Top tips for novice hikers

Posted on 27 July 2020

As we’re not allowed to visit friends and going out to a restaurant is not quite the same anymore, the best way we can get out is to explore and enjoy some of the amazing hiking trails that are right on our doorstep. With gorgeous warm winter days, heading out for a hike is the perfect way to spend time with your family, and best of all, there’s not a screen or a digital device in sight. Thule has all the hiking gear you need – whether you’re trying it for the first time or are an old pro at it – plus tips on how to choose a hiking backpack, hiking essentials that you need to take with you and hiking trails for you to try.

Top tips for novice hikers

Hiking is one of South Africa’s most popular activities.

3 Things to look for when buying a backpack

Weight distribution

A hiking backpack needs to distribute weight evenly. The most important factor to keep in mind is comfort. No matter how many cool features it has, if the bag does not sit comfortably on your back and shoulders, then it is not the right hiking bag for you. 


The size of the backpack is all-important; work out if you’d prefer a bag that is wider and shorter or longer and thinner. Obviously a bag that isn’t absurdly huge is first prize but think about the duration of your hikes and how much you would practically need to take with you for a short day hike (snacks and water) versus a full-day hike (light lunch, water, additional clothes). Internal storage becomes a big component here, as it means the difference between having enough room or potentially having to take multiple bags.


The key to a comfortable backpack is a balanced load. Too little padding will not protect your body from the strains of weight and can cause painful chafing. Similarly, too much padding will cause awkward and uncomfortable pressure against your body, which might lead to soreness… or you standing in a strange way to ease the pressure. A decent backpack should have padding on the back panel, shoulder straps and hip belt strap. 

Thule has the perfect gear

The Thule AllTrail collection is a must for a day hike, as it gives you a singular pack for all your hiking needs. An adjustable torso fit is built into the back panel and combined with breathable shoulder straps, hipbelt padding and back panel to make even the toughest day hike extra comfortable ― and allow you to stay cool. All your gear is within reach thanks to the easy access side zippers and front shove-it pocket. The dedicated hydration sleeve frees up space for other essentials like keys and snacks. There’s even an integrated rain cover. This versatile all-rounder is available in men and women-specific models and comes in various sizes for you to choose what works best for you.

For something more lightweight, look no further than the Thule Stir range of hiking backpacks. The simple, clean design offers quick access via the top zippered mesh pocket and über organization for all your items.  If you want it even more streamlined, simply remove the sternum strap and hip belt. Stash water bottles and other essentials in the expandable side pockets. With a weather-resistant coated nylon fabric and the breathable back panel and shoulder straps to keep you cool, it is a bag that will see you through all seasons of outdoor adventures. Again, it comes in different sizes and has men and women-specific models.

For the ultimate in comfort, opt for the Thule Capstone collection. The tensioned mesh back panel provides unparalleled breathability, keeping you cool on your trail. The high-visibility rain cover keeps your gear dry during storms. There’s even a customizable hipbelt that is compatible with interchangeable VersaClick accessories (sold separately). There are a host of pockets – on the top and the side – to keep all your items for the day, no matter how many family members you are keeping things for.  You can even lash gear to the front of the pack using the durable button hole webbing. Once again, you can choose from a multitude of different sizes and both men’s and women’s specific bags.

If you’re hiking with young kids the Thule Sapling (and Thule Sapling Elite) is an absolute lifesaver. This child carrier is safe and comfortable, plus quick and easy to adjust to fit both parents. On-the-go adjustments are made even easier, as you can load your child from the top or the side of the carrier. The deployable sunshade means that your precious cargo is protected from the harsh sun. Store water, nappies, clothes and other bigger items in the zippered compartment and use the extra roomy zippered mesh pockets for emergency items like snacks, toys and keys. The ergonomic seat is height adjustable ― the Elite model even comes with removable stirrups for your little one to rest their feet on and a viewing mirror – and a breathable padded backpack and support at critical contact points for you. All this means a cool and comfortable trail for everyone.  Of course, Thule also has all the hiking accessories you need, including hydration packs and more.

Essentials to pack on your trip

1. Comfortable shoes and socks (and a few plasters)

2. A hat & sunscreen

3. Water & snacks or a light lunch

4. Flint/matches and a warm jacket

5. A Thule hiking backpack and accessories

Popular trails around SA to explore:

Cape Town – Table Mountain National Park

Although the majority of the hiking trails are open during lockdown, certain areas in the park remain closed ― including all picnic sites― with some restrictions. Choose from coastal walks to strenuous summit hikes that range from 2km to 14km with amazing views.

Johannesburg – Modderfontein Reserve

This 275-hectare private park is made up of dams, grassland, hills and the Modderfontein Spruit and offers various hiking trails. The indigenous fauna and flora and beautiful views add to the not-to-be-disappointed day out.

Durban – Giba George MTB Park

Access three different hiking trails – a 5km, an 8km and an 11km trail – at this Mountain Bike and Adventure Park, which is nestled in a lush green valley. You’ll hike towards beautiful waterfalls and there’s even the early Rock Shelter, which predates all modern history in the area. 


Image credit: Supplied

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