A Beginner’s Guide to Hiking: Everything You Need For Your First Hike!

A Beginner’s Guide to Hiking: Everything You Need For Your First Hike!

A unconfined place to hike.

Before you step foot in the unconfined outdoors, read this guide!

There’s nothing increasingly embarrassing than a municipality slicker getting lost in the woods, so let’s make sure you know where you’re going, what to wear, and what to bring.

That way your first hike will be fun, adventurous, and increasingly importantly safe!

Today we will cover:

I'm happy you're excited well-nigh hiking and I can't wait for you to get started!

I took the whilom picture while hiking through Killarney National Park in Ireland many years ago, and every time I squint at it, I can't help but think of Tolkien's Middle-earth masterpiece, so I repent (not really) for all of the Lord of the Rings nerdery running throughout this post!

Our polity 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:

Christina started rocking pull-ups without Nerd Fitness Coaching

By the end of today’s post, my goal is to have you pick a trail, pick a date, and identify a fella or gal to join your fellowship (galship?).

Before we jump in, are you here considering you're learning to hike to lose weight? Did you hear it's a fun way to exercise and get your soul moving?

If so, you've come to the right place!

As I mentioned, some clients in our uber-popular 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program used hiking as part of their weight loss training. These folks would rather throne outside than jump on a treadmill, and our coaches designed a program so they could do just that!

Here's how it works: your NF Coach will build a custom workout plan based on your wits level and goals. Training to climb up a literal mountain? Maybe you need to get rid of an old ring? We'll create a plan to get you to the top!

Alright, let’s get you hiking!

How Do I Find Hiking Trails Near Me? (How to Start Hiking)

The view of a unconfined place to hike.

When you think of hiking, you might imagine a tuft 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 venture to destroy a ring of weird power.

If you’re just whence your journey to a largest lifestyle, just thinking well-nigh serious hiking can be unbearable to alimony you inside your comfy hobbit hole.

Although hiking can be an epic undertaking, it doesn’t need to be!

A hike moreover can be super simple and fun:

  1. A quick jaunt (such a unconfined word, right?) virtually your local park without work.
  2. Exploring the woods overdue your house with your kids on a Saturday morning.
  3. A half-day hike with your friends on a fun nature trail.
  4. A full day or overnight hike that moreover includes camping.

Here’s my definition for hiking: A person (or halfing, or self-aware robot) exploring their surroundings and their feet are on the very ground. Like, dirt. And grass.

Some might say it needs to be difficult, have a unrepealable elevation change, require a wimpy wimpy blah. It literally doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you go outside and do something you wouldn’t have washed-up otherwise.

Here in the Nerd Fitness Rebellion, hikers would fall into the Adventurer class.

If you’re looking for a fun “cardio” worriedness and want to exercise in a way that’s exciting, hiking is a unconfined way to get your legs, feet, and soul used to some strenuous activity.

You get to pick your speed and difficulty, and you can unchangingly find the right value of rencontre 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 washed-up in less than a day, that won’t require you to pack a tent, or bring an uneaten transpiration of clothes. Pick a hike based on how much time you have – do you have the unshortened 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 moreover increasingly 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 expressly true if they have increasingly hiking wits or they know the zone that you’re hiking in.

3) Determine your level

If you are a hiking newbie and out of shape, sending yourself out on an eight-hour hike through the unmapped wilderness isn’t a unconfined idea.

Start slow, and pick places virtually your town that will indulge you to stop when necessary and get when to your car or home quickly. No need to be a hero; it’s unchangingly largest to come when excited and say “wow that was easier than I expected!” than to realize you’re six hours from home and out of steam. Well, stuff 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 squint for big untried plots of land. We undeniability those “parks.” Google the park name, learn well-nigh it, and decide if that’s where you want to go. Do not overcomplicate this step. Just get started.

Ask your active, venturesome 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 and when

If you are out hiking alone, take the time to email or undeniability somebody and let him know that you’ll be hiking and when you expect to be back.

We don’t want to hear well-nigh any 127 Hours[1] stories on NF…that would make playing video games way increasingly difficult.

You don’t need to tell them the trademark 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 when from you by a unrepealable time they know to zestful the proper authorities.

So right now, you should have answers to the pursuit questions:

  1. How much time you can dedicate to hiking.
  2. Who you will be hiking with.
  3. Your level of experience
  4. Using AllTrails.com or GoogleMaps to pick your hiking location.
  5. Who you will tell well-nigh your hiking experience.
  6. How much XP will I earn by doing this?

