The ultimate beginner’s guide to hiking

Posted on 17 March 2022

Traversing through nature on a hike helps clear the mind and get the blood pumping. Taking up the hobby of hiking may sound daunting, but with these helpful tips, your journey as a future hiker is sure to be a smooth one.

1. Join a hiking club

Joining a hiking club is hands-down the best way to meet other beginners as well as experienced hikers who know their stuff. Going hiking with a group is a great way to familiarise yourself with different routes and trails. It will also help you decide on your favourite hiking spot. And, of course, there is safety in numbers.

Find a hiking club in your area here: Cape Town, Garden Route, Eastern Cape, Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban.

2. All the gear but no idea

Beginner's guide to hiking

Credit: Unsplash

Shopping for hiking gear can be overwhelming, and you could easily land up buying expensive, unnecessary and incorrect items. We recommend buying only the essentials: a torch, lightweight hiking shoes, a space blanket, a waterproof lightweight jacket, thick socks, a peak cap, a daypack (10-30 litres), a lightweight scarf, SPF 50-100 sunblock, a reusable 1L water bottle, and lightweight shorts, pants and top. When wearing in new hiking shoes, wear two pairs of socks to avoid getting blisters.

3. Keep essential items in your daypack, always.

Beginner's guide to hiking

Credit: Unsplash

Ensure that your sunblock, space blanket, waterproof jacket, your cellphone, a full water bottle, and some light snacks are packed into your daypack before you embark on a hike. Weather conditions can change in the blink of an eye and you do not want to be stranded in the pouring rain without something to keep you warm and dry and nothing to eat. You can’t predict what will happen on a hike and how long you might be stranded for if you find yourself in such a situation.

The same goes for the heat, and keeping your sunblock with you at all times is essential. Even if it’s cloudy, you should always put sunblock on. Keep your cellphone on you in case you run into trouble and need to call for help. Make sure your phone has enough battery to last before setting off on a hike. Investing in a solar-powered power bank might also be a good idea, if you don’t have one. Pack spare socks in case your feet get soaked, and make sure your torch is with you, too.

4. Know what food to pack

Whether you’re going on a relatively short hike, or an endurance hike that may take an entire day or more, always pack something to eat along with your water. You want to bring food that’s easily digestible and will give you energy. Think simple sandwiches, energy bars, fruits, nuts, trail mix, biscuits – you get the idea. It’s most cost-effective to buy snacks in bulk, and you also won’t need to run to the shops every time you’re going on a hike.

5. Navigation

Beginner's guide to hiking

Credit: Unsplash

If you decide to go on a hike in unfamiliar terrain, having navigation problems is entirely possible. Make sure your phone has ample charge in case of an emergency. Drop a pin where you park your car so that you can use your maps to find your way back. If your hike runs late and it starts to get dark, it could be the difference between getting safely back to your car and getting stranded or worse.

6. Dog-friendly trails

If you have a furry friend you’d like to share your hiking journeys with, make sure the trail you’re going on is dog-friendly. Having your best friend by your side makes the adventure that much more exciting and is a great protection measure, too. Make sure you have enough water for both of you and pack in a doggy snack to help keep your pooch’s energy levels up.

To see which dog-friendly accessories might be worth investing in, watch this gear review.


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