wipes: Love me some baby wipes! Always good for cooling off and wiping your hands before snacktime
LEAVE NO TRACE
During the pandemic, we've seen lots of people head outside which is awesome, but not when they are damaging the environment. Nothing makes me more MAD. For this reason, I haven't been sharing locations with people and when Nathan & I go out, we try to do a little extra clean up. PLEASE be sure to educate yourself on proper hiking & camping etiquette before heading outside. There are lots of resources that cover LNT principles, like Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics but I'm also dropping some info below in case:
Pack in what you pack out
Know the regulations + laws for the area you're visiting
Stay on trail - when you don't you're damaging the environment
Leave rocks, plants, and other natural objects as you find them
Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires
CALIFORNIA IS ON FIRE PEOPLE, please follow this rule!
Keep fires small, burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes
Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience
Be courteous & yield to other folks on the trail
Observe wildlife from a distance, do not follow or approach them.
Never feed animals
Other questions or comments? Shoot us a DM on Instagram! We'd love to hear if we're left anything out or what else you'd love to know about hiking.