That last point is well-nigh our fun new habit-building app, which allows you to level up (literally) by going on walks or hikes.

You can try it for self-ruling right here:

What Shoes Do I Wear Hiking? (Proper Footwear)

Steve at the Unconfined Wall

This is simple: stilettos, your favorite mini skirt, a fishnet halter top, and a vest made out of raw meat. You’re welcome!

Wait, don't do that.

I’m a big fan of stuff well-appointed without breaking the bank. Like, you probably once have most of the suit you need to go hiking.


We imbricate footwear extensively in our healthy feet article, but I’ll imbricate shoes specifically in the specimen of hiking here.

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 let a lack of quality hiking boots alimony you from a hike. If you’re concerned, pick an easy-paced hike with your current shoes to be unscratched and ramp up when you can ramp up your gear!

Some people hike the Appalachian Trail in their yellowish feet (must be part-Hobbit), so whatever you do: don’t let your footwear options alimony you from getting started. Just make sure you unravel 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 squint at our feet.

Now that we’ve washed-up that, let’s squint at some shoe options:

LEVEL ONE: Hiking shoes – “hiking shoes” are unconfined if you’re going to be doing simple day hikes or hiking occasionally: they have a good grip on the bottom, requite you unbearable support, but aren’t too heavy that they are a hindrance.

Here are my favorite options if you are in the market for some new vital walking/hiking shoes:

  1. Merrell Vent Hiking Shoe
  2. Merrell Trail Glove 4 (Men) – I have the undecorous ones. They rock.
  3. 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 sturdy shoe? Depending on the grip on the bottom, they could be decently okay for you to get started with when it comes to a vital hike. If sneakers are your only option, lace em up, pick a beginner hike, and see how they do. Just be shielding on slippery surfaces - your kicks might not requite you the grip you need to get over them.

LEVEL TWO – Hiking boots – I don’t hike unbearable or do unbearable multi-day hikes to justify the forfeit of hiking boots, but then 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 veritably see the value in a unconfined pair of hiking boots if you’re going on a serious hike, traveling for multiple days, or more. They have increasingly toddle support, thicker tread, thicker shoes, and provide your feet with significantly increasingly protection.

REI has a unconfined vendible helping you pick between Trail shoes and Trail boots. My advice? Start with what you currently have surpassing 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 worthier 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 unravel them in over many weeks surpassing going out on a trail.

WEIRD BUT FUN FOR SIMPLE HIKES: Vibram FiveFingers I hiked all virtually the globe, in various situations, wearing my Vibrams for tropical to 4 years. They made me finger like a ninja monkey and a hobbit. I got weird looks, but something just felt right well-nigh stuff worldly-wise to finger the contours of the ground underneath me. I will say, when hiking in Vibrams it can be easier to twist an toddle when stepping on a root or rock, stepping on sharp rocks can hurt, so I found myself watching my feet much increasingly than expected.

These days, I’m much increasingly of a trail shoe kind of guy, but some still swear by Vibrams!

If you’re in the market for ownership 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 requite you blisters or make your feet all sweaty and gross.

Depending on how long the hike is, how serious you are well-nigh hiking, and your budget, you can squint into merino-wool socks.

Like the rest of your outfit, what you wear on your feet will largely be dependent on a few things:

  1. Weather! Are you hiking in the forest and it’s 72 degrees out? Or are you hiking up the side of the mountain in unprepossessed conditions?
  2. Shoes! Are you in lightweight hiking shoes, lightweight hiking socks for the win. Hiking in big boots in unprepossessed months? Big thick warm socks are scrutinizingly a requirement.
  3. Budget! Are you shopping for specific socks? Tall or short? Great. If you are trademark new to hiking, just wear whatever sturdy socks you wear while exercising.
  4. 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 malleate show!

Here’s Switchback Travel’s best hiking socks of 2018, and here’s a unconfined vendible from Art of Manliness on proper feet superintendency without a hike or ruck!

What Do I Wear While Hiking? (Clothing)

Steve out hiking in the woods.


Pro tip: Don’t go pantless through the wilderness. I cannot stress this enough.

The real translating when it comes to pants/shorts is heavily dependent upon your environment. If it’s going to be cold, shorts might alimony you shivering. If it’s going to be hot, pants might get too uncomfortable.

Jeans? Ehhhhh. Sure. ONLY if it’s going to be a well-appointed temperature and you have no other option. Stuff 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 squint kind of goofy, they’re incredibly lightweight, 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 alimony as much of my soul 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 yonder moisture, hibernate odors, and outbreathe well – though you will be paying top dollar for them.

