While Hydragears is a hiking blog, I also do an enormous amount of day hiking and like it because it can be such a social experience. Here are some tips that I provide day hikers who are just getting started and contact me seeking advice, to set them on the right path.
1. Find a Group or Club to Hike With
The fastest way to become a good hiker is to hike with other people because it’s fun and motivating. If you live on the Atlantic seaboard there are many regional chapters of the Appalachian Mountain Club that lead frequent hikes you can join. The same goes with the Washington Trails Association and the Sierra Club on the west coast and throughout the country. Meetup.com is also a tremendous place to find local hiking groups, meet people, make hiking friends, and plan your own hiking adventures.
2. Hike once a Week at a Local Park
Day hiking takes practice and conditioning if you want to build up to more strenuous and challenging hikes. Try hiking at least once a week at a local park, either by yourself or as part of a group. You’ll develop your footwork skills, get practice planning hikes, test out new gear, and build up your physical endurance. It doesn’t matter where you hike, as long as you hike. Make it easy on yourself and find a nice park with a few trails that isn’t a big distance from your home. If you keep the barrier to going low, you’re more likely to go.
3. Learn to Hydrate Properly
Beginner hikers often don’t carry enough water on hikes. Plan on carrying about 1 liter for every two hours, although this can vary based on time of year, weather conditions, your pace, body weight, and the difficulty of a hike. Learning how much water you need in these conditions is an important skill, so pay attention to what your body needs.
4. Find Comfortable Hiking Footwear
Finding comfortable footwear that doesn’t cause blisters may take you a while. Focus on finding boots or shoes that work for you instead of putting up with ones that hurt or fit poorly. Be patient and keep trying ones until you dial in footwear that works. Everyone’s feet are different. Boots, mids, or trail runners: it doesn’t matter which you choose. They are all have advantages and disadvantages.
5. Leave a Trip Plan with a Trusted Friend or Relative
Whenever you take a hike by yourself or in a group, leave a trip plan (see How to Plan a Day Hike) with a trusted friends or relative that details where you are going, the trails or route you plan on hiking, where you’ve parked your car, when you expect to be return, and who to call if you’re overdue. Short hikes or long: this is a very important trip preparation step.