Welcome to Part I of my new how-to series: How to become “one” with nature.
Don’t be intimidated. Hiking isn’t hard; it’s just like walking, but a hell of a lot more fun. Anyone who can walk down the street can hike.
In my 30+ years of hiking, I’ve seen a toddler thru-hiker and a guy with offroad wheels on his walker. I’ve seen a badass lady hiking up to Zion National Park’s Scout’s Landing with a cane. I’ve even seen a guy hiking with a parrot.
So, I’m willing to bet you have no excuses. If hiking is even remotely interesting enough for you to find me here, then you’ve come to the right place.
1. Team up with a friend
There are a lot of would-be hikers out there. You know this due to the incessant crowds at your local REI. Chances are, you have a friend that’s mildly interested in the idea. Find that person. It’s much better to start hiking with someone else than alone.
2. Join a hiking group
Hiking groups are everywhere. I belong to at least 3 of them, and this doesn’t count my family and friends. Google “Hiking groups in [your city]” and several on them pop up. Facebook and Meetup are also good places to bond.
These groups allow you to connect with more experienced hikers, or meet others who are just like you. It can be intimidating to hike with the superhuman trailblazers and peak baggers you will inevitably meet, but there’s solidarity among newbies.
Hiking groups frequently plan group hikes which is an excellent way to try hikes you wouldn’t normally do by yourself.
3. Get appropriate footwear
One key difference between walking and hiking is wear and tear on your feet. For this reason, buy hiking boots, hiking shoes, or at the bare minimum, trail running shoes. If you need to rely on your regular trainers for starting out, just accept that it’ll have to be temporary.
When buying your new hiking footwear, always get a half size larger. Remember the opening scene of Wild? That’s why.
4. Gather the 10 essentials of hiking
When you’re just starting out, you don’t need to get all crazy with the hiking gear. If your budget allows, it’ll be easy to justify needing a $500 Garmin GPS because of what ifs.
You only need to procure the 10 essentials of hiking which can be found here
5. Wear clothing appropriate for YOU
Hiking is meant to be an easy, low-cost activity that shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to get started.
If you’re new to hiking, it’s obviously okay to wear gym clothes or anything else you can move around in comfortably. If that’s a warmup suit from the 90’s, right on. If it’s a pair of loose fitting jeans, go get ’em, tiger (though I don’t recommend it). Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to hike without spending $250 on a Patagonia Jacket or $20 on a pair of hiking socks.
At the end of the day, whatever works for you is key. Take a cue from the master – John Muir hiked in a 3-piece suit.
In the future, if you plan to become more serious about hiking, you should consider investing in specialized hiking gear. But for now, appropriate hiking clothing is anything you’re comfortable in and will protect you from the elements.
6. Learn best practices for hiking
Based on etiquette, respect for nature, respect for fellow hikers, and plain old common sense, I have compiled a comprehensive list best practices.
Check out the 14 Best Practices for Hiking. (COMING SOON)
7. Research trails close to home
There are opportunities to hike everywhere, even in urban cities. As such, there is a wealth of information available to find trails.
While general sites like alltrails.com are good resources, I think the best way to learn about local trails is from bloggers.
Check out a list of hiking related blogs and websites to help you find trails close to you. (COMING SOON)
8. Create a hiking mood board
This may seem silly, but it’s motivating, costs nothing, and serves as a great distraction when you’re counting down your daily minutes to cubicle-freedom.
For example, if you want to lose weight, you may envision pictures of outfits, svelte models, expensive juicers, or fancy yoga gear. But for hiking, you may envision pictures of Machu Picchu, John Muir quotes, the latest hiking gear, or people standing on the cliff’s edge of Trolltunga. But whether you eventually want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro or just romp around in the backwoods in your area, visualizing your hiking goals is a great way to get motivated. Create a Pinterest account for all this.
9. Watch some outdoorsy hiking movies for inspiration
Visual, aspirational and gripping storytelling is no better way to get you in the mood. Some movies illustrate the trials and tribulations of hiking, as well as the rewards for doing so. If these movies don’t scare you off, breathtaking scenery, spiritual journeys, and witty banter always help. Bookmark these movies to watch on a rainy day. (COMING SOON)
10. Familiarize yourself with hiking jargon
What do thru-hiking, ultra-lightweight, PCT, peak bagging, and LNT mean? Geek out and read this list of terms commonly used among the hiking community. (COMING SOON)