If you’re just starting out, pick an old t-shirt and waddle that – you can work on optimizing performance once you’ve got a few hikes under your belt.

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 backyard? 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 superstitious (10 years and counting) – very lightweight so packing it isn’t a hassle, waterproof so it keeps me dry when it rains, and heavy unbearable to woodcut the wind to alimony me warm when it’s chilly.

Don’t go out of your way to buy a new jacket if you have a decent windbreaker, 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 trammels 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 skirt to alimony my ears and squatter protected from the sun.

The tops of your ears and when 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 urgent your ears and face, and alimony you a bit cooler.


Digging into the ins and outs of backpacks is far vastitude the telescopic of this article. I’d recommend you trammels out my friend Chase’s Bag Review Youtube channel – guaranteed to be the most fun you’ll overly have learning well-nigh 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 comfier it is, the better.

Multi-day hikes where you’re living out of your bag, packing up, and towers a tent each day – this is vastitude the telescopic of this article. I have rocked a Kelty Coyote bag that I’ve lived out of for months at a time, and have moreover used on multi-day hikes.

If you have the ways and the time, and you’re planning to go on unrepealable hikes, go to an outdoor specialty store, speak with a professional, and get fitted for your soul type and the 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 transpiration during the day, versatility is your weightier bet – a jacket, pants that can wilt 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 worriedness you want to invest in. Borrow from friends, make do with what you have

Just get started.


In your throne you should be saying, “Steve how can you read my mind?!

I just decided:

  1. I’d hike in my current gym sneakers.
  2. I have a pair of gardening pants and tall socks I can wear.
  3. I have a floppy hat.

I finger like I’m good to go!


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How Much Water Should I Bring On My Hike?

Killarney was a unconfined place to 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 value 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. Just make sure you bring unbearable water with you to alimony you hydrated through your adventure.

Going on longer hikes?

Get yourself a hydration backpack (which can double as your hiking pack!) to transplant water increasingly conveniently.

Not only that but make sure you have been consuming water surpassing you go hiking so that you’re not starting at a hydration deficit.

Hangovers early morning hikes – water = bad news bears.

What Gear Should I Bring on My Hike? (Sunscreen, Knives, and First Aid Kits)

Steve hanging at at Machu Picchu

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 conviction and get you rolling.

Here’s what I’d recommend you bring with you on your adventure:

  1. SunscreenIf it’s sunny outside and you’re hiking through the woods or up a mountain with a tomfool walkover in your face, you probably won’t be worldly-wise to tell that your ears and squatter are getting veritably torched. Get yourself some waterproof sweatproof sunscreen (SPF 30 minimum) to imbricate up those ears, cheeks, and when of your neck.
  2. Bug spray expressly if it’s “that time of the year” in your zone where bugs are out in full force. Nothing worse than coming home to stovepipe and legs covered in bug bites.
  3. 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 truss or two just in case. Outdoor stores sell travel first aid kits (as does Amazon), but I’d teach you to make your own (you should have these things in your medicine cabinet anyway – and then you’ll know exactly where everything is!).
  4. 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.
  5. Sunglasses – No need to go veiling while out on the trail. You probably once have sunglasses floating virtually your house: I’d recommend bringing the $5 ones rather than $250 Ray-Bans.
  6. Cellphone – a phone can help ladle you out in specimen of an emergency, and if you have a smartphone it can multitask as your compass, loftiness tracker, mapper, and so on. Plane if you have a cellphone, bringing a compass or GPS system isn’t a bad idea (unless it’s unexceptionable 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 tuition your phone up quickly is usually pretty easy.

What Supplies Should I Bring Hiking? What Should I Eat on a Day Hike?

Nuts are unconfined hiking snacks.


You know, the stuff that keeps us alive.

The wordplay to this will vary profoundly depending on how long you plan on hiking for, the time of day, your love of snacking, so the translating here is going to largely mirror the translating we requite in our nutritional posts!

Although by no ways a well-constructed list of snacks, this is usually what I like to pack in my bag surpassing a hike:

  1. Nuts – Almonds or walnuts. Unconfined 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 upper 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 merchantry like to undeniability that “counterproductive.”
  2. Fruit – I throw two or three apples in my bag; apples and nuts midpoint 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. Just be shielding with zestless fruit, considering it can have lots of sugar and calories, so don’t kid yourself into eating 5000 calories worth of zestless fruit and undeniability it healthy! It’s something we explore in-depth in our guide “Is Fruit Healthy?
  3. 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 well-nigh trail mix or granola bars? You’d probably think granola bars and trail mix are synonymous with hiking, but I’m unquestionably 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 zestless 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 supplies translating here:

Primal Trail Food

A typesetting (optional) – I LOVE READING (more than I love lowercase letters), so I unchangingly travel with my Kindle. Although hiking with friends can be fun, I moreover get a huge thrill out of hiking out to a remote location overlooking a valley or sitting on the whet of a river with a typesetting so that I can spend a few hours getting lost in a story.

If it’s a multi-day hike and you’re lamister technology, then bringing a sufferer tree typesetting is worth the uneaten 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 washed-up 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 unconfined photographer, just need to capture the moment to squint when on fondly as a crotchety old grandpa. Obviously, if you’re a serious photographer, you’ve once planned to pack your DSLR so I won’t get into that.

Seven Hiking Tips for Beginners

Steve hanging out with an ostrich.

  1. 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 withstand country or snake country, these are things it’s very important to know. Whether it’s delivering a can of withstand mace or knowing what to squint for, this can help you prevent serious problems. Also, watch out for wild ostriches.
  2. CLEAN UP, CHECK FOR TICKS – if you’re in a heavily wooded zone and scarification through the wilderness, trammels yourself for ticks and make sure you take a shower with hot water and soap immediately when you get home in specimen 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 squatter as a kid considering of my hike through poison ivy the day before.
  3. AIM FOR THE HIGH GROUND – I love hiking to tall things: the top of a mountain, the upper point in a town, the roof of a building. It gives you a unconfined halfway point to stop, eat some lunch or dinner, and enjoy the view; plus, you once know exactly how far you need to go on your way down. One piece of translating on going DOWN a steep mountain or a lot of steps: Shorten your stride, and take superintendency to land on the balls of your feet with a wilting 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 without hiking lanugo Colca Canyon in Peru with my buddy Cash considering I didn’t make an effort to soften my steps and take superintendency of my body.
  4. 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 plane find a tall towers – stave 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!
  5. KEEP TRACK OF IT – If you have an iPhone or Android, download a hiking or running app to alimony track of how far you go and how much hiking you do. Although I haven’t been tracking my hikes upalong (I leave my phone in Airplane mode while traveling), I’ve heard unconfined things well-nigh RunKeeper and EasyTrails. If you have increasingly apps or suggestions on how to alimony track of your hikes, let me know in the comments and I’ll add them here. I personally use a unseemly Fitbit Flex 2, which tracks my steps and elevation. Good enough!
  6. GEOCACHING – Great fun can be had while geocaching. Simply go to the website, track your location, and then decide on which enshroud you’re going to track down. Think of it as a real-life version of Indiana Jones or Uncharted, minus the Nazis and undead warriors. We geocached virtually Sydney for a Nerd Fitness meetup, and it was delightful!
  7. GIVE A HOOT, DON’T POLLUTE – Pack it in, pack it out. If you bring anything with you, it largest be coming when with you. Don’t leave trash in the woods, and pick up any uneaten trash you see out there. The wilderness thanks you for your service, citizen!

Not all those who wander are lost (sTART hIKING tODAY)

What shoes should you bring hiking?

This vendible is just a primer, meant to whet your want and make you excited to go hiking and exploring the wonderful world virtually us.

Here are a few other resources on hiking if you want increasingly information. Finger self-ruling to let me know increasingly in the comments:

  1. Tips for Primal/Paleo Hiking
  2. Hiking Emergencies on Art of Manliness
  3. American Hiking Society

I rencontre you to plan a hike for this upcoming weekend. YES, plane if you’re in the opposite hemisphere and it’s really unprepossessed out!

Get some unconfined snacks, strap on your shoes, grab a friend, and go explore.

I’d love to hear from you well-nigh the place you’re going hiking this weekend.

Leave a scuttlebutt unelevated and let me know:

  1. Where you’re going.
  2. When you’re going.
  3. And what you’re most excited about!
  4. Promise that you won’t hike pants-less.
  5. Any tips you have for your fellow hikers.


PS: Still unsure if you'll be ready for your big hike? I'll then remind you of our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program. We have clients who successfully used the program to train for hiking up large mountains, and we'd love to see if we can help you too!

Nerd Fitness Coaching Banner

PPS: If Coaching ain’t your bag, you can unchangingly use our new app to jumpstart your new adventures!


photo credit: 77krc Mixed Nuts

All other photos from my Photostream

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